By Michael Brine
On June 24, 2010, I published one of my periodic articles that included a writing from a 20-year-old young woman on the subject of Community. Nikki, who is working here in the Yukon for her summer break from York University in Toronto, is about to leave; indeed, by the time this is published she will be gone. She fell in love with the Yukon while she was here and before she left she gave me another of her writings about how she felt about the area and its effect on her. Those of us like myself who call the Yukon home sometimes forget how privileged we are to have the good fortune to live here. I know I do, especially in these unsettling times as we look out across the world.
Quiet Lake, Yukon Territory
Two poems were also given to me some years ago by another young woman leaving the Yukon–I offer one of them here. I have forgotten her name so if anyone reading this can let me know, I’d be grateful.
“Wind over my wander
The ground rolls
Beneath my feet.
The Earth song is warped
A whisper through
A broken timepiece.
I remember the
A breath ago.
Knowing I must
Before I slip through
The keyhole again
With the wind
Over my wander.”
I think we who make our homes in the incredibly wondrous areas of the world need occasionally to be reminded of our great privilege. Here are Nikki’s moving reflections:
Goodbye to the North, My Internal Soliloquy, Poetry in the Form of Prose
By Nikki Satira
“If the world knew what it’s like to see a mountain for the first time, we might
just be silent for a little while. And maybe in this silence we might reflect
on the feeling of what it’s like to feel so deeply small and fragile, exhaling
and then sucking back in every single molecule of life with such delicate
refrain. Then it might be humble here. We are not giants and our bones are not
steel – we are dewdrops on dewdrops with entire universes in our reflections,
dancing and rolling on blades of grass until the earth collects us.
These are the thoughts that flicker and dance around in my head – like the
northern lights, these things that so much resemble my brain activity, which I
have not seen yet and which I doubt I’ll see before I leave. Reminiscing, I
wish I had written more down. I wish I had written more about the haunting
solitude and wondrous feeling of being so far away from any other large
clusters of civilization, about how I felt like I was at the edge of the
Aurora Borealis, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
I wish I had written more about the sea and how the smell of the air right next
to it carved into my mind memories that I will always keep with me – like the
first jump of a whale that I saw with my own eyes and the uncontrollable
laughter and glee that came after. I must have walked barefoot on every shore –
I’ve seen and tasted the water to really believe where I was walking. I don’t
think the people who live by the sea know how good it smells.
I wish I had written more about the fleeting friendships with such amazing and
the cold coming through my window,
the smell of the rain and hues of the sky,
just a little more of it to keep with me when I go.
But maybe in seeing instead of writing I truly was able to see so that now I am
able to write with clarity.
Ah, the land of gold.
They say there is no more gold here but I see it everywhere I look. I see it in
the tiny, water-starved trees that are older than they seem, the rolling hills
and unpredictable weather that the landscape brings. I see it in the cold
summer mornings and the queer sound of the raven’s call, and in the beautiful
and transcendental culture of first nations people that live here. In tiny deserts.
In the haze of the setting summer sun and the rise of it merely hours
At first the midnight sun was brilliantly irritating and still I will do
anything to get away from it. But I confess I will miss it deeply and I feel
sorrow for the people who say goodbye to it hours earlier. I feel sorrow for
myself because I too have to say goodbye.
It was not easy to live in white vs. red world, the politics, the oppression – I
just wanted to smile and be thankful for my neighbours. For any sort of company.
The war is far from over but the best we can do is shake hands with each other
and smile and dream of a new world order. One where no one is silenced, where
no one is oppressed and I am as you are as he is as she is. The Canadian flag
is both red and white for a reason.
The sourtoe* offered me something sweet; Tombstone was not a graveyard and the
tundra was not desolate. The Dempster Highway was my Everest and the glaciers
were my gods. This is my new home – one of the many homes I have and one of the
many more I will have. Staying placid does not make the earth shake. This is my
goodbye. I will not cry anymore. In this wrinkle in time, in this journey, I am
I have welded all my seams.
Silenced every scream.
I have found the place of dreams.”
Thank you Nikki for reminding us! May you live long and prosper! 🙂 Michael Brine
The Sourtoe Cocktail
*For those who aren’t familiar with the term ‘sourtoe,’ the Sourtoe Cocktail is a well known drink from the Gold Rush era back in 1898. This story is true: A gold miner at the time froze his big toe and it had to be amputated. He kept it. When he was in the bars drinking, he would see a new arrival come in and then buy him a whisky to welcome him. Then he’d slip in his big toe and give it to the new guy and tell him he had to drink the whisky in one go to be initiated into the fold! Well, you can guess what would happen! Usually the toe would not get swallowed but sometimes it would, so where he got his ‘next’ toe from I have no idea . . . but it is a bit of a tradition in Dawson City even to this day for newcomers to go through the initiation. I am certain it is not with a real toe, at least so they say. 🙂 There are rumours, however, about goings on at the local morgue. I’ll leave it to your imagination!
Other articles by Michael Brine can be accessed at Mission Ignition and by clicking on Michael Brine in the Categories section here at NAtP.