My hands are shaking too much for me to see anything through the binoculars. I’m trying to calm down, to relax and take a deep breath. But it’s no use; the binoculars keep bobbing around in front of my eyes and the blood is pounding in my ears.
Am I scared or excited? I can’t tell. But out there on the lake, enveloped in a cloud of whining noise and smelly fumes are three snowmachines. Snowmachines driven by people, the first people I’ve seen in three months. Their appearance is too sudden, too fast, I can’t take it in. My brain is shrieking: “People! People! What if they come here?”
What if they do, indeed? I don’t think I could deal with it.
Should I let the dogs out as a deterrent? No, better to pretend nobody is home. Maybe I could sneak out into the woods and hide behind a tree in moose fashion. But if I’d take the dogs with me, they would bark and betray me in my hiding place. No time for it anyway, the snowmachines approach too fast - by the time I have all my winter gear on, they’d already be in front of the cabin.
I crouch behind the window, thinking madly “what do I do?” Hide inside the cabin, that’s what I’ll do. I can’t lock the door but surely nobody would open the door when it seems as if no one is home except for a bunch of barking dogs that can be seen through the window. With that plan of action to cling to, I finally manage to steady the binoculars on a couple of books propped up on the table and get a better view of two of the snowmachines.
I become vaguely aware that by normal standards, my behaviour is completely ridiculous, not to say disturbed or phobic. But normal standards are derived from normal circumstances, a lifestyle among throngs of people, embedded in society. That is not my world anymore. I’ve had to adapt myself to a life apart, where people are rare oddities.
Spotting a couple of moose or caribou out on the lake, headed for the cabin, or a bear in the summertime, would never throw me into such panic. I’d be happy to see them go about their daily business, a sign that all is well, and calmly watch them through the binoculars without knocking my eyes out. Their actions are predictable to me, my scent and presence familiar to them. They might stop and stare at me, then carry on.
But the mere thought of suddenly being face to face with other people (three of them), after not seeing another human in the flesh since the end of November, is just too unnerving. I feel wild. I’m sure I’d be struck dumb, unable to utter a coherent sentence, or start giggling hysterically.
Unbeknownst to them, they have entered my lonely realm, a place that to them is now connected with the outside world through snow-paved forests and frozen lakes, just another bit of landscape. Insulated from its sounds, smells and secrets by their machines, they rip along with unnatural speed, as bizarre and out of place as an extraterrestrial life form would be.
I’ve been alone among those with paws, hooves and wings for so long now, living my life at a different pace, I can’t imagine what those three and I could say to each other, something that either of us could really comprehend or understand.
My eyes widen as the snowmachines zoom closer to the cabin, “no, please, don’t come here, don’t be curious” I implore them under my breath, when the first machine suddenly peels away to the right and the others follow suit. A wave of relief washes over me, the adrenalin vanishing at the same speed that now carries the three people on their snowmobiles onward, away from my cabin, out of my life.
I am left weak, all the tension and anxiety leaving me in a rush, as if I had just escaped from grave danger. Danger of being greeted by the emissaries of civilization and revealed as the feral bush bum that I have become.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.