Been meaning to write this post for some time now. First and foremost to thank the newest members of Team Dew Claw, Deb & Hunter Davis, for sponsoring the Nome Checkpoint.
I got an email from Deb asking if the Nome checkpoint was available, and in the email she writes “you may not remember us by name, but we…” and went on to share a memory of a time we met on the trail. It was a wonderfully sweet detail, not surprising from someone as wonderful as Deb. You see, she and her husband have been in Nome helping out (the start as well), and are well aware that mushers are pretty tunnel vision focus around race time, ergo might need a little help in the memory department. Starting with pre-race nerves, lasting through sleepless days and nights of trail, all the way till the adrenaline filled ending. It is all about the dogs! OK at the end it is about getting the dogs taken care of so you can eat and sleep, but even then it is dogs first. So sadly this situation means, for me, I meet some wonderful people who’s names I will never in a thousand years remember*.
This particular mash-up represents memories for me. “In My Life” by the Beatles is one of my all time favorite songs, and perfect for this theme. But much like memories, it is not really as clear and straight forward as it appears, things get blurred over and artistically re-arranged in the editing room of our mind. For reasons we may not even be aware of. Leaving us with a glorious collection. Memories are such a wonderfully subjective hodge podge of images, feelings, smells, emotions, sounds, and all the wonderfully creative combinations of those elements (and more) that our brains can craft from this wild ride called life. They are the metaphorical pebbles we are drawn to that we pick up and carry with us in a coat pocket, always there to touch and yet safely tucked away. What is it that draws us to one stone while another is past by and left?
So although I may not remember the names…
To the checkers in Anvik, she wore a skirt, and he reminded me of someone I knew in college, Thank You for making it easy for me to change sleds. To the guy in Rohn who tried to bribe me with a foot rub and made me laugh when I was tired Thank You. For Rick (??? Boy I hope I got his name right, cause he was super) who pretty much did everything and anything at Ophir Thank You. Aw heck to Everyone at Ophir Thank You. Iditarod was a strange checkpoint this year. Due to water crossings (see here) before the checkpoint mushers were arriving in a strange state of ‘happy to be here’ and ‘wet and miserable’ and so getting your dog water delivered to your camping spot rocked, to the guys at Iditarod Thank You. We can never say Thank You enough to the many wonderful people out there volunteering and supporting the race. And FWIW, don’t think that your actions and efforts don’t get noticed. They do! and often find their way into the crazy-patchwork-quilt of our memories.
For as little as I know and understand about the way the mind works I know a few things to be true. Your memories are yours and yours alone, they can not be given away, they must be earned, cherish them. And anyone who works with animals knows it is utterly foolish to think we humans are the only ones to have them.
Ask any musher, we all have stories of a dog who remembered… a place on the trail, a person, some thing that for some reason made its mark in the mind of a dog. Mushers talk about having ‘finishers’ in the team; dogs who have already run that race and know the trail. Their experience, their memory is an asset to the team. A thousand miles can start to seem like an eternity if you have never done it. The finishers in your team know there is an end, they have been there. And they know when they are getting closer, the excitement shows. And that is one example of how we see our dogs react to a trail they have run before. How could this be? Unless they were drawing on experience. And what is that if not using memory? Now I am no scientist, these are just my observations. But wait…
Lucky for me, science has now come out with research to help prove it. Here is a brief article about the recent research.
Last year’s race was in many ways about making memories. With a younger team of inexperienced dogs I had the responsibility of making sure that they got to Nome with a good attitude, giving them a chance to see the trail and experience all the excitement and challenge that is the Iditarod. Now with that tucked away in their memories we hope they will go into this year’s race a more confidant prepared team. Knowing what they are getting into; but also knowing that they are capable of it.
*side note: as fate would have it Deb and Hunter were folks whom Dan and I both remembered by name. I went bouncing down to the garage to tell Dan the good news about Nome being sponsored. It was one of those conversations that starts out like this: Me – Remember Deb and Hunter?
Dan – they guy we met who made the candy?
Me – No, the couple with the great smiles who are friends with Angie
Dan – Oh yeah, in Nome he…
And in the funny way of memories Dan clearly remembered the conversation when Hunter had introduced Dan to his wife. I could picture their big smiles, knew they gave great hugs, and that Deb and I had similar fashion sense (hats).
Thank you Deb and Hunter! Here’s to great memories of Nome for the humans and the dogs.
Again, Mush Thanks to All the members of Team Dew Claw!