When my parents drove the Canadian Shield to Whitehorse 34 years ago in a rusted, steel blue Pontiac, they were unaware of the lifelong curse they were casting upon me.
No, my parents are not wiccan worshippers, or practitioners of the Craft, just a couple of Ontario born kids who had a dream of carving out a life for themselves north of 60. They came by their thirst for adventure and minerals honestly, I suppose, both born to nickel mining fathers in small towns outside of Sudbury. Or maybe, they just inherited that northern knack.
The formula for the incantation is as follows: a squatter’s cabin located south of Whitehorse, add three children, a roost of chickens, an expanse of rural acreage, a handful of pigs, a shed full of angora rabbits, and you have a recipe for a dangerously inescapable, wild spirited, lifelong love of the Yukon.
Their spell was innocent enough, and not intentionally maleficent, but even they were ignorant to the spell’s permanence.
You see, I carry this curse with me wherever I roam, and gypsy-ing throughout my twenties (and now it seems, into my thirties), it has followed me, no matter how hard I try to shake, side step, shirk or skirt it. It seems to be inevitable.
I have seen some incredible wonders over my years of worldly travels, and while schooling and burying my nose in books in Victoria and later in the idyllic ski mountain town of Nelson, B.C. All the while, no matter what awe-inspiring views I glanced up to see, that blasted curse was always there, tugging at my heart like a relentless, disoriented and downright dogged child.
The dialogue goes something like this:
Don’t you want to go home?
I’m trying to make a go of it here, don’t you see?
But I miss the mountains.
There are mountains here!
Not Yukon mountains.
You know that’s absolutely ridiculous. Mountains are mountains.
But Kluane! And Montana! And Caribou!
Yes, those are all beautiful…
And the Yukon River.
There are beautiful watersheds all over the world.
And cranberries, and juniper and moose-
Now you’re just getting carried-
And Pacific salmon and aurora borealis and ravens!
Stop it, you’re causing a scene.
Crows don’t count. I don’t care if they’re a Corvus!
Okay, okay, let’s take you home.
On a head level, at times, I try to rationalize the Yu-cons (sorry) of northern living. But all I can amount to is a wildly entertaining, creative, wintery list:
Snot freezes at 40 below (Nobody likes a snotstache)
The winterlong chapped lips epidemic
Scraping frozen car windshields results in serious delayed onset muscle syndrome (DOMS)
Cabin stir-crazy-turned-genius poetry, music and art
You see, no matter how I try to spin it, the worst I can wrangle is chapped lips and snotstaches (which I think all fellow Yukoners have compassion for).
The Yukon spell is a curse, a perpetual plague, a lifelong sentence. There are subtle changes to the landscape of course – more friends owning houses (and tiny homes), more grocery stores, more friends sporting jacket extenders over their growing bellies, but that unshakable Yukon feel, that timeless spell that Robert Service penned, time and time again remains, and I don’t know that I will ever be rid of it (thanks Mom and Dad).
After living abroad in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico for the past year and returning home, I am reminded of the unique sanctuary I call home, of the always familiar sights and sounds, the routine comforts I will probably never tire of: Mom’s strawberry rhubarb jam on toast, “quick” grocery store runs turned therapy sessions, northern lights swirling like an emerald veil across the sky, running into more friends in one Midnight Sun Coffee run than I have seen in an entire week, ravens bullying the whiskey jacks out of bird feeders, the 8:30 morning pileup that stretches from the S.S Klondike to the Robert Service Campground, and this past week, the annual return of the moose for their caragana feast on my parent’s property.
For now, it’s back to Mexico for the rest of the winter, but rest assured that the Yukon will be calling soon enough, and I’m not one to break a curse.