sixty six degrees north – a tribut(ary)

dsc_2212smimg_1809smdsc_2234smdsc_2426smi am missing the north right now. i am missing going to margaret vittrekwa’s home-based shop in fort mcpherson with emma, to revel in the beauty of her beadwork. i am missing washing clothes in the silt-laden river. i am missing mj’s hamburger soup and welcoming smile in tulita. i am missing the relief and exultation of making it through the stretch of poplar and beaver dam rapids after weeks of not knowing what we were getting into. i am missing emma’s WO-OOOOOWWWW!!! when we rounded the bend in the liard and the huge island monolith of sand and stone greeted us. i am missing fort liard. i am missing making and breaking camp daily. i am missing day 2 where we woke for the first time on the river, it was about 10 am and i thought i had heat stroke – i probably did – i could barely think and there was no shade anywhere as i fumbled clumsily to erect a tarp. i am missing day three where we paddled til three am because every place we tried to stop and camp had moose and we had no idea how dangerous moose were at that point. i am missing the wide ample girth of the mackenzie at sunset where it opens out after the sans sault rapids. i am missing opening the tin of smoked oysters at the island after the sans sault, that carrie sent care of the tulita PO – a tribute to past canoe trips. i am missing making a fire to cook our food. i am missing the drum dancing and hand games in tulita – the power therein. i am missing trusting in the kindness of strangers. i am missing the river as a way of life. i am missing the stories that come from being there. i am missing endless daylight. i am missing traveling with a map. i am missing cooking on the bench outside the whitehorse visitor centre on our way back home. i am missing making it safely to shore as the barge bore down on us and hunkering down on top of our lifejackets among the weeds as streams appeared all around us in the sudden downpour of the thunder and lightning storm. never has lightning been so close. i am missing the next days breakfast – my birthday! – when we found fresh wild mustard along the shore. i am missing the midnight ninja birds near fort simpson. i am missing the endless sandbar camp in the fire haze near the mouth of the netla river. i am missing travelling with emma. i am missing marvelling at the first time we noticed the river’s rise dramatically overnight, the mighty deh cho draining 1.8 million square kilometers of land. i am missing sitting drinking my tea the morning it was emma’s turn for breakfast, as i watched the rain roll through a distant valley on the far shore. i am missing the three days straight i spent composing imperfect haikus in my head, holding them there, rolling them around and polishing them as i waited for a break in paddling so i could write them down [thanks to navi for that haiku inspiration]. though i didn’t like it then, i am missing the day we spent looking for drinking water when every stream was coming up mud. but then the day after we found danny’s and fresh water and how he used spruce gum as both a bandage and a healing salve and checking the nets five times a day and cleaning & gutting the rest of the time and aunt jemima’s in the morning and the promise of winter and sitting by the campfire under the stars and aurora borealis after all the work of summer was done, revelling in good books and the money put away for next year. i miss you danny. i wish i knew you were still alive and sitting by the river at night, witnessing those auroras dance over the water you call home.

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header and photos 6, 8, 10, 12, 13 & 15 by emma

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