Saturday, April 30, 2011

devolving pleasantly

The days are getting long up here in the Yukon. The sun rises before 6:00 am, and sets at around 10 pm. All that sun means the snow is melting fast, which means I'm walking longer distances because I'm not wading through shin-deep snow as often.

Yesterday it was warm enough to wear shorts. The reduced weight, increased freedom of movement and the hot sun really boosted my energy, and I jogged along the slopes with the dogs. The underbrush cut my shins up, but it was worth it.

So today I figured I'd go one step further and hike in bare feet. I love wearing bare feet, and don't usually wear shoes between now and mid-September if I can help it. By September the bottoms of my feet are almost as calloused as a dog's paw.

I access the hills through a narrow, shadowy canyon, and I underestimated how much snow is still down there. My feet felt like they were on fire by the time I got through the canyon, and I really had to take my time on the first twenty minutes of climbing after that, because my feet were completely numb and I probably could have cut them open without knowing it. I was moving too fast, and it was tiring and frustrating and painful.

After a while, though, I started to remember how to bushwhack barefoot - to take long, careful strides like a caribou, picking a footplace before transferring weight. To travel on game trails, which are already worn. This means using my hands more - sometimes to crawl under low branches, and other times to hold onto trees so my feet aren't always taking the weight.

It's an extremely meditative way to move - probably because this is how the human animal moved for hundreds of thousands of years. Feeling the plants and rocks under your feet, thinking about foot and hand placement, moving more slowly, but at a steady, deliberate pace. It makes me feel even more connected with the land.

It definitely takes a state of mind, though. On the way back down I started thinking about other things and before I knew it I was wading through thorns for about twenty minutes.

If I did it every day, I know my shins and feet would toughen quickly. But at the moment I don't think it's worth it, because that long snowy canyon is really tough. We'll see.

My film premiere at the Dawson Film Festival was plagued with technical problems, so it was disappointing and I don't consider it a true premiere. I think it's a good thing - the film was obviously meant to premiere elsewhere. No blame on the Dawson Film Festival, though - it's still my favorite festival in the world, and I hope I can go back again next year.)

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