“I’m a glass half-full, mud half-dry kind of person.”
It’s been two weeks since I’ve last written. In truth there hasn’t been much new to say or much Internet with which to say it. Life rolls on here as it ever does, a place where time has no meaning and hours roll into days and days into weeks without anything to mark their passing except for sleeping and waking, trapping squirrels and climbing for nests. Arbitrary units of time have very little meaning in a place where there is nothing to mark their passing, no weekends, no 9-5 work hours, only sunrises and sunsets, and not even that forever. Soon the daylight will fade to dusky twilight and back to daylight again without ever seeing the twinkling of the stars in a velvet black sky. But for now our nights are marked by an inky blackness dusted with icing sugar and a silence that stretches on and on, so deep and complete that your own breath sounds harsh to your ears. It’s as if the stars soak up every ounce of sound, leaving us deaf and dumb to the enormity and the caustic beauty of our surroundings. It’s those moments, standing outside my hut in the silent darkness that I am reminded of where I am, in the middle of the Yukon, hundreds of miles from anywhere, infinitesimally small in the midst of all things wild and harsh and beautiful.
I’ve decided that each new blog should begin with a memorable squirrel camp quote from the past week. This week’s comes from our head tech, Naomi, and suits the mood of camp well. Amidst the pockets of cloudy skies and slop-filled trails the sun continues to wend its way through slices of blue and offer us glimpses of spring. Between the hours of walking in circles and climbing trees not meant to be climbed music drifts from the Cook Shack mixing with the sounds of laughter and the smell of wood smoke heavy on the air, promising a warm fire and calling us home. It’s easy to get worn down by the day-to-day grind, easy to forget that spring lies just on the other side of mud season, and even easier to forget that our one day off lies just on the other side of our six day work week. Yet on a daily basis we find our spirits buoyed by the small things at camp; frisbee on the beach of Kluane Lake in the evening, surprise pancakes in the morning, Sylvain sitting on the wood pile playing French folk songs on the accordion as the sun sets, squirrel pups that crawl up your chest and curl into your neck (never mind that they are passing on their fleas in the meantime…), laughter at the dinner table that ends in tears of mirth. The fact is that I can’t possibly explain the small moments that define squirrel camp or our eccentric, noisy, generous-hearted crew. Naomi said jokingly that she was a “mud half-dry kind of person” but in truth it has become more like a camp motto, a way to bring us back and help us recenter when the squirrels won’t go into our traps, and the muddy driveway threatens to suck the boots right off our feet. So this blog is devoted to those small moments that buoy our spirits and make squirrel camp what it is.
I’ll raise a glass, half-full, or even half-empty, to that.
1. Having a cozy building to cook and eat and hang out it with real walls and windows!
If you think we are “roughing it”, here’s what the cook shack first looked like in the late 90’s…
And here’s what we are lucky enough to have today!
2. Actually having a standing outhouse and not having to dig a new hole every year…
The “Dunny” first being built in 2006.
And the Dunny today…
3. Spectacular Northern Lights
4. A female red squirrel moving her pups, only days old, to a new nest. It is a true feat watching this mum jump from tree to tree, sometimes making leaps of two feet or more, with a pup in her mouth
5. Dall Sheep, only meters away from us at times! At one point we somehow ended up in the middle of the herd of sheep and I actually got a little bit concerned the more I stared at those spectacular horns…
6. A little bit of telemetry on a snowy day in the forest. How beautiful is that?
7. A squirrel pup at 25 days old, still sleeping as she is taken momentarily from her nest. How can you ever have a bad day when you get to work with this?