Some like it hot
My friends get fed up with me when I am sharing a home with them. Not that I am hard to get along with and as a matter of fact they say the opposite but when it comes to keeping the house warm I think I go overboard. I like the heat turned up when I am indoors and in particular if it is fall, winter or early spring. I can think of few things more pleasurable than staring through a frosty window at a blizzard outside with snow blowing all over the place and the temperature freezing while I sit on the couch sipping tea in a very well heated home.
Often my friends comment that they feel like they are in a sauna when I am around and tinkering with the thermostat. I have to admit I crave the heat when I am indoors. I even start wearing long john underwear in September and I don’t give them up until May. It does have something to do with the Cree culture and my experiences growing up on the James Bay coast.
I love a warm fire and heat for a reason. As a matter of fact I can recall many Elders back up north in Attawapiskat that kept their homes extremely warm in the colder months. They also wore heavy clothing even in the summer as they just didn’t ever seem to get enough warmth.
I recall so many freezing days out on the land in our prospector tent when I was a boy.
Although the weather was cold and the wind blowing off of the bay so fierce our family was always so, so warm in the tent. As a child I remember wondering how my Elders could stand being so hot all the time but after many years of experiencing harsh weather while hunting and gathering I picked up this craving for heat.
You have to realize that most of the Elders from up the coast never had the luxuries we enjoy down south until just very recently. In the 1990s we finally got running water so we could just turn on a tap and not have to head down to the river no matter what the weather was like to fetch some H2O. With the running water of course we also ended up with real toilets so we did not have to take the regular trek to the outhouse. That was a big deal because finally the elderly people had a little more of a comfortable life and could experience some of what many in Canada had been enjoying for about a hundred years.
I don’t think many of us can imagine how hard life was for the Elders and my ancestors up the coast. Lots of people have terrible arthritis and other problems because of spending so much time in freezing and wet weather out on the land. Sixty years ago most of my people were living in shacks, cabins, prospector tents and the Askikan (a traditional Cree house made of logs covered in frozen moss). Those were hard days when people had little work, hardly any money and the cost of food and provisions at the local store were outrageous. People were sick and many died in those conditions.
So, when times got a little better and more of my people got an education life became easier. There was some housing construction but never enough, so too many people ended up crammed into homes. Still even with all the technology available we were still getting power from a diesel generator for the entire community of Attawapiskat as recently as 10 years ago. Most people up the coast still heat their homes with wood and for the elderly that is a huge task and also dangerous. In regards to housing most First Nations still have Third World conditions as obvious with the news reports on the crisis in Attawapiskat recently.
You might understand why I crave a very warm home with all my experience living in freezing conditions out on the land and even in the community at times. I come by this addiction to heat honestly. The strange thing is that although myself and most Cree people I know up the coast love a hot home we don’t really like hot weather. I think twice about travelling to Cuba or Florida in the winter because I know how terribly hot the weather is going to be. We Cree actually prefer cooler weather and when it is more than 21 or 22 degrees Celsius watch out because we are going to be crabby, uncomfortable and just to too hot. Most Crees prefer fall, spring and winter to summer.
I guess our craving for a hot home has more to do with just having to put up with so much freezing damp conditions in our lives and we make up for it these days when it is as easy as turning up a thermostat. For many of us it is still a luxury to be able to be warm or toasty hot in our home without having to constantly struggle to keep the fire burning.
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