As some of you may have read in earlier posts on this website, thirteen months ago on a trip to Greenland I purchased a 65 inch model kayak replica entitled Qayag (which is the name of the traditional Inuit sealskin hunting boat). It had been created more than 50 years ago by an artist, Jesse Thorn, who is no longer alive.
(If you missed the first Parts of this saga, and you have time on your hands, see these two posts – A Qayaq (Kayak) Saga and Continuing the Saga of the Kayak – for the details of its disputed’ purchase: Ellen had told me, “Don’t. Even. Consider. It.” Then, it took almost seven months to get it home, unpacked, and into house.
Now, after another extended period, the Qayag has finally found its resting place.
As you will see in the picture below, it now ‘floats’ out from the wall of our living room (where we display some of the crafts gathered over the years from our many trips). It is on the wall, below one of our stained glass windows created by a friend 50 years ago.
We never thought it would take so long for the Qayag to settle on its final resting place. Actually, Ellen had warned me that we didn’t really have room for it, and it would overwhelm any place we tried to put it in our house. I had three possible places for it and several back up plans if those didn’t work.
None of my carefully considered placements made Ellen, the Qayaq, or me very happy.
So we called upon Vincent Sagart, the wonderful designer who has had such a significant influence on many rooms in our house. He immediately saw where it wanted to go and over the next month or so figured out how to get it there.
It took another two months to get it there successfully. COVID-19 caused interruptions, including time for a metal worker to fashion an 11 by 17 inch platform on which it could rest, Petr to affix it to the wall, and Vincent to be satisfied with the exact placement. He had Petr reverse the platform and then reattach it to the wall.
But as the Little Prince has taught us, “It’s the time you spend for your ‘Qayaq’ that makes your Qayaq so important.”
And I’m happy to write that Ellen and I have survived this 13-month effort and to report that Ellen readily agreed to use her photographic skills so MillersTime readers can see how happy the Qayaq is in its new home. Indeed, Ellen not only approves of its placement, she readily says she likes it.
For me, I’m beyond thrilled as every time I pass anywhere near the living room, which is easily 20 times a day, I look at it and appreciate this truly wonderful treasure.
If you’re ever in DC, and if we are allowed to be together, you are invited to come visit the Qayag.
“It’s the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important…You’re responsible for your rose.”
–Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
Part I. The Purchase (Sept. 7-8, 2019):
It all started on the first Saturday in September, 2019. Over seven months ago. We were concluding one of our more memorable trips, nine days in Greenland (Greenland: In Words & Photos), with its remote, wild, and awe-inspiring landscapes, seascapes, marine life, the ‘magic’ of the Northern Lights, and where its Inuit population was hurtling from the Stone Age to the iPhone Age.
It was our final day and night there, and we were in the small town of Kulusuk (pop. 300), awaiting our flight back to Iceland and then back to DC. The foggy weather was threatening to strand us there, and it was likely our plane would not arrive, nor leave if it did arrive.
I walked by the very tiny souvenir shop in our modest hotel and saw a ‘model’ of an Inuit kayak. I was captivated. But the shop was closed, and when I pointed the kayak out to Ellen, she immediately said, “Don’t buy it. It’s too big, and we don’t have any place to put it.” Others in our group of 12 saw it too and remarked at how unusual it was. Several seemed to be quite interested in it also.
Most of the group went off to ‘explore’ Kulusuk, and I stayed behind trying to find someone to open the shop. I eventually found Jakob Ibsen, the gruff, no nonsense Danish (Norweigan ?) manager of the hotel who opened the shop and began to tell me about the Qayaq (the Inuit spelling for the word kayak, pronounced “kayak”). He told me it was a 50+ year old, hand-crafted, one of a kind, replica of an Inuit kayak with its ropes, harpoons, and various other adorning artifacts. He said the craftsman, Jess Thorin, had recently died, and somehow he, Jakob, had come into possession of it.
The price was more than I had ever paid for a ‘souvenir’ throughout all of our travels, including my prized Masai shield purchased in 1963 in Tanganyika. But I didn’t think the price of this hand-made artifact was exorbitant for what it was. Plus, when one is truly captivated (can one be ‘truly captivated’?), cost can more easily be justified. It was art, after all.
There were some hurdles, however. Ellen was quite clear that I was not to pursue it. When she left with our other travelers to explore Kulusuk, she gave me ‘that look’ that was quite clear: “Don’t. Even. Consider. It. ” Those of you who know her, understand she is not one to be easily disregarded. Those of you who know me, understand my quiet determination.
Then there was the size, approximately 65 inches in length, and Ellen had a point about where we could display it in our home, already ladened with crafts gathered (over the course of 50 years) from around the world.
And besides all that, how would we get this somewhat fragile piece of art out of Greenland and to the US? I certainly couldn’t take it with me.
All of these hurdles proved to have some validity. But when one is captivated…
When Ellen returned from her photo journey around the town, she took one look at me and said, “You bought it, didn’t you?” (Plus a few other choice, and now repressed, remarks.)
I told her Jakob had assured me he would send it to Washington (after he had one small part of the kayak repaired as he thought he knew an artist who could do the work). He promised to build a crate to house the kayak and keep it safe during transport.
Ellen remained skeptical, largely because she didn’t see a place for us to house this ‘treasure’ nor how it could possibly be sent. My view was that it would become obvious where we could display it once it was in the house. Somehow, it would ‘tell us’ where it belonged.
You can guess how well that went over with Ellen.
Part II. The Wait (Sept. 9, 2019 – Apr. 21, 2020):
Jakob had told me as soon as he had that one portion of the Qayaq repaired, it would be on its way to me, probably sometime in October, 2019.
I will spare the reader all the frustrating emails, phone calls, swearing, doubts, etc., but suffice it to say I never lost hope that it would arrive. Ellen, on the other hand, seemed quite satisfied with what became a seven and a half month saga, secretly, I think, hoping that it might never arrive.
Briefly, there seemed to be a ‘hold up’ every month. Once, it was finding the right artist to do the repair. Then it was getting the right materials to do the repair. Then it was building a box, crate actually, to house the kayak. then there was a long silence from Jakob, and he neither answered my emails nor could I reach him by phone. 2019 turned into 2020, and all I had was a picture of the empty crate.
Finally, in mid January (four months after the purchase), Jakob answered his phone and told me everything was ready, but there were no flights leaving Kulusuk because of the weather! I’m not sure what happened over the next month and a half, but it was not until Mar. 11 that he wrote to say, “The kayak left Kulusuk today on Air Iceland, slowed by Icelandic Customs and concern if anyone handling the kayak and crate had come in contact with COVID-19.”
Ah, my faith in Jakob was restored, but of course the wait for the arrival did not end there. Somehow, it was held up in Reykjavik before it finally arrived in the US, three weeks later on April 2nd.
Then the US Customs got involved. They needed proof of sale, a description of all the contents, including the materials used to build it, my social security number, and my mother’s maiden name. Following a week of document exchanges, it was held in Baltimore until the Fish & Wildlife people would release it. (This is not a joke. Perhaps that was because there were parts of the kayak made with reindeer antler?). Then it was the USDA folks who had to approve it, which they did after several exchanges between Chicago, Iceland, Greenland, Baltimore and Washington (Don’t ask.)
And what then? Just a small hurdle (a week) to get it trucked from BWI to DC and my house (32.8 miles). Something about commercial vs residential delivery. And behold, today, Tuesday, April 21st at 2:01 PM, the crate was delivered to our house and placed in the garage, exactly seven months and 14 days after its purchase.
Saint-Exupery and The Little Prince would be so proud of me.
I awoke two days ago to the brief email below following the third World Series loss in a row by the Washington National’s to the Houston Astros in DC:
“I think I was happier when I didn’t care. It’s terrible to want something you have no control over. How about that, Dr. Miller!” – FH
The author is a long time friend who use to look askance at my interest in baseball. After listening to her for years, I invited her to attend Nats’ game with Ellen and me (she had never been to a MLB game in her seven plus decades!). Under my ‘light tutoring,’ and despite her skepticism, she found herself intrigued and interested, and surprisingly, to her and to me, she began to follow the Nats. Sometimes, intensely, it seems.
And that, FH’s quote, contains two of the many life’s lessons that baseball teaches.
First, some comments about last night. When facing elimination from the World Series, the Nats found a way to win game six (it often seems game six is a big deal (Buckner, etc.).
So now we go to the one game World Series, in Houston, that will determine who takes over from the Boston Red Sox as the new World Champions. (Yes. as of this writing, the Sox are still the World Champions!)
But it doesn’t matter who wins tonight.
Well, I guess it matters to the players for the two teams and for their fans and their two cities, including my 10 year old grandson who went to the fifth (disastrous) game with Ellen and me and stayed up until midnight – on a school night! – only to see his favorite team lose. (I did tell him after the final out to remember, “It’s not over yet.” But in my mind and soul, I felt the Astros would probably win the WS. After all, I was ‘schooled’ by my seven decades of following the Sox.)
But if the Nats lose tonight, at least there’s some solace. They didn’t give up. Even when they were behind and when that horrific umpire call seemed to change the direction of the Nats’ comeback chances. As they’ve done for much of the season, they found a way to win.
In fact, for all those of you who were sure the Nats didn’t deserve to be in the World Series, perhaps some rethinking is in order. After all, they had the best record in ALL OF BASEBALL since their horrendous 19-31 start to this season in May and that includes being better than the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Astros, etc. Plus, they did win the Wild Card suicide game and went on to defeat the Dodgers and the Cards, coming from behind in almost all of the games they won.
So if they lose do lose tonight in what hopefully will be a memorable game with Scherzer against Greinke in this winner take all game, the solace for Nats’ fans will be enough to take them into 2020.
Now, back to FH’s wise words and my dilemma with my grandson.
First, baseball’s life lessons, starting with the importance of caring and the wanting of something so badly yet you have no control over the outcome, two realities that baseball has taught me, and also my younger daughter. (If you’ve never read what she wrote when the Sox won the World Series in 2004 for the first time in 86 years and in my lifetime, read The Email on the Kitchen Table, written for / to me by my then 21 year old, daughter which said, in part:
“Being a Sox fan prepared me for disappointment; it taught me that there are some things that no matter how badly you want something, sometimes you just can’t make it happen. I think my perspective on life has truly been shaped by the virtue of my fanaticism for baseball. It’s taught me that life isn’t fair, you don’t get what you want, and other people can just be downright heartless.”
“More than anything, my father taught me to believe. And not just in the Red Sox, but in myself. Because if my team can come back from down 0-3 to the Yankees, and sweep the Cardinals in the World Series, really, there is no such thing as never. “
“I guess in the end, my obsession ultimately taught me that good things do come to those who wait. So I sit back and say to the rest of Major League Baseball, sit down; wait ‘till next year.”
And, finally, my dilemma.
Is it better for my grandson for the Nats to lose tonight so he learns these two lessons than to experience the joy he would have if they win it all? After all, he’s only 10.
I’m not sure I know the answer.
But I know I have no control over what will happen.