The rocks are the bones and the dirt is the blood. The birds are just spirits rising up up up.
The landscape changed tree by tree by tree. I measured distance in road signs indicating which ruminant to avoid barrelling into. The days seemed so distinct, but now are bleeding into one another. I forgot to make an intention before I set out, but everyday I repeated a reminder: safety, bravery, wonder and pride.
I felt safe where I slept. I never locked the side door. Once in Whitehorse I woke from the cold and wondered if it would only get colder in the following nights. But I was ok, and the nights became warmer and warmer until I didn’t need the wool.
When I felt unsafe because of ice or winding roads and other cars I would reach out and touch the glass piece Laurel made dangling from the rear view mirror. I would touch the handmade card from the librarians back in Alaska.
I felt unsafe on the side of the road, stopping to pee or walk in the woods. The stillness after hurling myself 100km/hr was frightening. Inside the van with the dog is where I felt safe.
The way I’m brave is confusing to me. Like, I’ll drive alone 2,500 miles in winter, but won’t drink the first espresso pull of the day.
I convinced myself to be brave in the dark, when I was not able to see the road. I was afraid to go the speed limit. I wouln’t be able to stop if an animal was in the road. I had to trust that there was only pavement in front of me. I had to trust that the people who make the rules knew it was ok to drive this fast through these curves and truckers do it all the time. People do this all the time.
I woke up at dawn in Liard River. I ate eggs and toast in the lodge and learned a local secret: the hotsprings are supposed to be open year round, with a $15 fee, but the person in charge just leaves for the season with the gates and doors unlocked for anyone to use. The place was deserted when I got there. Sign posts told me dogs were prohibited but I couldn’t bear leave her in the car. We tromped along the creaky ice covered boardwalk surrounded by a frozen marsh. I wasn’t sure how far into the woods the pools were and the farther we disappeared into the trees the more uneasy I felt. I worried about bears and moose and bison and murderers. I am so afraid of bears. Mostly, I think, because I have never encountered one. Kote pulled hard on the leash trying to dive off of the boardwalk into the marsh. “You’re going to kill us both!” I grunted frustrated and freezing. By the time I could see the pools the little wisps of hair poking out of my hat aroung my face were frosty and white. There was steam floating all around in the air. I walked up to where I saw signs for a restroom and pulled open the door to the women’s toilet. I stopped short and decided that if there was someone out here targeting someone vulnerable, they would probably be hiding in the women’s room, so I went to the mens and laughed at myself and the thought of gender designated bathrooms in the woods. Gender conformity in the middle of nowhere. By the main pool I set down my things, leashed Kote to the railing of the deck and peeled off my clothes. I was excited by the thought of the warm water and a free bath after having been on the road for four days without a shower. I was marvelling at the earth and the gift of this secret forest bath. I was naked, steaming, in the water in the woods in the middle of nowhere. How wild, how fortunate I was to be there. I didn’t stay long, the worries of getting on the road and making good time crept back in. I dressed feeling warm, feeling free, and feeling proud.
What a gift to have five days of sun and snow and caribou and bison and ravens. Blue sky, coffee, music and the road. The space to feel and the time to cry. I flew through pages of drawings and letter writing, so inspired. What a gift the road is. What a gift to be free. Tied to nothing but eating and sleeping and shitting with my pup. What a gift to sing and sing and forget about all the bullshit and to deepen my love for good friends left behind.
In Whitehorse I was thankful for a bakery with good coffee and scones and hummus wraps. I was puzzled by the fact that every other woman that walked by looked like a dyke. I was tickled by the hippie dude that exclaimed, excited by the CUNT LOVE sticker on my coffee mug I had been trying to hide.
I stopped on the side of the road to watch bison munch on grass and lounge around. Big noses and burly necks. I laughed at Kote who gave them a steady low growl. I fell in love with the cute white butts of caribou. I noticed how the ravens were much smarter about the road than any of the other birds. I was awestruck by thoughts of birth and breath and fluid bonding by ancestral blood.
I am so proud to have lifted this body. Carried it out of places so far behind me, to tumble down down down the land. Rolling like a kid down a hill. On to the next adventure. I did it, I did it, I did it!
Lastnight a friend read these words as part of a Mikveh ritual: “There is no house apart from the body, as we have written: May our tradition become a house for us, and may our bodies be our home within it.” And that’s what I’m talkin’ about.