Friday, 15 April 2011

Moose Excitement

This past Sunday, on a sunny day, my husband and I drove up the Robert Campell Highway which runs north from the Alaska Highway. Just a short drive, 30 kms - past lakes and ponds that slept under deep snow blankets, past swamps where pussy willows decorated the willow branches, past where I saw the great grey owl alongside the road last November, past Tom Creek where small pools of flowing water surrounded by ice glittered in the sunshine.  Nine snow buntings burst into the air from a patch of open ground, swirled as a flock a few feet above ground and landed farther up the road to start the search again for fallen seeds hidden amongst the dead grass.

We followed the ribbon of pavement that lay between wide snow-filled ditches that stretched to the edge of the forest. A quiet drive:  no traffic, no more birds flocking upwards, no foxes walking on the frozen snow in search of mice; then we saw the moose.

At the 24 km mark of the highway, an old gravel pit sits on the side of the highway and at the far edge of this clearing is an opening that signals the start of an old road that leads into a logging site, now abandoned. Willows and brush have narrowed the road to become a trail used by animals, and in winter, we see tracks in the snow from the old road, through the clearing and onto the highway.  As we drove by the clearing, I looked back to peek at the trail and to my surprise, moose were standing at the far edge of the clearing having stopped to watch the vehicle noise they heard on the highway.

"Stop, stop. There's moose there."

My husband backs up the truck and I grab the binoculars. "There's three moose standing there."

As Barry looked through the binoculars, I slowly, quietly left the truck and took photos from the highway. The moose ran into the forest and disappeared. We drove up the highway to our turn-around point, and on our way back, we slowed at the gravel pit to see if the moose were there. No moose; no fresh tracks . We drove onward, and after two kms and seeing no tracks coming out of the ditch, I had resigned myself to not seeing the moose.  We rounded a bend, and there they were. All three of them in the ditch heading for the highway. The moose stopped when they saw us, and we stopped to watch from a distance and take more photos. They seemed frozen in the snow. The spell was broken when a vehicle came toward us, and the moose rushed back into the forest. We saw them bunched together in the trees, but they seemed unwilling to move while we watched them, so we drove away.

This was the first time we'd seen three moose together, and the sighting was unexpected, which made the moment more exciting.  I feel the same excitment when an unexpected twist happens in my story, and I'm on an adventure unforseen.  One of the reasons why I keep writing.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Tempermental Characters

My characters are bothering me again - so demanding!

Here I am writing a great emotional scene between my two ladies and in the middle of it, Shayla, stops co-operating and looks at me.

"I do not wring my hands. I'm not the type of person to do that.  And I don't cry. I may sniff a bit or wipe my eyes, but I do not cry. Nadie does all that." She raises her chin at me and I know she's in one of her stubborn moods. Perhaps not a good time to remind her that I've seen a few tears on her cheeks, or that Kris held her in his arms while she had a good cry.

Okay, okay. You're right, Shayla.

Nadua frowns at her cousin; then looks at me. "Don't make me wring my hands. I'm not that weak. I may be more patient and sensitive than Shay, but that doesn't make me weak. I have inner strength."

I'll be true to you, Nadua.

Another woman's voice floats into the conversation. "Why are you so sensitive to them? I want you to fix my character. You're making me look shallow."

Lady Louisa, you're not even in this scene.

"I'm not in any scene. I don't even appear in your first novel, so I can't even defend myself from what Kristjan is thinking about me."

Too bad. Get over it.

"Lady Louisa?" Shayla's green eyes narrow. "Kris didn't tell me he was engaged to Lady Louisa. Where is he? I need to talk with him."

He's not in this scene. You'll talk with him in the next chapter.

"I want to see him, now." Shayla stamps her foot.

Stop hijacking the story, Shayla, or I'll make you wring your hands. 

I click on Save, and sit back in my chair. Ah, peace and quiet.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Caribou in Winter

Starting in October, the caribou move from their summer mountain range to their winter range around the community of Watson Lake, Yukon. We see them on the highways as they eat the salt that's mixed with the sand spread on the highways during the winter. When vehicles come along the highway, the caribou usually dash into the ditches and trees; most often they'll return right away to keep eating salt. At times, when driving along the highways, if you look carefully into the forest, you may see grazing amongst the trees, caribou cleverly disguised in the same white and brown tones as the snow and trees. Or you may see caribou crossing a frozen snow-packed lake in single file. This winter while skiing on a trail a few kilometers from the highway, I saw fresh caribou tracks in the snowmobile tracks, so I knew they could be near. A warm breeze was softening snow mounds on the tall spruce and pine trees, and around me snow was cascading to the ground bouncing off branches as it fell. The cracking sounds reminded me of caribou walking through the dry bush in the fall, and I would stop, listen and look in hopes of seeing the animals, but nothing. When I did see a caribou, it was walking through deep snow in the forest 50 feet from the trail. The animal had seen me before I saw it, and it was walking quickly through the snow to reach a second animal that I spied through the trees. The two of them rushed away from me - not making any sounds - silent ghosts of the forest.