It was hard to believe, but we were living there, on that giant expanse of wasteland
, for two months. The first time we pulled up to the camp I whispered to Jessica "This is the ugliest place I have ever seen in my life." It's funny how things change.
A couple of weeks of hard labour turned us into tired, happy sky-watchers whenever the sunset was enough to keep us awake. This particular night was enough to keep everyone awake. As I played guitar the orange spread across the sky, the sky that was unnaturally large because there were no trees, and the hill stretched in front of us like a giant adrenaline rush waiting to happen. I looked at Byron and almost fell over when I saw the look in his eyes. He pushed past us and ran up the hill, all the way to the vast empty top that split into orange and red and distant trees. At the highest point he stopped and stretched out his arms to the northern lights that were just starting to ripple across the sky, to the colours that seemed like so much more to our tired, stoned eyes. He held his body there, hands still and full of a strange sort of desire, for what seemed like hours. We watched in silence. The whole time I was thinking of Mr.Ramsay from To The Lighthouse after his wife died, how he stretched out his arms but she was not there. Except Byron was reaching for something different. Something more. Something none of us could give him.
When I slept next to you that night, Toni, your skin felt like that strange orange sky under my skin. Fiery, warm, and not quite solid. We were never really together but I always loved to hear your breath, steady and comfortable like a wool blanket around my fears. I hate to classify but I think we were at our best that night, confused and impulsive and far from alone. It was easy to forget what was ahead of us.
I never thought I could find so much beauty in a landscape that screamed with ugliness. The giant sin surrounded me night after night, morning after misty morning, yet I couldn't help loving it. I still don't agree with clearcutting the northern forest, not at all, but I learned to cling to what I could. I still remember the first time I talked to the logging guys, and they called it a "caribou land," because apparently the caribou liked freshly cut spruce forest. They were doing some good, they said. I laughed in their faces.
Nothing ended up being quite the way I pictured it, but that night out on the clearcut, sand in my toes and a life in front of me, I found it hard to regret anything at all. It's going to be a hard one to forget.