YUKON KERRY (When illness sends you to paradise. Funny how that works, sometimes…!)

farley-and-i-june-2008Hi Susan,

Farley, Daisy and I live in the northern community of Whitehorse, Yukon, surrounded by some of the last untouched wilderness on earth. It is indescribably beautiful here. I came up here close to seven years ago as an ‘environmental refugee’. Always a big city girl, when environmental illness hit me hard I found that the options were to stay in an increasingly life-threatening situation, or take a chance on healing by moving somewhere clean. The requirements for healing were no industrial, urban, or farming poisons. Yikes! So here I am in the middle of nowhere. It was the right move and I’ve been healthy for a few years now…

During the difficult transitions that came with giving up all aspects of my life as I knew it, my two cats Daisy and Fern were my constants. Fern was my very special companion through my sick years, and died a few years ago from an aggressive form of cancer. I will always believe that her role was to help me heal, and her own sacrifice was to absorb the energy of illness by wrapping her comforting body around me at every opportunity. I wish I had a digital photo of her to share. She was a brown tabby, big-boned and built like a Mac truck. Her white and caramel tummy belied her nougat centre!

When Fern left me, Daisy and I were lonely. Northern culture is very much a dog culture, and so it followed that I would come to find Farley. I looked for nine months for just the right dog. I knew what I wanted and was willing to wait. Every time I went into the no-kill shelter, full to bursting with high-energy huskies and husky crosses, the dogs
would raise the roof with frantic barking. Each time I had to disappoint them. Sorry, no huskies, no big dogs, just a medium-sized gentle dog please…

farleydog2The day I met Farley he had just come in to the shelter. He was a small dog, not on my list of criteria, but our eyes met and… I took him for a walk and he made me laugh so hard I knew he was mine! I had to leave him there for two more days. The day I went in to pick him up the dogs were dead quiet. I’m sure they knew I wasn’t there for them. I took
Farley out of his kennel and headed out the back door towards my truck. As we were half way across the parking lot the entire shelter went up in skin-tingling howling and barking. It was freaky! Were they saying goodbye to Farley or were they grieving for themselves?

Farley is my first-born dog, and I never knew that having a dog could be such a life-changing experience. He is everything I asked for, except for size, and it turns out that he actually is the perfect size! He, Daisy, and Fern have had much to teach me about love, and my life wouldn’t be the same without them. The Yukon wilderness has much to
teach me also. Never before I have been so connected to myself or the natural world, and I love so much about it.  My illness has turned out to be a gift of healing.

Love your Musings, Susan. They often resonate with my own experiences of the wild. Thank you.—Kerry

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14 Responses to YUKON KERRY (When illness sends you to paradise. Funny how that works, sometimes…!)

  1. Denise says:

    Its cold here again today in Northern Michigan…-4 tonight for sure. Your dog is beautiful and your determination even more radiant.

    I so admire your decision to seek wellness and companionship on your terms and with your heart wide open. Enjoy your Beasts!
    And thank you for reminding us that we can have, live and do on a level that is happy and healthy for each of us on our own terms.

    My dog Lola was found with her litter at 4 weeks old 2 miles into the woods in an old abandoned car. My daughter (14 at the time) signed us up for an adoption interview. 2 weeks later the rest is history. A dog that she “promised to take care of” that became the best friend I’ve ever had. They find us…thankfullly these beautiful beasts find us and hold steady.
    My best to you…


  2. valerie says:

    Hello Yukon Kerry,

    Your story is very touching. It is beautiful! Yes, I agree, very eerie for the dogs to be howling when you picked up the dog you adopted.
    Bad things happen for good reason sometimes and it looks like your illness was one.
    If I am not being to personal, may I ask how do you support yourself financially where you are? I ask because I have made long expensive moves depleting my monies but the outcome has always been worth the move.

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story.

  3. kerry says:

    Thank you Valerie and Denise for your heart-warming comments. Farley sends Lola a tail-wagging butt sniff. It’s great that Susan has set up this forum as a way to meet each other.

    By the time I left Ontario I was barely getting by. My friends threw me a giant garage sale and raised $1100 to send me off with. I arrived here with $930. No home, no job, and I didn’t know a soul. No pressure there, eh? Anyway….

    I’ve set up my own earth-friendly house cleaning business, using only non-toxic products and aromatherapy with essential oils. It’s my contribution to creating a healthy and relaxing environment for my clients while helping the planet in a very small way. It allows me the flexibility to start my day slowly with my animals and a cup of tea, work at my own pace and rearrange my schedule on days that I’m not feeling quite up to snuff. (Or on days that it’s minus 45 and I shouldn’t start the truck!)

    I also make a (very) small income as an artist. I was making my living as a glassblower with my own studio when I got sick. Now I make jewelry using naturally tumbled stones from the rivers and lakes of the Yukon. I take Farley and head out to collect small smooth stones, drill and then string them along with beads. I’ve made some of the necklaces with stone ‘goddess’ pendants to blatantly celebrate the powerful beauty of this place, of earth in her purity. I have my work in a couple of galleries and sell to both locals and tourists.

    As a fall-back I also turn to waitressing when I need to, such as when I first got here. An unglamourous but seriously transportable skill….

    Take care and thank you again!

    • Susan McElroy says:

      Kerry, there are remarkable people like yourself who have the trust/belief/creativity/ability/skill/sense of wonder and adventure/good fortune/good sense to craft a life rather than to simply follow the norm. My hat is off to you, and I am amazed at your courage and your resiliency. You have cobbled together a great life in precious bits and pieces, letting your values guide your work. Many of us do not feel we are able to do that. Tell me if I’m off base here, but I suspect that part of your freedom to live life on your terms has to do with keeping your life to a certain size. That is, I “imagine” you live simply. One of my own goals is to become “smaller” in my life rather than larger. I’m always looking for what I can give away, shrink down, uncomplicate. For instance, I want my work to remain small and personal, doing small retreats and teachings because I have a great reverence for the small in life. It offers huge opportunities, if you live small, to experience more life, yes?

  4. Cindy says:

    Kerry and Susan…

    I so respect what you are both doing with your lives!

    Kerry, I am awed by your ability to live as you choose. Your life there in Alaska resonates with me on many levels. I am always seeking the untouched, the serene, the wild. You sound like the Earth Mother I fancy myself to be one day, after all the living, raising kids and caring for others, I would like to set out and live exactly where I choose and exactly on my own terms. You are an inspiration…

    Susan, your need to live small hit a chord with me too. With Spring upon us (almost) I am just getting into my “throw it out” mode. If it doesn’t serve, throw it out! Or, to be precise, donate it! I get such a rush of new energy when I am done, energy I can then direct towards my most cherished pursuits. I do sense a feeling of openness (living larger), that comes from nurturing the small….after all the clutter is gone!

    Thank you two ladies, and all the rest, I read your words and just smile knowing there are kindred spirits everywhere!!

    In gratitude…Cindy

  5. Denise says:

    Please post your Jewelry; My mother turns 78 on Saturday and my daughter 22 in May. Perhaps I could give them one of your pieces?

    Thank you,

  6. kerry says:

    I’ve been having fun thinking about your response, Susan. Good meditation while wiping counter tops! Yes, I’m a relatively simple gal. I always have valued a simple life, but my health crisis really set things clearly for me. When I first came up here I would find myself staring at the blue sky and crying. In the pollution of my southern life I had forgotten just how blue the sky could be.

    Our cultures relentless need to consume, consume, consume, at the cost of…our planet, our lives? I felt like the canary in the coal mine. People! All this STUFF isn’t worth it!! We’re killing ourselves!

    I think living simpler is a critical pursuit. It also has potential to be a highly intimate pursuit, as for you with your retreats and teachings. It’s the intimacy of ‘small’ that allows for deeper connections.

    One of my greatest ongoing lifetime fears, ironically, is that my fears will keep me small. I don’t want to look back on my life and think it was a small life, and it’s something I’ve been struggling with lately. I know that wasn’t your meaning of living ‘small’ but I had to laugh at the timing of your question.

    There is integrity in stripping away another layer of unnecessary trappings, of becoming as Cindy describes ‘uncluttered’. We’re on the same page. So here’s to living large and small!


  7. kerry says:

    Hey Denise,

    Happy Friday the 13th! Wow, that’s a lovely sentiment! I don’t really have a way of posting pictures here. Perhaps Susan could hook us up together via email? Not sure how that would work… But thanks so much for even thinking you might like a piece of my jewelry!


  8. Cindy says:

    OK….maybe something is getting started here! I would like to be in on finding how I can obtain a piece of your jewelry too, Kerry! I went through a period of bead frenzy a while back, I loved the meditative quality to it, busying my hands while my mind was free to become empty! I would appreciate an email address too, if that’s how we’re going to do this! I’m open to whatever works best….Thank you so much.


    • Susan McElroy says:

      This is just too sweet! Okay, Kerry, if you would feel okay doing so, I would suggest two ways of getting your messages to Cindy and Denise. First—and this would make it so that anyone reading this post could also find your jewelry—you could post your email here, but don’t do it by putting it down like a link, or spam demons will scrape it up and you’ll be getting too many advertisements to enlarge your penis—you know how that goes. So, write it like this: (example) susanmcelroy at aol dot com. The other way would be to send me a message telling me to give Cindy and Denise your email address and I can forward it. Hoorah! Commerce!

  9. Denise says:

    O.k., we are now moving to support one another within our gifts and talents.

    kerry if you simply want to give the link to a gallery you’re showing in that is o.k. too. Or Susan is right, she can send your e-address and we can trade beads…Again my mother welcomes 78 tomorrow 3.14.09 and my “Wild child” hits 22 in May. I will gift to them of course but as Cindy said we would much rather draw in a piece that has a resonating intention.


    In Northern Michigan we hit 28 today! The Cardinals are so singing big time and the sun almost felt warm. I love the change of seasons and look forward to hearing the Tree Peepers and seeing the flight of the Fire Flies!


  10. kerry says:

    Well isn’t this all too cool! It’s beautiful here today too. It probably will hit minus 5 C this afternoon. Hallelujah!! I’ve been noticing a few more birdsongs in the woods over the last 2 weeks, but spring is slow to arrive here and it will be longer still until all the migratories are back. We’re off to a good start though.

    It’s bittersweet – ravens are the stars of the show in the winter, and they recede to the edges when other food sources come available in the spring. I love everything about ravens. Winter is also a time for regular fox and coyote sightings and I look forward to seeing them. One night last week a coyote followed Farley and I for a block. I wasn’t too concerned, but we’ve had lots and lots of snow this year, and I think the animals are hungrier than usual. He might have been debating whether Farley was worth the trouble! It is the fate of many small pets up here.

    Well, Happy Birthday celebrations to your Mom, Denise. It sounds like it’s a fine day to turn 78!

    Okay then, my email address is quite a mouthful…..

    mightymoose98 at cheechakogirl dot ca

    Don’t know what I was thinking with that one. I’ve been Mightymoose since I started a radio show of the same name in ’98. It was all Canadian folk, roots and pop, and moose are pretty darned Canadian, so… Cheechako girl is a nickname given to me by one of my first friends here. Guess I went with nostalgia. A cheechako is a term used in Alaska and the Yukon during the gold rush to identify a newcomer. A similar term down south might be ‘tenderfoot’.

    There are three levels of belonging here. First you’re a Cheechako, and to some of the oldtimers unless you are born here that is all you will ever be. Then theoretically after you have weathered a year you are a Sourdough. You get to languish as a Sourdough for 20 years, and then you are ‘promoted’ to Pioneer. Quite the social pecking order, although as the older ones pass it’s become pretty relaxed.

    Alright girls, thanks all for everything.

  11. kerry says:

    Hi Girls, I just found out today that Daisy has advanced hyperthyroidism and kidney disease. I’m very sad about the prognosis, and am struggling with guilt for not having seen signs of it sooner. Daisy will be 15 in May.

    When Fern died she was only 10 and it was all very quick and I wasn’t ready for her to go by any stretch. I think with Daisy I will have more time to love her well until the end of her life. I have a heavy heart today, but Carla Jo’s story inspires me to find the blessings and healings in this ‘end of life’ time.


    • Susan McElroy says:

      Kerry, I’m so sorry about Daisy. Please do not guilt yourself! Cats don’t often display signs of sickness. They only display signs of death! It is really frustrating! Not your fault, plus 15 is a darn good long life for a kitty. You’ll have time to take in your “harvest” with Daisy—gathering together all the memories you have grown and tended together. It is a sacred time. My prayers are with you.

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