I've been back in Canada for a week now and am digesting all that has transpired; searching myself for signs of personal growth, clues of where to steer my heart next. Here follows, the tale of a winter at 69 degrees on the coast of the Norwegian Sea...
I paddled on the Wind River this past August, guiding a group of guests through the Peel Watershed in the Yukon Territory. Somewhere between the fast moving waters of the upper Wind and the flood we encountered as it entered the Peel, it became clear to me that I was exactly where I wanted to be. While we camped on a recently-submerged gravel bar in the middle of the Peel, waiting for the flood waters to recede, our group discussed what life would look like as we re-entered civilization. I had made a plan of no plan. Somehow even in my folk musician/wilderness guide life I had found myself inclined toward an over-scheduled, anxiety filled pattern of committing to things that I looked forward to with dread, often wishing I had left room in my schedule to align with my present self. And so, the plan of no plan. I determined to arrive at September 2016 with no home and no work or travel prospects. In my blissful northern river state, it became clear that whatever my future held, it needed to continue on this path of heading straight for the target - living my dreams.
In a flurry between the flooded Wind River trip and heading out on a trip in the Tombstone Mountains I sent out a few feelers for dog mushing prospects in Scandinavia, an idea that had been mumbling around for some time. Over the course of a few weeks I had secured a job in northern Norway for the winter. When I received the call that I had been selected for the position of dog mushing guide and would I accept the job, my response was 'I would be a fool to say no'.
My winter was one of exploring a new part of the north. After 12 years in the Yukon at 60 degrees north, what a gift to explore life in Norway; to work with 52 dogs and a slew of like-minded and adventurous guides. The work days challenged my body and pushed my leadership skills. I arrived in late November when the sun was already below the horizon, giving off only a dim light for a brief few hours each day. This contrasted with the light that came back in leaps and bounds late January and illuminated the shadows of a world I was exploring by feel. I discovered that we could see the fjord from the dog yard and layers of mountains revealed themselves in all directions.
It was 'work hard, play hard' as my co-guides and I created a winter wonderland for international guests in the face of a melting north. Although life in the Yukon, away from my home town in Ontario has always been a large geographic stretch, this was my first true experience of living abroad. I experienced home sickness and vulnerability. I realized how much of my sense of self has come from the reflection of the world I have built around me. I revelled in the multitude of international cultures my new friends represented and surprised myself with some deep Canadian nationalism I didn't know I felt. I alternated between fascination and frustration as I experienced cultural differences. I gained insight on how my country is perceived and became aware of the limitations of my own perspective.
It seems that these awakenings are rich and potent and now I am sitting with the cumulative effect of this experience.
I wrote and played quite a bit in Norway and will be sharing songs and stories on my '...and then I went to Norway...' tour in Ontario in May, 2017.
With no conclusions or delusions, I continue to write and play and will be pleased to see you soon,