The early morning breeze caught her light cotton dress and the sun brought out the greys and blues of the plaid. She was stooping to gather wood to start the fire in the stove to warm the house on this cool October morning.
She straightened and stood at the side of the house and waved to me. I had on my weather proof jacket and light mitts and could still feel the frosty bite in the air. Yet there she stood – her dress blowing around the tights that covered her legs – seemingly oblivious to the cold.
Many of the women of this community adopted the dress of the early Mennonite missionaries who came here in the fifties. For the past 60 years the plaid, cotton dress has become a symbol that they are from a Christian community. Summer, fall, winter and spring, that light dress makes up their wardrobe, with many petticoats of flannel under it.
In the cold of 40 below zero, I have seen a woman step off her skidoo wearing the plaid dress and what to me seemed like a light jacket, her baby wrapped warmly in a tikinagan, the buckskin and flannel ‘snuggly’ that makes the babies feel so secure and warm.
Working and living for short periods here in the north there is a sense of stepping back in time. Not onlybecause of the dresses and the wood stoves, but the sense of isolation from the rest of the world – here where there is only air access until the lakes freeze over and a winter road is built.
I feel very privileged to be here – to get to know this community, to hear their stories, to enjoy the pickerel, fresh caught from cold northern lakes and to ask God to allow my hands and heart to express His love to those who come to the clinic and to those I meet.