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…
Warning: my beautiful pictures have posted upside down again. I do not understand. sorry for the discombobulation…I hope you will enjoy the post anyway.
The early morning air is cool when I step outside and stand for a moment on the front porch. I’m savouring the start of the day, before heat drives me inside to take refuge under the ceiling fan.
Noticing the flower pots are thirsty, I uncoil a bit of hose and turn on the tap. Water wand in one hand and coffee cup in the other, I douse the containers before moving on to the small raised garden where zucchini hang off the vines and nasturtiums tumble over the side. The sun is warm, but not too hot to stand under yet, so I uncoil more hose and move along the perennial bed, admiring the plants that I put in when I built the bed last year.
I need to research August-blooming plants because there isn’t a lot of colour in the perennial bed at the moment But, I note how each plant has grown and imagine how it will look after another two years pass. I remember reading that a perennial bed takes three years to mature. It won’t be until the fourth summer that it will be in its full glory.
I wander down the length of the bed slowly until I reach the friendship rose, a Blanc de Coubert Rugosa that I brought with me from Whitehorse. I call it the friendship rose because years ago, three of us (Kim, Candy & I) used to get together at each others homes over the summer for tea and a garden tour. We’d admire the progress of our gardens, dream over seed catalogues, plan for the next year. Sometimes we’d go out for lunch or visit a garden center. One time, on the spur of the moment, we all bought the same rose bush. Kim and I have remained in touch, but I haven’t seen Candy in years. I wonder if she still has hers? Sadly, although it is a zone 3 plant, the Yukon is not the ideal climate for a Blanc de Coubert, and my poor little bush just barely survived. It hardly grew larger than it was the day we bought it. Kim’s rose has fared equally poorly. When we moved, I couldn’t bear to leave it behind, so I dug it up and brought it with me. In two summers, the rose has already doubled in size. A little bit of the Yukon in Sunnybrae. 🙂
I water the friendship rose and move on to the blueberry bushes and the rhubarb. This end of the yard is still in the shade, lovely and cool. I see weeds. Oh, the bane of my existence! Beautiful green leaves that display dainty blue flowers in the spring. Foolishly, I encouraged them last year. Now I know better. And daisies, too. Back in Whitehorse I used to chastise Mr. C. when he’d mow them down in the side lawn. I worked so hard to encourage them to grow. But here! Here they grow everywhere. They take over the bed like a cuckoo bird pushing its host’s eggs out of the nest and leaving behind its own to flourish in the rich soil.
I march to the garage. Put my empty coffee cup down and don my gardening gloves. Three-prong hand-rake in hand, I march back across the lawn, drop to my knees and start digging and pulling. Inch by inch the area around the blueberries bushes returns to black soil. I move down the bed, leaving the shade and entering the sun. Under the lavender, more baby daisies are hiding, just waiting to grow up and assimilate the brethern. I yank them out.
A wasp buzzes by on its way to breakfast at the hummingbird feeder and I swat it away from my ear. I think, “here I am, weeding the lavender in the sunshine,” and I can feel myself smiling from the inside out. Did you know that lavender propagates by the root? I didn’t. I don’t think lavender grows in the Yukon, so how would I know how it propagates? Lo and behold, when I lift the lavender to pull the weeds hiding underneath, I find lavender spikes coming out of the ground more than six inches from the parent stock.
After a while I sit back on my heels and take a little break. My back is sweaty. My head is hot. In only an hour the sun has gone from pleasant to brutal. I stand up and brush the grass off my knees. Suddenly, I realize that I’ve been gardening in flipflops and a dress.
This fact makes me smile, because back when I worked at Yukon College, I used to fantasize about my retirement. One of the things I wanted to do was learn to sew my own dresses. Another thing was to go out in the mornings and water the garden with a hose whenever I wanted to (not just on Saturdays & Sundays during July).
Well, here I am, this morning. I’ve just come inside, to wash the grass stains off my knees with a cool washcloth. to scrub my wrists and arms, and wash the sweat off my face and neck. And I am wearing a sundress that I made myself.
When we left the Yukon to pursue a new life as early retirees 17 months ago, our plan was that we would return for at least one month every year. Except for that first year. Mr. C travelled back and forth quite a bit doing contract work, but I wanted to experience an entire uninterrupted year in the Shuswap before leaving. And also, I was a little bit afraid of coming back too soon. Afraid I would be overcome with homesickness.
But this year we have both come back together and I’m pleased to report that I don’t feel any grief or homesickness whatsoever. We really do have the best of both worlds. It was a good decision to relocate – we love living in the Shuswap. And it was a good decision to keep our Yukon property…our tiny-yet-full-of-character heritage log cabin that has sunk in the back corner so that a marble rolls in a lazy S pattern across the floor and where Fox Lake is only fifteen steps from the front porch. (Yes, I just got up and counted them. 15 steps.) Some sad day we will have to sell it because a time will come when we will need the income. That is the day that will break our hearts. But not yet. Not for a dozen or more years.
Here at the cabin, we only exist in the here and now. There is no yesterday. There is no tomorrow. Only today. And since we will be here for a long and luxurious 7 weeks, that is a lot of todays to enjoy.
So…we spent 5 days traveling 2,560 kilometers (that’s approximately 1500 miles for you metric-challenged folk) from our new home in the Shuswap to our home-away-from-home in the Yukon. Lots of people do it much quicker than this, and I think it’s a shame. I love the drive, I love the Alaska Highway and I love taking my time to enjoy it. A seven-hour driving day is just about right for us, though we usually end up driving for eight. After 8 hours, we’re tired and ready to stop for the day.
And the weather on this trip! Don’t get me started…the weather was completely, absolutely, 100% FANTASTIC the entire drive. Sunny blue sky. Warm. Perfect. Every day.
When we arrived in Whitehorse, Mr. C picked up the car (he travels back and forth doing contract work in the winter, so keeps a car here) and went off to contact his flying students while I continued on to the cabin in the truck & camper. I was looking forward to that first glimpse of the lake … looking forward to following the twisting North Klondike Highway until it crosses Fox Creek, past the boot-end of the lake, all reedy and full of beaver dams before it climbs a bit and follows just above the lake. When we arrived at the top of the drive, I got out to unlock the chain and smelled the hot dusty smell of early spring, the sticky-sweet smell of newly opened leaves (spring comes late in the Yukon), the clear green smell of lake water. I smiled when I saw the Private Residence sign nailed to a tree. That’s Us! The Collins’ are back in residence!
In the truck, Sam stood on the passenger seat, his front paws on the dashboard. He was whining and staring intently down the drive, ears up, tail wagging. He knew exactly where we were. Back in the camper, the cats opened their eyes, stood up and stretched, enjoying a welcome break from the swaying and rattling of the “noisy moving house.”
“Hello house! Hello lake! I’m back!” I stood outside the open truck door and threw open my arms, yelled the words with a big grin on my face. The little cabin was so happy to see us, too! The first thing I did was unlock the front door and go inside, one step behind Samson. Sam jumped up into his window seat to see if his basket of toys was still there (it was) while I set about opening the house. I unlocked each shutter in turn, opened the windows to let in the air and light, turned on the propane, and lit the fridge. I carried the cats into the house and set them down on the bed. They knew exactly where they were, too. Whiskers curled forward, ears pricked up; they raised their chins and sniffed and sniffed. Then they set about investigating the entire place, saving the best for last: a roll-about on the deck and a good long soak in the sun on the deck they remember so well. Meanwhile, I unpacked the camper and stowed away the groceries, our clothing and the selection of quilting, knitting & sewing projects, my laptop, notebooks and novels to read that I’d brought with me.
There was still a bit of ice on the lake, and the leaves on the willow trees along the lakeshore were not quite open yet. I was so glad! I love to watch them unfurl. Spring in the Yukon lasts about 3 days. I’m glad I was here in time to see it.
When Mr. C arrived we set up the patio furniture and had supper.
Grilled cheese sandwiches & a bag of chips. Beer for him and a cider for me. Maybe not the healthiest supper ever, but just the perfect homecoming feast after a long five days on the road.
“You can go downtown,” I used to say to my son, “but you can’t just hang. You have to have something to do.” I abhorred the thought of my kid just hanging around Main Street, looking bored.
I’ve felt sort of like one of those teenagers these last few weeks. Just hangin’. An aimless Hum-de-dum-dum, not wanting to do any of the things on my to-do list. You know the feeling.
Before I retired, I yearned for unstructured time. Now that I’ve got it, I find myself yearning for some structure! Thus my feelings of contrariness.
No, I don’t want to go back to work, so don’t even suggest it. I just want a little something-something in the way of a schedule. Because I’m not as good with unstructured time as I thought I was.
In my working life, I was an administrative assistant at Yukon College. One of the great things about working there was being totally immersed in an atmosphere of teaching and learning. In fact, practically my entire life revolved around teaching and learning. I taught dance classes for 15 years, I traveled “outside” regularly to pursue my education as a dance artist and teacher and I took an assortment of college courses in the evenings.
As I sit here writing, I realize that that’s what’s missing. Teaching and Learning! Especially the Learning.
Enter the MOOC.
MOOC is an acronym for Massive Open Online Course. These are (non-credit) university courses that are open to anyone, anywhere. As long as you have access to a computer and the internet, you can take a course. And best of all, the courses are free!
Part of retiring early (early 50s instead of mid-late 60s) was accepting the challenge of learning how to live successfully on a tight budget. So you can imagine how attractive the word FREE is, especially when followed by the word EDUCATION! Lol!
The other day I discovered The Open University’s Future Learn program. Within minutes, I’d signed up for a course: Start Writing Fiction. The course starts at the end of April, and I can’t wait for class assignments, assigned readings, critical thinking and deadlines! I realize that makes me a bit of a geek. Too bad, so sad. It’s the way I roll. I might even sign up for a second class!
This has been a busy weekend for us! Last night was the Salmon Arm Community Concert Band Christmas concert, and Mr. C’s big debut as co-conductor. I am very proud to report that he stood up on the podium in his suit and waved his baton around and didn’t fall off once! More importantly, the audience loved him. I don’t have a single photo for you, though, I am so sorry to say. 🙁
Here…I’ll take a quick two-selfie for you (is that a word?)
Today was Date Day and we spent the afternoon visiting every single winery that Salmon Arm has to offer. Because today was also Christmas Open House day! (At the wineries that, is. Not at my house, though you are welcome to drop in anytime…which makes everyday open house day at my house, actually…)
We came home with 8 bottles of wine, two from each winery:
Sam loves Open House Day at the wineries, too, because I sneak out pieces of sausage and cheese from the party trays for him. (oh, um….yes, that is a quilt you see on the back seat, covered in muddy paw prints. And yes, you are correct…it is hand quilted. But before you get your knickers in a knot over my mistreatment of such a precious heirloom, I quilted it myself and so I can do whatever I want to with it. Get out! get out! No quilting police allowed at my house, lol!)
After we got home and I made myself a nice cup of tea, I finished the last row of the Trifle Dish Quilt. The quilt-along was so long ago that the directions for the last row weren’t on the website anymore, so I had to write to them and ask for the directions to be sent.
It’s called a Trifle Dish quilt because it’s built up in layers (rows). I made it because I love (L.O.V.E.) trifle. Next comes the borders and then finishing and then off it will go to its new home.
This is the flimsy (that means just the plain top, before it has been put together with the stuffing and backing and then quilted). Please excuse the bad lighting. Indoors, flashbulb, too much wine….you know.
Here is something cute…Michael’s girlfriend had a birthday last month, and as I was too busy with Nanowrimo to think about much else, I whipped up a couple of little coasters to put in her birthday card.
And I also made another book mark. Just because.
Oh! And today I am celebrating an anniversary! One year ago Today exactly, I pulled into my driveway in Salmon Arm for the very first time as a new early retiree. 🙂
One year ago today I drove away from Whitehorse, embarking on a solo journey down the Alaska Highway in -30 something temperatures. I stopped along the way to take some photos and jot down some poems. Here is that post.
Day One: Whitehorse to Watson Lake (December 2, 2013)
This is the Alaska Highway:
At 10:45 in the morning my car’s thermometer is pegged at-30: as low as it will go. I do not know how cold it really is, only that it is colder than 30 below. After an hour on the road, there is still ice on the hood of the car and the clutch is still as stiff as tar.
I am driving East, into the rising sun, with everything I own.
When the road ahead is drenched in molten gold I know to raise my hand
in anticipation of being blinded,
until the road slides west and sunrise
outhouse in December someone has left the seat up amber icicles
Driving east, sarah brightman
eases the pie jesu
into the rising sun as brilliant bursts of liquid bronze and gold splash champagne, while shadows
chase the sweetness of the melody across the hillsides.
Telephone poles stretching one after the other, t-braces white with frost, a thousand messiahs
with knees and feet of alabaster and frosty brows bowed down,
connected by living wire, carryingmy whispered voice from christ jesus
to christ jesus to christ jesus
until it reaches your
This is a short video of the road, shot holding the camera on the dash as I drove. It’s beautiful. Click here if you can’t see it.