While my friends on the west coast are enjoying a bit of a cool and rainy summer, here in Dawson City, Yukon things have been quite delightful. Well, for the most part, anyway.We did go through a couple of weeks of being choked by smoke from forest fires, but thankfully no longer. Now we are enjoying cool mornings, blazing hot afternoons, and evening thunderstorms.There’s something shivery and delightful about being cozy inside while the storm rages at your door. Especially when you’re living in a tin can (er…travel trailer) as we are.Thunderstorms also make for great photography.Unfortunately, they also make more forest fires.Have you enjoyed a good crack and boom thunderstorm lately?
We’ve been back in Dawson City for just over a week, and I’ll tell ya, it feels good.
This morning as I was walking Samson on the trail beside the highway, his inspection of a clump of grass was interrupted by the sound of an ATV approaching from behind. We stepped to the side as a child rode past. Miniature vehicle, tiny helmet, pink Disney princess backpack bouncing between her shoulder blades. Because someone has taught her good off-road manners, she slowed as she passed. Two eyes on the road, two hands on the handlebars, focussed and full of the responsibility she’d been given.
Dawson City is a place where elementary school kids can drive their own selves to town.
Dawson City is also a place where the young men who serve you in the restaurant are as likely to wear skinny pants and man-buns as not. They’re in Dawson for the summer, earning their university money or else some extra credit in the school of life experience. One or two have beads and strips of leather braided into their long beards.
The other young men you’ll see are wearing ball caps and driving big trucks, loaders, and backhoes. Or flying helicopters or bush planes, or driving flat-bottomed boats into town from Moosehide or West Dawson.
Well, so are the old men, for that matter.
They all gather together in the bars after hours to slouch in their chairs, fingers tapping the tops of beer bottles, laughing out of wide mouths and red faces, legs spread, the fronts of their bodies concave because they’re sitting in the shape of the letter C.
The dance teacher in me wants to tell them to sit up straight.
When you look at these young men, you understand how the old men got that way.
Dawson City is a place where a beer costs only six bucks on tap, but a pound of butter costs eight. And a pound of bacon? Thirteen-fifty.
Hey there, Dawson City. It’s good to be back. I missed you.
Our Yukon summer sojourn is over. We drove away from Dawson City two days ago.
Tomorrow will see the Yukon behind us for another winter.
I took a lot of walks, saw two parades, read a lot of books, made my 60,000 word goal on the next novel, made some new friends, and learned some interesting things this summer. And I still haven’t told you what brought us up here in the first place.
It would be so easy to stay and make a home here…so easy to knit myself into the community.
We’ll be back next summer, for four months this time. Four!I’ve got some planning to do! Maybe I’ll teach a dance class, see if any local writers want to get together, join the fitness club, make a quilt by hand, start another novel…
Dear Vi,You might have heard that the streets of Dawson City are paved with gold,but the truth is, they aren’t paved at all.Here’s evidence: boot brushes outside the door of every establishment.And miles of boardwalk.This summer has been a writing retreat for me. I left home with a sketchy idea for my next novel, and today I’m well over halfway there. I’m writing about 1,000 words every time I sit down, which has been about 5 days per week. Sometimes more, sometimes less. When I’m not writing, I’m reading All The Books, which is so incredibly delicious – a summer of unlimited time.
And I’ve been accompanying Sam on his walks, of course. We love to walk up and down the streets, the boardwalk sometimes booming under our feet, sometimes squeaking , often soft with age.
I brought quilting projects and everything I need to sew a blouse, but haven’t taken my sewing machine out even once. And that’s just fine. It’s okay to stop once in awhile to wade in the water and smell the grass.
Dawson City sits at the place where the Klondike and Yukon Rivers merge.
In many ways, the town itself mirrors this merging. The rivers flow side-by-side for a ways, the line between the muddy Yukon and the (slightly) clearer Klondike easy to discern. And the city flows side-by-side, too. Old and new holding hands the way you did with your best friend back in kindergarten. Yes, Dawson City is a historic gold rush town, fun to visit.
But it’s also a town where people live and work and raise their kids. Old and new are side by side everywhere you look.This is where I buy my groceries:And the liquor store (in the old harness shop!):My favourite restaurant:The local community radio station (with proud show hosts):The Gold Rush, past and present, all coming together where the rivers meet. And the First Nations…don’t assume I’ve forgotten them. Their story is the oldest of all. But I’ll save that for another time, another letter.