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This column is not about gun control

Thom Barker
Thom Barker - Submitted

What would you pay to live in paradise?
When I was a first-year geology student in 1988, one of our first lessons was designed to help us start to appreciate geological time. If you think about the history of the Earth in terms of one day, the planet formed at 00:00; single-cell life appeared at 08:00, plant life (algae) at 18:40, fish at 21:20, insects at 21:52, dinosaurs at 22:47, and mammals at 22:56. Our first human ancestors (homo genus) did not appear until 22:59:12 and we—that is modern humans—only showed up at four seconds to midnight.
When you look at it from that perspective, an individual human lifespan, as all-important as it is to each of us, does not even register on the 24-hour clock, much less the grand scale of time.
I honestly don’t believe our minds are capable of truly appreciating that kind of scale. I sometimes feel like I am getting just an inkling of it, when, poof, it eludes my conceptual grasp like a lick of flame escaping a campfire.
One of the first times I felt like I was getting a handle on it was the summer of 1989 when I came to work on the north coast around the Nain area for the Geological Survey of Canada. I instantly fell in love with the Big Land, one of the only and largest tracts of untamed, unspoiled wilderness left on the planet. Here among rocks that dated in the three-billion-year range—around 8 a.m. on our geological clock—I found a deep admiration for the scale of things, if not the comprehensive understanding I was seeking.
Having now spent most of my first winter in Postville, that appreciation of scale has only been enhanced. I have never lived in a place where there is tidewater that freezes over in winter. The ice here in Kaipokok Bay is now at least four feet thick, but let’s call it one metre for ease of math.
Recently, I went for a walk out on the bay. I went out about 200 metres and walked down the shore about two kilometres.  At a metre thick, the volume of ice in the area I covered would be roughly 400,000 cubic metres. A cubic metre of ice is approximately 1,000 kg, so let’s estimate 400 million kilograms of ice.
The tide doesn’t stop because the bay is covered in ice. Twice a day, those 400 million kilograms of ice get raised and lowered by around 2.4 metres and that is just a tiny fraction of the bay, which is a tiny fraction of the coastal ice pack, which is a tiny fraction of the planet’s surface area.
It quickly gets mind-boggling when you start projecting that on the scale of space. Earth is but a grain of sand even in our own solar system, much less on the scale of the universe.
I saw a great meme on Facebook recently that said: “Tonight, a galaxy made up of 250 million stars will be visible in the night sky. This is the first time that has happened since last night.” And our sun is just one of those 250 million stars and our galaxy just one of countless galaxies in the universe.
The thing is that out here, on what my friends back in civilization call “the edge of the world,” what I have found in a tiny corner of the great vastness is an overwhelming sense of peace. When I am out on the ice or deep in the trees, just me and my dog and quiet contemplation, there is no greater feeling of well-being that I know.
There are costs to living out here. Commodities are outrageously expensive. I hear people complain all the time about the isolation. There are few services and those that are available can take forever to acquire. In short, life is inconvenient.
Those costs, however, are a small price to pay for living in paradise.

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