My last day at Karin's place, Blue on Black Kennels, was grey. The sky matched my attitude, and as the clouds made themselves a cozy low hanging bed, I finished my packing and realized that 'Now I have to go say goodbye to the dogs...' For whatever reason, I remember that the sadness I felt as I went down the rows to each wagging tail, came as a surprise. Eight months earlier, I had stepped into that very same yard feeling fear and intimidation, and now those emotions had been dumped out and replaced with sadness and appreciation. Once all of my 'good byes' and belly rubs were completed, I walked towards the idling truck to the sounds of a fitting and final farewell. The dogs gave me one last howl.
I am typing this post with two days left on the tail end of my three year handlership with Wild and Free Mushing, sitting in my room and looking out the window that overlooks the entire empire that is the dog yard. The sun is up and doing battle with the gobs of snow we got this season, and the dogs find refuge from the spring heat in the shadow of their houses. At least I have an inkling of what to expect in the next few days when I have to say my 'good byes', I've been here before, but still things are different this time. The connection I share with the dogs, and the homestead, and the trails; they're eternal, and I know I will see them again.
Life lived in the interior of Alaska, among the hills and lost in the wilderness, is at this point natural to us. Anticipated, customary, familiar, habitual, instinctive, intuitive, logical, agrarian, pure, wild. There are songs that I hear sometimes, combinations of notes put together in such a way as if no one really created them. They were always there to begin with, and someone merely possessed the proper mindset and vision to reach out and grab what was always meant to be, what was always floating around waiting to be captured and presented. Bohemian Rhapsody comes to mind most easily. The point is, we were meant to be here and to be doing this, I feel it with every cell in my body. The trick, was opening ourselves up to the possibility of being able to recognize it, and having the courage to make decisions in life that followed our own very unique logical progression.
So, we'll be back. We head to the glacier this summer to live remotely, and to share our passion for life and for dogs with a whole lotta people, most of whom have very likely never met a sled dog before. How could you not be excited about that?! It will be a terrific experience for us, but we have all intention to head back to the interior come fall. And while my handlership has come to an end, my friendship and professional relationship with Brent Sass and his team will continue indefinitely. I've become apart of a very unique network of individuals, whose voluntary contributions to one another's passions and lifestyles is really a beautiful thing to witness. Somehow, everyone pursuing their own special trail in life, and yet coming together at different times in collaborative efforts to boost each other in ways that are only possible with collective focus and energy.
This human network, in marriage with the natural beauty and opportunity of the area, is really what creates the magnetic pull. It just feels empowering to be around such ambitious and capable people, with an appreciation for life and for each other that I just haven’t found anywhere else. Doesn't mean it doesn’t exist elsewhere, or more importantly that it CAN'T exist elsewhere, just that we've struck gold where we lay. To elaborate just a bit further on something I just wrote, the capability to dominate the life experience is psychological, not physical. It is a mentality that is possessed, to know that the mind is the most powerful tool you own, but a hammer won't really help you cut straight lines.
I owe a great deal of this outlook and knowledge to an absolute juggernaut of life, and my mushing mentor for the past three years, Brent Sass. There simply are not very many humans alive with the work ethic and passion that Brent holds. He placed an incredible amount of trust and responsibility in my lap, not an easy exercise for anyone to do, and I've done my best to earn it. The mentorship brent provided me, the experience that Eureka gave me, and the lessons that the dogs taught me. I see my self now as a refined/chiseled version of my former relatively round and flabby self, and I owe it all to them. So I wont have any 'good byes' to say, rather they'll be 'see ya laters', and the watery eyes will be from an appreciation of an epic era and the excitement of a new chapter.