Monday, March 31, 2008

A Harty Visitor and Trouble Steering

After phoning it in for the past couple of weeks (I readily admit that the photo gallery of two weeks ago is the blogging equivalent of a sitcom doing a clip-show retrospective), I figure we’re overdo for some substance around here. What happened today alone (when I was tangentially involved in a street fight, inadvertently fell asleep and drooled on myself at work and met a dog that will be dealing repeated crushing blows to my masculinity over the next two weeks) would make great fodder for at least a couple of entries, but I think I should do some catching up first.

The highlight of the past couple of weeks was certainly the visit of my lovely, talented and – for seven wonderful days – conveniently located girlfriend, Sarah. She was able to find a relatively cheap flight (think double what your concept of a cheap flight may be) on short notice, so we split the price of a ticket and up she came for the Easter weekend. I took the one day on each side of the weekend off work, so we effectually had a whole week together.

Even when you’ve lived someplace for only a few months, it can be all too easy to fall into a routine and take things for granted, or never get around to doing some of the fun and novel (if slightly cliché) things that give a place its character. Having Sarah spend a week up here gave me a chance to once again see Yellowknife through some fresh eyes, and I was reminded of how blessed I am to be wintering in such a special place. Prematurely or not, I felt a swell of local pride as I took Sarah skiing on the lake under the dancing aurora, exploring the Snowking’s winter castle, and dancing at the rough-and-tumble Gold Range.

Sarah and I in the Snowking's castle.

Aside from the things that have become familiar to me, we also charted some new territory together, highlighted by a trip to the famously rugged Bullock’s in Old Town for some fish and chips (complete with writing on the tables and walls and an array of bumper stickers spanning the social and political spectrum adorning surfaces throughout the restaurant). Sarah and I are both vegetarians, with our choice in diet based on the strain that meat production and transportation puts on the planet (see this post for more on the subject). Given, however, that the fish available at Bullock’s is wild and as local as can be (the restaurant is right on the water), it wasn’t tough to harmonize a delicious meal of fish with our personal ethics. I’m not sure how much we enjoyed our meal, but two trucker-portioned plates of fish, fries and “salad” (read: shredded lettuce) were inhaled in their entirety during an eight minute conversational hiatus. Environmental awareness, as it turns out, tastes awesome when pan-fried.

Sarah and I honed our ever-developing “airport goodbye” skills mid-week, and with my roommate out of town once again, it was me and Taiga the wonderdog left to take on the world. Taiga and I have had some great adventures this winter, however on Saturday afternoon we added a new one to the repertoire. Skiijoring (ski-JOOR-ing) is a Scandinavian sport that is essentially a one-man dog sledding exercise, and skiing's answer to automatic transmission. The premise is simple: on cross-country skis, you attach yourself to the dog and let him pull you along the snow.

The premise is simple, I should say, for humans. If Taiga’s ability to pick it up is any indication, the dogs may struggle with it a touch. I harnessed us both up and there we stood in anticipation of skimming across the Great Slave hard pack with the sunny afternoon breeze in our hair. I practically had the blog entry written before we even got going. Right, getting going. There was only one problem facing us as we stood there: how do you start a dog?

“Taiga…GO!” Nothing.

A sharp whistle. Nothing.

A humane prod with a ski pole accompanied by questionable remarks about the legitimacy of his mother. Nothing.

Normally I’d be happy to lead the way, although one can’t very easily lead the way when one is supposed to be getting pulled. The closest we got to activity for the first few minutes was the occasional backwards glance from the dog, with his facial expression clearly saying “You don’t actually expect me to pull your ass around the lake like this, do you?”

You want me to do what?

Eventually, through much coercing and Milk Bone promises we got moving. However, our problems with forward mobility did not end there. I have never been hitched to a six year-old boy with unchecked Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but I think that getting pulled by Taiga is as close as I ever care to come (my mother might call this karma). I could almost hear his internal monologue at we went: “I’m pulling Hart and it’s fun. I’m pulling Hart and it’s fun. I’m pulling Hart and HOLY CRAP WHAT SMELLS LIKE FISH OVER THERE?”

We’d be cruising along pleasantly at a decent clip (with me helping to push with my poles) until the 80-pound husky would see something enticing out of the corner of his eye, or catch whiff of a tasty morsel buried beneath the snow, at which point he would make a sharp and unannounced turn, sling-shoting yours truly forward into the abyss. Ever seen an unimpressed white dude catch air on cross-country skis? Lucky for me, there were always several feet of cold hard snow and ice underfoot to halt my forward progress once I made the inevitable tumble that followed Taiga's spontaneous side trips, so I never got too far without him.

Skiijoring was enjoyable enough, but I think I can safely put it with first year law school exams and puberty in the “glad I went through it, but don’t want to do it again” file.

So it’s been an eventful couple of weeks. As I said in the first paragraph, there’s already a lot to cram into my next couple of postings. The days are getting wicked long (it’s currently light until about nine o’clock) and the Northern Lights over the past few days have been some of the best I’ve seen, so I’m barreling head-first into April with a keen anticipation. Thanks for helping me through this far, and please stay tuned.




cara said...

So thrilled that Sarah came to visit you! And, the Tiaga comedy was hilarious. I was getting this whole Three Stooges kind of image...

We'll be glad to have you home come May(is that when you're heading back south?)!!!

Your mother said...

You and Taiga and skijoring. I really wish I had been there when Taiga just wouldn't do what you wanted him to. Payback time! I love that. You had me laughing out loud. Skijoring was very popular on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, I think in the twenties and thirties. Your grandfather could tell you. They used cars instead of dogs. Great picture of you and Sarah. Really wonderful blog, Hart.

Zib said...

Hart, I was laughing out loud. I love how you can tell a story and make the world somehow seem funnier and sweeter and more as it should be. --Zib

David said...

Reading this blog during class is ill advised, as nothing in Admin is as funny as this post and the image of you flying through the air as Tiaga checks out some fish. Glad to hear things are still going well.

Trudie said...

Check out my post of March 28th - you could think I have the front-end view of your Taiga? My Tjorro has also been descibed as having certain neurological problems, but I prefer to call a spade a spade; he isn't the sharpest tool in the toolkit! Lucky he has his charm and good looks!