Awoke on my first morning back in The Yukon to a sudden downfall of snow (some 3 inches plus by mid-morning). It was slobbery wet stuff and has mostly gone from the lower levels by this evening. I am cosily ensconced in my house-sit, a beautiful yellow cedar log home perched in a remote place somewhere between Whitehorse and Carcross in the South Klondike. Already it stays light until well past 10 pm, and Spring is here, despite the surprise snow dump last night.
Some points along the way since my last posting:
- Never trust Paul McCartney. Certainly not when it comes to frog choruses. My cousin’s house on Gabriola Island has a lovely wild pond, much frequented by frogs. At night, sleep is punctuated by intense, swelling episodes of frog choral music. Scores of frogs go for it with a passion that makes a Welsh rugby crowd sound like some vapid boyband. Sometimes it’s synchronised, sometimes it’s counterpoint…always it’s loud. It becomes a real challenge to describe the sound. The best I can do is this: imagine recording 50 cockrels crowing, then loop the sound so that it is reversed, then play it through an amplifier set up for a heavy metal band, but with the treble turned right up…that’s it exactly! Anyone out there with a better comparison? It does have a ringing, crickets-in-the-jungle, avant garde feedback beauty.
- As well as the frogs, Gabriola was wall-to-wall clam and oyster beaches, big chubby starfish (violet and salmon pink), blue herons, bald eagles, browsing roe deer, grumpy sea-lions, and gourmet hospitality from Larry for Steve’s birthday.
- Speaking of clams: wandering the beaches as the tide went out I noticed hundreds of jets of water squirting vertically up into the air from below the mud, stones and shells. Tiny but urgent jets, sometimes over 2 feet high. Apparently this is what clams do when they snuggle down below the surface to await the next incoming tide. Not sure how they do it, perhaps best not to ask, save it for prawn porn…
- After Gabriola I enjoyed a happy evening back in Vancouver, courtesy of well-travelled folks I met whilst working at the Opera House in Ashcroft in 2007, Elaine and my namesake Ted. They live in Burnaby and we had a fine walk around Deer Lake, with turtles basking on the logs, mocha coloured squirrels and baby Canada geese scooting around the shores. I later learned some of the finer points of ice hockey whilst watching the Vancouver Canucks slaughter Chicago on a screen that let you read the manufacturer’s name on the puck!
- The Air North flight up to Whitehorse was great, very reasonable and funkily enjoyable. After a cloudy first half, the skies cleared for much of the last hour plus. I caught aerial glimpses of the Kitimat-Stikine ranges and the Cassiar area that lifted my heart with memories of stravaiging in ’07. I have included quite a bit about those terrains in my book, so I hope you’ll be able to read the ground level view one day.
- As far as reading matter goes, I have been half-enjoying Lanark by Alasdair Gray, one of those “big” novels (in size and repute) that I thought would be a good staple diet before picking up on the local lit. I have just finished it: it’s definitely touched by genius, but I would advise reading the 2 ‘books’ in the middle and skimming the first and fourth sections, which have not aged well in the relatively short time since it was published. But the autobiographical story of Duncan Thaw is brilliant stuff. A happy side-effect for me has been the occasional reference to the Scottish landscape, a link of sorts to the boreal world here.
- It felt wonderful to hit the Alaska Highway out of Whitehorse yesterday, and I was almost tearful by the time I reached the South Klondike cut-off and drew closer to this house and the beautiful bowl of lakes and bushland that it overlooks, all of it framed within graceful ridges of 6,000 foot mountain ranges.
- It was joyous to see Lucie and Jan again and to settle in to the calm and open energy of their home. They introduced me to some fine neighbours (neighbours here means a good mile, with no visible lights at night in any direction). We took a walk in the late afternoon sun across a maze of esker ridges among the twisted birches, alders and spruce, to retrieve a ball that Dotty the dog had left the previous day after Lucie encountered a black bear.
- Today Lucie and Jan flew off in the snow (by plane…they don’t have wings), heading to England for a month. I waited for the thaw to set in, watching juncos and redpolls take turns at the bird feeder, then set off for the north end of Marsh Lake, back on the Alaska Highway.
- At this time of year great flocks of Trumpeter Swans and Tundra Swans congregate here on their journey further north. At one stage last week there were apparently 3,500 swans on the lake. Most have already gone but there were still about 300 there this evening, with ecstatic, honking choruses blaring out in the fading light. Lots of Snow Geese too, and masses of smaller water fowl scudding around after the large birds, scoffing from the weeds churned up by the bigger shovel beaks. I’m no expert on birds, but some of the names are so great that they demand to be identified: I know a loon when I see (or hear) one, but tonight I also saw buffleheads and surf scooters. Ha!… short of a red-necked phalarope, life is complete.
It was good to see what it looks like here with everything covered in snow, but I’m glad that it has cleared so quickly. The slopes and heath areas are full of big clumps of mauve crocuses and small yellow tundra roses. The crocuses are especially big and gorgeous, covered in thick peach-fuzz prior to bursting out in Prince (Purple Rain period) glory. So, enough with the snow now, please…
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