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,