We hiked out to Big Lake last night and did not get eaten by an ice bear. Now that I have once ventured into the bush, fully out of earshot of snow-gos and yelping dogs, I do not think wild horses could keep me out. I prowled alone all over the outskirts of the village tonight, following tracks through the trees, hoping to spot a lynx. I felt wildly daring when I stepped off the snow-go-beaten trail and stalked through the deep, dry powder, following an intriguing set of prints down a trail no person had been on since last snowfall. I didn’t find the animal that left the tracks (they were old, but I liked their winding line and followed anyway). The only wild thing I met on my walk was a chickadee, singing his spring song from a spruce tree. I stopped at his tree to watch him cock his jaunty, capped head as he hopped, and to rub powdery pitch between my fingers until it became soft and sharp-smelling.
On our hike last night, Sean and I saw no sign of the rumored bear, but we saw a squirrel scamper across the trail and stop in the snow, flicking his tail. He looked at us for a long time, and let us get surprisingly close. The squirrels here are small and ferociously alert, nothing like the languid, fat squirrels of suburbia. I expected him to break for the woods at any second as we drew near, but he didn’t. Instead, he vanished. Poof! We walked to the spot where he’d staged this trick and, sure enough, found the trap-door. The squirrel had whack-a-moled into a tunnel in the snow. Sean and I peered in, incredulous, and the squirrel popped up at the base of a shrub some ten feet away. I shrieked with surprise as it broke for the treeline.
It felt good to have someone to walk with me. It has felt good all week to have someone with me, and now I think the engine of this morning’s plane must have deafened me, because the quiet is so complete and sudden. I miss Sean and his bounce and bright warmth, but I’m not letting go of the fact that I chose this independence for a thousand right reasons. Sadness is silly when there are tracks to trace through the snow and sunsets to race to the riverbank. There’s a mountain I want to climb this spring, and looking at it makes my heart leap up, quick and giddy as a hand catching a blown kiss.