Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I just came across a copy of this letter that I wrote on March 16, 2006.
It all seems so very long ago and yet...
the feelings are still as fresh and true
as they were the day I wrote them down!
(the following photos were attached to the letter)
. On the trail with Sean

The perfect winter trail

Working my way up Bear Creek Summit

Home again (October 29, 2005)
.Christmas morning in the cabin 2005

. The chute - My first race!

Dear Mr Sutherland,

Back in about 1977 you taught a group of interesting young kids (at least, I'd like to remember us as such!!) We were in Gr 7......

"There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold
And the Arctic trails have their secret tails
That would make your blood run cold.
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights
But the queerest they ever did see
Was the night on the marge of Lake La barge
Where I cremated Sam McGee..."

Did you know that there actually is a Lake La Barge just outside of Whitehorse??

You made us memorize the first 1/2 of that 4 page poem...I never thought I would survive the assignment!! Instead, I more than survived it....Dad helped me the night before I was to stand in front of you & the entire class to re-sight it. He said, "It isn't just has have to tell the story!!" & I did!! The next morning I stood there. I delivered a story that would follow me all of the days of my life! I didn't stop at the 1/2 way point...I delivered that poem right to the very last word...ALL 4 pages!! I (with very little prompting) still can!!

I tell you this because, on July 7th 2005, just eight months & 8 days ago, I arrived in the Yukon. As a teacher you affect the lives of children even when you don't know it! You, along with Robert Service, inspired a dream in a little grade 7 student some 29 years ago. It's taken YEARS to get here but not a day has gone by that I haven't dreamt of meeting the soul of Sam!!

It's easy to let dreams remain only that. If we take a chance on them we could be disappointed. How could reality ever live up to the images conjured in our minds eye?? Well Mr Sutherland, let me tell you about THIS dream!! Eight months ago I was living in Bowmanville, a quaint little town. I was not thrilled with life or overly happy in my work BUT I was surrounded by the security of friends & family (not discounting my dog, Wellington). Today, I am living at the foot of the Saint Elias Mountain Range in a community called Haines Junction. You might find it on a map 100 miles west of Whitehorse. It is the "Gateway to the Kluane National Park". The mountains are like nothing I've ever experienced...they greet me in the morning, often against a bright blue ski with their snow peeks rugged & high. I mush dogs (I can run up to a team of 6 now) down a trail that would take your breath away, some days by its beauty & others, by it's COLD! The Rubby Range is to the Gee (right) and Mt Decoli & Archibald are to the Haw (left). The moose tracks are often fresh & the Ptarmigan plentiful. A X-fox crossed my path one day....It's a good thing the huskies were too tired to take notice!! The Northern Lights are like magic!! When I woke the first morning after seeing them, it felt like they had not been real!! First Nations people believe that if you whistle at them they will come down to can be sure I will give it my best try when they are back again!! I have a heard of Elk that I see on a regular basis. They are about 100 strong & a sight for any passerby. In my travels I've seen the wild Bison so close to my car that, you’d think I was stretching the truth...But I am not. Oh, and you should see & hear the Ravens!! They play games, hang upside down in trees, steal the dogs’ food bowls & then hang them from branches. They "talk". Their vocabulary is more extensive than any other in the animal kingdom except for humans!! I climbed a mountain for my 40th birthday & sleep every night to the sounds of my 37 sled dogs howling in a ring...I live in a cabin in the woods. I have no running water, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, The TV/VCR has been hooked up to the generator on the rarest of occasions to watch a movie so, I'm a bit at a loss when it comes to the Young & the Restless these days!! THIS is my Yukon....People are happy...they are free to be themselves & the land itself is medicine for the soul. I could not have dreamt this!! The North has far surpassed the images in my mind's eye!!

I have 39 dogs (2 in the cabin) !!!!! One travelled across Canada with me...I've adopted the other 38 (& one cat) since meeting Sean FitzGerald.....Can you believe it has taken me 40 years & 3000 miles to find my best friend & partner?? And to think, he has relatives in OSHAWA!!

I am the happiest girl on the face of the earth & it all started with a grade 7 lesson on poetry in OUR class so very long ago!

I work in a school here. I love it dearly. Some days are trying as you well know. But I think back to my favourite teacher & how he had such an impact....I wonder, 29 years down the road, will someone remember something that I did or said?

In the eyes of your students, you were always the greatest Mr S!! Thanks for "Sam McGee" - my road map to the North :) You know, Sam really should have "sucked it up" & survived the really is awesome when the sun comes back!!

I hope this finds you well.
1977 Gr 7


I never did get a response to my letter, it doesn't really matter though. I just hope he received it and that maybe, just maybe...

it meant something to him!



Murray said...

That is really special, Heather. I was a couple of years younger than you when I discovered The Bard of the Yukon (10 years old, in 1950), and I don't recall a teacher being involved, but the effect was the same. Just a little thing that can make such a difference in a person's life. It's too bad you never heard back from Mr. Sutherland.

Cass said...

That's a beautiful letter Heather! Thanks for sharing!

Carole said...

What a beautiful letter to send. It's hard to understand people who think we're crazy for living so far north. Your description of it would certainly help them understand.

By the way, I plan on introducing this poem to my Gr. 9/10 students this year. I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to say that it's in the hopes of touching them the way your were, but one can dream. My goal is for them (many of whom were born here) to be familiar with Service's work (he has so many great poems). I was debating on whether I should have them learn to recite it (or part of it) by heart, and you've just helped me make this decision. Some may hate me for it for the time being, but I know they'll proudly recite it many years going forward.

Heather, aka: Mum said...

Hi Murry :) I thought Mt S might email me back but maybe email isn't his thing! Some folks just have never found a comfort level with computers! Gotta say...he was the coolest teacher ever! I still smile over things he did & said, what seems like, a life time ago!

Oh Cass...thanks old friend...ya know...I wonder what Welly would do if he saw you today...He may be old but even old friends remember each other...

Hi Carole! Thanks for your visit & your kind comments! I dreaded the assignment at the time, but once I got into it...I was hooked for life! I have, in turn, introduced a few kids to it myself... I have the most beat up copy of R.S's collections & it is my most treasured book! I hope you class fall deeply inlove with his work!
Hummmm....we are lucky that we live IS that amazing, isn't it?

Heather, aka: Mum said...

hey gang...there is an update coming ;) just waite !!!!!