Mush in the Mess

Written By Bob Hunt
Image of a team of dogs pulling a dog sled
Photo by Matt Olson via flickr Creative Commons

With each passing minute the snow reflects more and more of the bright blue sky. For many of the participants, this is their first time in Algonquin Park in the winter. Everyone is excited (and a little nervous) to begin the trip across a cold and snow covered park. Well, everyone except the organizer’s pre-teen daughter: she’s in her element. With a happy and yet determined look, she yells “mush” and takes off alone across the lake. I marvel at this 9 year-old’s ability to control a team of dogs. A snow machine does pretty much what you want it to do. Dogs, on the other hand... well, not so much.

As a child I read stories of people going on adventures in the North. Many of these accounts included crossing miles of snow covered wilderness using a dog team. In these stories there was always a destination to be reached, some difficulties to overcome, a lesson to be learned. Somewhere off in the distance, obscured by falling snow, was the love of someone that kept the traveller going.

I realize now that the idealized picture of pristine snow, the hours of solitude, even the idea of unending fresh air isn’t always real. The snow turns to mush, the dogs bark and snarl, and you are treated to the smells of them relieving themselves as they run along. Surrounded by acres of fresh air, you travel in a corridor of mushy snow, yelping dogs, and the smell of everything the canines have dined on.

Illness, loss of employment, or the ending of a relationship are often difficult and messy times. Like the nine year-old, we decide it’s time to move on regardless of the sloppy conditions, the strident voices, and the smells that leave our lunch in the lurch. Sometimes we simply choose to mush in the mess.

Whether happy or sad, it is a privilege for me to hear your stories. Thanks to all of you who have responded to my blogs. You can continue to reach me via email at robert.hunt@uhn.ca.