Moving In On Our Real Treasure

Editor's Note~Summer 2011 (V5I2)

Moving house is no fun. Certainly, once the deed is done, there is joy to be found in unpacking dishes and photographs and finding perfect spots for them in your new abode. But the process of sorting your possessions into piles of keep, donate, or throwaway, then packing the lot into boxes is rarely pleasant. Not for nothing does moving house show up on top 10 lists of most stressful life events next to items like divorce and being audited. It’s overwhelming in the best of circumstances--even when I lived in the South, where moves were shorter and cheaper, I still dreaded the act, as did everyone I knew. I recall years ago when a friend purchased a new truck. He showed it to me only in confidence. “Don’t let anyone know I have this,” he said, conspiratorially, “or I’ll be helping people move every weekend for the rest of my life.”

   This past spring, when I decided to take the plunge and move from Whitehorse to Dawson City, I felt the familiar sense of dread when I thought of the task. This was no short hop where I could lure friends into carrying my bed for three blocks with the promise of pizza and beer. Furthermore, while I did not have that much to move, I am also not the sort that can arrive in town with a backpack full of novels and the clothes on my back. There was stuff. Artwork. Stacks of old New Yorkers. Two cumbersome steamer trunks, one of which had arrived in Canada with my parents in the 1970s and the other bearing stickers from Halifax, Salt Spring Island, and the Savoy Hotel in London, England. Inanimate objects whose feelings might be hurt should I leave them behind.

   I sorted and discarded with gusto, but I was left with a simple fact. No amount of space-age engineering was going to make a 1950s steamer trunk fit in the trunk of a Japanese import. I was hooped.

   And then a funny thing happened. Once I let it out that I needed help, friends, friends of friends, co-workers, and outright strangers offered a hand. They’d haul my 4’ X 3’ painting and dishes in the back of their minivan. They’d stash a box of books in the back of their station wagon and deliver it to a waiting storageshed in Dawson. They’d heft my beastly trunk into their truck and, at the other end, heft it out and tuck it away until I arrived. No one asked for money. No one demanded pizza. They did it because that’s what Yukoners do. As one friend, a longtime resident of Whitehorse, said when I offered to buy her dinner, “You don’t need to give me anything. I’ve had so many people help me out over the years. I have a lot of good karma to give back.”

   Though I’ve long ago come to know the kindness of people here, I was still amazed.
   My amazement hasn’t stopped since I arrived in Dawson. While I thought the sight that would delight me most would be the sun glinting off the Dome or the trees leafing back to life, what’s truly captured my heart is the welcoming nature of the people here.
   Every year, there’s an influx of summer residents into Dawson, and this year, thanks to a resurgent gold rush in the territory, the number of newcomers is larger than ever. It’s astounding to see them greeted with uncommon generosity. The acts of kindness may be small (pointing out a great trail or helping a camper carry a heavy blue jug) or large (every Tuesday in May local churches organize a free dinner served at St Mary’s Catholic Church, with food donated by local grocers, the aim being to ensure new workers are fed while they wait for their first paycheque).
   Having dropped in on many Yukon communities, I know this attitude is not unique to Dawson. Perhaps the hardships of winter have taught Yukoners the importance of community, or perhaps it’s just enthusiasm for showing off all the beauty we have here. It doesn’t seem to matter. What matters is that visitors will almost certainly find there is more than fortune and beautiful vistas in this place. The people here are undoubtedly our most valuable resource--especially the ones with big trucks!

Elaine Corden

Harper Street Publishing
Box 141
Carcross, Yukon Y0B 1B0

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