How ironic that even in a remote wilderness cabin, a couple of quiet and peaceful hours for uninterrupted writing can be very hard to come by.
Maybe I’m just too fussy; other people might find it rather stimulating to carry on a conversation, have the radio play in the background and pay attention to a dog while simultaneously working on a story.
I wish I were one of them.
While we are surrounded by the quiet forest, our cabin itself is where the lives of two people and three dogs are concentrated, and finding the time and circumstance conducive to writing isn’t easy in such cramped quarters.
Today had offered a golden opportunity, it seemed: Sam was occupied outside with the chainsaw, the dogs had been walked, the chickens fed and lunch was at least another two hours away.
Instead of retreating to the chilly but distraction-free upstairs where I usually end up in pursuit of peace and concentration, I curled up on the couch by the hot woodstove, clipboard and pen in hand, a steaming mug of tea on the table. With a sigh of contentment, I slowly began writing, pausing every now and then to look out at the mountains. This was exactly how I had always pictured creativity to flow in such a wild location.
As always, it lasted about 20 minutes, just the amount of time it takes to get myself immersed in the story. Then one of the dogs got up and stood softly whining at the door.
Sighing, I got up and let him out, asking the other two if they needed to go out.
Sure enough, after I had sat for no more than two minutes, Nooka changed her mind about wanting to stay inside.
“Go lie down”, I hissed at her and tried to concentrate on my writing. Five minutes later, I heard Milan scratching on the door, wanting to come back in. I began to see the beauty of having outside dogs instead of a set of overindulged pooches such as ours.
The scratching at the door continued intermittently, so of course, well-trained as I am by my dogs, I had to get up and let him in. When Nooka immediately took that opportunity to weasel out the door, I vowed not to let her in for at least half an hour. But, like a cartoon figure, as soon as I sat down again, she started barking at something, making me fly to the door in a fit of rage and yelling at her to come back in then.
Behind the house in the trees sat six ravens. A visit in such unusual numbers by them, and right by the cabin, had me temporarily abandon my writing efforts (doomed to be fruitless anyway).
At first I thought they had come to tease the dog, but a screech from a spruce tree opposite of them revealed that they had arrived to settle a dispute.
The day before, one of them had been chased around by our resident hawk owl who apparently did not appreciate the company. It looked like that raven had returned with all his buddies for support.
The two parties sat in their respective trees and hurled insults at each other, one raven mimicking a fledgling begging for food. The owl did not like being made fun of and promptly began dive-bombing the raven who sat the furthest apart from the other hooligans. Immediately, all the ravens rose into the air and chased the hugely outnumbered owl, with one of the cawing ravens tugging at a tail feather of their quarry.
As their argument waged on in noise and air acrobatics between the trees, I saw the rest of my precious quiet time slip away.
Conceding defeat, I went upstairs to hide from the dogs, put in ear plugs to seal out any further owl and raven noise, and tried in vain to round up my by now completely scattered thoughts. Soon, Sam would be done chainsawing and want to know what I was up to. Unable to concentrate on my writing again, I fantasized instead about having a tiny little space all to myself, where I can write in peace whenever I want to. Our sauna has some potential to double as a writing room; while somewhat dark, at least it is easy to heat.
It seems ridiculous, surrounded by lonely wilderness as we are, to need yet more space apart from the little bit of human and canine company that there is. But I guess the hawk owl felt the same.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.