Good Bye, Dawson City (until next year)

Dear Vi,

Our Yukon summer sojourn is over. We drove away from Dawson City two days ago.

Tomorrow will see the Yukon behind us for another winter.

I took a lot of walks, saw two parades, read a lot of books, made my 60,000 word goal on the next novel, made some new friends, and learned some interesting things this summer. And I still haven’t told you what brought us up here in the first place.

It would be so easy to stay and make a home here…so easy to knit myself into the community.

We’ll be back next summer, for four months this time. Four!I’ve got some planning to do! Maybe I’ll teach a dance class, see if any local writers want to get together, join the fitness club, make a quilt by hand, start another novel…

Life is grand and full of possibilities!

Gardening in a Sundress: Retired in the Shuswap

Warning: my beautiful pictures have posted upside down again. I do not understand. sorry for the discombobulation…I hope you will enjoy the post anyway.

The early morning air is cool when I step outside and stand for a moment on the front porch. I’m savouring the start of the day, before heat drives me inside to take refuge under the ceiling fan.

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Noticing the flower pots are thirsty, I uncoil a bit of hose and turn on the tap. Water wand in one hand and coffee cup in the other, I douse the containers before moving on to the small raised garden where zucchini hang off the vines and nasturtiums tumble over the side. The sun is warm, but not too hot to stand under yet, so I uncoil more hose and move along the perennial bed, admiring the plants that I put in when I built the bed last year.

IMG_0033I need to research August-blooming plants because there isn’t a lot of colour in the perennial bed at the moment But, I note how each plant has grown and imagine how it will look after another two years pass. I remember reading that a perennial bed takes three years to mature. It won’t be until the fourth summer that it will be in its full glory.

IMG_0041I wander down the length of the bed slowly until I reach the friendship rose, a Blanc de Coubert Rugosa that I brought with me from Whitehorse. I call it the friendship rose because years ago, three of us (Kim, Candy & I) used to get together at each others homes over the summer for tea and a garden tour. We’d admire the progress of our gardens, dream over seed catalogues, plan for the next year. Sometimes we’d go out for lunch or visit a garden center. One time, on the spur of the moment, we all bought the same rose bush. Kim and I have remained in touch, but I haven’t seen Candy in years. I wonder if she still has hers? Sadly, although it is a zone 3 plant, the Yukon is not the ideal climate for a Blanc de Coubert, and my poor little bush just barely survived. It hardly grew larger than it was the day we bought it. Kim’s rose has fared equally poorly. When we moved, I couldn’t bear to leave it behind, so I dug it up and brought it with me. In two summers, the rose has already doubled in size.  A little bit of the Yukon in Sunnybrae. 🙂

Mine isn't in bloom at the moment, so here is a picture I got from the internet.

Mine isn’t in bloom at the moment, so here is a picture I got from the internet.

I water the friendship rose and move on to the blueberry bushes and the rhubarb. This end of the yard is still in the shade, lovely and cool. I see weeds. Oh, the bane of my existence! Beautiful green leaves that display dainty blue flowers in the spring. Foolishly, I encouraged them last year. Now I know better. And daisies, too. Back in Whitehorse I used to chastise Mr. C. when he’d mow them down in the side lawn. I worked so hard to encourage them to grow. But here! Here they grow everywhere. They take over the bed like a cuckoo bird pushing its host’s eggs out of the nest and leaving behind its own to flourish in the rich soil.

IMG_0050I march to the garage. Put my empty coffee cup down and don my gardening gloves. Three-prong hand-rake in hand, I march back across the lawn, drop to my knees and start digging and pulling. Inch by inch the area around the blueberries bushes returns to black soil. I move down the bed, leaving the shade and entering the sun. Under the lavender, more baby daisies are hiding, just waiting to grow up and assimilate the brethern. I yank them out.

IMG_0048A wasp buzzes by on its way to breakfast at the hummingbird feeder and I swat it away from my ear. I think, “here I am, weeding the lavender in the sunshine,” and I can feel myself smiling from the inside out. Did you know that lavender propagates by the root? I didn’t. I don’t think lavender grows in the Yukon, so how would I know how it propagates?  Lo and behold, when I lift the lavender to pull the weeds hiding underneath, I find lavender spikes coming out of the ground more than six inches from the parent stock.

After a while I sit back on my heels and take a little break. My back is sweaty. My head is hot. In only an hour the sun has gone from pleasant to brutal. I stand up and brush the grass off my knees. Suddenly, I realize that I’ve been gardening in flipflops and a dress.

IMG_0032This fact makes me smile, because back when I worked at Yukon College, I used to fantasize about my retirement. One of the things I wanted to do was learn to sew my own dresses. Another thing was to go out in the mornings and water the garden with a hose whenever I wanted to (not just on Saturdays & Sundays during July).

Well, here I am, this morning. I’ve just come inside, to wash the grass stains off my knees with a cool washcloth. to scrub my wrists and arms, and wash the sweat off my face and neck. And I am wearing a sundress that I made myself.

It’s pretty awesome.

We Arrived!

When we left the Yukon to pursue a new life as early retirees 17 months ago, our plan was that we would return for at least one month every year. Except for that first year. Mr. C travelled back and forth quite a bit doing contract work, but I wanted to experience an entire uninterrupted year in the Shuswap before leaving. And also, I was a little bit afraid of coming back too soon. Afraid I would be overcome with homesickness.

But this year we have both come back together and I’m pleased to report that I don’t feel any grief or homesickness whatsoever. We really do have the best of both worlds. It was a good decision to relocate – we love living in the Shuswap. And it was a good decision to keep our Yukon property…our tiny-yet-full-of-character heritage log cabin that has sunk in the back corner so that a marble rolls in a lazy S pattern across the floor and where Fox Lake is only fifteen steps from the front porch. (Yes, I just got up and counted them. 15 steps.) Some sad day we will have to sell it because a time will come when we will need the income. That is the day that will break our hearts. But not yet. Not for a dozen or more years.

Here at the cabin, we only exist in the here and now. There is no yesterday. There is no tomorrow. Only today. And since we will be here for a long and luxurious 7 weeks, that is a lot of todays to enjoy.

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Fox Lake

So…we spent 5 days traveling 2,560 kilometers (that’s approximately 1500 miles for you metric-challenged folk) from our new home in the Shuswap to our home-away-from-home in the Yukon. Lots of people do it much quicker than this, and I think it’s a shame. I love the drive, I love the Alaska Highway and I love taking my time to enjoy it. A seven-hour driving day is just about right for us, though we usually end up driving for eight. After 8 hours, we’re tired and ready to stop for the day.

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The Alaska Highway somewhere between Fort Saint John & Fort Nelson, BC. May 2015

 

And the weather on this trip! Don’t get me started…the weather was completely, absolutely, 100% FANTASTIC the entire drive. Sunny blue sky. Warm. Perfect. Every day.

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When we arrived in Whitehorse, Mr. C picked up the car (he travels back and forth doing contract work in the winter, so keeps a car here) and went off to contact his flying students while I continued on to the cabin in the truck & camper. I was looking forward to that first glimpse of the lake … looking forward to following the twisting North Klondike Highway until it crosses Fox Creek, past the boot-end of the lake, all reedy and full of beaver dams before it climbs a bit and follows just above the lake. When we arrived at the top of the drive, I got out to unlock the chain and smelled the hot dusty smell of early spring, the sticky-sweet smell of newly opened leaves (spring comes late in the Yukon), the clear green smell of lake water. I smiled when I saw the Private Residence sign nailed to a tree. That’s Us! The Collins’ are back in residence!

In the truck, Sam stood on the passenger seat, his front paws on the dashboard. He was whining and staring intently down the drive, ears up, tail wagging. He knew exactly where we were. Back in the camper, the cats opened their eyes, stood up and stretched, enjoying a welcome break from the swaying and rattling of the “noisy moving house.”

“Hello house! Hello lake! I’m back!” I stood outside the open truck door and threw open my arms, yelled the words with a big grin on my face. The little cabin was so happy to see us, too! The first thing I did was unlock the front door and go inside, one step behind Samson. Sam jumped up into his window seat to see if his basket of toys was still there (it was) while I set about opening the house. I unlocked each shutter in turn, opened the windows to let in the air and light, turned on the propane, and lit the fridge. I carried the cats into the house and set them down on the bed. They knew exactly where they were, too. Whiskers curled forward, ears pricked up; they raised their chins and sniffed and sniffed. Then they set about investigating the entire place, saving the best for last: a roll-about on the deck and a good long soak in the sun on the deck they remember so well. Meanwhile, I unpacked the camper and stowed away the groceries, our clothing and the selection of quilting, knitting & sewing projects, my laptop, notebooks and novels to read that I’d brought with me.

There was still a bit of ice on the lake, and the leaves on the willow trees along the lakeshore were not quite open yet. I was so glad! I love to watch them unfurl. Spring in the Yukon lasts about 3 days. I’m glad I was here in time to see it.

When Mr. C arrived we set up the patio furniture and had supper.

Grilled cheese sandwiches & a bag of chips. Beer for him and a cider for me. Maybe not the healthiest supper ever, but just the perfect homecoming feast after a long five days on the road.

Ahhhh….It’s good to be back!