Western North Carolina Woman

the journey of river chickadee chapter three
by robin brown

January 29th, 2004. Day Two of our Journey from Alaska to Western North Carolina.
My puppy Kootenai and I wake to the sound of Uncle Paul in the kitchen. I hop out of bed and peek out the bedroom door. He is putting on his arctic gear and boots to go out and check on the vehicles to see if they will start. I feel fortunate that he is a mechanic and has lived in Alaska for 35 years. I couldn’t ask for a more capable traveling partner.

It is minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit this morning. I get dressed and sit on the floor pulling Kootenai on my lap. She lays patiently while I tug her fleece booties over her paws and wrap the velcro snugly around her ankles. She knows. She doesn’t go outside without them and if I don’t get them on tight, the snow will get in them or they’ll fall off. She also gets her orange reflective vest and flashing light dog tag. Okay, I dote on her a little bit, but it is terribly dark out there and if she gets off leash I want her to be seen. We go for a little walk and I encourage her to do her business. I’m eager to get on the road. Her vest crackles, frozen stiff, and I wonder if it will break. She is oblivious. A fuzzy little pup amazingly able to use her sense of smell in this weather, even in the snow banks! She continues reading the local news with her nose until I once again encourage her to get on with our task.

Everything seems sharp at this temperature. The air is sharp in my nose. My truck seat is as hard as a concrete bench and just as cold. I sit tall in the seat since the bounce is frozen out of it. I turn the key in the ignition and listen to the whine and squeal of the belts. Shivering, with my shoulders tucked up around my ears and my fur hood flopped almost to my nose, I peek out at the oil pressure gauge. I don’t dare leave the truck till it comes up to normal range. Then I’m back inside for breakfast, leaving the truck to warm up.

We depart Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory at 7:30 am and continue our journey in the dark. All I can see is the white snowy shoulders of the road and the tail lights of Uncle Paul up ahead. It will be awhile before it gets light. Kootenai is asleep on my lap, her booties off and laying up on the defroster to dry. I’m still not in the mood for music. It just feels good to let my mind wander in the morning quiet. There is so much that has led up to my traveling down this road. It was five years ago that I first penned my thoughts regarding my life journey. In a remote cabin on a river, 90 miles from Fairbanks, I sat and wrote:

It’s a golden morning…but with the accent of silver. A few moments ago it was calm, the surface of the river smooth as if it were frozen in time. The call of swans in flight brought me to the front porch. It’s a giant vee compared to those of the geese or even the cranes. A giant, glistening, white vee, each body a pure white form accented by its grey line of shade as they fly with the rising sun at their left wings. Only the creator could make something so pure white and graceful…and faithful. It is said that swans mate for life.

I notice the golden sun on the grass and on the trees. It is waking every living thing in a gentle way. Of these things I have written many times. But this morning, the dampness of the night has left a gift of shining elegance for each tree, each bush, even each blade and branch. It’s the morning dew, the sparkling morning dew. Its on everything. Not one thing is without its crown of brilliance. Each one shining as if the creator had attentively and individually loved it. And each one shining, proudly reflecting that beauty back to the world. If only people could be like a dew drop in the morning sun, able to be filled completely with light, yet never holding it in, reflecting it with beauty and brilliance. All who see it know it is light. Yet it is still only dew, each drop a tiny reflection of the Creator. Each drop such a minute, almost insignificant part of the world around it, but truly with all the others like it, an important part of the whole, a tiny bit of the waters of life.

The breeze is caressing the earth, causing it to join its dance, the grass to wave its rhythm, the water to riffle in harmony like the written notes of a grand orchestra. Cob webs in the trees are delicately swaying. They look so fragile. Be gentle, young breeze. Let the cob web play too. It reflects a bouncing line of light. It shines the light of its creator in its own unique way. If I were a cob web I would be like that, stronger than anyone would imagine. If I were a drop of dew, I would shine in the morning sun. If I were a swan, I would be pure and fly south in the fall with others of my kind. If I were a breeze I would caress the earth with love, all because my creator made me so. But I’m not a cob web or a drop of dew. I’m me. My creator made me so. I want to know what that means. How am I to be me, and how am I to reflect my creator to the world? That’s my question and that’s my quest.

Kootenai snuggles farther up onto my lap and sighs in her sleep. Does she feel my restlessness? My eagerness? The morning sun begins to glow orange through the ice fog, the trees and onto the mountains. I pull out my video camera and take video driving down the road. It's a good thing there isn’t much traffic and what there is can be seen coming from a long way off. The barren landscape is spectacular bathed in orange. It feels like this video is a desperate attempt to bring all my memories with me. I’ve seen so much of the wild places and I still get thrilled by the mountains and the sun, and the snow. One thing I can not bring with me though, is the feeling of being somewhere truly remote. I’ll just have to remember it. We continue to roll down the road. It’s Canada, but it still feels like I’m in Alaska because it’s the Arctic and nothing of my scenery has changed. It feels like I haven’t really left yet. I have not comprehended my freedom or the full impact of my decision to leave. Is it even possible to know something like that? I don’t even really know where I’m going. Asheville, North Carolina, is only an idea in my head, a place on the internet or the map. When will it feel real? I look as far as I can see down the road. Maybe tomorrow…

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