I am currently away from my home computer and home resources. I got called up for duty … babysitting duty that is. I am about 900 miles west and 500 miles north of home, where, at times, the winter can get bitterly cold. I lived here in Thunder Bay on the shores of Lake Superior for over 20 years and survived many a cold snap of minus 35F. I arrived here as a 20-something and left as a forty plus. I’m back now to babysit two grandsons. Happily I think I missed this year’s obligartory freeze and today, while a few degrees below zero, the sun is shining and the weather beckons me to go out for a walk, which I will do, shortly.
I first came here on a whim. We arrived on a January day when the temperature was -25F but the sun was shining and the sky was a beautiful clear, deep blue. We had no place to live, no family here, no jobs, no acquaintances, no friends – as I said, it was on a whim. Back then an apartment cost us $125 a month, and jobs were plentiful and within a week we were settled in and I was working. Instead of a lengthy, crowded commute on street car and subway to a high rise office building in a polluted city that never revealed the blue of the sky, I could drive to work in seven minutes and watch skiers coming down the sunlit slopes of Mount McKay from my office window.
Perhaps, if I had put more thought into it I may never have moved here at all. It was difficult and sometimes sad raising children without any extended family to celebrate and commiserate with. Back then I wanted to go further and visit the Yukon, but I was afraid I would like it so much I wouldn’t want to come back and that I knew was just too far from family. But had I glimpsed the future and not come north I would have missed the raw beauty of this area. From the moment I first experienced it I loved it and I was moved to write the following:
The country rolls wild and free,
Away from the elms of the east.
No fence posts here
Where the Nor’westers roll
And faces of rock stand weathered and old,
Retelling the stories passed.
Beneath the blue and cloudless skies
In the open fields where the raven flies,
Comes his call, insistent and sure.
O’er deserted lakes drifts a plaintive cry
And red-winged blackbirds dance on high
In the faded evening light.
Through winter woods tiny footsteps go,
Treading softly o’er the fallen snow
Deep and pure and white.
Until summer sunlight filters through
To rest upon the morning dew
It’s warmth the touch of life.
From the branches of the birches and the pine
Come the gentle sounds, as sweet as any wine,
Of nature’s life and cadence.
And often times, in the sparking air
It’s the only sound left hanging there
— the soft caress of silence.