From Frog Chorus to Swan Fanfares

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…

Do send in your comments and subscribe. I have worked out how to reply now, so watch it! I am starting to work on a couple of follow-up writing projects. I do have doubts and the occasional panic attack, so interaction and comments are good.

Love from,

Ted xox

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24 comments

  1. I would indeed be very privileged to see one. It is extremely unlikely as they are ultra-rare and their main habitat is a bit further south. See the new post for more on bears. Of course I might resort to the gin bottle at some stage, which would increase my chances of seeing the Spirit Bear…
    Tedx

  2. Is all that daylight keeping you from getting enough sleep? Do you play outside during all of the daylight hours?
    Kari xox

    1. Ha! You commented on the previous one just as I put up a new post. I do need to be more disciplined about getting to bed earlier. At the moment I am savouring a cd compilation that Jack made for me…
      Ted x

  3. I read all of ‘Lanark’…is there something wrong with me?. I have never wanted to skip bits in ‘dry’ books, somehow feels rude. Instead, I have perfected the technique of falling asleep with the book on my nose then waking to find miraculously I have moved on several chapters.
    Maybe not wise for older Dragons I walked alone a fare bit of the Kintyre way this week and the sands and dunes at Westport. The Sound at it’s most sensuous blue and Arran flirting with cloud wisps like fine knitted shawls.
    (A plug for ‘Scottish landscapes’) All Ted fans out there try Argyll, especially Mid Argyll, in early May for a midge free day or two out of a fortnight, good for the soul. Avoid Kintyre, full of ill natured Dragons. Where do you think Alasdair Gray met his?
    Don’t doubt, please, You will soon see Amber’s words on the dust jacket of the book. How about setting out all your mailings from previous trips to Canada in a booklet like ‘Lines from the Border’ I have a few coins in a jar to contribute to private publication. Just a thought.
    love from Rae

    1. Thanks, Saddell’s Dragon. Good to have some dialogue about Lanark. I found the Duncan Thaw story so interesting and so finely written that all the Unthank sections paled by comparison…a hard-to-follow mix of surrealism, fantasy and satire. I note that an edition of his drawings and artwork has just come out. I’d like to follow that up one day as I love his reverence for Blake and the way he translates him into a contemporary ‘line’.
      Great idea about the booklet! I can see why artists and writers have often had patrons, benefactors or whatever. I’ll give it another 18 months before looking at the options for self-publishing.
      Love,
      Ted x

  4. Hiya! I’ve subscribed – but I don’t get any updates or news of when you’ve written something?!

    Glad you’ve arrived soundly at Lucie’s. And no light pollution – you must be getting some amazing stars!

    I bought tickets to the final at Wembley today – there’s a few of us going. I will cheer for you! They are saying that there are so many Oxford fans going (25 thousand tickets sold in two days), that they may have to stop selling as they’re worried we could be taking York’s allocation too!

    Lots of Love. And I’ll try and drop you a text from the game.

    xxx

    1. I will very much be there in spirit at Wem-berley on the 16th. Unfortunately texts won’t get through as there is no coverage here. I hope that the big Oxford contingent make their presence felt and sing the U’s to a great win.
      Yes, some great starscapes here, but I only get to see them if I need a pee during the small hours…the sky is still pretty light by 11.30 pm, and that is stretching longer day by day. It’s easy to find yourself going to bed at midnight thinking you’re having an early night!
      Don’t know why you’re not getting prompts from WordPress. I went for the basic free package but anyone who subscribes should receive notice of a new entry. Hopefully it’s worth checking the site regularly to see comments as well.
      Loving you,
      Ted xxxxx

    1. Yes, I’m trying to get the balance right. Quite a number of my friends are new to blogs and don’t seem inclined to make comments…I get stats on the number of hits from WordPress and it looks healthy, but it’s hard to know who is reading it and who isn’t. Your support is very much appreciated! Will be putting up a new post tonight.
      Ted x

      1. This is the first time I have followed a blog. I really enjoy your stories and it is also wonderful to read what your friends and followers have to say.

        Jack, there are two boxes to check below the window where you submit comments.

        Notify me of follow-up comments via email
        and
        Notify me of new posts via email

        Cheers!

      2. Hiya Kari,

        Thanks for this – I tick them each time and it still doesn’t work!

        x

  5. Hi Ted: it was lovely meeting you on Sunday and to wind up IN your blog! It’s also neat to see our Yukon through your eyes. Please note: I read about 15 blogs regularly and this is my first public comment EVER….so high praise for you and your blog indeed!!

    Sharon

    1. Thank you, Sharon, it was a privilege to see the house that you and Carol have designed and built. Stunning panoramas on all sides (and great chocolate cake!).
      Ted

  6. When you do spot a particularly large and colourful red-necked phalarope keep in mind that unlike most birds, it is the females that are larger and more brightly coloured than the males. Also the females pursue males, compete for nesting territory, and will aggressively defend their nests and chosen mates. It is widely thought that the females “wear the pants” in the family. (Guess I know how to use Google!)

    1. Ok, I’ll switch to the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, or maybe the Yellow-Rumped Warbler, or the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. Or best of all (and I saw a couple of these last time) the Bohemian Waxwing. Stick that in your search engine, Princess!
      Tedxox

  7. Great descriptions as usual, has anyone ever suggested that you should become a writer!! Seriously your descriptions make it very easy for me to feel that I know where you are and I can see in my minds eye the vista`s you spell out, thanks for that. Having snow must at least feel like home, although the “home” you are in sounds just perfect anyway. If it keeps on snowing you will at least have no excuse for not getting on with the writing.
    Good to hear from you .Take care.
    love Suexxx

    1. Thanks, Sue. The 3rd morning here is clear and bright and it’s warming up. The peaks and ridges are plastered in thick snow, then there’s a belt where the snow picks out the gullies and seams in the rock. The sky is absolutely clear. So no writing today then!
      Tedxx

  8. Ah, you see McCartney had probably only heard Hollywood frogs and those with a Scouse accent so he didn’t know any better. Yours are quite different from Seamus Heaney’s as well – they’re much more base and earthy.
    John has given me “The new Smithsonian book of comic-book stories, from Crumb to Clowes”, so I’ll be able to have a reasonably intelligent conversation on the subject soon!
    Happy you’re having a wonder-full time. Thanks for sharing it.
    Best wishes, Gill

    1. Good to hear from you, Gill. I haven’t seen the book John has given you but it sounds as if it covers a golden age! Even more picturesque snow this morning, big dry flakes…but I need to get out for some basic supplies, ooh err!
      Best wishes,
      Ted

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