Sunday, December 22, 2013

Solstice Greetings

Check this out.  This is what it looked like on the solstice yesterday.  It's the kind of phenomenon similar to rainbows, sundogs and northern lights.  We see it often in winter, this blue line along the horizon but I don't know if it has a name.  It reminds me of Rob's favorite kids book "Harold and his purple crayon".  Since we are in a crag, a deep valley, it feels like an odd pocket of energy and chemistry, while the sun dances on the periphery in bold blue skies high above us.  We haven't seen the sun directly here in several days but no matter, this is a good time to snuggle up with a book on the couch or to get to those long forgotten creative projects.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dear Linda

Dear Linda,
     Funny that I should think of you here, in this unusual space.  I’m in a musher’s cabin, waiting for Ana-Maria who has just gone for a short trip with Kelly, a young female musher.  What a luxury to be in the comfort of her rustic dwelling, for the equivalent of a 10-mile run.  The dogs left behind are howling mournfully like old-fashioned police sirens, some yelping and then all is quiet.
     No doubt I’m thinking of you here because of your lengthy search for home.  Living on a boat for a decade, no matter how romantic it may seem, must take a toll after a while.  So let me tell you about this different life.
     The view from this squat rugged cabin is spectacular.  A large picture window taking up most of the wall is symmetrically positioned to frame an iconic snow covered mountain.  In the foreground there are 20 square doghouses haphazardly strewn, with all of their chewed away door openings facing the cabin.  Several dogs are lounging on the flat tops, soaking up the sun while others are running around their individual posts, impatient and hopeful that they may be the next ones chosen to go out for a run.
     The cabin is tiny with its rough plank walls, even with a large extension.  The original part has a hint of a loft, a trailer sized sink, and a double bed with a shelf above it lined with recent DVD’s.  No TV visible anywhere.  As far as I can see, the only thing locked around here is a tall narrow metal cabinet – a rifle most likely.  Not even a lock on the main door, nothing to steal, I guess.  Her dogs would alert and protect her. 
     A green spiral notebook is open on the table and catches my attention.  It has a bold hand written message in blue marker;
To find happiness in life you must:
1)      find something to do
2)      find something to love
3)      find something to hope for.
I can’t resist adding a quote from Yoda: “Try not.  Do or do not.  There is no try.”  Very quickly, I realize that I love the calm quiet young woman who casually allowed me in her unpretentious home, with her green eyed cat for company, while she kindly took my friend out for a spin around her neighbourhood.  So open and comfortable, not out to impress anyone but herself.  There’s a sense of personal satisfaction with this hard simple life.
Her kitchen is bare-bone functional; she obviously hates to cook.  No cupboards but narrow shelves for tea and dried goods.  Olive oil, hot sauce, honey, vinegar…a half eaten stack of whole wheat pancakes, a fork stuck into a large triangular cut portion rests on a plastic cutting board.  Plywood shelves below store a supply of tins, a purple hand-sewn curtain with blue thread hangs loose on either side.  There is no water or electricity, instead a few gas lamps and a clump of scented candles occupy this table in front of me.
An old converted oil barrel flattened out by a hammer is the main source of wood heat, with 2 stainless steel pots on top for water.  This reminds me of the early days at Rob’s ‘batch pad’, where a doorknob was considered frivolous.  His cabin had a giant frost heave in the floor just under where the stove was.  In those early exuberant days of romance, I remember hanging some laundry too close to the stove.  The associated smell of a stove like that is of burning rubber from my bra and undies.
There’s a tub of raw meat on a chair nearby for the yummy pre-run soup.  A clothesline above it holds mitts, hats, socks and a string of Velcro dog bootees.  There is no semblance of anything being up to code, not anything being organized in any way other than to sustain herself and her beloved dogs in a joyous harmonious state. 
A tiny shelf above the vintage 80’s couch holds a German beer stein, a framed tropical post card, and a photo of herself in a wedding party wearing a black gown with spaghetti straps, carrying a bouquet of yellow flowers, embracing a plump smiling bride. 
Dusty wine glasses and cat haired cutlery are gathered in a forgotten corner, along with mugs with broken handles.  I see no modern hardware, only antler handles and wooden latches.  “People don’t like to rent to mushers,” Kelly said before leaving.  Life here in this community seems relaxed, focused and fortunate.  She has several neighbours, all mushers, like a tiny village far away from anything where no one minds the howling excited barking.
Here they come!  Ana-Maria has a broad smile plastered on her face, she waves two thumbs up.  She disembarks the sled, straightens her leopard print jacket and gushes about the amazing trail.  I remind her that the day before a stray dog bit her, but today she is firmly handling and harnessing these huskies.  When was the last time I saw her so euphoric?
I leave you now Linda, and look forward to having a healthy discussion upon our next visit about our concepts of home.  Alternative is the key; I know you’ll agree,

Love, Suzanne

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Water Returns!

Thank you Bonnie for inquiring about the current water situation.  It might be weird to say but after a while it was a regular part of our weekly routine to haul water - usually a dozen blue jugs at a time.  It was a whole new adventure for me but for Rob it was shades of his bachelor days when he lived with two blue jugs a week and he had to drive 10 miles to get it.  We had large plastic garbage cans filled in the bathtub and in the corner of the kitchen.  A large pot of water was always on the wood stove for dishes.  In fact, this was such a good idea that we continue to do this for moisture in the cabin and to reduce water heating costs.  Bathing was done in traditional style in the lakeside sauna.  There's nothing like standing naked on a moonlit night on a frozen lake, smelling of essential oils, to observe millions of stars and possible northern lights.  For guests this is the highlight of their stay here.

As soon as spring returned at the end of April, Rob (A.K.A. Hernia Man who was soon to have surgery) was busy digging up a long trench, a foot deep, from the cabin to the lake.  That's about 100 feet.  The last stretch was the worst with the ground still frozen.   The month prior to this, he's bought all the necessary supplies, PVC pipes, heat trace... There was a man who was anxious for the return of spring and for things to be 'normal', but I remind him that especially around here normal is a setting on your washing machine.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Update - Organic Moments

This long delayed post is dedicated to Rose, one of my persistent supporters.  I though of her and this blog while eating rose petal ice cream a few weeks ago when visiting my favorite Mexican city, La Paz.  In the shadow of a polka dotted tree near the Vermillion Bay of Illusions, several cones of this were consumed in hopes of re-creating it at Crag Lake during the summer wild rose season.  At first lick, rose petal ice cream tastes like grand mothers bubble bath, a bit shocking but quickly the creamy deliciousness makes a clear presence.  The best part is the subtle sensation of the frozen petals that come back to their velvety life over the tongue.  We sampled corn ice cream too, it has a true Mexican flare. 

Catching up on the last year; during the four months of my new full time career of carving a hole in the ice and hauling water uphill to the cabin, I became very in tuned with the natural environment and the authentic contents of my heart while looking for a new life direction.  As a self confessed pack rat, I decided that during this time of being unemployed in the conventional sense was a good opportunity to examine my piles of what I consider to be art supplies for future creative projects.  Rob calls it junk.  While I would agree that a partial canoe, stacks of driftwood, beaver chewed sticks and rusty bed frames may indeed be useless to some less imaginative types, to me they are true treasures.  I'd like to take full credit for the idea to hide these under the guest cabin behind the garden shed that Rob built with his usual standard of beauty, craftsmanship and function.

The collection in question at the time was my postage stamps, literally thousands of them ranging from the dull everyday ones to the antiques and globally gathered.  Much like my collection of clothing labels (see earlier posts of clothing label quilts I've made), I saw stamps as tiny unique art pieces that tantalize my sense of travel and adventure.  How could people overlook these and simply throw them in the garbage without a second thought?  So I started to cover furniture with them; first a chair, then a cabinet, a bread board, an old metal file box, a mirror...  Visually speaking they are much like the label quilts and they represent a similar disappearing era.  People rarely write letters anymore and labels are now being stamped directly on fabric.

Now combine these two elements of no water and delving into a new juicy project and what is the outcome?  Another Organic Moment!

Laundry had to be hauled to the Carcross gas station once a week, since of course we could not do it here without water.  Instead of looking at this situation as a hassle, I took this opportunity to hang out at the post office in between loads to check out any new stamps and to enjoy the general vibe there.  What I found every week was one stressed out post master, who I'd describe as running around like her hair was on fire.  Finally and reluctantly, I said "You look like you could use some help around here."  And presto (almost) I got the job as acting post master for the tiny town of Carcross, population 450.  Truth is I really love this job and as a bonus, imagine the stamps I get to admire and acquire thanks to some understanding and generous patrons.