Dog Day Afternoon

This is how it must be, thinks I. I am months … No! nearly a year behind blogging. Each day each week each month something seems to get in the way and the experiences pile up relentlessly one after the other after the other after the other … and I keep saying to myself, promising, committing myself to writing it, blogging it. But day after day week after week month after month that darned something sneaks in there and thwarts me!

This is, therefore, how it must be, thinks I.

I like the chronologic first-person real-time experience, when you and I as readers don’t really know what’s gonna happen next. So many things happen ‘next’ that there’s no need to build in suspense like ‘I met Joan, it proved to be a very fortuitous meeting’. A mix of past-tense – I met Joan – yet linking to experience in the future – proved (as in definitive, a fact) to be … fortuitous. Now, how would I know that if I just met her?

Unfortunately that would mean I’d have to trawl through a backlog of phenomenal experiences involving alcohol and guns, spooky moments with crocodiles maliciously guarding water I desperately need, random evenings with total strangers resulting in a painful hangover ride the next morning, learning the sol-salutation in Be-Wellness on Gili Meno, days blasted away to relentless Westmalle Tripels and an endless supply of joints, poignant attempts to establish long term communications commitments with family who seem to not know I exist, and … it’s an extensive list.

All the while contemporary life keeps piling on them experiences. The sky so frozen light glistens like a billion faceted diamond, where the tail of the fjällräven dances along the ridge line causes sparks in the night-sky which we call the Northern Lights, when a bike-ride requires multiple layers of clothing and face-guards to stop my lungs freezing in -30.

I haven’t been able to keep up.

This is, therefore, how it must be. I’m gonna do both. The Australian adventure shall continue, blog after blog. Then there’ll be this time-warp-space-continuum-thing in which you’ll suddenly find yourself transported to an entirely different world. There shall be no explanation, but bit by bit blog by blog the explanation shall be provided.

Hope it works. Here goes …

­­­___

28 April 2018

Spring has come. That magical time when the day temperature rarely dip below -10, where in the sun it can exceed +10, there’s a stunning amount of light, the sun long and languorous in the sky with more hours of light than dark. And there’s no rain. For when it rains we know summer has arrived. It only rains in the summer.

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Hard not to love ‘spring’ in North

In fact it is late spring. There’s been quite a few days when the temperature’s been waaay above 0. The snow is rapidly melting. All the crisp, thick weight-supporting crust that we mere mortals depend on to traverse the landscape has disappeared. There is neither structure nor coherency to the snow any more. Thick deep loose water-saturated sand. Quick sand in other words. With snow-shoes enough snow compresses with each step to stop me sinking too deep but it’s hard going. The lack of structure and coherency results in my feet randomly sliding any-which-way, and I find myself headbutting the snow, or sinking to my knees or toppling on my ass.

None of this is made any easier by being strapped via a rope to one of two young powerful enthusiastic erratic insatiably curious and waaay tooo energetic huskies, just released following a season’s worth of pulling sleds. They are mega-fit and are used to pulling against a load. Which now is me. Which means I go where the sudden yank pulls me.

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Paths through the snow

Nanneke, a female, and Ainu, a male, are siblings and have been inseparable since birth. Where one goes, so goes the other. The free one races about the place and the one attached to me races after he/she. Add that rope. All that training and fitness and power. And I go A-over-T. It’s not helped by their curious habit of bolting behind me to my left then bolting in front to my right effectively spinning me around. Whilst. On. Snow. Shoes. Bam, back in the snow.

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*alls deep

I have a strategy, carefully worked out. Ignore the relative simplicity of following snow-mobile tracks, which are nicely compacted and offer some kind of firm surface to walk on. Instead, head through the late-spring masses untrampled by anything. I hesitate to call it ‘virgin’, given the lateness of the season but that’s exactly what it is. Or was. It’s a meter deep at its shallowest – if that’s the right way to describe the relative thickness of snow – grading to I don’t really know how deep where the wind has piled it in the mini-dales and glades throughout the forest. Without snow shoes I can’t walk across it.

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‘Y’know, it’s a slog to get here’

And at a meter deep the doggies can’t walk it either. They literally have to swim it. Tough and fit they may be but swimming through snow taxes them tremendously. Little surprise the mega-fauna here has legs far longer than sin or feet broader than paddles. Or both.

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‘Do we really have to do this?’

Tongues lolling far out their mouths panting hard they give up, stopping right in front and giving me those ‘I can’t quite believe you are making me do this’ eyes doggies are famous for. This is happening more and more often now, as I push us through the forest. Maybe I’ve achieved what I needed, to calm and quieten them through exercise. Perhaps I should now plot an easier route. For there are tricks to this hike-through-snow-covered-forest-thing. Late spring the snow under the trees is rapidly diminishing, leaving a delicious pad of luxurious lingon- and blue-berry bushes which the doggies simply love.

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‘Hmmm … love this stuff’ ‘Yeah, me too’

I start playing join-the-berry bush-dots as we approach the Kalix River, one of only four free rivers left in Norrbotton un-restrained by hydro-power infrastructure. It’s a powerful river and it’s less than a hundred meters from where I live. I look forward to summer. Fishing is gonna be awesome.

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‘WoW! More interesting stuff’ ‘Yeeeah, tell me about it!’

The näs over which we hike – a näs is a half-island, a promontory separated from the mainland by a thin strip of land – plunges steeply into the Kalix and lies fully exposed to the sun. The bank is almost completely free of snow.

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The Kalix through birch long from their summer clothing

The whole nature-as-soul-thing makes perfect sense as we take a break overlooking the Kalix shedding its winter covering of white. White swans fly in majestic formation below us before settling for a break on their annual migration to their Arctic breeding and brooding grounds. The hills to the south are still comfortably white. The wind is light and sun warm. It’s inordinately peaceful and beautiful, Nanneke and Ainu in part exploring in part seeking comfort and scratch about their ears. I feel as one here. Seems extreme nature and I have a deep connection.

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Only a couple of weeks ago I could walk to the other side

Bit by bit we meander our way back to Puoltsa 1062.

It’s a daily experience. Godda walk the dogs. The dogs godda walk me too. Symbiosis. We need each other.

Welcome to Life In North.

 

Max

Puoltsa, Arctic Sweden

 

 

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