Fifty miles south of the Yukon capital on a dirt road, too early for a Saturday morning in October, and I am late. Snow on the ground and I am roadside in grimy pants, 2 wool shirts, cold feet in cold rubber boots, chainsaw at my feet. Winter tried to arrive last week and I am just starting to fill the woodshed. Few people leave it this late; for most it’s been stacked and drying for months. However, my sole purpose for being here isn’t one of panic, a late season effort to get enough wood to warm me through a Yukon winter. I’m here to observe, to gain an awareness, to participate. Cutting wood is lonesome work; a necessary selfish act that sharpens senses frayed by days at a desk and immerses me in the world beyond over-priced produce and crowded parking lots.
Observation: what is caught in the corner of the eye calls for closer inspection; a rotting tree with a crust of moss, squirrel middens crunching underfoot. Awareness: coal black ravens arrive against the winter sky, slipping back and forth like ash, settling to watch; a croak and gone silent as smoke into the falling snow. Participation: a passing conversation with dogsledders in a wood laden truck, truck and men worn by roads, rough use and one another. Through broken tooth smiles they agree wood is hard to find and winter is here. With a need for coffee they pass on.
The woodlot is a kaleidoscope of experience; a spider scrabbling through water drops on tree bark; the mountain walls that rise above me a 100 m away. Amidst the threads of snow and the wet rocks above, a grizzly is denned in, secure for the winter.
I know I will buy most of my wood this year. But I’m not here to save money. I’m here to shove my humanistic roots a little deeper into this cold hard Yukon ground, to seek guidance in answering the elemental question of my life: Is this home, is this where I belong?