Flying Solo

IMG_7642.JPG

I’m going to be solo-parenting for the next little while, and so far the experience has brought a few things forward for me. First is a deep appreciation for all that my partner does in the running of our household. I sometimes feel resentment because the childcare falls primarily to me. But now that I also must monitor our water and fill the water tank weekly, keep the generator fueled and its oil changed, clean up the kitchen after I cook, find someone to buck up a cord of firewood, find more firewood…I really see just how much he does. Even the little things, like starting a fire in the early, chill hours of the morning, putting on the birch because I love how it smells: I see them and appreciate them now more than ever.

Last night, when I came home late from work, I got the fire going again so it would be warm when we woke up today. Crouched in front of the stove, breathing life into the flames, watching them lick up the kindling that I’d split in the yard a few days earlier, I felt so grateful to the friends helping me through. Who not only babysit my children but clean my house, too. Who take my kids to the park so I can write (or, you know, run some errands unaccompanied), or who give up their weekend so I can go to work.

I felt grateful for this whole experience. In the last week, I’ve learned skills that I never made time for before. I feel empowered and independent again, something I have missed since getting married and starting a family. It was easy to give over all these running-of-the-home tasks to him. But I would also feel frustrated if they needed to be done, and I had time but lacked the knowledge. I used to worry: what if something happened to my partner and I had to keep this place going on my own? It’s hard for me to ask for help. It’s hard for me to be dependant on another. And this experience has challenged both of those things. Leaning on my friends for help with the kids, while gaining a measure of independence at home. I can now do almost all of the things that I’d previously boxed up as “blue jobs.” (I know, super sexist.) The only thing I’d like to learn is how to run the chainsaw. That will have to wait, for now.

I’m grateful for all the hard work I’ve done in the last two years to learn how to better take care of myself. I know those skills will be essential in the coming weeks. I’m down to bare-bones self-care, but I try to savour it. Making time for meditation when I can. Not worrying about writing and polishing poems, but instead focusing on 10 minute freewrites, just to keep my hand moving across the page. Taking some extra time in the shower, even. I’m grateful we have a dog that forces us out for a walk, and that there’s no cell signal in the woods. It’s an hour where I’m far away from my phone.

The season is turning abruptly here. We had a week of uncomfortable, dry heat. Each afternoon, it would reach 35 degrees celcius in the sun. Then: cool mornings and the leaves of the birch and aspen turning golden and brown. One night, strong winds blew much of the leaves down, at least around our place. Geese gather, ready for the long flight south. My thoughts turn to the woodpile, to soups and stews and home-baked bread; to checking which kid needs new boots this winter, or a new coat, and actually trying to be prepared for that (because I’m never prepared for that). I pulled the big duvet out last night and put it on the bed. It’s cozy with the kids in there, too, and for once, I’m glad we still co-sleep.

I’m going to try and keep up with my weekly posting here, but if I miss a week or two, please know life is busy right now and I’m okay! You can find me sporadically on Twitter, and more frequently on Instagram (my account is private, so if you want to follow and we don’t know each other IRL, just send me a DM) and Facebook. Take care, friends!

Quilled

IMG_7431

We’ve recently fostered and adopted a 5 year old Husky named Winston. He’s a big baby who just wants to be around his people. We all love him; it’s really nice to have a dog again. But having a dog and living in the bush comes with its share of hazards, porcupines being one of them.

Earlier this week, I took Winston and the kids out for a trail walk. Now that he’s familiar with us and knows where home is, we leave him off leash. This particular day, he hung back, barking at something I hoped was squirrels. Eventually, he caught up to us and we finished our walk. When we got home, he went right back to the same spot, barking and sniffing around. I went to check it out: down towards the back of our clearing is a bunch of old rotting stuff–building materials, truck tires, and windows. He had something trapped in a big jumble of plywood. I looked around but couldn’t see anything, so I left him there and headed back up to the house to see what the kids were up to and get to some yard work that needed to be done. The barking intensified though, so I grabbed his leash and headed back down, figuring I’d bring him up to the house and secure him so that whatever was trapped could leave peacefully.

I was too late.

By the time I got to him, he was rolling around on the ground, yelping. Poor baby had a mouthful of porcupine quills. I took him back up to the house, put him on his line in the yard, and went inside to figure out what to do. I put a show on for the kids to keep them occupied, found a pair of needle nose pliers, and went out to see if I could do this myself. There weren’t too many, maybe fifteen to twenty quills, mostly in his lips and gums, with a few under his tongue. I held him between my legs, pried his mouth open with one hand, and got to work. With a few breaks, I managed to pull nine quills myself before he’d had enough. He wouldn’t hold still long enough for me to get at the rest of them, especially the ones under his tongue. I needed help.

I sent a text to Paul, who was in town, asking him to call the vet and find out if he was available. Our vet here is what I would call a “country vet”. He can immunize dogs and perform simple surgeries. He doesn’t have an x-ray machine and he works out of the front of his home. Paul got back to me to say that John was in town and heading home to meet me in thirty minutes. I loaded up the kids and the dog, and away we went.

John was waiting for us when we got there. I left the kids in their car seats with books and toys, and brought Winston into the cramped and cluttered front office. After weighing him, I heaved him up onto the metal exam table. John sedated him and he fell heavy against me. I lay him down on the table and held his mouth open so the vet could remove the remainder of the quills, only five or six. Before long I was carrying my dopey pup out to the truck to head back home, with instructions to keep him on leash for the rest of the day.

John said he figures there are two kinds of dogs: the first kind gets quilled and thinks, “that hurt! I won’t ever touch that animal again!” and the second kind gets quilled and thinks, “ouch, he got me this time, but I’m gonna get him next time!”

Let’s all cross our fingers that Winston is the first kind of dog.

 

How to Make a Summer

IMG_7341.JPG

Each morning, my husband and I sit in our favoured places in the living room, sipping our respective cups of coffee with cream and green tea, the kids fully immersed in intense dragon battles. He’ll look at me through blasts of dragon fire and when there is a lull in the roar, he’ll ask “when does school start up again?”

It’s a hopeful question, and a useless one. They’re here, all three of them, every day. How will we get through the summer? Just by getting through. One day at a time. Tuesdays and Thursdays we go to the pool. Every morning we walk to the pond near our house and throw rocks. There may be more rock throwing later in the day at the river. There are car naps, and french fries, and mosquito bitten ankles. Yesterday, there were wild strawberries.

At work the other night, someone tipped me off to a strawberry patch accessible from town, so on Wednesday after our lunch, we loaded into the truck and drove to town, drove all the way to the end of Front street and parked under the slide, where every August the mud bog is held. As we got out of the truck, I could see the strawberry plants spread out in a mat over the hillside, amoung soapberry bushes, golden rod, plantain and the odd raspberry cane. The kids ranged over the patch, grazing. Colm, who wouldn’t eat fruit if I paid him, brought the berries to me one at a time to drop into the container I’d brought. We’re late in the season or this particular patch has already been picked clean, because the berries were sparse. I let Charlie eat what we’d collected, gone in two fistfuls.

I want to be the person who fills her freezer with wild berries each summer, lines her pantry with jewel-toned jars of preserves.  But truthfully, I find gathering wild berries to be tedious. They are so small: a good sized wild strawberry isn’t even as big as the tip of my pinky finger. Whenever I do pick wild berries, I can’t help but think of the Han people who have lived here and gathered here for thousands of years. Of the devotion they must have had to picking wild produce as it ripened. It’s not for me. I’m content to graze and to let the kids do the same. The berries are a tart burst of flavour, best enjoyed in the sun that brings them to fullness.

The kids went to bed last night with their mouths and fingers still berry-stained. Today is a pool day, maybe a rocks-in-river day. Now that we know what it’s like to have a kid in school, having three at home seems impossible, like filling a pail with tiny berries. But we get through it, one day at a time, and I try to make them about more than just “another one down”, if that makes any sense.

I’m not writing much, I am working more and the days are busy in other ways. It feels like I can’t fit it all in without letting something slip. It’s always the writing that slips. I have notes and half-poems started in my journal. I think about poems. I’ve been trying to read some poetry every day (to do that I’ve let slip the Trump-Russia fiasco and I gotta tell ya, it feels really good). I imagine that some day I’ll have it all figured out: work, family, writing, myself, so delicately balanced that even the seasons changing can’t throw it off. More likely, life will continue to be one day at a time, dragon fights and berry stained fingers and poems jotted down in between it all, each day never quite the same.

In Spite Of

14801402346_54dde5f8bd_o

July. This is it, the few brief months of warmth and wild growth and freedom and endless days. We are in the middle of it and tipping ever so slightly towards cold and dark but mostly just sweating in thirty degree heat, hanging out at the river bank or at the edges of tailing ponds, dipping our feet in the icy cold water and letting the delicious chill of it give us goosebumps. These are the days of working two jobs, squeezing in friends and family and maybe even some sleep. These are the days of wildflowers and mountain climbing and new friends and live music and festivals. It’s all happening, as it does every summer, and it should be great. Mostly, it is.

But the last two weeks, since the solstice, I suppose, I’ve been in a real funk. I’ve learned enough by now to know that this doesn’t mean THE END of happy days, but rather that it’s a bump in a very long road. That doesn’t make it any easier, though. For the last two weeks I’ve been saying such mean things to myself. I’ve stopped putting cream on my feet so that deep cracks have opened on my heels and it hurts every time I take a step. I’m so thirsty, and I tell myself to drink some water, and I don’t drink the water. Maybe I have some more tea because I’m so tired because I’m staying up too late and not getting enough sleep so I need caffeine to buoy me.

The fact that all of this was happening while my wonderful parents were visiting, while the wildflowers bloom, while life continues to happen around me, is such an insult. And it feels so shameful. How dare I feel like shit? One more thing to add to the nasty things I would say to myself. Stupid. Fat. Ugly. Talentless. And then: Ungrateful. Ouch.

I let it all build up for a while. I mentioned it to a close friend, and to my husband. But otherwise I smiled my way through it (or maybe not, I’m sure my mom knew something was up. Hi, Mom!) If I’ve learned anything in the last few years, it is to have patience with these things. I could feel tears dammed up inside of me, but I had no time to cry. Work, family, writing and poetry readings and friends and garden…no time for tears.

This morning, home with the kids, Colm threw a toy at Aedan and Aedan exploded, as he does (he gets it from me. We’re both learning how to stop doing this). He picked up a Transformer he got in a toy exchange at school, a hard plastic thing with lots of angles, and chucked it at his brother. And missed. He pinned me instead, right above my lip. Instantly, I burst into tears and I sobbed for a good little while, all three kids just staring at me. Finally, I regained myself and we talked about why that wasn’t okay and what he could do instead. I’m grateful that toy didn’t hit Colm, because it fucking hurt. I’m grateful something broke the dam and I had a good cry. I’m grateful that Aedan got shocked out of himself a little bit, and that it lead to a conversation about how to better handle anger.

I’ve started to come out of my funk. I think I’m on the other side of it. The nasty voice in my head is silent. I’m in my studio writing this, Wednesday night, and below the open window, people sing on the sidewalk. The swallows swoop through the air, gathering up the mosquitoes. One block over, I can see kids on the swings in the schoolyard–it’s ten thirty and the sun is still in the sky. There is still July, and if we’re lucky, August, too. But then it will be brilliant autumn, and then the gorgeous, difficult winter and I will try and remember to take the highs and the lows in stride. And if you’re having a hard time this summer, know that it’s okay. Drink some water. Ask for help. Do what you need to get through.

 

 

Life Lately

It feels like this summer is flying by. My parents arrived on the 18th and between spending time with them and work (did I mention I took on a second serving job?) life is busy. Here’s a quick update for you, with pictures!

It’s been hot and dry and some lightning made for a few very smokey days. We had forest fires burning all around us, with the closest being just 21 km from town. That one was something like 5 km away from a historic site, Dredge #4: the fire crews had it surrounded with sprinklers just in case. Between the efforts of the fire crews and a few days of rain, all the fires are out.

Last Thursday, I read alongside U.K. based poet Chrys Salt at Alchemy Cafe here in Dawson City. This is my third time reading in public, but my first time as something of a feature. My name was on the posters and every time I saw one of them around town I felt like a total imposter. But we had a great turnout, twenty to twenty five I think. Chrys was fabulous: her background is in theater, and it certainly shows in her readings. She was captivating, and I feel like I learned a lot watching her read. I read for ten minutes to a much appreciated, very warm reception. At the end a few people asked where they could find more of my work, and as I wrote my website address on scraps of paper, I wished for business cards. I think I secretly (not so secret anymore?) love an audience!

Other highlights of the last week: a walk through Orchid Acres, a spot in West Dawson where thousands of spotted lady’s slipper orchids grow together in the forest, and a private tour through the Bear Creek compound just outside of Dawson. This was the headquarters for all of the dredging activity that happened in this region up until the 60’s. Everything there is pretty much untouched since the day they ceased operations: it was fascinating!

Next week I hope to have a book review for you, if I can manage to squeeze in some reading time and finish my book! Hope your summer is fun. xo

IMG_7083
Spotted Lady Slipper Orchids
IMG_7092
Forest walks
IMG_7123
Midnight Sunsets
IMG_7133
Smoke in the valley
IMG_7233
Me and Chrys Salt at the Alchemy
IMG_7173
Safety first!