Experts sound warning on looming food crisis in the North

‘Nutrition transition’ creates health hazards
Panel member David Natcher, the director of the Indigenous Land Management Institute at the University of Saskatchewan, said much of the problem of food insecurity has to do with the logistical difficulties of getting healthy food to isolated northern towns.

“You can look at cost, for example,” he said, outlining how healthy food in a Yukon city like Whitehorse (population 27, 889) costs less than half what it does for a remote Yukon community like Old Crow (population 267.)

“The average cost of groceries for a household in Nunavut is approximately $19,700 per year, yet 49 per cent of Inuit in these regions earn less than $20,000 per year,” Natcher said. “Obviously if all of their income is going toward securing a healthy food basket, there are enormous challenges.”

One consequence of the high cost of food is that many families are forced to buy the cheapest food possible at stores, leading to what Kuhnlein calls “a nutrition transition.”

To read more – Click here

This article was originally published on April, 11, 2014 by Brian Platt.

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I Suppose You’re Wondering…

And to be frank,

So am I.

I too, wonder, what am I doing. What should I be doing. Where should I be. Where should I go. Why am I here. Why am I not there. Who am I. Who will I be. Am I supposed to be worrying about this. Why am I so worried about this. What do I do, now that I am nearly twenty, mentally ill, and feeling completely confused on what to do next. Yes, I am an artist. But will that pay the bills. Will that give me freedom to educate myself further. Will I forever be dependent on my parents for not only moral support but also financial. How do people do it. Show me how. Not how to settle with mediocre, show me how to find this thing called happiness. Contentment. Joy. Whatever you call it. I want to find it. The world is my oyster you say, but why does that seem so frightening. Oh don’t be so cliché, you cluck at the computer.

Go ahead and cluck. I am a walking cliché. Full of my generation’s struggles and expectations. Full of false hope. Full of hoping that my hope is not false, but something that could possibly become true. Becoming an artist seemed so right when I was a child. This is what I’ve learned. I can’t become an artist. I am an artist. An artist who is, trying to find a purpose for herself. Trying to find who she is. Trying to find who she was. Before I knew what mental illness felt like.

Can I be the person I was before mental illness filtered through me, making the windows of my perception darkened. Who was I. The photographs can only speak so much, and leave so much to be questioned. Do I even want to be that person again. I was merely a child. Can I be both. Can I feel the happiness. Experience the emotion. But also have the strength gained from all the scars I carry. Is it too much to ask.

It seems with everyday comes more self-reflection. More questioning. More fear. But also, more hope. Hope that I won’t have to question what happiness is. Hope that I won’t have to feel guilty for existing some days. Hope that as an artist, I can enjoy the search for who I am. Who I will be. And become inspired by what I experience. Hope that I won’t feel obligated to worry about things I can’t change, foresee, or control.

With everyday there is more hope in my life,

that everything is going to be okay.

And even if I don’t believe there is hope- I will keep telling myself until it rings true, because right now- I am not sure what else to do.

xx

Community Project: Dawson City Hospital

Think about it.

When admitted to hospital, having doctors and nurses keeping watch over you, providing a calm and safe place for you to heal… Do you stop to say how truly grateful you are for them?

Do you acknowledge that these people, in the health and helping sector also have lives, their own people to take care of, and also have themselves to nurture?

All the countless hours of helping strangers, in all sorts of stages of life and health, at any time of day or night- being ready to not only provide medical care, but also a kind and thoughtful approach to you and your health.

Yes, I know, it is their job. But still- shouldn’t we still voice our gratitude once in a while?

IMG_6993I really like this photo of my Doctor’s Office. I sneaked a photo when I was waiting for her to come back from checking on some paperwork.

Recently spending time in the hospital, I spent two nights in the new Dawson City Hospital- and I must say, what a beautiful centre as a brand new building, but also as a community of doctors, therapists, nurses, and pharmacist.

IMG_6841Late night trip to the ER- I really do hate hospital gowns.

Gone were the fears of strange hospitals, with cracking paint and scuffed floors, and that awful lysol/sickly smell of unwell people. What I found were beautiful murals, spacious rooms, and wonderful staff. Because of my situation- I had to have an eye kept on me, so I got to know some of the nurses quite well- (on a patient/nurse kind of terms I guess) 

IMG_7112My nurse let me pick out some tea once I got settled in- David’s Tea at that! How special- 🙂 

IMG_7109Yes, I was painting the closet. After they gave me a dose of my anti-anxiety meds. I just felt so chill and all I could really focus on was the closet- Soon fell asleep after the third closet.

The genuine humour, laughter, and interest they had shown in both myself and my artwork was so wonderful. I immediately felt safe, calm, and content in my room. It is amazing how your environment and mental state can affect your quality of sleep. – even sleeping on a hospital bed- (a.k.a. – a bit like sleeping on a block of wood)  I slept like a rock, and woke up in a calm, almost meditative manner. What a wonderful change to the not-so-good nights I had been having previously.

So- To thank all these wonderful people. I decided to create my Community Project into something that would acknowledge all the special people at the Dawson City Hospital. (At least- the ones that I was lucky enough to have as providers of care for me) 

How I did this was I began to knit.

I love knitting- and have always found it very therapeutic. Lately, I have been making these little pouches, “Marsupial-satchels” I call them. To carry special things that one may find dear to their heart.

IMG_7046                     Here is one I made for a dear friend of mine for her little mouse named Candlelight.

Using beautiful yarn my mother had sent me in a care-package, I began to knit and crochet thinking of all the caring people who I had met when I was at the hospital. With every stitch, I silently said thank you, with every little detail, I silently reminded myself how grateful I was to have crossed paths with them. It was a very healing and meditative experience to create these little pouches. I knitted eleven pouches. And then included a little letter within each one. Here is a quote from the letter:

“Just wanted to say thank you for all of your help and patience over these past few weeks. To be able to have a safe place to go to when on cannot provide that for herself is a blessing. Therefore ~ Thank you, for being YOU! As part of my Community project for SOVA, I would very much appreciate any comments, feedback, etc. on what you think of your homemade marsupial-satchels. I wanted to give a token of appreciation, ~ you may keep, give away, switch, as you like with these little pouches. Just wanted to show in my own little way, how thankful I am for crossing paths with you ~ as you have made it a more positive one to walk.”

IMG_7224A photo showing all the little pouches with letters inside~ ready to be dropped off at the hospital! 

IMG_7225A close up- I hand wrote the letter, and made photocopies, providing my email and blog address for people to check out this article, and maybe even leave some feedback about what they thought about it all! 

IMG_7226Here I am wearing one – to show size and where they would approx. rest on the body. – This pouch was made for one of the amazing doctors I am lucky enough to see once a week to help me through this all. 

So far, I have not heard back from any of the medical staff on what they thought about their little marsupial-satchels. I hope to hear via email, or face to face, what they thought about it. Even if I don’t hear a peep from anyone- I know that I myself felt love and joy making and giving these away to those that had helped me, so hopefully, that loving energy will be passed along with these pouches to the 11 gentle souls who made my life a little easier to cope with this past month.

And that is my Community Project.

 

Fire Engine Red

Somehow while in the midst of a storm- the sun breaks through the clouds to remind me that there is hope.

And by hope, I mean knowing that come summer, I will have:

  1. A cabin of my very own – With a PINK outhouse! – Not to mention fabulous studio space
  2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (I am so thankful for Yukon Healthcare)
  3. Mountain Bike as transportation, and fingers crossed- maybe my darling of a Chevy, Ol’ Blue-  will make the trip up the Alaska Highway from B.C. with me behind the wheel (Spring road trip in the making? Possibly)
  4. AND – As of tonight- I have a job lined up for the summer being the Museum Manager for the Dawson City Firefighters Museum

Now to just survive the final days of school, holding on tight to the last bits of sanity that I have.

Here is one of the vehicles I saw in the museum today!


 

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ELMER GAUNDREAU WITH THE CLAPP AND JONES FIRE STEAM PUMPER

1897 Clapp and Jones Fire Steam Pumper

– Put into service with the Dawson Fire Department in 1900, this was the second engine to be purchased by the city. Capable of pumping 500 gallons a minute, the double engine meant that one pump was always running, thus resulting in a near constant stream of water. The steamer had two suction and discharge openings, allowing either side to be connected for use. The frame of the steamer rests on springs, which would have helped it to run smoothly on the rough roads of early Dawson.

For more information on Firefighting and it’s history in Dawson City : Click here

 

 

Getting Plastered On A Thursday.

And by that- I mean getting my face plaster casted for my assignment dealing with prosthetics.

 

First Step: Cover entire face, neck, ears, hairline, eyebrows, lips, etc. with a thick layer of Vaseline.

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Oh yes, and don’t forget to put some up into your nostrils.Image

 

 

 

Step two: Have two assistants that you trust and that have previous plaster casting experience to assist you. You will be completely useless and blind in a matter of moments. So pick your assistants wisely.

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I chose Bronwyn and Justice. The super-couple of SOVA. Both very talented artists. Watch out people- this duo-power is out to crash and conquer the art world!

Step 3: Have your assistants begin to plaster your face. It is honestly a rather relaxing experience. This picture was taken before they blinded me for the next hour or so.

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The perks with having artists do this- is that you will have a two people who can think on their feet, strategize, and always have aesthetics in mind

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Step Four: This is where I am completely unaware of what these two goof balls do whilst working on my face. I can hear, smell, but not speak or see. I have asked them to document the process- and document they did. With lots of “selfies” – Oh how I love my friends.

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Finishing touches on my nostrils.

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Strips of plaster had to be cut and specially fitted for the bridge, nostril, and delicate parts of my nose, eyelids and other parts of my face that proved finicky.

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There seemed to also be a plaster war going on while this was happening as well.Image

Step Five: Soon- I am fully plastered, and ready to sit still , try not to move to much, and allow the plaster to dry. I am completely blind, but can make some squeaky noises through the air pocket between my lips and the plaster. I sound a bit like a dolphin with a paper bag on it’s head.

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Hearing giggles, and feeling hot breath on my head- I am intrigued as to what the hell is going on. Image

It is not until I check my iPhone after the whole process is completed that I realize what these two guys where doing…Image

Remember- I am completely unaware of what is up. All I can do is squeak and grasp blindly into the air to try to catch one of there bodies to somehow ask what is going on. I hear laughter- I can’t help but dolphin muffle and laugh as well.

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Step Six: Soon it is time to peel off the mask. Bronwyn and Justice walk me over to the work desks, where I can sit on a stool, and start to scrunch and move my face beneath the mask, creating air pockets. What a weird sensation- From wet warm plaster strips, to cooling and hardening, to becoming itchy, to the peeling, pulling, and finally popping off of the mask!

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The bright light of the classroom is blinding, and I feel super icky. The Vaseline saved my eyebrows, eyelashes, and hairline from being ripped out, and also just for general comfort of the skin on my face.Image

And here it is! My face cast! I am happy to say that it looks like me! This is step one in my prosthetic project, more strange things to come.

Thanks again Bronwyn and Justice for helping me out!

 

 

 

Plaster Casted Upper Ventral Region

Yes, that means boobs.

 

As an artist- sometimes you need help, and if you have a wicked idea that involves body parts, well, you kind of need to go on a search for willing appendage donors (is a breast an appendage? never mind – you know what I mean)

So Friday after school I was an appendage donor and had my breasts plaster casted, for my friend Dana’s homework assignment on prosthetics. I am really excited to see the final project, as there will be roughly 25 sets of breasts casted for this project. You should be excited too- as I think her assignment will blow the gallery show out of the water.

So to spread the good karma, and to satisfy my curiosity- we set up shop in the wheelchair washroom and got to work. And because I am way to curious for my own good- I requested another student (Props go to Lucy) to film and help me create a stop-motion film documenting the process. Because hey, it’s not everyday you get to create art with your rack, am I right ?

I found the whole experience relatable to a tea party with friends, it was very casual, and had lots of laughter, the only thing missing was the tea. Weirdly enough, this was something that I truly needed since my mental health has decided to play dangerously with my well being these days. It was also a nice pick me up- it’s nice to be part of someone’s art project. Even if it is just your breasts. I like to help out where I can, what can I say?

I think the practice of being a nude model for KIAC drawing nights helped with some of my body confidence/acceptance issues- and to be honest- this whole getting naked for art thing is quite liberating! To be able to find the beauty in someone else’s, as well as your own body, is such a wonderful thing.

I look forward to creating this stop-motion film. I feel like the title should be something along the lines of “They’re Just Boobs”

Here are some quick iPhone photos of the “tea party in the washroom”

Here are the “Facebook Proof Photos”

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And then here is a shot of my plaster casted upper ventral region.

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Oh- The things we do for art.

Thanks for the opportunity Dana.

 

Improvising. Like The True Small Town Girl That I Am.

Hello !

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Here I am beside the Yukon River, with not my snowmobile- but the Doctor’s snowmobile. (I was on my own for the month of January, with a broken down skidoo- so he graciously lent me his Bravo so I could get to school and back in the cold temperatures- “my contribution to your education” he calls it. Very thankful for all the helping hands in Dawson City)

For school – we are to write about our experiences and art created at Yukon School of Visual Arts. Well, as some of you may know- My experiences at SOVA have not been of a quality that I am willing to post about on my blog. Challenges are good, yes, but this circumstance has become more of a burden than an enjoyment. More of a heavily medicated experience than an invigorating one. I don’t work in the studios unless I have too. I don’t spend time at that school unless I absolutely have too. Believe me when I say I try to enjoy every shred that I can while floating through the semester on anti-anxiety meds. Definitely not what I thought Art School was going to be like, but hey, what can I say- this is just a bump in the road, I will learn something from this (I have already learned many things while overcoming this) and I will keep on producing art. Preferably in a less medicated manner, as I do not like this whole icky, floaty, strange feeling. (But it was that or super depressed/panic mode – so I had to prioritize)

So like any small town kid would- I looked to my family, friends, and community (both Fort St. James and Dawson City) for help when times got lonely, confusing, and stressful.

Sure you could say that SOVA brought me to Dawson City- But the people who call Dawson home, that is what has really made this whole crazy first year of art school experience really worth it.

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The VICTORS – Snowshoe Baseball team that I was lucky enough to be apart of!

So thank you, everyone who has held out a hand and let me grasp it and really, well, pick your brains and gain such rich and inspiring knowledge that has influenced my art and myself not only as an artist, but also as a well-rounded, strong young woman on the journey to self-healing through the practice of making art.

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At the Traditional Feast- gifting a painting I created at a painting workshop at Myth and Medium to a very inspiring and talented Nunavut Artist- Mathew Nuqingaq

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I have worked very hard to be successful at art school. Knowing that I learn best in a one-on-one teaching environment – I took advantage of any opportunity that presented itself. Including when my father stopped by from driving down from Tuktoyatuk, where I got to spend a weekend with one of my favourite people, being tutored to help me with a difficult project, I spent that day learning about gears, motors, and general mechanic knowledge that became very helpful for me to create my kinetic sculpture.

Hopefully- I will get the marks saved for posts regarding SOVA put towards posts that showcase the fabulous people and resources that have been available to me in Dawson City, outside of school. My fighting argument is well- if a student is struggling in Math class, he/she is allowed, even encouraged to get a tutor. So when an Art student is struggling in Art school, and feeling that her expectations are not being met, what is so wrong about turning to her newfound community for assistance? Here are a few events, places, and people who have been such amazing resources for me during my school year.

  • Myth and Medium 2014
  • Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Community
  • Dawson CIty Community
  • Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Heritage Department
  • KIAC
  • Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre
  • Robert Service School
  • Mayor of Dawson City
  • The countless people I’ve interviewed for my short documentary
  • My family in British Columbia
  • My close family friends in Whitehorse, Yukon
  • Elder Victor Henry, as well as many other Elders of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in community
  • My inspirational roommate
  • My supportive friends
  • Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Heritage Department Library
  • Community Library
  • Dawson City Medical Clinic and their wonderful staff
  • Visiting artists as well as local artists
  • My Sweat Lodge family
  • My Yoga Community down in Vancouver
  • My pen pals
  • My neighbours on the Old Dome Road

So you see, I would not have moved to Dawson City if I knew that school was going to be such a brutal experience, but then, I would not have discovered that an organic approach to gaining a well-rounded education of not only the required “foundation year” curriculum, but also the land, community, and local artistic practices does not start in the classroom, it starts with the first hand you shake, the first time you acknowledge whose lands your lucky enough to live on, and the first time you get the wool pulled over your eyes by a cheeky elder. SOVA is a young school- I have hope that they will adapt and evolve to recognize and include such experiences and opportunities for future students, I know they will, change takes time. We all know that. This experience has given me a lot to think about and a lot to smile about, and it simply reminds me that yes, it does have to get pretty dark to be able to see the beauty of the stars that the universe has gifted you to see. And the stars I have found! Oh how thankful I am.

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I am also a Canine Companion and Dog Walker- this is Ziggy. Who helps me by providing smiles, howls, and laughter every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Thank you, Musi Cho, Namaste

What is Myth and Medium You Ask?… Well, Sit Down and Lend Me Your Eyes.

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Myth and Medium is an exploration of First Nation (FN) and Inuit stories and the many ways one can celebrate them. Visual and performance art, as well as storytelling, has always been a very important part of FN and Inuit cultures, used to communicate with each other as well as the natural and spiritual worlds that surround us. FN and Inuit objects and actions are not utilitarian, rather, they symbolize powerful legends, myths, and history. These people of the land are powerful storytellers in their own right, who are slowly regaining their strength that has been tampered, even destroyed, with the arrival of european of settlers. By investing time, interest, and support, we all can create a vibrant and healthy environment where we can celebrate the rich culture of FN and Inuit people.  I was lucky enough to join in on this fantastic celebration. The goal of this gathering was to explore the saying- We have a story to tell 

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Photo above: Myself, Georgette, and Elder Percy Henry at one of the Lectures (I am completely in my happy place- soaking up all the amazing information!)

FN and Inuit culture is not dead. Trust me, it is very much alive, but not like the “old days”. I admire and respect the elders that went through residential school, and the drastic changes of their livelihoods, and send healing thoughts their way. I am excited for the youth, who are given the opportunity to turn back to their elders, to gain a better understanding of their culture, and I send strength and clarity their way, as youth (not just FN and Inuit, but youth of all cultures) are faced with many obstacles to overcome, like drug and alcohol abuse. It is this community of young and old, wise and innocent, this mixture of new and old that will help FN and Inuit communities Canada-wide heal. I am no expert in these matters, this is merely my intrinsic feeling about the situation. 

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Photo above: Myself and Elder Victor Henry, having one last dance at the Traditional Feast

This week of lectures, activities, film screenings, performances, and workshops open to everyone was held in Dawson City, Yukon Territory. And I was lucky enough for it to land on my reading week break! Thank you universe for gifting me such a wonderful week with so many amazing people.

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Photo above: Han singers and dancers take to the floor to amaze us with wonderful song and dance. (My favourite was the Grandmother song)

Mahsi Cho (Thank You)  to all the organizers for hosting such an amazing gathering!

Stay tuned for more posts about this wonderful gathering !

My First Yukon Quest Experience: Part Two

Hello again!

If you would like to refresh yourself on Part One of my Yukon Quest Adventure, click here: https://sallyann16.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/my-first-yukon-quest-experience-part-one/ 

Just to have a small recap here is how the last post ended…

So my Saturday began in the dog tent, tucking in the sleepy sled dogs with yellow fleece blankets, and then covering them with straw. – Again- I was more than happy to be given a task, I was outdoors, with furry sweethearts, and there was no homework to be spoken of! Just frosty ears to be rubbed and more dog poo to be avoided. 

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If I had a comfy leather arm chair and a nice drink to sip on while my feet warmed by the fire- that’d be great.

Unfortunately I am feeling sick to my stomach about school. So I will do my best to leave behind the stresses and dip back into Yukon Quest weekend, -30 below temperatures, and wonderful memories.

All the photos unless otherwise stated were taken by Nicolas Schneider. Thank you Nico for all of you wonderful photographs!

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So – It is Saturday Morning- Maybe 5am, maybe 6am, what I do know is that it is bloody cold- and my mind hasn’t even registered if I put my boots on the correct feet. But first- blanket the dogs.
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These sweethearts barely moved an inch while we tucked them in. First, small yellow fleece blankets, then a thick layer of straw- some of the dogs were dead to the world, tucked in their little tight balls of warmth (feet tucked under bodies, nose tucked under tail, eyes squeezed shut) while others were wide awake, shivering, pacing, peeing, and well, pooping.
Not even my neck warmer pulled up over my nose could stop the wretched stench from making me scrunch my nose and grimace.
Ah yes, any appetite that I did have soon disintegrated.
I did what I could to warm up the dogs, and soon it was time to feed. My mind was slowly coming back to a regular working fashion as the frost gathered on my hair peeking out from my parka hood. Was it minus 30? minus 40? I don’t know- thank god I packed extra socks.
I don’t think I will forget the smell of the dog’s breakfast either- this meat, that meat, and more meat, kibble, water, all coming to a boil. Looking like week old porridge.
Interesting.
Feeding, walking, poop scooping, day light arrives- we soon head into town to have breakfast at The Downtown Hotel.
Oatmeal.
I was thrilled that instead of beaver meat, I had brown sugar instead- and that it did not smell like what the dogs ate earlier that morning. Though it sure looked like the dog’s breakfast.
Nico, Alex, and I head back to camp to do chores. I felt a bit like a puppy following the guys – as this seemed old hat for Nico and Alex. For me it was all new- besides hauling firewood.
It might be 830am or 9am…My roommate Glenda would still be in her housecoat, sipping coffee by a hot fire – I smiled to myself as I found myself once again trouble shooting on how to pick up the dog crap with scrap plastic so to as not dirty my only pair of cold weather mitts. For some wild reason- I was still thrilled I was over in West Dawson doing outdoor chores- because if it had been a regular Saturday- I would be worrying about school.
No time for that here.
Jerry would be leaving tonight- so all eyes were being kept on the dog’s wellbeing, as well as Jerry’s.
The amount of work involved in mushing is beyond what I expected, especially when the universe deems your run to be a difficult one. Jerry had already totalled one dog sled, and after he left Dawson- he will yet again break another sled.
Nico, Alex and I finished the chores early and were able to warm ourselves up by the small woodstove in the wall tent for a short while.
It was great conversation- as I literally jumped two feet in the night before, volunteering with complete strangers, it was nice to swap questions and short stories. I admire both of them immensely- the work ethic and stamina needed to be a dog handler is not something that just anybody could do. And I envied their plans of adventures. Oh how I wanted to drop everything and just explore!
This is Nico and Alex at the Banquet (End of Yukon Quest) – Thank you Susan Mooney for the photo!
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Afternoon rolls around- I have to head back to Dawson to meet up with a local (Jim) who has offered to try to fix my snowmobile.
I hitch a ride with Nico on the snowmobile across the ice road.
I arrive home, strip down to one piece longjohns, open the fridge, and EAT.
My roommate simply observes with a raised eyebrow as my inner lumberjack scarfs down the food like a I myself ran the Yukon Quest.
Followed by falling asleep for a quick cat nap- (I did not even make it under the covers)
Sled was tinkered with, and after a shower and a new set of wool socks and longjohns, I make my way over to West Dawson- This time on my snowmobile. It was dark when I left my home on the dome- and I decided to zip down the “long way” to town- to get on to the ice road in a more efficient manner. Between the mist, the darkness, and my worry of my sled breaking down, the trip across the river was a bit tense. The only thing guiding me was the small little wooden posts on the edge of the ice road- showing me where to turn, what path to follow. Little did I know I was operating a machine with a faulty battery- so I think myself very lucky that I did not strand myself in the middle of the Yukon River that Saturday evening.
I arrive in the midst of chaos. I see a skimmer and tarp with misclaneous objects strewn all over the ground beside the wall tent. I see Jerry and his dog sled,  I see five headlamp orbs bouncing around the dog tent, wall tent, and the tarp, there is a feeling of excitement, but also stress in the air. I find Lisa, and ask what I can do to help, and I am immediately sent to the dog tent to check and walk the dogs. Some of the dogs are fast asleep, some refuse to eat, and some are pacing, ready to run, ready to go. Once again I find myself coaxing and massaging, talking gently to the tired dogs, convincing them to stand up and proceed to walk out of their comfy warm straw beds to go for a quick walk.
I am also put in charge to watch who is eating. Some of the dogs are turning away from their food and water, letting it freeze to the bottom of the bowls. No matter how much I push the bowl closer to their noses, dump it on the ground in front of them, they simply tuck their noses back under their tails and close their eyes. Lucie gives me a bag of frozen meat- “They will eat this!”.  I am reassured by Lucie’s quick thinking  when I start handing out the frozen chunks of beaver meat.
The photo below is of Charles and Lucie at the Yukon Quest banquet.
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Dogs are eating. Check. Back to Lisa, I am soon given tasks such as fetching straw with Nico, changing headlamp batteries, feeding Lisa’s dogs with Alex and Nico, wherever I can be of service, I make myself available. I am soon given the task to tell Lisa what time it is- every 5 minutes.
It seems that every five minutes that pass, the excitement in the air becomes more and more apparent, but also, the panic becomes more and more apparent as well.
Jerry is behind his schedule. The sled is not fully packed, the dogs have not been hooked up to the sled, and his departure time is looming closer and closer.
Once again I am amazed by Jerry and Lisa’s commitment and teamwork. Feeling that I am now more in the way than being helpful- I step back to simply observe. I would not say Lisa and Jerry are polar opposites- but their differences push and pull at each other, creating a powerful melody that sets Jerry up to succeed. It was fascinating to witness all the tasks that needed to be done, and by done, I mean done in mere seconds. There was no time for stumbling around, and asking questions. Now was not the time to ask for detailed instructions on how to pack a sled.
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The night before- I remember asking Lisa when she began mushing. It seems if my memory serves me correctly,  mushing and crossing paths with Jerry happened at the same time, when Lisa was 19. “It’s a lifestyle” she said. A real commitment, both financially and well, just everything. Your whole life revolves around the dogs.
I found this so fascinating, to be able to experience a lifestyle I had never known, a lifestyle I had only seen from the outside. Yes the glamour was still there, but it was buried, buried deep below much more important things. Responsibility, a hard work ethic, passion, and a bit of crazy, among other things, that makes up this hardy lifestyle called Dog Mushing.
Here’s a photo of Nico and the dogs
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Soon I am hooked back into the chaos- which is now becoming more and more heated and frantic. I am given the task to bring the dogs down to the sled, to hook them up. (I am not even sure I am using the proper terminology for any of this by the way, so bear with me!) One dog, two dogs, I don’t know and don’t care what I had just kneeled in, the dogs needed to be out and ready to pull. Every five minutes I shout the time to Lisa. Jerry should have been at the send off by now. But as cool as a cucumber (at least on the outside) he was checking his bag, checking his sled, and now preparing to put boots on the dogs. I am sent to grab the dog jackets, and count the dog blankets to be placed in Jerry’s sled. I catch myself running from sled to dog tent, more than a dozen times in under a half hour.
Coats- check
Boots- check
Howling like wolves?- check
Everything is a blur, Lisa is running around, checking everything twice, three times, four times, checking on Jerry, Jerry checking on dogs, Nico holding the leader at the front of the sled, there are too many people, too many people, the chaos just became way more congested, I run over and catch Lisa by the arm. She is squinting in the dark trying to fix the clasps on the rope. She keeps fumbling at her forehead, looking for the headlamp that is  always strapped there. Only now Jerry has it as backup, packed away. I rip off my headlamp and place it in her hands, then step back out of the chaos.
It seems much quieter, just three feet away, from all the running, howling, and orders. I take a deep breath and look skyward.
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The lights had come out to play once again!
Slipping, sliding, twirling, I could feel my eyelashes start to freeze as I watched the lights caressing the river, mountains, and trees, shimmering in all shades of green, pink, and purple.
I blink.
And the noise returns, the howls, the calls for Jerry to get on the sled, the good luck hugs, the scraping of the sled, the sound of the dog’s claws digging into the icy snow, it was time to head to the sendoff point.
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Lisa and Jerry hang on together, while Nico runs with the dogs in the front. The rest of us follow behind on foot, walking fast paced like excited children, I am talking with an old timer, Harvey, about my snowmobile. He tells me it’s time for me to get my own sled and dogs. Harvey chuckles and adds, he never has a problem starting them (his dog team) in the morning. I laugh, but also do an inward groan. I really hope my sled will start once Jerry is on his way.
Jerry gets to the sendoff point. The dogs are rearing to go. After a few questions and one last check, Jerry is on his way. Gliding onto the Yukon River, Jerry heads south to Whitehorse, the final trek of the race. We see him on the river, passing the campsite- Lisa calls out to him one last time, we all cheer, his reply “I should have eaten dinner!”.
Oh dear.
We get back to the campsite, everyone is wet, cold, and exhausted. I make eye contact with Lisa, she smiles, and pulls me into a big bear hug. I thank her for letting me be her shadow for a couple of days, and also apologize for any time I may have gotten in the way. She shakes her head, she thanks me for coming along. For rolling up my sleeves and diving in for some tough work.
Inside my soul- I am beaming, tired and cold, but beaming with joy. What a fantastic weekend, a wonderful break away from the things that stress me most. I thank Lisa again. I am so thankful for that “Yukon Hospitality” , the opportunity to learn new skills, to challenge myself, to be with like-minded people, and what a bonus, like-minded people close to my age!  *Nico and Alex*
What is also happening inside my soul is a little cloud of sadness, brewing slowly. Soon, these people will have to leave, soon, I will be back to school drowning in frustration. I hang on to every thread of happiness this spectacular weekend has gifted me. I thank everyone who made this weekend so fantastic! And thank you Nico for sharing your wonderful pictures!
Due to another penalty from breaking a sled, Jerry ended up winning the “Red Lantern”, even though he crossed the finish line before others, his penalty was added onto his race time, thus placing him in last place.
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But really, it is not the prize money that makes the Quest. It’s the adventure that is the true reward.
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Enduring the extremes, pushing the boundaries, and mushing through Alaskan and Yukon backcountry. Completing the race. That is the true reward, both for Musher and Dog.
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 I feel so very blessed to have had such a wonderful weekend with the Joinsons, Nico, Alex, Charles, and Lucie, and everyone else at the Yukon Quest Dawson City Checkpoint ! Thank you- and I hope we stay in touch and cross paths again!