Going it all alone in the Yukon

I leave for the Yukon today (Sept. 6). For the next four months, I will call Pierre Berton’s childhood home my home–an honour and privilege that still surprises me.
I think part of me believed this wasn’t really happening, but that it was all an imagined dream. But I’ve received my instructions and my flight information, and all the other details that will guide me through living in Dawson City.
I am excited, but I am also anxious.
Leaving home is never easy for me. I spend a lot of energy worrying about who/what I am leaving behind as though in the grand scheme of things I am indispensible. Ridiculous, I know, but still.
I wake up most mornings now feeling outside myself or a strange version of me. It is the pain of departure.
I start every day with a good morning hug to daughter, Laurie, and a snuggle with granddaughter, Abby, a pattern that gently brings the day into focus. There will be enormous changes in my wee one when I return home and that alone creates an ache.
What will I have missed goes round and round in my head.
I make a stop for two nights in Whitehorse, where I will do a reading at the Whitehorse Public Library. Public speaking is not my idea of a good time, but I must say there has been an improvement in that regard (though probably indiscernible to anyone watching me).
I can press down on the panic and squeeze it until it cries uncle and slinks away.
I will be alone in Dawson City, living in a place where I know no one and no one knows me, has never heard of me, and I may very well be a blank face as I walk down the street–feeling invisible–and the writer in me wiggles with enthusiasm.
Ernest Hemmingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. He did not attend to Stockholm to accept his prize as he had survived two previous plane crashes and didn’t want to challenge fate.
He recorded his grateful acceptance and had the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden read his words. He said, “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. [A writer] grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates.
“For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer, he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”
Rachel Carson was a writer and marine biologist whose writing provided impetus for the modern environmental movement. She, too, said that “a writer cuts himself off from all others and confronts his subject alone. It is a lonely place, even a little frightening.”
So my fear and uneasiness is well-founded, and I only can hope it spurs me on to write something that speaks to the questions, the conundrums, in my heart and mind.
I hope you don’t mind if I bring you all along with me on this journey. I will try not to bore you, but I find it comforting that we can chat every few weeks about what I find when I wander the town of Dawson City and what I think about when I sit at the desk to write.
As Hemmingway concluded his speech, he apologized for having spoken too long. “A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.”
Wish me luck.
wendistewart@live.ca

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