Friday, November 30, 2012

Simple Pleasures

The house is quiet; the babe has finally settled down for a nap. I hurry outside, gathering an armload of wood as the sun slips behind the hills, signalling an end to our brief days.

I stoke up the fire, and fill the chipped enamel basin with hot water from the kettle on the stove. I light candles on the washstand and strip off the layers of sweaters and knit shirts that are like a second skin I seem never to be free of these days. I bend my head over the basin, dip my cup into the clear water and pour it out over my hair. I dip and pour like this, soaking my hair and enjoying the sensations. I scrub my itchy scalp, water dripping down my forehead, over my shoulders and down my back.

I wrap my wet hair in a towel and carry the basin over to the couch before the fire. It is cold outside but I am warm, wearing a fresh pair of long underwear, pulled up at the ankles. I ease my feet into the water, clouded now with spent soap suds. I relax back into the cushions, watching the flames that fill the stove, consuming the wood I've just brought in. My feet are blissfully bare, tingling. I wiggle my toes, happy toes free of socks and slippers.

My hair curls as it dries in the heat of the fire and the last of the twilight fades from the room.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wild Imagination

The sun doesn't crest the hills 'til around 10 am, but once it does, it's a brilliant day. The trees stand shrouded in snow against a clear blue sky. It's cold today; the air warms to -35 C with whatever heat it can pull from the weak sun.

I haven't had the dogs out in a couple of days, so after lunch I pack the babe onto my back and we set out into the woods.

The trees are lit in a golden light, it hits them at close to a 90 degree angle; the sun is not high in the sky. It is quiet but for the crunch of my snowshoes on the trail. The dogs are far ahead, and Aedan has fallen asleep nestled down in our parka.

I come over a small rise and see the dogs up ahead, sniffing madly at something on the trail. As I approach, I see scattered tufts of fur. It is pale brown, white and soft grey. Suddenly, my walk takes on a sinister note. I scan around for tracks, for sign of the struggle, but I see only old, criss-crossing snowshoe hare tracks, and the clumsy wallows of my small dogs in the deeper snow.

The dogs disappear up ahead again, and I continue on, thinking that perhaps I am not the only predator to prowl along this path.

The silence of the forest is not so peaceful now: it takes on a new depth, seeming almost deliberate. What creatures watch me from the acres of brush and shadows all around? Every so often I stop, convinced I hear something creeping along behind me, its steps concealed beneath the noise of my snowshoes. I hold my breath and hear nothing.

Smaller trees are bent low under the weight of the undisturbed snow; they look like weird gnomes and mythical beasts frozen in time, or some bizarre topiary gone wild. Walls of spruce and gnarled old willow spring up in my path: the forest conspires to lead me astray. I stop again, listening. For a moment, the conspicuous silence presses around me. Then, the dog's bark echoes back to me. The baby wakes up and begins to cry. The path opens up again before me. I double back on my trail and we hurry home.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Snapping Cold

That's how JJ Van Bibber describes this weather, in his book "I was born under a spruce tree" (which I'm reading now and loving).

Dawson is one of the coldest places on earth today!

Cold like this usually comes with clear, bright skies and sunshine; it's a nice trade off. But today it's a bit overcast: the sky is a patchwork of muted blue and white.

This morning, though, when I went to the outhouse around 7 am, was stunning. The stars were sharp, glittering points of light in the dark. I could see the Pleiades to the east, and a couple of incredibly bright stars (planets?) low on the horizon. A very faint aurora streaked across the sky. I stopped on the path to take it all in, shifting from slippered food to slippered foot, feeling the dry, cold air tingling in my sinuses.

It brings its problems, this cold, particularly living off grid like we do. Vehicles should be plugged in to start safely, but to do that we need to start up a generator first. Well, the generator wouldn't start this morning. P got his truck started anyway, though it wasn't easy. We've got a torch set beneath the generator now: hopefully it'll warm its insides enough start later today. We'll probably leave it running until things warm up above 30.

We'll be inside today, keeping our toes warm by the wood stove. I hope you're warm where ever you are today, too!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Early Morning and Yarn Along

Waking up at 5 am sure makes for a long morning! The stars were still out as I stoked up the fire and got the house warm. A cup of raspberry leaf tea, a few rows of knitting and a few stories read to the babe. We've breakfasted and Aedan is already down for his morning nap. The breakfast dishes are washed, the floors are swept and Aedan's 1st mess of the day has been tidied, ready for the next one. My second cup of tea is steeping on the kitchen counter as I type this at 9 am, and it is only just beginning to lighten out. I'll have to wait another hour for enough sunlight to get a photo for Yarn Along.

I've given up on the Midsummer Night shawl. I think it was perhaps a little too much for my first real attempt at knitting lace. Also, and I hesitate to say this because I am a relative beginner (although I've known HOW to knit for many years), I think there were more errors in the pattern. I got stuck again, it wasn't making any sense...and then I dropped some stitches while unknitting/reknitting a row...and that's when I frogged the whole thing. I'm instead working on a much simpler lace pattern cowl. It's going very well. It's a short and easy repeat and it's knitting quickly.

I'm still making my way through the Harry Potter series; I'm onto the Goblet of Fire now. I do believe I'll give Harry a rest after this one, though. I'm itching to get into a book my friend loaned me called "I was born under a Spruce tree". It is a transcription of the oral history of a local man's life. He passed last winter, but boy has he left an amazing legacy. He photographed much of his life, too, so the book is rich not just with his spoken tale, but with the photos to document his life in the bush, on the creeks and in the gold mines all over this territory. 

What are you knitting and reading? Hop on over to Ginny's blog, Small Things, and yarn along with the rest of us!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Watch and Learn

I am continually amazed at how this babe learns. It is, by far, one of my most favourite things about sharing each day with him.

He picks up on things that I try and teach him, like sign language. But then there are the things that I haven't really taught him. I wonder: "How is he ever going to learn to do that?" And then one day he just...does it.

Like in the past week or two, he's learned how to eat with a fork or a spoon. When I first offered him cutlery, he would just play with it and then throw it on the floor. He'd either feed himself with his hands, or I would feed him. Lately, though, he's become very insistent that he hold the spoon himself. He would tap it in his bowl, push the food around, bring the empty spoon up to his mouth. Within days of doing that, he figured out how to scoop, and then how to maneuver the food up to his mouth, and now...he's mostly feeding himself!

I think, too, of his sleep habits. In the first 6 or 8 months of his life, I remember thinking: "Will he ever be able to sleep without me at his side?" I read books and listened to advice from other mamas, but I never really did anything, other than try to creep away once I'd put him down, and hurry back to his side when he awoke crying. One day, he stayed asleep for a half hour after I put him in the bed...then it was an hour, then two or three. And now I can put him down for a nap and have time all to myself--which is much appreciated!

It takes patience on everyone's part, but it's so wonderful to see that, with time, little ones will reach these milestones all on their own. I wonder what he'll learn next?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gratitude Sunday

Today I'm joining Taryn of Wooly Moss Roots for Gratitude Sunday.

This week, I have felt grateful for...

The health of my beautiful boy. It was one year ago this week that Aedan was diagnosed with neo-natal diabetes. It was such a scary time for us, and all week long the doctors, nurses, and paramedics who cared for him and for us have been on my mind. I am so thankful for their caring and their skill, and I am so, SO thankful that he is a happy, healthy baby today.

Tuesday night yoga classes. It is such a peaceful, positive time for this full time Mama!

All that P does for our family, from the big things like going in to work each day so that I can stay home, or getting up at 4 am to stoke the fire and heat up the downstairs, to the little things like remembering not to dump the contents of his pockets on the kitchen table. 

Clear blue skies, and starry nights.

Breaking new trail in my snowshoes while Aedan sleeps on my back.

The inspiration I find from the blog-world. I'm so grateful that there are so many people living the way they do, and sharing it with the rest of us!

"Meeting" kindred souls through blogging. 

Patience and perseverance.

Being able to let go of my stress over the mess and clutter of our home; taking small steps to make changes rather than trying to do it all in one afternoon!

Aedan's laughter.

The love of my friends and family. 

And today, on Remembrance Day, I feel the need to express my gratitude for the men and women who sacrificed their youth, their innocence, and often their lives to fight for the freedom of others. My poppa was one of those, though he lived through his war and was able to return to Canada and start a family. My wish is that someday, there will be no more wars to fight.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Yarn Along: Lace and Harry Potter

Today I'm joining  Ginny's Yarn Along, sharing what I'm knitting and reading.

I've started working on a lace-pattern triangular shawl: "Midsummer Night". I found the pattern on Ravelry, and the author stated that it was a great choice for beginners. A few days ago, I got completely stuck on one of the rows. The pattern just wasn't making sense compared to what I had on the needles. After many attempts at unknitting and reknitting the row, I finally realized that there was an error in the pattern. I added in two knit stitches before the final yarn-over, and everything worked out beautifully. It was such a great feeling when I finally figured it out! Other than that little bump in the road, I'm really enjoying knitting lace. The pattern requires just enough attention to keep it interesting...I definitely wouldn't work on this while watching a movie!

I've been making my way through the Harry Potter series. Can you believe I've never read it? I'm almost finished the 3rd book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It's an easy and very entertaining read. I'm going through the books quickly...that's one of my favourite things about winter. You don't have to make excuses to sit inside and read. 30 below and a foot of snow: need I say more?

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Over the last few days we've had quite a bit of snow. It's still snowing now as I type this post. It's a grey day, and it's been spent mostly indoors.

Yesterday, though, the snow stopped falling for the afternoon and it was just right for snowshoeing (and later, snow shovelling!)

I packed Aedan into my amauti (no tears this time!), strapped on my snowshoes, and away we went into the woods.

The closest I've got to a full length mirror...





Aedan got to do some exploring on his own!

Funny face!


Hanging with the dogs in the nicely shoveled walkway!


Hope you're enjoying your winter, whatever it may look like!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Learning to Eat Mindfully

I have a confession to make.

I am terrible for wolfing down my food.

Before I've swallowed one bite, I've got the next one ready to go on my fork. Meals that I've spent all afternoon preparing are often gone in 10 minute's time. I go for seconds only to regret it later. I'm sure I am not alone in this; in fact, I think it's something many North Americans are guilty of.

Like with everything these days, I am so aware of those two little brown eyes watching all that I do. I don't want Aedan to approach his food this way. I want him to learn to savour his meals; to approach food with respect and gratitude for where it came from, and for the work that goes into putting it on the table. I want him to listen to his body, and stop eating when he is no longer hungry.

And I want these things for myself, too!

So we've begun an experiment in mindful eating. Normally, our kitchen table is a catch-all for keys, spare change, mail, and little scraps of paper. Before, I would push all this aside to find space for our plates. Now, though, I clear all of this off and set two places for us, with place mats. We light candles (which is so lovely!) and we pause before we begin our meal. I like to take a moment to notice the aromas of the food, how it looks on the plate. We express gratitude for the work that went into the meal, and we might talk about where the food came from. Then, we begin.

After each bite, I set my fork down. I take the time to truly taste what is in my mouth, noticing the subtle flavours and texture. I chew my food thoroughly, pause for a moment, and then take another bite. I'm finding a few things through this way of eating: one, I enjoy my food so much more than before! And two, I feel fuller, sooner. I no longer go back for seconds, because I've thoroughly enjoyed my meal and I've given my stomach time to tell my head that it's had enough!

It feels so good to not only take the time to prepare meals from scratch, but to give them the time and attention they deserve in eating them, too!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Beginning new traditions

Having a little one has me spending lots of time around the holidays thinking about how I want to celebrate. It is my hope to create some new traditions imbued with meaning, ones that Aedan will cherish and carry on. I would like to celebrate in ways that link closely to the rhythm of the seasons, with a focus on the natural world rather than on "things".

I'm sure that one day, Aedan will want to dress up for Halloween, and I look forward to seeing what he dreams up. But for now, I'm trying to start something with a deeper significance. In many cultures around the world, this is a time to remember those who have passed on. It is a time to talk about the dead, to feel their spirits gathered close around us. It also marks the end of the old year: the harvest is in, the work of preserving it is over, and the fields lie fallow.

Here in the Yukon, the ground has been frozen for weeks and the rivers are not far behind. Each day is noticeably shorter than the last. We are headed in to a dark time, a time to snuggle in close to the fire, to dream of what's to come with the return of the sun at the Winter Solstice. It feels important to me to begin to mark these special days in some way: a measure of the seasons.

So on the 31st, at sunset, I lit a few candles around some photos of loved ones we wished to remember. I prepared a feast for dinner: roasted moose, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts and zucchini patties (by special request). Today, Aedan and I will make our way down to the clearing where we buried Patsy, my cat who passed last spring, to pour some spring water over her grave. It feels so good to be making some new traditions, and I look forward to how they grow and change as my family does the same.

Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, Samhain or All Souls Day...what traditions does your family have to celebrate this time of year?