I am departing Dawson City today. Like so many before me, we came in search of gold in its many forms. Many courageous and tenacious people set off to find adventure in Dawson City. In 1898, more than 100,000 set out in search of gold, with less than half able to complete the arduous journey and only a few found gold that year, and many didn’t even look. The Gold Rush was like a war, said Pierre Berton. “Those who survived it were ennobled.”
The precious find I made cannot be used to purchase things or restate the dollar value of my earthly wealth, but it certainly broadened my view, expanded my heart and sent me on my way home with the feeling of having been a Yukon-er, if even only temporarily.
I came away with a new perspective of Canadian history, fed by the wisdom and passion of Alex Somerville at the Dawson City Museum, a young man with Nova Scotia roots and with an immeasurable knowledge of all that played out to create the Dawson City that exists today, above the 64th parallel, along the Yukon River on its way to the Bering Sea, 279 kms (173 miles) from the Arctic Circle.
I have grown accustomed to the blue hue that everything is awash in from three in the afternoon until almost noon the next day, this time of year. The shortened day slows the heart rate it seems, calms the restlessness, pauses the urge to hurry. Yet the community is very much alive, serving up turkey dinners, organizing a boat parade with lights and sound and the purest of fun, the procession winding its way through town, faces pressed to the window as the armada passed. The Fire Truck complete with real-life fire fighters is delivering packages filled with cookies and treats and surprises to every senior in town, the list of community caring seemingly inexhaustible.
I will most definitely miss the face of Brenda Caley who opened her door to me, made space in her full life for a friendship that bettered me, and that I have no doubt will endure until my hopeful return one day or her pilgrimage East.
I will miss it all and I am so grateful to have had the privilege to come and sit at a desk in Pierre Berton’s childhood home, imagining the boy who played in the abandoned and forgotten buildings from the days of a short-lived gold rush, ignited by American George Washington Carmack and his Canadian brother-in-law Skookum Jim Mason who found the first nugget at Bonanza Creek in August of 1896, and cried out, “Gold!”
Thank you for coming along with me, for being there when I felt homesick and a bit alone. Gold indeed.