"Sure, it is a land of hardships, but it is also the land of poets and writers—one cannot truly experience what the North has to offer without feeling inspired."
We had received a call only a couple weeks earlier, notifying us that the trapline we had expressed interest in was being put up for sale. In a whirlwind of quick decisions, my brother and I had exchanged our university savings for the trapline, packed up everything we thought we might need for the winter (and half of what was actually needed) and arrived shortly before midnight at our 12ft x 16 ft cabin, prepared to spend our first winter out of high school living the life of adventure of which we had always dreamed.
I looked around once more to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Sure enough, the log walls of our little cabin had replaced my normal waking scene of my bedroom walls. I glanced over to see my brother, Shane, in the cot across the room from me. He sat up and looked around at our new home.
“Well, it looks like we’ve got some clean-up ahead of us” he said, reaching for his glasses.
I glanced around at the cabin and agreed. The cabin, used by the previous trapper primarily as a short-term stopover for the last 35 years, could definitely use a good going-over. To be honest though, I hadn’t even thought of cleaning the place yet—I was too distracted by the excitement of seeing our new home in the daylight. Plus I was cold.
“You should start a fire,” I hinted.
Shane rolled his eyes, but surprisingly, didn’t argue. “Fine, but I’m going to establish right now that we’ll be taking turns starting the fire this year. It’s not going to be my job every morning.” He flung the covers back and stuck his feet into an old pair of slippers. Popping the top off the dented and rusted air-tight heater, he peered inside and exclaimed “Hey! Would you look at that, it’s still got some coals! All I have to do is throw another log on.”
I couldn’t help myself. “Throw another log on the fire!” I sang out and Shane glared at me.
“I’m also giving you fair warning that you won’t survive the winter if you’re going to sing that every time I stock the stove. I’ll kill you before the week is out.”
I laughed. “Threatening to kill me already? Boy, cabin fever sure sets in fast up here!”
I threw on a sweater and an old pair of jeans, pulled on my winter boots, and headed outside to grab the pack of bacon that Mom and Dad had sent as a cabin-warming gift. Despite the fact that I could already feel my skin freezing, I had to pause before returning to the cabin. Something seemed different outside that morning. Maybe it was the utter lack of sound, except for the rustle of the winter wind through snow laden branches high above me. Maybe it was the feeling of vastness that encompassed me as I stood outside our little cabin. Maybe it was just the excitement of being out on our own.
In retrospect, I believe it was a combination of all of these things, but I also believe it was something much deeper. It was a sense of overwhelming awe and gratefulness as I came to fully understand that Shane and I, having realized our lifelong dream of owning our own stretch of wilderness, stood not at the end of a dream, but at the beginning of a new one. The vast territory that stretched endlessly around us was a veritable goldmine, not of physical wealth (furs aren’t selling that well these days) but of adventure and new dreams. Sure, it is a land of hardships, but it is also the land of poets and writers—one cannot truly experience what the North has to offer without feeling inspired.
That winter was truly the experience of a lifetime. From catching our first lynx two days later, to exploring long forgotten forest trails, every day became a source of new adventure. To be given the opportunity to wake each morning to the sound of the fire popping and cracking in the stove, to see the sunlight glittering off the icicles in the windows and feel the blast of arctic air on our faces as we threaded our way through endless forest trails was so much better than we could have ever imagined. And at night, when the north-winds screamed outside our little cabin and tongues of green flame set the sky above our new home flickering and dancing in a grand display of our Creator’s handiwork, our sense of wonder swelled even greater.
Oh sure, we had some tough times. Snowmobiles broke down several times, leaving us stranded, chainsaws quit working leaving us short on firewood, and I became acquainted (numerous times) with the frigid waters of our northern lakes. There was a lot of hard work that went into that year, and one can only subsist on deer meat, macaroni, and perogies for so long before they start to go a little crazy. But somehow, when one is living their dream, even the tougher times only add to the adventure.
More than anything though, that year on the trapline and all the years since, have served to teach me an invaluable life lesson: that we should never settle for the mundane. Yes, we all have to persevere through periods where it seems like our dreams are hopelessly out of reach, but those dreams should never be left to dwindle and die. Our dream, whatever each of ours is, is the fire that inspires us to live each day to the fullest.
And so, I have learned to keep that dream of adventure alive, no matter what life brings. Whether I am stuck in the city for university, with my beloved wilderness so far out of reach, or whether I am sitting in my little cabin listening to the hiss of the gas lantern while trees pop in the cold beneath the streaming banners of the winter aurora, my dream of adventure will never die.