I can do it

On Tuesday, at yoga class (where I go to a private class with my mum, my sister, my sister-in-law, my mother-in-law, my next door neighbour and Rachel H.) our really clever teacher asked us to do something very hard. It was an arm strengthening pose (which I am all in favour of, wanting the muscles under my biceps to stop waving when I do) and she said “It’s good to do this, to remember that life can be difficult but possible”, and Rachel H. exploded with giggles.

“I’m Ok.” she said. “I’ve got that figured”, and I took the yoga teachers side, and said “Yeah, but it’s good to know it physically and not just emotionally” and Rachel laughed, that way that people laugh when they know that a statement like that is totally going to come back to bite you hard on the hind parts.

Well today I got my come-uppance. Today was challenging. I got up early, packed up all my stuff and Joe took me to the CBC building downtown to do an interview for Fresh Air. (If you’re in the area, listen at 7:30 (HA!) EST on Saturday to hear the interview with Karen Gordon. If you’re not in Canada you can listen to CBC internet if you like.) Work completed, we took to the highway in Joe’s mum’s car (thanks Carol) he drove me North East for almost four hours to return me to the house in the woods where I can think straight, be alone and finish my book. This trip is the second wave, planned to compliment the first trip up here, and to allow me to manage the fact that the kids are off this week for “March Break” which is what Canadians call “Spring Break” to avoid having to kill ourselves out of disappointment that it’s really not spring, but I digress.

We headed up here, and truly, it was not spring.


It was white-out conditions on the highway for much of the way, and it was when things looked most dismal that the thought first occurred to Joe and I. “Damn. I hope the plow has been.” As we considered what we were up against, our trepidation only grew. If the plow had not been, then there was no way to drive up to the house. If we couldn’t drive up to the house, we would have to hike in all of my stuff. Six days in the woods demands a lot of stuff. Water (the well water has not been tested) food, yarn, clothes….. it was a lot, and carrying it a kilometre appealed about as much as licking yaks does. We repeated the mantra all the way up. Please plow. Please plow. Please plow.

We arrived, and our hearts sank. Not only had the plow not been today, it was worse. The plow had clearly not been in some time, and there has been an easy 50cm (20 inches) of snow since then. We both stared. We were both agog. Joe looked at the clock. It was late. Later than it should have been and he had to get back to the city for a gig. it was really, really important that he leave, and soon…but how was I going to get all the stuff up?

We decided that Joe had time to make the 2k (slightly over a mile) hike in and out… once. We loaded him up like a pack mule with the heavy stuff I couldn’t do without, I took the perishables that wouldn’t last if they froze in the car, and we set out.


Dudes. It sucked. The snow was deep. Way deep, and we didn’t have snowshoes and we had seriously overestimated what we could carry and by the first half km, we were both thinking about lying face down in the snow. Never before has a string of such filthy language been strung together by two people. This was, and if you don’t live in a snowy place, you might not know this sort of snow…. Exhausting snow. It’s the deep fluffy sort with the hard crust on top, so each step punches through and mires you in, then requires you to extricate your leg, only to embed it with the same force and hopelessness with the next step. It took forever, and the only reason we did not cry was because neither of us wanted to look weak to the other. Abject misery.

We finally made the house in the distance and were stunned to discover it damn near buried.


(Note location of door, marked by yellow arrow.) With this image came the knowledge that I shall be shovelling until my arms ache, which was hardly the main issue, since only half of my supplies had made it to the house. Joe and I dropped off the stuff, began to trudge dejectedly back to the car (still snowing) and Joe had a brainwave. We ransacked the place and found a superslider. One of those round sleds for careening down hills at a thousand km an hour and scaring the hell out of your mother. Joe rooted around his stuff (he made a record at this house in the summer, and as with all engineers, he left stuff in his wake) until he found some spare wire.

He rigged it to the sled to make a handle, and we headed back (heavenhelpuswhatkindofforsakencountryisthis) to the car. When we got there (I will spare you the gnashing of teeth) we made a decision about what absolutely had to go up to the house with me. (Food. Wine. Yarn.) and what could be stashed by the town road in snowproof garbage bags until I could stagger back for it. We loaded up the sled with what I could pull (or thought I could pull) and Joe took this picture:


and left.

I began my time alone, towing food and six days worth of water up the hill (there is surprisingly more up than down.) I will say this, and only this of the 1km hike in with that stuff. IT SUCKED.

I abandoned stuff all the way up to the house. At the 1/4 way mark, the wire on the sled broke


and I said some language that was unladylike in the extreme. I retied the wire and abandoned a couple of kilos and kept staggering. At the halfway mark the wire snapped again and this time, I was going uphill and I dare not write of the thoughts that I had as the sled slid backwards down the hill, and away from me. I will tell you that my reaction scared birds from nearby trees. I swore all the way back to the sled, abandoned more stuff and retied the knot again. My foul mouthed self and I made it about another 300 steps (I was counting) before it snapped again, and this time I lay in the snow for a moment and may have wept a few tears. Then I abandoned more crap. (At this point I was wondering WHY I HAD SO MUCH CRAP but I suspect I shall desire drinking water sometime tomorrow and go retrieve it.) By the time I made the house, scrambled my way in, hauled the crap in and lit a fire, all I could think of to do was think up filthy cruel nicknames for the plow guy, and lie on the floor.

I’ve recovered somewhat and I want you to know that as I am a woman of some sense, I did not abandon the things that one really needs to survive in the woods.


Damn straight. I’ll go get the rest of my stuff tomorrow, and Rachel H?

Sorry I laughed.