The deck spilled over with people, an impromptu gathering of friends old and new for a picnic. Some that were invited hadn’t been able to make it. Others brought friends to introduce to us. Everybody came with food…burgers, salmon, a dozen salads, fruit, desserts. The children played in the lake and the dogs ranged between sets of knees, hoping for a handout. Rebekah closed the outhouse door too tightly, causing the hasp to fall, trapping her on the wrong side of the locked door. We were just starting to wonder where she had gotten to when we heard her musical voice calling from the distant side of the yard, “Hello? Hello? Anyone…?” We will laugh about that for years to come. Eventually the children changed into their pajamas and started to yawn. The dogs licked the last plate clean. The sun started to sink toward the northwest and we all realized it was nearly 10:30. Food was packed up, goodbyes said, hugs given, promises made, friends departed.
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.
Have you ever chosen a word
just one single word
to guide you through the year?
For the last couple of years I’ve held the word balance close to my heart. It was the word that helped me to navigate a very busy life: teaching up to 5 dance classes per week, directing a dance troupe, choreographing and producing shows while managing to have a family life and working a 9-5 day job (phew!)
Balance was the word that got me through to the other side of menopausal depression. I was out of balance physically, emotionally and hormonally. Searching for and maintaining balance was the lifeline that I clung to and the rope I hauled myself up by. It kept me secure during the heartache of deciding to let go of my dance troupe and students. I kept it in the front of my mind during my weight loss journey (65 pounds!). It was the word that taught me to put health and happiness above productivity.
Balance guided me through the waters of deciding to retire relatively young; to move to a new town and seek out new adventures.
Balance: what a beautiful word!
But now it’s time for a new word to live by. It’s time to get out of the box and…
This year I am going to play in my kitchen and learn to bake a cake from scratch. Specifically, some of the Chatelaine cakes. Yum!
…and I will experiment creating delicious meals from all over the globe: India, Japan, Italy, Thailand…! No fear in the kitchen will be my new motto – play with those spices, Nita! Try it out!
In my Creativity room I will play in the sewing nook, on the yoga mat, in-front-of the dance mirror and with words at my laptop.
My body will become stronger as I play outdoors, exploring local walking and hiking trails with Kelly and Sammy. We’ll take our bikes out and explore some of the country roads.
I will play in the garden, discovering all the wonders of living in a zone 5 gardening region.
I vow to put myself “out there” and be open to meeting new friends, getting involved in the community somehow (music? theater? dance?)
My friend Melissa at 100 Billion Stars puts it brilliantly (you can read her entire blog post here):
Play is a way of making room for our potential. It isn’t about pretending to be something we hope to be one day. It isn’t about presenting a different face to the world, trying on masks and personae. It’s about being authentic and true to ourselves in an atmosphere without judgment or rules. It’s from this place that growth begins, releasing the possibilities that have been lying dormant all our lives.
So here I am this morning, wishing you all a wonderful year of play and a hell of a good time doing it!
You may have gathered that I moved into town 10 days ago, when Kelly drove out. You also know that I’ve been taking a creative writing class this semester. 🙂
Well, I’ve been working on a story and needed a big chunk of uninterrupted time to concentrate on it, so last weekend I took myself on a private writing retreat and went back to the cabin for a visit.
I put a fire in the wood stove and made a pot of tea. I roasted a chicken breast and vegetables for supper. I listened to Loreena McKennett on the iPod and quilted in my lap with a notebook and pen at my elbow. Whenever I had an idea for the story, I’d put my stitching down, pick up the notebook and jot down my thoughts.
Later, I set up the laptop and started in earnest. I remember at one point lifting my head to see that it had grown dark while I worked. What a luxury it was, having all this time completely alone, all to myself!
What thrills me the most, though st that I finished my story! It came in at just over 10,100 words. I don’t know if it would be called a long short story or a short novella…
The lake is a truly beautiful place to write, but especially when you get up in the morning and the water is clear as glass and there is a fresh dusting of snow on the far hills.
I didn’t have my camera with me, so dug up these photos from the archives. The lake is timeless, though, and this is truly what my weekend view looked like. 🙂
Have you been wondering what I’ve been doing in the evenings?
Well, I’ve been working hard at my Creative Writing class that I’m taking.
I’ve been making my six blocks for the 3×6 bee. Since I don’t have a sewing machine nor electricity to run it at the moment, I decided to applique hexagrams for my bee mates. Here they are, finished and ready to be mailed:
I’ve also been working away on this little crib- or “blankie”-sized blanket. I saw the green yarn in Wall-Mart and was drawn to the colour – such a pretty, springtime green 🙂 It doesn’t have a destination yet…maybe it will be a Because You Matter blanket.
I am also still stitching away on my sister’s quilt. This is an old photo, but it’s coming along nicely and I think you’re going to like it when I finally finish it and do the big photo reveal. I’m going to start pushing myself with the goal of finishing before I leave Whitehorse. I’d like to do the photos on the S.S.Klondike if Parks Canada will let me in during off-season…but before I can do that, I have to finish it, lol!
And last but not least…here is the sunset from my deck last night. Oh, how I love living at Fox Lake!