I’ve read about the harm plastic bags do to our environment, but I, like many others, did not really pay much attention to the seriousness of the problem until yesterday, when I spent the afternoon with Dawson’s environmentalists, at the city dump.
The landfill is enclosed by an electric fence, designed specifically to keep the bears out of the garbage, but due to the tremendous amount of plastic bags deposited on fence over the winter months, it had ceased to function — shorted out by the polyethylene bags.
Beyond the fence, the oh-so-convenient plastic bags decorated trees, choked small ponds and lay tangled in the grass creating a haunting canvass of what the future might hold. It takes over a thousand years for plastic bags to break up, and in doing so numerous toxins will leach into the ground and ultimately into the food chain.
Did you know, that over 4.5 trillion plastics bags are produced each year of which only one-percent are recycled? Think about those numbers and then say no to plastic and take a reusable bag with you the next time you go shopping.
Wherever I go and wherever I’ve been, I never feel that I’ve explored properly until I’ve walked through the cemeteries and read the headstones. Dawson City is rich in cemeteries and there is one just down the road from the Berton House. It’s reserved only for members of the YOOP, (Yukon Order Of Pioneers) who lived and died by their motto:Do unto to others as you would be done by. In his book, The Klondike , Pierre Berton writes: Each member pledged himself to help every other member should the need arise and always to spread the news of a fresh gold discovery.
For many years, this motto imposed law and order on a lawless land. Those who broke it, ended up banished or swinging from the end of a rope.
This Friday, I am going grave-yarding with a friend — can’t wait for that.
At last, after almost three weeks of writing all day and every day I have sent in the edit on my latest book. Pushing send was the most euphoric feeling in the world. With luck, there will only be one more edit — usually there are a minimum of two and sometimes three or even four. That was number two.
I celebrated by going out on the weekend to the most local of local bars in Dawson — The Pit, with a group of artists and playwrights who hail from not only Dawson, but all over Canada. As you can see by the photo, The Pit is full of artifacts, and interesting characters. That’s Barnacle on the piano, and he keeps the place hopping.
I can hardly believe two weeks have passed since I arrived. What a difference two weeks makes: I have met some interesting people, I’ve joined a running group (we only do trails, so I’m getting familiar with what lies outside Dawson), I’ve gone with a friend fishing for grayling — not running yet, and I’ve nearly finished my book. My book is the reason why I haven’t been blogging — by the time I’m finished writing at the end of the day, I have to get away from the keyboard. It is always sunny here and we were up to 13 degrees today. I love watching the river change, but the ice hasn’t broken yet. I am going to an opening at ODD tonight — hoping for food 🙂
Because I have spent the whole week working on my novel, I haven’t visited my blog at all. A looming deadline dictates my schedule right now. The big events this week, besides the fact that the snow is disappearing are: The Eldorado Hotel (Princess and Third) caught fire, and although the firemen were able to contain the blaze, the combination of fire, smoke and water has destroyed the building. Apparently, it was the last year-round hotel in Dawson, but don’t quote me on that.
Also, the ice bridge closed, but that doesn’t seem to stop the brave (or foolish) locals from using it. I, on the other hand, won’t even walk over it anymore… The whole town is betting on when the Yukon will break-up. I guessed May 9th, 5pm and I can’t remember the exact seconds. Apparently there is a big cash prize for the winner.
Below is a photo of the Break-up-alarm. It is a large tripod shaped object that sits on the river and is attached by wire to a clock on shore. When the ice breaks, the clock shifts and the wire stops the clock at the exact time of break-up. The fire station is notified and a siren goes off. All very high-tech. This is how the winner is decided.
I love this stuff…
The big melt is on in Dawson. In the week that I have been here, at least half of the snow has disappeared. Little remains on the hills that surround the town and there are patches of water visible on the Yukon. The whole town is betting on the exact date of the break-up — there is a large cash pot for the winner. I have no idea when that will happen — I’m already freaked out about being on an ice bridge when I can see water…but I’m going to place my bet today.
I don’t go for walks anymore, I go for wades. The lower half of Dawson is under water. The drainage pipes are still frozen from winter, so the run-off has nowhere to go. I love walking because the constant dripping reminds me of rain and therefore of spring.
Normally, nothing would drag me out of bed at 6:15 in the morning, particularly when it’s still dark and the thermometer reads-3, and the reason for getting up is to attend a church service. Today, I made an exception. I was intrigued when, Kathy, my wonderful hostess/guide/friend extended an invite to a 7:30am interdenominational Easter service, to be held high on the cliffs above Dawson City. I have to admit, I hesitated for a minute, but I was in, as soon as the words, “followed by a big breakfast with eggs benny,” were out of her mouth. (JR, if you are reading this, always make sure to include a feast when converting).
It was an awesome service — the best I’ve ever been to. There were about thirty of us, and in the distance we could hear a lone raven calling out. The attending Anglican minister kept the service short, and relevant. There was a certain pagan appeal to the whole ceremony as we stood heads bowed, the forest in front of us, and the frozen Yukon River our backdrop. The bluffs were once a tent city to over 40,000 miners, and as we drove up the road, we passed at least three cemeteries filled with the graves of mostly young men who had come to Dawson to find gold and never left. I couldn’t help wondering how many of those fortune hunters had stood on those same bluffs, so many years ago and said a little prayer for survival. By the number of headstones peeking up out of the snow, I think it’s fair to say, that not all of their prayers were heard.
Happy Easter Everybody.
Tonight I’m off to the opening of the 8th Annual Dawson City International Short Film Festival. This is a very cultural town and there is always something going on, so I have to stay pretty disciplined to get any work done. (And I am :)). The Festival opener is Mike Clattenburg — I’m sure you’ve heard of him, but if you haven’t I’ll give you a primer: He’s the head writer, creator and director for the movie The Trailer Park Boys, He does music vids for the Tragically Hip, and he has a Gemini for Best Comedy Series . Best of all he’s here in Dawson.
He’ll be screening an unseen Trailer Park Boys Episode as well as a new music vid for the Hip. It’s got a northern twist — one of the actors is a polar bear. I guess with global warming, some of the northern mammals are going into acting… This is the new Hollywood North.
I’ve got a pass for the festival and I know the next four days will be incredible.
The Thaw di Gras celebrations happened just before I arrived, but everyone is in high spirits over the arrival of spring. In the three I have been here, the snowy roads are now gravel and I’ve been told that with run-off they will quickly turn to mud. Yesterday, after hours of writing, I went for a long walk and did a little more exploring. I dropped into the local pub — “The Pit” for a drink and conversation and mistook a mounted bull-head for a moose-head, pretty much confirming my status as a city slicker. Oh well.. the bull is a famous Spanish hero shipped to Dawson from Spain by the owner of the bar. Those of you who have been here, will know exactly what I’m talking about. While I was there, one of the patrons decided it was time to have his stitches removed from his neck, which was promptly done by one of his helpful mates. Everyone thought this was pretty much normal, and that doctors can be overrated, which is quite possibly true…
I arrived here at 10am this morning after an overnight in Whitehorse — made it seem like a much longer trip because of a layover. I have not yet seen Whitehorse in daylight, so my only impression, so far, is that it is very cold. I have always been told that Vancouverites are extremely laid back, but I’ve discovered that there is such a thing as Yukon time, and it is the northern equivalent of Mexican time. What I mean to say, is the flights were all late, as were the shuttles to and from the airport, but it didn’t matter because nobody really cared but me, and even that didn’t last for very long.
I flew into Dawson City in the early morning on a small propeller airplane that climbed to 10,000 feet and stayed there, allowing for breath-taking views of the terrain below and the mountains (including Mt. Logan) in the distance. It never warmed up inside that airplane, but I didn’t care because I was falling in love with the land below.
As soon as I deplaned, I ditched the cowboy boots for sorrels (sp)? and the eye-glasses for sun-glasses. It is indescribably bright here, and therefore, seems far less cold than it really is. Most of the passengers stayed on the plane, heading even farther north to the land of the Gwitch’in people, in Old Crow, which lies 128 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. They live, as they have lived for many years — their lives tied inexorably to the Porcupine caribou herd.
So, first impression — I’m awed…