No one ever seems to post pictures of dead animals found in the woods. A recent article I read discussed the popularity of the van life hashtag and owners of a very popular social media account said their followers wanted two things: photos of her, the pretty thin blond, and their van. Well, I’d rather not fill another feed of photos of a blond girl in contrived yoga poses beside, or on top of, her boyfriend’s beloved vehicle. I’m going to choose to post photos and observations of dead mice instead and dusky grouse performing courtship displays. And whatever other things I come across in my wilderness wanderings.
And it has been a strange spring in the woods and mountains. A black bear family has moved into the woods behind our cabin, two cubs practicing their climbing skills on the poplars. Their proximity means we have ceded the trails to them and our evening wanders to watch ravens on a nest have ceased. Instead we have gone wandering elsewhere and found dead and uneaten field mice, a desiccated red squirrel that did not survive winter, plus wolf scat with plenty of red squirrel fur in them. We also came across a river otter in a beaver pond. Let it be known otters are quite unfriendly, not at all hesitant about hissing and growling.
We have once again left our jobs for the summer. As Edward Abbey once said, the best jobs come with end dates. The feeling of walking away from work with months ahead without a schedule, the freedom to wander and live as we choose, is something we cherish and something we see as necessary long before retirement age. By choosing time over wealth we have discovered happiness in simplicity. And with time comes the opportunity to wander the mountains of the Yukon where we are most happy, angering river otters, spying on bachelor bands of Dall sheep and getting chased by male dusky grouse we interrupt during their courtship displays. This is how we spend our days instead of working.
Leaving work also means leaving behind city life. I love the peace found in mountains and forests. The tweets of songbirds, the flutter of poplar leaves and the pungent scent of sage grounds me. I am grateful to be able to escape the unnecessary rush and aggression of Whitehorse streets, people pushing and shoving at frantic paces so unnatural to the rhythms we should be following. Traveling by foot in wilderness teaches how to move at a softer pace, which leads to a quieter life. And the virtues of silence have been lost as we surround ourselves too long in traffic and city life.