The beginning of my first novel, One Smooth Stone takes place on the Yukon River near Dawson City. It's the perfect setting for the story, which has characters with rough edges and hard noses, characters tough enough to live in the north.
Yukon. The word conjures images of winter, of dog teams and ice fog, of high mountains and glacier fed lakes and fast flowing rivers. It is all that, but much more. It is a place of 24 hour daylight that produces massive cabbages and broccoli, a place where gold is traded in the stores, a place where people work three jobs in the summertime and still manage to make time for each other.
But the true magic of the Yukon can only be experienced in the winter. It is in those long winter months that bonds of deep friendship are forged. It is while sitting by a roaring wood stove that stories are shared and copious amounts of coffee and tea are drunk. And it is on days when a stranger arrives at your door in the morning and becomes a best friend by that night that you realize living there is worth it.
The Yukon teaches you to be flexible. Someone may drop by for coffee at ten in the morning and still be there for supper two days later. When it’s sixty-five below there’s not much incentive to leave a warm house. Daily routines are important but when a neighbour needs help to winterize his house or get enough wood cut to last through till spring, that becomes priority number one. When he shows up with a canoe in the back of his truck and says, “the swans are back,” there’s no discussion - you drop what you're doing and head to the lake. Nature takes precedence over almost everything.
And nature always wins. We learned that the day my husband’s boss knocked on our door to ask if our truck would start so they could go to work. It was colder than sixty-five below. We knew that because we couldn’t see the mercury in our thermometer, which read that far down. The guys dug out a coffee can, stuffed it with toilet paper and diesel fuel and lit it on fire before putting it under the oil pan of the truck. Then they covered the hood with a tarp and came back inside, had another cup of coffee and waited.
They tried to start that old Chevy three times. Three times they came back in for more coffee. The fourth time the motor started and I shook my head as they got into the vehicle and pulled out of the driveway. Then they pulled back in. And pulled out again, and back, in and out, in and out. They were laughing as they came back into the cabin. The drive train was frozen solid. They could go back and forth but could not get out of the driveway. Winter won that day, and would win on many more.
Like the day I watched as the sun traveled across the valley toward our cabin. I’d been watching it make that slow trek for weeks and thought that day, finally, it would beam through our windows. But no. It stopped at the edge of our front yard. I almost cried. But a true Yukoner isn’t beaten down by a little darkness. She goes out and finds the sun. The next day I strapped on my cross-country skis and made my way across the valley, meeting the sun half way. I stood for a long time with my face lifted toward it, my eyes closed, my skin soaking it in. When I opened my eyes again I shivered, not with the cold, but with the thrill of the vast wilderness I was part of.
Yukon. It conjures up many images, each one whispering, “North. It’s where you belong.”
****Marcia Lee Laycock is the author of three novels and three devotional books. Find her on the web:Website, Amazon , twitter, Pinterest