Smooshy smooshy cheeseball

G and I are spending New Year’s Eve watching a program on Netflix about people living in the Arctic Circle in Alaska and eating cheeseball and our house made pickles. I’ve just quit a shitty job that was ruining my life. I guess I’m just not cut out for the regular grind and its time to start making choices that will enable me to live my way all year round. It’s a slow process- working for the winter seemed like pragmatism, but the relentless mental toll ended up not being worth it for me in the end and I’m pleased to be at home working on my writing submissions and weighing the pro’s and con’s of “Shambala” vs “Burning Man”. My wild and wonderful Montrealer friend and I plan our 2018 year. I was planning on going to Mongolia and participating in a crazy horse race, but the expense proved to be beyond my reach and I’ve put that particular ambition to bed. Now we relentlessly plan Haida Gwaii roadtrips and Burning Man and Las Vegas and a trek into the Amazonian jungle to get sick on ayahuasca and find God.

2017 was a good year.

I flew back to England in January to tramp around London for a few days, visiting my old stomping grounds in Camden and Portobello Road Market. Vicki and I bummed around Chester and Liverpool and ended our misadventures in a Reykjavik emergency room with her getting stitches to the lip and eyebrow. (Why do my nights out always seem to end with somebody else getting stitches?)

G and I hit up Boston in March for Dropkick Murphys at House of Blues on St. Patrick’s Day and ripped it up at the Tavern at the End of the World. We got tattoos at Empire Tattoo (another mommy-daughter pasttime) and walked Revere Beach in the bitter cold, evoking Herman Melville and, strangely, Lewis Carroll’s Jaberwocky. I trembled in bookstores in the downtown core, stroking leatherbound volumes of Robert Lowell with frigid fingers.

May brought me back to Hearst, to my first season of treeplant camp cooking, and a season filled with drama and shortcoming and minor disasters. A few months later, it is possible to look back on them as entertaining instead of heartbreaking or ego-destroying, but I remember, too, sitting in a ditch on the side of the Trans Canada highway while it starts raining and we have 1 cigarette left in a Ziploc baggie, that we split. A series of new personal lows and boundary pushing, including a topless dance party at The Companion and the phrase “Don’t put your dick in the jam during a naked mess tent dance party!” Jude gets sprayed by a skunk and the mess tent is unuseable for days, the bus breaks down a couple of times, food orders are missed and delayed and my great culinary triumphs are ‘Stuff in a Bowl’ and ‘Cheeseburger Casserole’. I fall in and out of love, more than once.

Cherries came to a premature end when my years of cooking, horse farming and treeplanting catch up with me, rendering my hands useless with carpal tunnel. I rip off spurs and stems, frustrated, unable to feel my thumb, index and middle fingers. A rotator cuff injury from years ago on the horse farm begins to pester me legitimately. I conquer my fear of heights while listening to Lords of Acid, three legged orchard ladder woven through wire lattices on a row of cherry trees that grow up and down a steep hill. I get lost and pick with the Mexicans. “Hola. Como esta?” is pretty much the extent of my conversations with Carlos’ team, until a tractor comes driving unexpectedly down a picker row and Carlos and I stand in the cherry trees screaming “No bueno! No bueno!” and share a cerveza later. A German picker shouts down the row to my picking partner to sing a love song for his girlfriend so she sings, “My Heart Will Go On,” and a row over, the segregated Mexican pickers whistle and shout, “Sing it, mamacita!” The Okanagan is sweltering and shrouded in smoke from the surrounding fires.

I drive across the country, twice, with my friends. This must be happiness, I think, rolling into Manitoba on the first leg of the roadtrip. I rack up Husky Rewards Points for free showers every time we fill up the gas tank. The station wagon is ridiculously full; we ratchet strap gear to the roof after losing a tent just leaving Hearst. A milk crate full of groceries lives between us in the backseat and the button for the window doesn’t work on my side. The Prairies are sweltering. We start calling our driver “Dad” after a man at a service station in Saskatchewan asks if we are sisters. Eskimo sisters, maybe.

There’s something lovely and ephemeral about our transient friendships. We all end up in different places, scattered. This is what is gorgeous about it. When we are here, when we are together, it is lovely. There will be new friends and reunions and solo adventures. There will be legends born and traditions created. I get a message with a picture of a bottle of Baby Duck. My party tradition has been to crack a bottle of Baby Duck and pass it around a select circle until it is gone. My last night of my first year of plant, I reemerge at the hotel in the morning after the last party night when somebody spiked the beer with MDMA, a trail of blood running down my thigh and besotted, thoroughly, with a Dave Grohl look alike. I spy my half full bottle of Baby Duck from the predrink the night prior on the radiator and pick it up, swigging disconsolately, before climbing into bed with Brian’s Angels and having the tell all session. Several of us crowd under the flickering fluorescent lights of the bus on a night off and I crow, “BaaaaAAAABY DUCK!” and pop the cork and the night is off to a good start.

We message back and forth with our plans and our love. Smoosh smoosh cheesey girls and boys. I swagger a bit, sarcastically, shoving my love deep down and panicking as it comes out, inadvertently.

Happy New Year, you crazy animals. May you pursue all of your wildest dreams and make them a reality.

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