Sweat streamed from my pores even though I wasn’t moving.
The hot, humid air stuck heavily to my skin. I told myself that it was only because it would be too much effort that I didn’t reach over and lift a juicy piece of fresh fruit into my mouth.
Just when the heat became unbearable, I grudgingly abandoned my fantasy of southern climes and fresh fruit, heaved myself off the sauna bench and staggered outside. In the frigid darkness of solstice night, I dove into the snow, fervently hoping to avoid pointy sticks and dog pee spots.
Gasping as the intense cold began to work itself into my body, I hopped around on stinging bare feet, waiting a few more moments before retreating into the sweltering temperatures of the sauna — which now felt only lukewarm at best.
Ever so slowly, my body started warming up again and I tried to think of a festive meal that could incorporate canned pineapples, eggs, cheddar cheese and the lone butternut squash that I had harvested in the cabin. Such yellow foods seemed perfect to mark the lengthening of daylight; although the fact that it would all vanish as I ate pointed to a rather unwelcome bit of symbolism. No sense in taking it all too seriously, I told myself as I got dressed again, and decided on making a quiche.
After squeaking back up to the cabin through the snow, I indulged in a rare glass of fruit juice in an effort to save some of that tropical atmosphere. Incredibly relaxed and warm after the sauna, I began making the dough for the quiche, then left it to chill in the cabin’s coldest corner.
Having a fun-filled celebration alone in the woods is easy, especially if dogs can be included in the singing, dancing and laughter. Otherwise, there tends to be that small voice in the back of your head, commenting that such behaviour without the company of people is only appropriate in the drunk or insane. Well, dogs are people, too. And Nooka is a very gifted dancer.
As my energy came back, it was time to start the party. Without a stereo system to provide music, and CBC falling short as usual in that department, it was up to me to look after the dance music.
When I twirled, clapped and stomped my feet, tunelessly warbling whatever song came to my mind, Nooka immediately joined me on the dance floor: those few square feet of uncluttered plywood flooring in the cabin. Twisting and shaking her bum, she hopped back and forth, raising her front paws and swatting the ground. Laughing, I launched into yet another rendition of Here comes the Sun with Nooka ecstatically shaking her head, her ears flying and her body twitching as much out of rhythm as my singing was out of tune.
Old Leshi looked mildly on, every now and then giving a tail thump of approval at a particularly smooth dance floor move. I kept Milan, another non-dancer, relegated to his blanket, knowing from experience that if allowed to join, he would turn things into a playful wrestling match.
When Nooka and I had finally danced enough, it was time to move the party outside under the stars. The dogs thought differently, hopping around first on three, then even two legs in the biting cold. But when I tipped back my head and began to howl in a low tone, their freezing paws were soon forgotten.
Wagging their tails wildly and nudging me, they pursed their lips and started to howl, interspersing it with a short bark here and there. Leshi’s soprano carried on higher and higher, and then trailed off in an almost inaudible note.
With the howls, I sent off into this longest night all the accumulated little and big frustrations, moments of anger and sadness from the past year. Maybe the dogs did, too. When our mournful chorus dissolved into laughter, barking and wild chases through the snow, I listened for an answer from the wolves, but there was none.
Hoarse from all the singing, howling and laughing that evening, I ushered us all back into the warm cabin and began preparing my yellow Solstice feast, appropriate or not. The sun would creep back and fill our lives again, regardless.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon
River south of Whitehorse.