Like people all over the world, I suddenly find myself with a lot of extra time on my hands. Plenty of time to write blog posts -something I often push to the backburner during normal, busier circumstances. Jack and I have been in quarantine in a small cabin on our property since we returned Sunday night from our BC/Yukon tour. On our drive back we hadn’t envisioned that we would need to, but we realised that our community of about 18 people up here had been self-isolating, and because we had been in contact with some international travellers, it was deemed a good precaution.
So now we find ourselves in this new, strange world which was slowly forming over the time we were away. When we left, Covid 19 was still mostly just in China and no one seemed terribly concerned about it. Our first several shows were normal and fun and our adventure on the road was mostly smooth.
We had one scary slide on a snowy patch of road as we headed up the Stewart Cassiar highway, but other than that thing seemed pretty much normal. Until we got to the Yukon, and that night in our hotel in Watson Lake we saw that gatherings of more than 200 people were banned. Rigorous handwashing and social distancing were being strongly encouraged. Our show in Whitehorse at the Woodcutters Blanket went on as normal though and no one seemed terribly concerned. I myself was more preoccupied with the -30 temperature than with a virus that had had no confirmed cases yet in the north.
But on our way to Dawson City (another long drive during which we mostly occupied ourselves with audiobooks) we heard that Thaw di Gras was cancelled. Things seemed to be getting real. We arrived in Dawson on Friday afternoon, met up with Jack’s brother Sam and his wife Mary, and settled into their sweet off-grid cabin across the frozen river from town. Then hurried over to the bar where our evening show was still going ahead. Many people had arrived for Thaw di Gras, either not knowing it was cancelled, or coming anyway, and the bar we played at (“The Pit”- which was a real Dawson experience with it’s sloping floors, antlered walls and ancient plumbing) was packed with happy revellers, none of whom seemed to have watched the news lately.
We played 2 shows in the three days we were in Dawson City, which was impossible not to fall in love with, with its quirky gold-rush charm, friendly people and beautiful setting. We were treated royally by our hosts who made amazing food for us, took us hiking and for a dog-sled ride. It was hard to leave. But our next destination, Northern Lights Festival in Ft. Nelson, appeared to be going ahead (to our surprise and slight suspicion) so we drove 2 more days east, through the thin black spruce and snow-covered mountains.
When we arrived, Cathleen, who hired us, asked us to come to her hotel room so she could update us. The festival was essentially cancelled she said, but there was a small group of international people who were already in town for the northern lights and they needed entertaining during the evenings. These people were all reps for the essential oil company Young Living, which had a farm and manufacturing plant just outside town. The group had basically agreed to self-isolate together and they hoped we would be up for evening entertainment while they waited to see the much-anticipated northern lights. It was a bit unusual, but as we were already there, and our finances depended on it, we opted to stay the week.
It was cool to see how the black spruce essential oil was created, and we met a few interesting folks, but mostly we isolated in our hotel during the day and then went to the farm in the evening. Our last night was our big concert where we actually set up a sound system and played a full set. They seemed to really love it, and just as we finished the farm folks came rushing down saying “The Northern Lights are here! The northern lights are here and you can see them perfectly right outside the building!” Cathleen, who had been teary through our last couple songs, said “You guys brought them!” We all went outside to take in the mesmerising light and movement.
The next day we were ready to start for home. Our last two shows had already been cancelled and we were already struggling with our decision to stay when it seemed the whole planet was hunkering down at home. We packed up and started the 2 day drive for the island. On the last stretch we learned that our family wanted us to quarantine which was very hard news for me at the time, missing my children already so much and knowing this would mean two more weeks without hugging them. We’ve been able to visit a bit from afar, and we went on a bike ride a couple days ago but I really look forward to clasping them to me.
So now it seems everyone settles into a new normal, at least for a while (and I think it could be months). It’s interesting to see how differently everyone on social media has been reacting to the crisis. Some with indifference, some with stress and panic, some with a great deal of scepticism. For myself, I’m choosing to look at it as a great teacher from which we have lessons to learn: 1) we have to heal the planet and heal our bodies, 2) we need to slow down, plant gardens, rediscover our families 3) we need to examine the system we live in that collapses when the economy comes crashing down, and find better, more community-driven, sustainable ways of living.
It’s easy for me to say of course; we are so very privileged to have a large property to live on, with gardens and community and relative stability financially. At least for now. We send out prayers of love and health and peace for everyone navigating these unprecedented times.