Scotty, beam her up

At first sight, nothing could be less like Starship Enterprise than our cabin.

At first sight, nothing could be less like Starship Enterprise than our cabin. There are only two of us inside it, we don’t run around in gymnastics suits, our electronic gadgets are limited to the laptop and satellite modem, and this cabin isn’t going anywhere. Or so it seems.

As winter closes in, the cabin actually does become more remote – harder to get to, harder to leave. It’s just Sam and me now, more reclusive than ever, hurtling towards darkness and cold, while the outside world recedes into a different space. We’re launched on our newest set of adventures, oblivious to the theme song that must be blaring away somewhere in the background.

The surroundings of our cabin hold lifeforms that are probed by scientists, counted and theorized about, although they are perhaps less mysterious than the far reaches of space that the Enterprise was travelling through. Or so we think, statistics firmly clutched in hand. I’m trying to pass on what we see, what we experience on our trip, in this wilderness life, beaming it out into space back to the other parts of Earth, mostly in writing.

I don’t like phone calls anymore, they are too quick, too immediate. In a lifestyle where people in the flesh are rare and I usually just talk to Sam and the dogs, it requires too much mental shuffling to talk with someone other than Sam, and that on the phone. I can usually anticipate Sam’s answers, I know what his opinions are, so surprises don’t feature much in our conversations. Tricky then to talk to somebody else on the phone, even if I know the person. Their questions take me by surprise, words stumble out of my mouth awkwardly. I have to come up with my replies too fast, it feels, before I can really absorb the meaning of what was being said. I feel the urgent need to explain more, give more background information, for how can they understand – so far away?

It’s that and also the poor quality of the phone line. Voice over internet does not take well to a satellite connection, apparently, and so whole sentences get lost (where do they go?), words distort tortuously and echo like an army of ghosts. And yet, the other day I not only talked, I saw.

“Turn the video on,” my friend asked, already grinning at me from the screen, her nose and chin sucked into the foreground by the poor camera quality while her cheeks and ears appeared to be taking flight into the opposite direction. I giggled. Should I? I’d never tried this before.

“OK.” I clicked on the video button and saw a smaller second window open, tinted in pearl grey.

“I can’t see you, it’s all like a fog or something.” My friend frowned, the top of her head zooming into the screen. If she leaned in more, maybe I could beam her up?

“Oh, hang on … we put tape over the camera lens, just a sec.” Sheepishly, I peeled it off and saw the fog patch disappear while my own face showed up. Where did my chin go? Hastily, I tipped back my head. There it was. My friend was killing herself laughing.

“Hey, this should be recommended as therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder,” I said, wiping tears of laughter from my eyes. As we talked, I kept looking past her at the darts disc on her wall. It occurred to me that I could actually give her a tour of the cabin, limited as it would be by the length of the internet cable.

“Hold on – here, see? Our kitchen and the wood cookstove? And there … the comfy chair. Bookshelf … table.” I turned the laptop to face the window. “And see, the view?”

This was pretty cool. Here was a two-way window by which the outside world could peek into mine and vice versa. I could pause and think about what I wanted to say without my friend assuming that the line had gone dead. I stared at the screen. We were both quiet for a minute, both fiddling with a strand of hair, looking at each other.

“In a way, this is wild,” my friend said. “Do you remember how they had this screen on Starship Enterprise over which they used to talk with people on Earth?”

“I know. It is like that, in many ways,” I replied.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.

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