The day begins with a cat sitting on my chest. Then a blue fleece bathrobe and slippers. I walk down the stairs to the semi-darkness of the kitchen. I can see my breath. Penelope eats her teaspoon of Fancy Feast. I pull on my rubber boots and walk up the path to the outhouse. I almost slip on the ice. By now Dark Star, my absent neighbour's black Lab, has arrived. Hungry. She watches me pee. Still in my blue bathrobe, we walk to her food bowl. Then I walk to the chicken coop and unlatch the door. First the ducks run out, beating their wings, and then the chickens fly down from their roosts. I break the ice on their bathtub full of rainwater with the heel of my boot.
Still in my blue bathrobe, I spilt kindling. I crumple up balls of newspaper and pray the fire will start easily. I turn the oven on to Broil to take the chill out of the air. I turn on the faucet. No water. Still in my blue bathrobe, I put on my rubber boots. I walk to the water barrel that doesn't seem to freeze as quickly as the others. I plunge a bucket into water floating with ice shards. Soon there will be tea.
Still in my blue bathrobe, I watch the fire spark and crackle and then peter out. For the past week I've been struggling for the roaring flames essential to my warmth. Several people have told me their theories about my firestarting dysfunction: Maybe I'm not grounded enough. Maybe the fire senses my impatience. Maybe the fire knows that I'm leaving soon. Yesterday, a Haida Elder was here while I struggled. She looked at the smouldering fire, then at me, and I awaited her words of wisdom. "That thing needs to be cleaned," Margaret said. For the first time all week, I noticed the embarrassing layer of debris that had accumulated after numerous attempts to fuel the fire with anything remotely combustible. I closed the woodstove door. Margaret laughed.
Yes, I'm leaving. Soon. The Haida have been to bade me farewell. The daily chores have acquired new poignancy. I do them in silence. I've begun to see myself as someone in a documentary. I imagine a camera panning from hatchet to red bucket to spruce crowns. I wonder if I could appear in my blue bathrobe in every scene.
I do my chores, slowly, so the camera can get a good shot. It's important this is well documented. Watch as I sit in a chair and drink Earl Grey. Watch as I walk down the path towards the Pacific. The sky is streaked with winter rose. Dark Star chases after the sandpipers. Do you see Alaska in the distance, mountains covered with freshly fallen snow? Do you see the woman in the blue bathrobe, head bowed against the wind?
Thank you for reading.