Last fall, I found out the love of my life was pregnant. Nothing could describe my happiness and excitement. The thought of this beautiful new life growing inside her took over my thoughts, and, as I soon found out, my dreams.
Several weeks later, I had a vivid dream of something I had never imagined before - an igloo made of many brightly coloured blocks. The contrast of the vibrant colours against the white snow was incredible.
The images in the dream came rushing back to me the next day. Although I couldn't figure out exactly what they meant, I was consumed with the idea of making the igloo from my dreams as a way of celebrating our coming new life. I wanted to make something special that no one in our small Arctic community had ever seen before, and that no one would soon forget.
Possessed by the colours, I set my mind to the task, resolving to use coloured blocks made of ice. This would create the brightest colours, but actually building an igloo out of ice would require great technical skill (so as to avoid a series of 35-pound ice blocks falling on one's head).
In the weeks and months to come, I created the blocks using water tinted with food colouring. My goal was to produce 75 blocks of every colour possible, which proved to be an incredible test of endurance and patience. To my great frustration, the majority of my first 25 blocks cracked.
One morning, I awoke to find several frames overturned. My trusty dog Kajuq had somehow managed to stretch to the end of his chain and catch the tips of plastic sheeting blowing in the wind. Despite more than 2 inches of ice weighing down the plastic, the dog had pulled each half-frozen block out of its frame (shattering them in the process), shredded and consumed the tarp and overturned the frames.
Another time, I experimented in -31C weather by sponging hot water along a block to remove imperfections caused by freezing in high winds. To my great surprise, the block instantly split into tiny cracks and shattered.
Many other blocks simply refused to fall out of their moulds, and cracked when forced to do so.
I spent many months carrying buckets of water into temperatures as low as -44C, not including wind chill. In spite of the many frustrating setbacks, I perfected a technique and the day finally came when I had enough blocks to build the igloo. April had arrived, and with its warmer weather came the promise of new life.
As I set down block after block, I felt that I was doing something much more significant than just making something interesting to look at. It occurred to me that in the architectural magic of the igloo, each of the blocks depends on all the others that come before it, and each block is equally critical to the strength of the structure.
You simply cannot place the last overhanging blocks if you do not have a strong foundation. These final blocks will fall over if you haven't set each previous block with the proper skill and care. This was a perfect metaphor for all the experiences I need to give to my child, each one more colourful than the last.
The final step is placing the keystone, which locks all the previous blocks together and creates incredible strength. If the construction has been sound, the igloo will be strong enough for a person to stand on the top. If the many colours of blocks are the diversity of shared experiences between me and my child, then setting the keystone means he or she will be ready and strong enough to stand up to the many challenges of life.
Three-quarters of the way through construction, a maxim that my father constantly repeated came to mind. Walking near the shore of Lake St. Louis in Montreal as a boy, I always wanted to climb onto a large rock. But as much as I pleaded with my dad, he would never just scoop me up and put me on top. Instead, he would patiently say: "Look at it; study it; find a way. You can do it."
With this encouragement, I was finally able to find a crack for my little hand and foot and scramble up. I've never forgotten that lesson.
In the same way, many people scoffed at my idea of a rainbow igloo made of ice. "Do you know how hard it is to make an igloo out of ice?" they said. "You won't be able to do it." Completing such a difficult project without help will prove to my child that with self-confidence and persistence, it is possible for a person to accomplish anything.
The last row of blocks is always the most difficult, because they must lean at a pronounced angle. After three long days of building, and more than 50 intricate cuts with only a saw, I completed the last spiralling row at 2 a.m., and balanced on top of the igloo in complete darkness to set the magnificent blue keystone in place. The rainbow igloo was finally complete.
I placed a light inside, and with elation saw that my dream had come to life. It dawned on me that perhaps most significantly of all, my igloo represented the tiny new person growing contentedly in my partner's womb, and that in my own small act of creation I had symbolically willed this being into existence. From hidden subconscious and dark womb to tangible, colourful blocks, I felt that my child was ready to be born. And in becoming a father, I am ready to create something truly beautiful, the likes of which the world has never seen before, and which it will never forget.
Daniel Guay lives in Igloolik, Nunavut.