August13th is my birthday. From where I’m sitting, on Alaska time, that’s tomorrow. But I know some of you are already there so it’s today. No I haven’t dipped into the wine -yet. Just trying to explain the whole dateline thing.
Anyhoo, 48 years ago tomorrow, I made my rather speedy entrance in the world. I’ve never been one for patience. My dad was in such a hurry to get my mom to the hospital that he parked in a red zone and got himself a parking ticket. Which he carries in his wallet to this day. Which he says I should pay – with almost 5 decades worth of interest now. Which I won’t.
It’s been quite a journey so far and the way I figure it I’m a little less than halfway there. Seriously. Stop laughing!
Childhood wasn’t without its challenges but overall when I think about being a kid I remember street hockey until it got so dark we lost the ball. Hours and hours of exploration in the forests (now gone I guess) bordering my hometown. We skated on the rink, in the park across the street, until our hands and feet were numb and we swam in the outdoor town pool until our lips were blue (why they never heated the water was beyond me!).
I remember visits to the east coast where my parents are from and where most of my relatives live today. My dad worked for Air Canada so there were also spontaneous weekend trips to who knows where. We were well below rich but back then (and now!), but working for an airline came with major perks like free flights and huge discounts on things like hotels and rental cars.
As a kid and on into adolescence I was also the person who would stand up for the underdog. For those who were being bullied. My sister, who was picked on a lot, and who has a memory that would put an elephant to shame has many stories including one of me beating the crap out of some delinquent.
I do remember a boy named Randy – last name won’t be mentioned in case he’s grown up to be some sort of murderer – who tried to take my bike from me one summer day. He was a couple grades ahead of me and a knuckle dragging, mouth breathing kind of kid. He did get the bike. I picked it up and threw it at him. Unfortunately the pedal got caught on his head and split it open. A blind detective could have followed the blood trail all the way back to his house. He left the bike behind.
The only things that stand out about high school were being on the varsity basketball team and geography. Mr. Anderson introduced us to the topographical map in grade 9 and I’ve been hooked ever since. My dad passed on his wanderlust to me and Mr. Anderson taught me how to read the map to find my way.
Not too long after finishing high school I headed North. Somehow I landed a writing job for a paper in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Then a magazine editor sent me out on a 10-day dogsled trip with Dave and Kristen, who homesteaded on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. That was the beginning of a 25-year and still going love affair with sled dogs.
Dave hooked up 4 dogs and I thought he was crazy. For those of you who know me, you know I am not the ballerina type. I was pretty sure 4 dogs wouldn’t do it. He just kept telling me to hang onto the sled no matter what happened and to ride the brake if I could. I was thinking, “Yeah okay. Whatever. It’s 4 little dogs.”
Well when he pulled the line that was anchoring the sled, the team and I shot out of the dog yard at an astounding speed. I lost my footing, flipped the sled and got dragged halfway across the lake. Ok, it wasn’t halfway but it seemed like forever before those damn dogs stopped. While I was being dragged Dave was yelling for me to hang on and ride the brake. Are you kidding? I can hang on OR I can ride the brake. Take your pick pal.
But I was hooked. I knew I had found my calling.
After a couple of years in the NWT, I returned to my home town but it wasn’t long before I was heading North again. Wilderness cabins in Northern Ontario. This crazy purple cabin in a remote fly-in village in the Northern Yukon. A tent on the shores of a wilderness lake almost 100 air miles from anywhere.
Then came Alaska. Just a summer job. The dogs and I working on a glacier giving dogsled rides. If you’ve been following this blog you know how that turned out!
Of course this journey hasn’t been without its share of frustrations and fear. But we need those seasons in our life in order to appreciate the good stuff too. And I do appreciate the good stuff! It’s been quite a ride.
If you share my birthday then I wish you many happy returns. If you don’t, then when it’s your turn to celebrate, start a blog and announce it to the world. Put it on Facebook. Tell everyone you meet that day that it’s your birthday.
I never understood people who would say they don’t want a party. Or presents. It’s your day! And you are to be celebrated by people – friends and strangers. We don’t get too many chances in life to say “Hello! I am here and I am special” (and no KD and Stephen don’t even go there!). But your birthday is one of those best chances.
So tomorrow I will be celebrating me. And that’s ok. Darrel has learned to avoid restaurants on my birthday – poor fellow. And if you’re wondering what you can get me and just don’t have time to shop, well there is that Paypal button on the right hand side of this page. Yes I’m shameless. If you’ve enjoyed this blog thing of it as buying a magazine. If you haven’t, well you can pay me to shut up. See how easy I am to get along with? And if nothing else I did share those pictures of me from childhood so that has to be worth something!
So, happy birthday to me. And when it’s your turn start your blog. And don’t forget the Paypal button because I never know what to buy you!