Saturday, November 26, 2011

Little Feets

This week at "Healthy Families, Healthy Babies", we did foot-castings. We made play dough and smoothed it into empty card boxes, and then pressed our babies' feet into the dough. Then, we poured plaster on top, to make a positive print.

I love how Aedan curled his toes a little as we made his imprint. I'll always treasure those plaster prints.

And yet, they'll always remind me of what his little feets have been through just lately.

I debated blogging about this, but in the end, I feel like I can't avoid some mention of it.

Just over two weeks ago, Aedan suddenly became very ill. We were med-evac'd to B.C. Women and Children's Hospital in Vancouver, where we learned that Aedan is diabetic. This came as a total shock to both P and I, as there is no diabetes in either of our families. We learned, though, that 40% of the population carries the gene for Type 1 Diabetes, and that some unknown environmental trigger can switch the gene on. So it's possible one of us has been carrying that gene, silent and waiting to spring into action, causing a body to attack the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Or, it's possible that a mutation occurred, and Aedan has "neo-natal Diabetes", which means the insulin-producing cells in his pancreas haven't matured properly. They will mature and begin producing insulin within the year, and then he'll no longer need insulin...but there is a 50/50 chance that he'll need insulin again once he hits his teens.

At B.C. Children's, after 3 days in the pediatric ICU, they set Aedan up with an insulin pump, which is a really amazing piece of technology that basically functions like a pancreas, delivering a continuous stream of insulin to his body. We have the ability to deliver an additional burst of insulin when I nurse him, or if his blood-glucose levels get too high for some other (unknown) reason.

So when I look at these tiny feet cast in plaster, I see his feet kicking and squirming, his toes curling and flexing, but I also see heels marked with a week's worth of hourly blood tests. I see the toes curling not in joy but in fear of the nurse gripping his foot in her hand for another draw. In my mind's eye, I'll always see a little bead of bright blood welling up on his big toe, ready for the glucose-test I must give him before each feeding. Thankfully, these tests are much easier to administer than those done in the hospital--he doesn't even flinch.

In years to come, I'll look at those tiny feet and reflect on the resilience of infants. His ordeal would have likely killed an adult. But his brand new heart and lungs are amazingly strong. Today, he smiles and burbles like nothing happened. He's even started to smile through the glucose readings, because he knows I'm about to nurse him. He's already forgotten the trauma of the hourly heel pricks in the hospital, and he no longer cries out when I grip his tiny feet in my hands.

His little feets will grow into big feets, and they might help him climb a mountain, or trek through a muggy jungle, or walk along a sandy beach. They might carry him through the halls of a college or university somewhere, and then walk him up to a podium to receive his diploma. I hope they might take him to places I've never been, but that they'll always bring him home to tell me all about it, and I'll look at those tiny plaster-cast feet and, despite all the challenges and scary bits, feel totally thankful they were given the chance to grow.

Friday, November 25, 2011


It's 20 below outside. The branches of the spruce trees hang low under their burden of snow. I go carefully along the forest trail, the dogs running ahead of me, the babe sleeping peacefully, nestled in the wrap under the coat. It's past eleven in the morning and the sun has finally crested the hills. The sky is brilliant and clear and the sunlight filters through the trees, casting brighter patches on the blue-shaded snow.

We duck under the drooping boughs, and skirt the trees that lean across the path. But for Cilla's occasional bark at a squirrel, sounding muffled in the closeness of the season, and the crunch of my muk-luks, it is silent. No more traffic on the highway. Even the chickadees are silent today.

Eventually, the path rises up and the dark spruce open out into a clearing of alder trees, their bare, twisted branches silhouetted against the bright blue of the sky. The ground slopes down to where water springs up from the earth--frozen now beneath the snow. Here, the sun shines without the hindrance of the thick woods. The dogs run up and down the hill, my canine familiars, rejoicing in the light.  I stop and turn my face towards it, closing my eyes and breathing in the sharpness of the air. I feel the sun on my face, and imagine that bit of bared skin passing the light on through my whole body. I feel the light running through me. Physically, I feel lighter: my shoulders relax under the slight weight of my son on my chest; I feel as though I'm rising up through my body. I feel lighter in spirit, knowing the sun is there, if only briefly.

I store the light deep down inside, and will bring it out tonight, as I light candles and lamps to illuminate the darkness that closes in around us.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thoughts on Sustainability

Due to some issues we've been having as of late with our power source, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what it would be like to live where I do without fossil fuels.

We live off-grid, so we must generate our power ourselves. In the summertime, we're able to charge our system almost exclusively with solar power. However, our summers here in the Yukon are brief.  The rest of the year, we use a gas-powered generator to charge up our batteries.  Ideally, we should be able to run the generator every couple of days to charge up the batteries, and then draw off of those. So, take the gasoline out of the picture, and we're left with no power source, for the majority of the year (and at the darkest time of the year).

So what would we do, if suddenly there were no more fossil fuels? Everything about our lives would change. We live off-grid, but we still enjoy most of the same luxuries as people living in town. No electricity for most of the year would mean no more computer. It would mean no recorded music or electric lights. We'd light the house with oil lamps and candles.

Where would we source those things? We'd have to get them in town (assuming supplies were still getting to town...they'd have to come by the river, like they did up until the 50's). To get to town without fossil fuels, we'd need a horse and cart, or a dog team in the winter.

The wood stove is our sole heat source. Without fossil fuels, we could no longer use a chainsaw to fell trees. Instead, we'd have to do it the old-fashioned way. To get the wood home, we'd be using our horse again...that means we wouldn't be able to take the large loads that a truck and trailer allows: we'd be spending a lot of time cutting and moving fire wood.

Unless we dug a well on the property, we'd be taking the horse and cart down  to the spring, about 2 km from the house, to fill our blue jugs with fresh water.

What about food? Right now, Dawson has zero food security. All of our food comes from far, far away. Without fossil fuels, P and I would be growing and gathering all of our food right here. We would hunt and fish for fresh meat...I don't think we could keep chickens for eggs, because it would take too much to keep them alive through the winter. There is an abundance of wild food here, if one knows what to look for and how to process it. We'd take that horse and cart to town every once in awhile for things like flour and sugar (assuming they were still making it up here).

Considering these things gives me such respect for the Han people, who survived in this region long before the first traders and prospectors arrived in the mid-1800's. It was a lean, hard life they must have lived, moving almost constantly according to the seasons, always in preparation for the long, cold winters.

Seeing the ice shushing down the river this past week, I think of the stampeders settling this area in the early 1900's, watching the last river boat steam away from town. Once that boat was gone, there was no more food coming in from Outside, no news, no visitors. They used to have great big storehouses, that'd be full of the town's supplies until the river broke in the spring. And back then, that sometimes meant June before the first boat.

Would I be up to the challenge, without fossil fuels? In a way, life would be much simpler. Each day would be focused on the bare essentials of living...growing, gathering and preserving food. Hauling fresh water. Gathering wood for heat. Repairing the house, thinking of innovations to make things easier, tending to the horse (and the dog team!). But I feel like down time would be that much sweeter, harder earned. We'd learn to make our own music. We'd tell each other stories. We'd celebrate when the days started to get longer, because it would mean burning the lamps and candles less. We'd savour each bite of food, knowing exactly where it came from and what went into getting it on our plates....

In all honesty, I don't think it's a life I'm ready to's harder, meaner, most likely shorter. Without fossil fuels, I'd be terribly isolated here.  However, there are so many aspects of it that I would like to incorporate into our lives now: growing and gathering more of our own food is at the top of that list. And there is certainly nothing wrong with learning to savour each day more fully...

How would your life change without fossil fuels? Could you do it?