Wednesday, April 13, 2011
LAST RUN OF THE SEASON
I guess we could push our luck for a couple of more weeks but then again it’s like everything else when it comes to good things, this mushing season unfortunately must come to an end. To commemorate this event, me and my trusted “old timers” took off to the “Outpost” a few days ago. This, in itself was really not a big deal as we do this trip on a most regular basis… However for me, it was most important that this one be done as I needed some serious “downtime” so that I might spend some quality time alone and with the “pooches”, something that I had neglected to do during the racing season. Oh for sure, these guys had gotten their exercise on a regular basis but still it was not the same. Concentrating on one particular strategy, I had put old fateful companions like the “Kid” and “Vixen” to the side so to train better and faster dogs. This was achieved but at the end of the day, the CAN-AM would prove once again that there was still room for large powerful “lugers”, something that these two German Shepard/Husky mix, were. They are not the fastest dogs by any standards, that’s for sure but when you need to pull a 300 lbs load up a hill, you know you can depend on these two loyal animals to get the job done. So you can only imagine how I felt throughout the winter when I would bring out the racing team and leave those two behind. All excited and enthusiastic, thinking that they were going training, their happiness would soon turn to disappointment when I would walk away, leaving them in the barn with an expression on their face that seemed to be saying, “Hey what’s the big deal here? Don’t we rate anymore?” Yeah, I can be weird a bit when it comes to stuff like that. I tend to get these guilt trips and somehow I feel the need to make good on my downfalls - So the special trip for special dogs.
As I had been feeling “run down” for the longest while, the overnighter would also serve another purpose. I usually go up there when the need arises to do my own bastardized version of what the Malecite First Nations would call a “Sweat Lodge” ceremony. In theory, one partakes in such a ritual so to take time to meditate. Apparently, if one shows true integrity, he is allowed to visit the “spiritual world”. If successful, he is given the strength to challenge and fight his inner demons. Should he manage to vanquish them, it is said that these “evil spirits” will leave his body and soul to be lost for ever in the “afterlife”. That’s what they believe and somewhere in there, some of it makes sense to me because everybody at one point or another needs to sit down and really think things out. Interesting enough, there is another major side effect to a good “sweat” and this is the cleansing of undesirable toxins from the body as it is a known fact that bacteria and viruses cannot survive at temperatures much higher than 98.6 degrees. And finally, the rise in temperature will also stimulate the endocrine glands. This supposedly facilitates the release of adrenaline thus inducing a clear sense of euphoria that puts an individual in a comfortable state of relaxation and alertness. Whatever the case may be, I enjoy sitting in the middle of the floor after cranking that woodstove up to a balmy 43 degree Celsius and shutting the cabin door tight to keep the heat in. When one does enter the “zone”, it sure makes for an interesting “mind over matter” experience, one that leaves you refreshed with your batteries recharged.
Anyway the next morning, when I woke up and this after perspiring gallons, I had a completely different outlook on life in general. I had managed to sort out during that “journey” what was and what was not important to me. The several annoyances that had been nipping at my heels, the ones that had me crawl back into that “box” of mine, I would eradicate from my life and just ignore them. No, I would concentrate on devoting my energy on the positive things of what the last winter had brought me. Oh for sure, this past racing season was a total disaster but this was not what I’d consider a major setback as it did not really reflect the core of my mushing passion and was not the main reason I got into sledding. So after sleeping for more than eleven hours, when I walked outside for some much needed fresh air, it looked to me like I had turned the page to a bright new chapter in this old soldier’s arsenal of stories. To compliment all of this, I was to be treated to a whole bunch of small but precious moments. To start off, I would be privileged enough to catch that first glimpse of that beautiful sunrise while being greeted by eight doggie faces grinning from ear to ear. This alone, confirmed that the “trail” that I had chosen way back then was the right one for me. I truly do enjoy the innocent atmosphere associated with the total trust and bond that me and these dogs have. There is nothing more satisfying than to sit on the porch savoring a good cup of strong coffee and watch them run wild and crazy all over that mountain top. Their frolicking antics remind me of what a pack of wolves might act like when undisturbed by the hand of man. An added bonus to all this would be that when they’re all out of sight in the woods and you whistle at them for breakfast, they all rush back out of nowhere, dashing towards you, only to stop at their own designated spot and bowl. In the scheme of things, in a world where wars and disasters seem to be the norm, some might think that this is really no big deal. But then again when was the last time many of you could appreciate a moment of solitude in complete harmony with nature. If you do afford yourself the time to think about it, you might just be surprised as to where the answer lies. In this same world where everything is interconnected and must have immediate gratifications, wouldn’t it be great to be able to tune out the ever looming depressing drudgeries that the Medias shove down our throats on a daily basis. Well, let me tell you! I have that option and do consider myself very lucky to be in a position where such a lifestyle is available to me. And that I guess in my books, makes it all worth while to be spending so much time with a bunch of sleddogs. Those were the conclusive findings after spending more than a few hours, sweating it out.
After closing the door and securing the latch to the “Outpost”, I took a minute to think about the many people that had walked out of this “haven” throughout the last year, also feeling revitalized and ready to face another day. Surprisingly enough, there was more than a couple and that was a good thing. Getting ready to head out and while dressing the dogs, I was to have another one of those “moments” that made me smile. My old Indian friend, “Leonard” had once told me that all of us have our own paths to follow. Some of us are destined to drive huge corporations while others were put on this Earth so to give a fellow man a push in the right direction. However, at the end of the day, even the greediest of millionaires had to go to the local grocery store and buy the same bread that all of us eat. “The difference between us and them” he would add, “is that we don’t mind sharing.” And that in a nutshell, said it all. Like my mentor who helped me through those real dark years, I would “carry it forward” and would continue sharing this “backwoods” philosophy with whoever cared to listen. True enough, not everybody would grasp the true essence behind the messages but those who would embrace the simple principles, would see fit to apply some of them to their own personal lives and that to me was worth sticking around for.
On that note, with the sun beaming down on us, the dogs and I left our hilltop hideaway. When we came to that fork in the road where we are supposed to turn “Haw” and climb the “steps”, I stopped the team and asked my leaders “JR” and “Skout” as to which trail we should take? There is no doubt in my mind that they knew what I was talking about and without hesitation they showed me. “What the hell,” I said to all of them, “it’s the last run of the season. Let’s take the long way home.” Happy to oblige, they took off heading towards the “Back Door” thus stretching the season just that smidge of a bit longer. “Yeah” I said to myself while eventually traveling down the Grand Tour, “they’re not the fastest dogs out there but I’m sure glad that they’ve allowed me to be part of their lives.” “Thanks Guys,” I concluded, “thanks for being in my corner. Now if only those yearlings back home would be so cooperative, we’d have one hell of a season next year.” Without even noticing, I had just committed to another racing season - But that Folks would be a totally different story altogether. = -)
Peace on Earth to One and All. And Remember. Together, we can make a difference.