Sunday, May 30, 2010

Super-short Dogsledding Essay

With the temperature soaring, it seems a perfect time to infuse a little sparkly winter fun. I've been wanting to share this for a while, but thought I'd try to get it published first. It seems it's not the right length for magazines.

This placed as a finalist last year in the Writers' Union of Canada post card competition.


Soho, Nitro and I - winter 1995
The Orange Bib
By Terry Lynn Johnson


The cacophony of hundreds of crazed sled dogs clipped to their drop-lines sets me on edge. Odours of urine-soaked straw and thawing ground chicken hang in the air. Like a tongue poking a sore tooth, my mind stubbornly returns to the fear file. Lose the team; dog fight; entangle with another competitor…

When I stood on the shore of this lake years ago, I saw an image that has been with me ever since. In the hazy light of dawn, I watched the orange bib of a musher slowly vanish in the ice-fog. His team silently took him to a magic land. It was the most beautiful thing I had seen. I wanted to be him. Now I’m back to run my first race.

I visit with each of my six dogs and hide the jitters. They take on my emotions. Apollo, my gangly black leader, shoves the top of his head into my stomach. His habit reminds me of a photo I saw of a couple with their foreheads pressed together – a stolen, intimate moment.

Denali is hiding under the truck. I kneel in the dirty slush. “You’re gonna make people talk.” He looks out at me with soft brown eyes then crawls forward. I get a wet kiss.

Dainty Soho is shooting coy glances at Nitro. Tarzan is grinning at me with all his teeth showing. And Blaze is shamelessly on her back, legs spread.

I look at my team and realize I’ve already found the magic land.

18 comments:

Jen said...

Well I would think that would be the only reason this didn't get published because otherwise it's brilliant! It deserved to be a finalist for sure!

I always enjoy the photos and stories!!! Simply the best! Happy Sunday!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

So your essay came THIS close to be on a postcard? Wow!

Jemi Fraser said...

I agree with Jen. I got chills with the last line! Beautiful :)

paulgreci said...

Beautiful and intense essay. Thanks for sharing it. I loved the part about Denali hiding under the truck. The mountain he was named after hides a lot too.

Mindy said...

I just love hearing you talk about your beautiful dogs especially when you write about them like you did.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

love the photo w/ the story. I hope you get it out there somehow!

My name is PJ. said...

Sometimes I read something and I'm transported. This was one of those times.

GREAT!

Alissa said...

Beautiful essay, and just perfect for a little cooling off on this hot weekend!

Susan Fields said...

That was beautiful! I agree with PJ - it just transported me right there. If it's not the right length for magazines, have you thought about expanding it?

Ann Marie Wraight said...

This was a MAGIC piece TerryLynn.

I can hear and smell everything SO clearly!

Beautiful!

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I love this! So wonderful. I feel like I know your dogs. And the last line--perfect.

Nelsa said...

Awesome piece! Congrats on finalling in a very prestigious contest!
Nelsa

Mary Campbell said...

Love it Terry - you create a vivid picture.

skvanzandt said...

Wow! Stopped in from the bb's and read your story. Great imagery - I was right there with you. Congrats!

Solvang Sherrie said...

A magic land indeed!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I absolutely LOVE it! It's wonderful, Terry. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. :-)

Laura Pauling said...

Great pix! I can see why it did so well!

Jonathon Arntson said...

Love.

Thanks for your comment on my blog Terry. It's been a while since I've been here. I've cut back on my blogging by, hm, like 90%. I feel like we need to chat or something and get caught up or shoot me an email. Also, it's so freaking awesome that you have Paul G as a CP!