Featured Blog: The House and other Arctic musings

Clare Kines blogs at The House and other Arctic musings. He is a retired mountie (member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) who lives in the High Arctic Community of Arctic Bay, 73 degrees North. I don’t know if he’s our northernmost member in this hemisphere, but he’s certainly one of the most northernly bloggers I know of. Clare writes on a variety of topics, and says he is “easily distracted but plays well with others.” Clare can be reached via email at clareleahATqiniqDOTcom, and you can become a fan of his blog on facebook.

Clare, why do you blog?

I blog for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I enjoy it. The times I’ve tried to take a hiatus to attend to other priorities, I’ve found myself missing it.  Through blogging, I’ve found that I enjoy writing, and also that blogging is a convenient outlet for writing.

I started blogging mostly because I was inspired by the first blog I really read. It’s hard to believe that it’s five years ago, but when the news broke about the possible rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, I searched for more information about it. Through that search I came across nuthatch’s wonderful blog, Bootstrap Analysis, and her extremely well-written, well thought-out commentary on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. I began reading her every day, and eventually thought I’d like to give blogging a try.

At the time we were wrapping up construction on the B&B we used to run. My project manager and I had commented many times that we should be writing down some of the stories, so initially that was going to be the focus (hence “The House” in The House and other Arctic musings).  However, I’ve a wide variety of interests which also made their way into the blog. I live in a unique place, so those interests occasionally capture the attention of others.

Part of what I enjoy most about this experience is the community that grows up around it – several communities, really.  I’ve found friends from all over the world because of blogging, and though I’ve never met most of them face to face I’ve grown quite close to many of them online. Nuthatch, mentioned above, I consider my blogmom (although I’m sure she’d like me to acknowledge that I’m older than she is) and I value that friendship considerably. And there are others.

The other thing that I’ve taken away from this experience is that I’ve come to look at myself as a writer. It often surprises me that anyone, outside my family, would be interested in what I have to say.  I think that’s partly the uniqueness of where I live, but also partly how I’ve come to say it. It sure has made me grow as a writer. I’m pretty sure my 12th grade English teacher would have a hard time believing that I’m doing the writing.

What’s the best thing about blogging?

For me the best thing about blogging is the contact with others, again the community. I’m friends with some amazing people because of this, some extremely smart and talented people, who I would not have otherwise gotten to know.  I know them through their blogs, and they know me through mine. Or they are non-bloggers who come to visit and have stayed, and contributed.

There are several communities that I’ve found through this. The nature community and the northern community are the two most prominent ones. I can include writers and photographers amongst them as well.

I’m sort of the godfather of Nunavut Bloggers, and keep and maintain a blogroll of other bloggers from Nunavut and run The Nunies, which are the annual Nunavut Blogging Awards.

I think its pretty amazing that an ordinary guy like me can rub shoulders and carry on conversations with some amazing scientists, naturalists, artists that astound me, and very good poets.  Its like I’ve found a secret door to some incredible club, and no ones had the heart to throw me out yet.

I don’t see a lot of downsides to blogging. It takes a fair commitment to keep up a blog. I used to dislike how much I cared about visitor stats, it seemed pretty vainglorious. But they matter much less to me now, and I’m much more interested in the conversations that are generated by the blog.

How has blogging changed how you think about nature? or how you write?

I don’t think blogging has changed how I think about Nature, although it does change the way I think when I’m in nature.  I often will start composing posts in my head, while I’m looking at something in nature.  I think that for the most part that’s a good thing, but I’m not a hundred percent convinced. Perhaps it takes something away from the moment.

Blogging certainly has improved my writing. I think more about how I write, and have expanded my writing styles and genres.  The First Friday contest run by Amy at WildBird on the Fly has been an excellent exercise in writing. Trying to complete a bird related story in 500 words has challenged me and my writing.

How do you promote your blog and attract readers?

A while ago, I was asked by a blogger I admire very much, what my goal was, that is, the aim of my blog. I don’t really think I have one.  I’m happy that people visit, and that some of those enjoy the blog, but I don’t think it ultimately matters to me.  For the most part, I think that as far as writing goes, if you write about things you care about, and ultimately write for yourself, that the writing will be better.  I know writing needs an audience, and I’d miss the community, but I don’t think that is the main thing with me.  Which is a long way of saying I don’t put a lot of effort into promoting my blog.  I link to blogs I like, and for the most part to blogs that link to me.  I take part in some carnivals, most notably I and the Bird, which is like an old friend.

Of course I belong to the Nature Blog Network, and The House and other Arctic musings has a page on Facebook. All of these are things that will drive traffic to one’s blog, along with leaving comments on other blogs. All I’m saying is that while I do things that will increase traffic, and enjoy all the traffic that finds me, its not what drives me.  I think its getting in touch with my inner Canadian.

Do you feel you’re part of a community with other nature bloggers?

I feel very much a part of the nature blogging community.  I don’t consider myself as a nature blogger per se, or rather I don’t consider myself as strictly a nature blogger.  Nature is a big part of my blog, because it is a big part of my life. However I have many interests, and I’m easily distracted. Oh look, something shiny.

I blog about what ever catches my interest. As it happens, that’s often something from nature, which is a pattern from most of my life.  I’ve many friends in the nature community. Some of them are very fast friends, some are new, some have been friends almost from the start of this.

One thing about the nature blogging community it is very vibrant.  Like any community, people come and go, and there is an interesting mix of characters amongst it.  The beautiful thing about it, is that at its core the people in the nature blogging community care about the world about us.

Any words of wisdom for new nature bloggers?

I don’t often consider myself all that sage.  But I think the key to a successful blog is persistence.  Write about things that interest you, that move you, but above all write. Especially until you reach the point you have a fair size audience, if you don’t write regularly, then you will drop off the radar. The commitment involved is significant, and I think we lose quite a few voices because of that.

Anything else you’d like me to ask you, or that you’d like to volunteer without being asked?

Nothing I can think of off hand, but if there’s anything else you’d like to know I’d be happy to answer more questions.

Thank you, Clare.


  1. March 1, 2010 at 11:37 AM | Permalink

    I thoroughly enjoyed this interview with Clare. I only recently discovered his blog, and am tickled to see him featured here!

  2. March 1, 2010 at 2:47 PM | Permalink

    I’ve been reading Clare’s blog for years now. Love it.

  3. March 1, 2010 at 9:24 PM | Permalink

    Clare, you’re a credit to us all.

    Congratulations to kaholly and anyone else who has yet to discover Clare’s blog. One never forgets that first post on the House and other Arctic Musings. The first one I read those many years ago shared a native word for Ptarmigan (I haven’t forgotten the post but the word itself never stuck!)

  4. March 2, 2010 at 9:43 AM | Permalink

    Love Clare and his blog. I’m sad that I never got a chance to stay at the B&B.

  5. March 2, 2010 at 10:34 AM | Permalink

    Wow, thanks Wren, and thank you guys. The word for Ptarmigan in Inuktitut is Aqqigiq Mike.