Field Report from South River.
January 2020
Day 3

 

 

Time has no meaning in the middle of nowhere.  There is light and dark and that is the extent of the clock that guides you.

 

To my surprise, the black sheet of sky, removed of all light pollution I was accustomed to, was actually far brighter on account of the stars.  The light from other galaxies was reflecting off every snowing surface in our wintering surroundings.  The views beyond our cabin were brighter than the pitch black shadows within our shelter.

Gosh knows how long it had been gazing blankety into the infinite depths of darkness, the soothing drum of wet snow on metal, when another noise pierced the scene.  In my usual life, surrounded by the ruckus of civilization, new sounds generally go unnoticed.  In this case, however; the even harmony of footsteps disrupted my reverie like a violin chiming in with a drum set.  I lay still, willing my heart to thump with less gusto so that my ears could focus on the sounds beyond.  There it was: snow falling, wind blowing, and the sure sound of fallen snow being compressed underfoot. 

On a side note, I recall squinting fiercely at the dark A-frame ceiling above my head as if this might somehow push my ears to new levels of hearing.  Pleased assure me that I am not alone in this bizarre behaviour.

A whirring erupted at a much higher pitch and far greater volume than anything I have been prepared for.  The sound of my heart thumping in my chest was instantly obliterated.  A man and his snowmobile were very close by.  In hindsight, there was really nothing at all to be worried about.  Evidently snowmobiling at 3 in the morning is common business for hunters and hobbyists.  The whirring of the snowmobile drifted out of earshot and once again the cabin was pitched into nature’s own soft melody.  The solitude was short lived.  We had another visitor.  The visitor’s arrival was not obvious at first; its movements mimicked the sound of heavy snow accumulation sliding from the roof once the weight became too much.  Unless accustomed to the sounds and patterns of local wildlife, the nuanced differences are hard to identify.

Mackenzie awoke to the noise shortly thereafter.  We both lay in silence, trying to pinpoint where the sounds were coming from.  Above, surely.  But whatever it was, it was moving around too quickly to be in any one place.  scuttling, you could say.  Mackenzie waited no longer, flexing his knuckles in a fist and banging randomly on the ceiling.  We still have no idea what was crawling around on the roof, but it certainly had no interest in Mackenzie’s Morse code. When the footsteps above subsided, we curled back up in the warmth of our fleece blankets and shut our eyes, praying for perhaps a few hours of peace before dawn.   

***

Why is it that the cold can sneak in so suddenly, the door just open a crack, and wreak havoc on my bones after I’ve spent so long building up the fire? Hours of labouring at the stove to fight off sub zero temperatures outside, gone in seconds as the door clicks open and then shut again.  The sensation can only be compared to the experience of an outdoor hot tub in December.  A painful but oh so joyous burning of the outer extremities when the heat, and then cold, touches your skin.  The body can’t tell if it’s burning or freezing, the extremes become unrecognizable as the body struggles to acclimatize to a drastic change in temperature. 

Around mid afternoon on Sunday, we ran out of solar power.  I had feared the limitations of solar energy in January, where daylight hours were few and those with sufficient sunlight even more sparse.    Today it was -17, some wind, and a wood stove filled with damp logs.  Thankfully many of the logs we had stacked in the corner of the cabin were covered in moss or peeling bark.  Despite the logs being wet from the snow outside, the scraps of moss and bark that we piled together dried quickly and made for adequate kindling. 

The house next door is visible from our kitchen window.  By kitchen I am referring to a live edge slab with two legs forming a bar along the side window.  This is where we store jugs of water, our basic cooking supplies for the outdoor stove, with our dish ware along the windowsill.  It’s really only visible because there are no leaves on the trees between us and them, save for a few evergreens, and the fact that their house is bright yellow.  Fortunately they have an extra battery to lend while ours recharges, so we quickly make the swap before dusk sets in.  Not as easy as it sounds when the current battery is frozen to the side of the cabin. 

I will never get over my love for fire; the smell, the crackle, the ambiance.  I caught fire twice as a child and was hospitalized with severe burns on another occasion, so it really is against my better judgement to be enraptured by the idea of a burning flame in the centre of my living room.  The curiosity in me has not died yet, I suppose, although it has been years since fire and I last squabbled.  To contemplate sitting beside an air vent in my house, listening to the sound of the central heating kick in, is bonkers.  I’m laughing thinking about it now, because there’s just no way on earth that the sounds and smells of central heating could have the same meditative effects as a true log fire.  Unless you have a particular affinity for dust bunnies. 

Featured in this Journal Entry

Black Heritage Joggers, Charcoal Drummond Blanket, Charcoal Longford Ribbed Toque, Charcoal Mitts, Men's Socks.