October brought never-ending rain, endless amounts of thick deep mud, hot strong cups of burnt coffee and a tiredness that comes along with those things. Having someone taking care of things at home and moving things forward gave me a break from worrying about the animals and the cabin. I lost myself in the long days at work and really honed in on not rutting, spinning or wrecking the ground beneath me with the massive weight of steel that I was responsible for.
When the snow started to fall in the late mornings and lightly covered the ground and the deep green boughs of the trees still standing, a calmness entered my life. I kept smelling something in the woods I couldn’t place, a mixture of fir, lemongrass, earth and for whatever sweet smell that I can only compare to the smell of baking apple. It was hypnotic and lovely. One day while my tire chains were being tightened Dangles suggested I try the Tigercat 630D. It was love at first drag. The swivel seat and controls took a bit to get used to but everything seemed to flow intuitively to me and I really liked how much more comfortable I felt in it. I told Dangles this and he was happy to pass it off to me. Not everything was peaches and cream with us but I was starting to grow into my new world of logging.
When I came home at night I would tell German Slave about my day and he seemed happy to hear them and happy to see me. His English was starting to get better and I started questioning him about his life he had left behind in Germany. He had had a girlfriend there and they had been together for fourteen years, he used to own an electronic repair business, had worked in landscaping, had renovated his own house, designed lighting and mixed elements of old architecture with modern touches. He worked as a gravedigger at one point (where the graveyards are so run out of space that they would bury bodies over old until those were decayed enough to be dug up entirely and new bodies buried in those places.) He had said it was never a good feeling to come across a human skull or teeth while digging these graves.
He was an excellent cook with a taste for wine, a well-built product, strong structures, and enjoyed fixing things, all whilst chainsmoking hand rolled cigarettes with european tobacco “Canadian tobacco, this is shit,” he would say. He didn’t talk much in these days but seemed to watch me. At that time I would like to think it was lovingly. Over the weeks it seemed as if when I talked about work or Dangles that he would darken over and grow cold. He didn’t want to hear about it. He didn’t like that I did whatever I liked. He hated to catch me spit on the ground, he hated the confidence I was gaining from work. He hated that I didn’t smell shampoo before I bought it, the music I listened to, my thrift store clothes and that I couldn’t sit still. “I could kill you,” he motioned to strangle me one day in a coffee shop after we had breakfast and I said I wanted to go, “Let’s go, hurry up, cmon we’ve been here for an hour.”
Regardless we seemed to be at peace with one another for the most part and it was nice having someone fix all the broken things that I didn’t have time to either learn to fix or the patience for. I showed him the design for the deck’s roof and the partial addition that would go beneath it. I was hesitant to give him the reins for this project but of the work that I had seen him do and the things I had seen him fix, it seemed that he was thorough and that I could hand it over, which let me focus on work.
There were days I would come home, light a cigarette sitting by the wood stove and slowly slump down until I was curled up beside it and ready to sleep. Other days I would sit at the kitchen table and review his notebook of english/german words. One evening I woke up to find that I had fallen asleep face down at the table on his notebook. He wrote out recipes and I knew the ingredients in Canada would be expensive. Food was so much cheaper in Germany and of a much better quality. His expectation of every item we saw in the grocery store, hardware store or electronic store was that everything for sale, should be of the utmost quality. When he bought cheap items and they broke he was furious, “Dis is Shit,” he hissed. Trips to Prince George wore him out completely. It was clear to me that this was a person who couldn’t handle travel (this was his first time traveling, leaving his country etc.). He exclaimed that at the end of such a trip he was exhausted. On my days off he would explain that we had to stay home in the morning until he was ready to head to town for supplies, slow living and a creature of habit. Myself on the other hand was excited by trips to Prince George (a change of scenery and cheaper supplies/groceries!) and I’m never bothered to head to town first thing in the morning – before breakfast and coffee. I couldn’t be bothered with routine or habit, and to be honest nothing annoys me more.
Thanksgiving was coming up and I explained the Canadian version of the holiday to him. “It’s like Christmas without presents, the family and dinner part.” We headed to Quesnel to spend Thanksgiving with my Mom and to my delight Layla came along. Slave wanted to try gold panning in the river and so we did, collecting nothing but remnants of gold flakes and a chill from the cold, damp, fall air. Layla seemed out of sorts and I couldn’t pin point what was different, but apart from that it was a lovely time spent in Quesnel. Ah, Quesnel.
After we had returned home and I had gone back to work, Layla texted me.
“I think I’m pregnant.”
I brushed it aside and didn’t quite believe it could be true, surely it was something hormonal etc. The next morning when I got up in the dark at quarter after one I looked down at my phone to see that she had sent me a picture. A positive pregnancy test. I started shaking with excitement and disbelief.
The rest of the day I spent in the skidder thinking about what it would be like. What her baby would be like, what kind of life it would have what kind of person he/she would be. I knew that for me, babies were out of the question with my lifestyle, with my debt, with my things I have yet to do before creating tiny people, if those things are even meant to happen. I took a look at my life and suddenly there was another perspective added to my perception of cabin life. Things could be safer. Projects in my mind of most important shifted order and suddenly this baby, this new life – was the most important thing.
I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. Dangles looked at me questioningly but didn’t care to know what was up, not that I would have told.. it was still a secret. I got home and told German Slave (I had permission) and something came over me and I started to cry. I’m not sure if it was exhaustion, jealousy or that I was overwhelmed or all three. All of the sudden I felt so sorry for myself and my muddy unorthodox life. I quickly got myself together and vowed that I would not be jealous or sorry for myself, but that I would only hold on to joy for her and her family she was starting.
Something else was happening between German Slave and I. I found myself doing the stupid thing that girls do, “We were meant to cross paths like this, it was meant to be, opposites attract, he completes me.” I type this dry heaving at how naive I was. Suddenly on introducing Slave to new (to him) people I wasn’t sure how to introduce him anymore because we had decided to play house.
“This is my German Slave,” didn’t seem to suit anymore.
“This is my boyfriend and Slave,” didn’t seem to quite work either.
So instead I would just blush and say, “This is .. my.. ” and then giggle, blush and change the subject.
I can be a stupid woman.
We generally kept quiet about it and I felt stirred about living with someone I was seeing, for the first time in four years.
Of course, in my head I could see it now, “From A Cabin Up North” turns into a cheesy romance, I pictured myself saying to single people around me, “When the times right, it will happen for you.” Can we just take a minute and look at how awful those words really are. What those words are truly saying is, you deserve love.. but later though, maybe.
I pictured spending my work season in Canada and every spring in Germany, breathing in lilacs and lattes in tiny, beautiful cafes. I pictured having my own small apartment in Berlin reserved for when I was there, my own European kitchen and standing in front of an antique porcelain sink.
It’s hard for me to look back on this time now without feeling sick about how marred my judgement was.