A Subarctic Fata Morgana
Updated: Aug 2, 2021
Biophilia: a love of life and the living world; the affinity of human beings for other life forms.
It has been some time since I have felt inspired. The dull of the dark, cold winter months that have led to cabin fever, a cold snap that has lasted a bit too long and the ongoing pandemic that has seemed to enslave me in a digital world, have put a pause to my dreaming and ambition.
At 60.5 degrees north in Marsh Lake, Yukon Territory, it has felt like a long, cold winter. Considering I only moved here at the end of December, the energy I felt for life in Yellowknife has deteriorated. While I am still living without running water, fire for heat and in minus forty below temperatures, it seems these extremes have grown less stimulating than they were living on the banks of the Great Slave Lake. I am now surrounded by forest and mountains and spend the majority of my free time skijoring with my Greenland Dog across frozen lakes on the heels of the woodland caribou. This all sounds perfect and exciting, yet it feels mundane as the pandemic and Zoom fatigue drags on.
With a new dog, I am pleased that we have finally established a relationship of respect and reciprocity and he's no longer dragging me face first at 30km/hr down a trail until he finds something to sniff that is worth stopping for. He listens on command and looks into my eyes until I say "Okay, now let's go", Then he jolts full force until the bungee tightens and I am gliding behind him. I've wanted my own sled dog for many years and here we are finally starting to train, preparing to breed a team in the fall. I miss the team we lived with in Yellowknife and know we will get there some day soon but hearing the pack howl together at night, the noise of feeding time or even just glancing at the dogs out the window during the day curled up in the snow fulfilled me in so many ways.
So as I am stuck staring at a computer screen all day, every day to pay the bills, I had to think about this drain in energy and the lack of connection I feel. What is it that drives us as humans, inspires us, how can I find purpose in this day to make it worthwhile when I just want to live a life that is not driven by technology and business?
Ready to break free and run off until I reach the tundra at no point of return, I decided it was time to get out with Klondike and take a walk. I knew my husband was feeling the same so I dragged him and his malamute out with me too. As we were crossing the lake on a trail we often follow, I glanced in the direction of one of the largest mountains and saw something I have never seen before....a settlement at the base of the mountain that appeared to be surrounded by sailboats. I have walked this trail too often to have missed this before. Impossible. "Vincent what is that!"......It's a Fata Morgana he calmly replied as if he encounters mirages on a daily basis. My mind was blown. Incredible!
In case you don't know....a Fata Morgana is a mirage occurring because "rays of light are bent as they pass through air layers of different temperatures in a steep thermal inversion where an atmospheric duct has formed". A settlement with sailboats Fata Morgana from ice, sun, snow, thermal inversion and mountains! I had to stare for a few moments. I found some new energy in this event and while reflecting on dreams, ambitions and a subarctic Fata Morgana, I remembered "The usefulness of a pot comes from its emptiness.”- Lao Tzu said. “Empty yourself of everything, let your mind become still. If we are too busy, or too preoccupied we will miss a thousand moments of the human experience that are our natural inheritance. We need to be awake to the way light reflects off of ripples on a pond, the way other people look when they are laughing, the feeling of the wind playing with our hair. These experiences reconnect us to parts of ourselves." So beyond the Zoom fatigue and ongoing blurred boundaries of work and home life in lockdown, I reflected on how this insight applies to the land and nature as well. The more we fill nature with settlement, technology and business plans, the further we are from these incredible, significant experiences. We need an empty pot of nature: protected, undeveloped spaces to live the "thousand moments of human experience that are our natural inheritance".
As I am certain you can read between the lines and my other blog posts, I am inspired by the biophilia hypothesis- the belief that humans are genetically predisposed to be attracted to nature and there is an affinity of human beings for other life forms. It states that all humans inherently love the natural world. -Edward O. Wilson
So why are we swaying away from this I wonder and building a society that disconnects us from and destroys nature. I highly recommend reading "Sapiens: A Graphic History- The Birth of Humankind" by Yuval Noah Harari if you are interested in diving deeper into this topic and shift. It's as brilliant as the family I recently met that hunts Moose by canoe. Yes that's correct, their canoe is large enough to fit a moose in.
I hope that you have an animal, space or place that you connect with in this way and can be reminded of the biophilia hypothesis and the future we are creating. Also keep your eyes open for a Fata Morgana on frozen lakes during a temperature change. Absolutely incredible.
I just finished reading this months "North of Ordinary" spotlight article on Marsh Lake, Yukon Territory. It states: "Come April, there will be open water here and hundreds--and sometimes upwards of a thousand- trumpeter swans will be feeding and resting in the shallow water on their way to nesting areas further north". Now that is inspiration! I can hardly wait.