Big City Girl in the Land of the Midnight Sun

Chapter 1: The Midnight Sun

June 7, 2017

I am writing this at 10:30 p.m. with no lamp. This is my third night here in Dawson. I think it’s crazy that the days and nights blend into each other. Dark is not dark. Dusk is not dusk. Dawn is not dawn. It’s the land of the midnight sun.

Nothing can describe how strange it is to be out at midnight, able to read the signs clearly and see the surrounding landscape in detail. It’s like living a child’s dream where you never have to go to bed and there is always fun and sun around the corner.

Except, I’m not a child and I have to work. Both prove to be hard.

In Toronto, I was always chasing the sun. One more beer, one more hour, still meant it would get dark and hence I would sleep. When I realized I would have to set an alarm before going to bed, I understood that I could no longer rely on the sun to measure day or night.

I am now completely out of my element and the sun no longer controls my sleep. Up here, where the Arctic circle is a six-hour drive away, the sun adds an energy to life. I have had more energy than I can remember, but somehow, I sleep for longer than ever, too. It must be the fresh air and the quiet.

As I sit and write to birds singing, dogs barking and the sound of a loon – at 10:30 p.m. – I feel more at peace and happy than I have in a long time. I am excited to walk, work, swim, do yoga, go boating, camp, dance, eat, meet new people, take photos, write, sleep, drink and enjoy nature.

For heaven’s sake, the Yukon River is at my feet. The mountains surround me and the land of the midnight sun blinds me, cartwheels me, reels me. I realize once again that I am not in control of anything, except how I behave in the moment.

Thanks to Hugh Prather and his book Notes to Myself: My Struggle to Become a Person.

Chapter 2: The Bushwhacker

June 10, 2017

Out of the bush on an ATV came a man who looked an awful lot like Harrison Ford in Raiders of The Lost Ark. Camouflage green from head to toe with strapping boots and a knife attached to his hip.

He holds many titles and has many skills: prospector, bushwhacker, hunter, trapper, etc. On the side, he is a hunting guide, teaching and helping others to hunt in the wild.

Living mostly off the land and his kill, he seldom uses a plate and his knife serves various purposes. He also stakes claims – a term I just learned up here in gold country. This requires clearing land and marking it for assessment and small-scale mining called “shafting”.

He’s not a big man, but can do anything he needs to, in order to survive in the bush – and he has stories you just wouldn’t believe. He tells me some as he hands me a piece of moose meat from his knife. It’s delicious.

When I met him, I already knew I was a fish out of water and a big city girl in a small, back-of-beyond place, but now I am sure I have no idea at all where I really am.

Chapter 3 – The Women of The Yukon

July 25, 2017

The women here are the most capable, tough, strong, natural and genuine that I have met. No offence to my city girlfriends who have major strengths, but nobody is as cool as a Yukon woman.

Women here mush dogs, have their own boats, drive quads, fish, canoe, hunt, build, and definitely know how to party. They may not always have shaved legs and make-up, but they do exude a sexual flare that goes along with being so capable and real.

It’s refreshing not to be concerned with plucking, tweezing, dyeing hair, or primping all the time. I have only seen one woman wearing heels here and she was a tourist.

The roads are not paved and most women have better things to do and are too busy to dress up; although there are occasions such as going to The Pit to dance, or out for dinner with friends, when they’ll appear with eyeliner and lipstick, and it’s nice to see.

I basically work for accommodation here – at a clothing store, so I try to look stylish and fresh, but I don’t really need to go out of my way. However, the white pants I wear sometimes are apparently “brave” in Dawson, with its unpaved streets.

I can even go to the grocery store in my pajamas and nobody thinks twice. Talk about a non-judgmental place to live. Truly refreshing.

Chapter 4: Bush Men

Aug. 26, 2017

Almost three months on, I have met more bush men and bush women than I could have imagined existed – seven, so far – which seems like a large number to me.

I have, in fact, spent some time with a certain one who has been winning my heart and helping pull me into the spell of this land.

I have been exposed to some of the trades and skills these men and women have. I have learned to shoot a rifle and shoot on-target. I’ve been shown how people live without running water and driven vehicles that get them around the rough terrain.

It helps that the bush man I’ve been hanging out with makes me feel comfortable and takes no time at all to do the tasks I assumed would come with complaints (given circumstances such as living without running water).

I watched him fill up the generator, get water from buckets for dishes and washing, constantly adding wood to the fire, etc. This is what he’s used to. So, when the question arises, “Will you stay the winter?” I actually consider it.

Chapter 5: The Last Days of Summer

Aug. 28, 2017 Summer has quickly come to an end. It is almost fall now, and winter is right around the corner.

I wore a down jacket this week and I’m using the space heater in the barebones house we share. We have yet to use the wood-burning stove, but I might have to learn to use it before I leave.

Apparently a Blaze King is the shiznit and we happen to have one. I never thought I would care about a brand of wood stove, but it is for survival, not just to have and show off.

My housemate travelled to Whitehorse to collect groceries and supplies for the winter, and has been canning, pickling and freezing items for the season’s change.

I can see the urgency in him every day. Not to mention everyone talking about hunting moose or killing their chickens and pigs for their winter provisions.

People are running out of time to be prepared, and I am running out of time to be here. I have plans to check out Vancouver Island as a possible place to settle, but I am sad to leave.

Part of me wants to come back and shack up with my bush man friend, learn new skills and become one of the awesome women I have met up here: independent and self-sufficient.

I am sad as I start to pack, but pleasantly surprised that I still don’t miss Toronto. As the cold air hits, I am again reminded of the poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee”.

Now that I know I could have the opportunity to see what it’s like to live and survive the winter, I would not regret doing it.

The spell of the Yukon has taken.

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