31 July, 2011

31 July 2011

Starting up through into the timber after a brief rest and watering stop at the spring, Einar and Liz made steady progress up over the wind-downed spruces and moss-slick rocks of the well-shaded slope, its steepness increasing near the top and the rocks--boulders, really, great hulks of granite looking ancient and somewhat mysterious all hung with moss--increasing in numbers, nearly taking the place of the soft, springs forest floor until they found themselves climbing through a timbered boulder field whose trees were rapidly becoming shorter, more stunted and farther between. Nearing treeline, and Einar felt it, maintaining adequate levels of oxygen only through a careful management of his breathing, deep, deliberate breaths whenever their pace slowed in the crossing of one obstacle or another to help counter the still too shallow respirations that seemed to have become all but unavoidable at other times, and as hard as he was working to get enough breath, an equal amount of intensity was going into his effort to appear more or less normal to Liz. Wasn't sure how well it was working and he somewhat resented having to do it at all just then, but knew the effort was both a good discipline and hopefully a step that would ease things for her, giving her less to worry about so she could think about her own climb. Couldn't be easy ascending that steep slope while carrying the little one, not as easy as without, at least, though she never did show much sign of having trouble with it.

Either she’s adapted rather well to the pregnancy, or she’s better than I am at concealing troubles like that. Maybe a little of each. She does seem to be doing awfully well with carrying the little one, looks like she's getting enough of the right things to eat and hopefully so is the baby...ought to be, with all the marrow and liver and good nettle greens she’s getting pretty often. Seems she’s made a real effort to get that pot of raspberry leaf tea every day too, and has been doing it for several months, so that ought to help things go better at the birth. Though I guess...he paused, about to hoist himself over yet another waist-height fallen spruce, its branches too tangled to allow for ducking beneath as he would have preferred to do, fighting for air and suddenly a bit more faint than he was comfortable with feeling, guess Susan had a point when she mentioned the wisdom of me having a shelter all fixed up for her a couple thousand feet lower, in case it looks like the baby’s gonna come early. Oxygen can be...real challenge up here if a person’s having any troubles of that sort, and a not-quite-ready little one almost certainly would be. Well. Next project needs to be that birth shelter, it looks like. Can make things more efficient by also using it as a cache location, place to put stuff we might grab if we had to take off out of here in a hurry, and also a good sheltered spot to spend a winter night or two if we ever got caught away from this place, or chose to spend the night out. On the trapline, possibly. I hope to trap that valley this winter, beaver, muskrat, and it' be good to have a place to stay while we're out, especially if heavy weather moves in. Might trap the other valley too, the one where we went scouting for acorns a month or so ago, but not sure yet. It'd mean leaving tracks out in the open in the snow of the ridge, and those could be real easily spotted by any aircraft that happened by, either as part of the search or not, and would tend to get their attention, too, since the elk will be long gone from here by then. Might get the area tagged for a second look, and we sure don't need that. So, may stick to the other valley, the one just down from the cabin, where we'd be covered by timber for most of the descent, Tracks and trails could still be a problem if anyone’s looking, but not nearly so obvious. We’ll just have to see. Have to get to that point, first. And get to the top of this ridge, before that.

Which was going to be a great enough challenge for that day, though getting his mind off the rib troubles by inspecting their present situation and planning for the winter had helped him significantly, carried him a good distance up the now-treeless rockslide without so much as thinking about pausing for a breathing break. Liz was thinking about it though, was not entirely buying the carefully-constructed facade of normalcy with which he had thus far pushed himself up the slope at speeds that she herself could hardly exceed, saw the unmistakable strained paleness in his face and knew he was not getting enough air.

Goofy guy. Doing this almost as much for your own benefit as for mine though, aren’t you? Can handle the whole thing a lot more to your satisfaction if you can manage to fool yourself, and not just me, which you seem to have got pretty good at doing... Well, it’s getting you up the hill, and if you have to pay for it later--which I imagine you certainly will--maybe it will turn out to be somewhat of a blessing, especially if it means you actually getting some sleep tonight. It's been two or three, I'm pretty sure, since you had much at all, and you’re probably going to start seeing searchers behind the tree islands and danger in every passing aircraft pretty soon, if you don’t get some sleep. Like happened on a couple of your solo hunting trips. Not that there isn’t danger out there, probably more than I’m aware of, at times, but surely you’d know what I’m talking about, wouldn’t you? If you were willing to admit it The dangers that aren’t there can be just as bad as the ones that are--and sometimes even worse. So you just go ahead and wear yourself out on this climb, make it so you won’t have any choice but to sleep, and things ought to go alright up here. I hope.

Meanwhile Liz was beginning to have a difficult time keeping up with him, did not mind hiking at the back of the line for a while if that was how things worked best, but at the same time did not at all relish the thought of catching up to him ten or fifteen minutes later, only to find him sprawled on his face in the rocks. Knowing from past experience that he was more than capable of pushing himself to that extreme and, at times, rather beyond it she picked up her own pace, catching him within minutes.

"Einar...hey! Little Hildegard needs some water, and maybe a few minutes for her mother to breathe, too. Sit with us?" Which Einar, having found a pace and managed to force himself to stick to it, was not particularly anxious to do, but she'd said the baby needed a break, and who was he to contradict such a thing? So, he sat.

Muninn had been following them, stopping when they stopped to take up a post in the tree that provided him the best vantage or, lacking a tree, sometimes lighting on a rock until they were ready to move on again, taking to the air then and scouting on ahead, circling back to pick them up again. This pattern he kept up with great consistency as they climbed, up until a certain point from which--resting momentarily on a rough outcropping of granite--they found themselves within sight of the summit. It was then, chin on his knees as he stared back down into the valley-depths below them, that Einar first began to notice the raven behaving oddly, swooping down into a small hidden spot some three or four hundred feet below them and good bit to the North of the route they had taken, circling, returning and again making a quick return flight to the spot. After three or four of these cycles the raven made a hurried descent on the resting pair, seated himself roughly on Einar's shoulder and gave him such a sharp tap in the side of the head that he very nearly got himself turned into stew meat right on the spot.

Somehow managing to restrain himself from wringing the bird's neck Einar, already on his feet, watched in puzzlement as Muninn took off in an enthusiastic dive for the little pocket of aspen-surrounded meadow grass that had become his focus, taking up once more a position above it and circling, circling, floating on what appeared to be a column of rising air and appearing rather disinclined to stop. Liz was on her feet by that time, too, dabbing with a clump of usnea at the little trickle of blood that ran down the side of Einar's face from the raven's rather emphatic message.

"Do you think he's trying to tell us something? It looks like he wants us to come down there to that little clearing, and..."

"Yep. Sure looks like it to me. Why he's so intent on us following I couldn't say...don't know the critter well enough yet, but I do know what it usually means when a raven or crow circles a spot like that."

"Food. It means food, doesn't it?"

Einar nodded. "Food of some sort, but it's real hard to say whether or not it's anything worth our while to go find out about...most anything tends to count as food to a raven."

"As it does, according to my observations, to an Einar! When he's eating at all..."

A grumbled reply, something about being an opportunistic omnivore, when he did eat, and Einar stirred restlessly, hitching the pack up a bit higher on his back and staring down into the still somewhat green depths of the tiny basin over which Muninn continued to circle. It seemed the raven must be onto something, and though Einar knew the bird with its sharp senses might well have picked up on something as small as the bones of a weeks old dead ground squirrel, something told him more was involved. Might be well worth their while to take a short detour down there and find out. Having secured Liz's agreement--seeing the relentless pace at which he had settled into driving himself up that slope, anything that might allow him a bit of rest seemed a very good idea to her indeed, just then--Einar scanned the terrain below them, picking out what looked to him the most likely route through the sparse and stunted firs and aspens that lay between them and the basin.

Comments from 30 July

Kellie said…
it was scary to think I would actually be putting my loved one in danger when I was attempting to keep them from danger.

giving my life for my loved one, I would not hesitate but it would be selfish to purposely harm myself to the point of death because I am attempting to prove something to myself about myself.

slipping into a mindset of Einar with all his faults still showed a huge amount of love for Liz but just some misguided notions and assumptions. He just has not yet (even though he may think he has) put Liz and the baby first in his life.

Liz has her faults also, she does not nag, which is not a fault but expressing her concerns would not be nagging and she seems to think it would be.

Now to see if she will put the baby before Einar or if she will still put Einar and his feelings first. Will be interesting.
I think Einar would find it scary too, to think he could be putting his loved ones in danger when attempting to protect them. That is certainly not his intention. As for putting Liz and the baby first, he certainly thinks he is doing that, but may still be missing some of what that means.

It would not turn out well, I don't think, if Liz were to start nagging him, but I do suppose it might have some kind of impact if she were to be more direct about her concerns, from time to time. Might at least start a useful conversation.

Nancy1340 said...
I bet we all know some really intelligencent people that aren't very smart. LOL

Hope you're having a great day off. Thanks again.

Thanks, and thanks for reading.

30 July, 2011

30 July 2011/Comments from 29 July 2011

No chapter today, back with another tomorrow.


Kellie said...
I came up with some scary stuff!

Well, let’s hear it!

Russell H Whyte said...
smart man. Any other answer and Liz would have a new pelt to smoke!

That’s for sure! And an Einar-pelt would hardly be worth the effort of tanning, I’m afraid.

Nancy1340 said...
I wouldn't say he's smart or he wouln'd be in the shape he's in but at least there is "some" change in his attitude. At least on the surface.

I don’t know if “smart” has a lot to do with it. He clearly has the intelligence, knowledge, experience and wisdom to handle their situation, and has successfully done so numerous times in the past under similar circumstances. But sometimes other things get in the way, and it just isn’t enough. None of it is enough.

Thank you all for reading!

29 July, 2011

29 July 2011

When Einar looked up and saw the angry flash in Liz’s eye, the determined stiffness of her stride as she approached, he glanced up at Muninn sitting safe in the topmost branches of the dead fir and wondered if he might not have been wise to join the bird. She didn’t have the rabbit stick, though, didn’t seem inclined, in fact, to take any action at all against him just then, despite her demeanor. Which he found most alarming. A good beating he would have understood, but what she had in mind…well, what did she have in mind? Guessed he’d be finding out soon enough, sat silent, waiting, as she glanced over the dismantled smoking tent, peering up into the trees at the work he’d done in hanging the bear chunks, and when she spoke, it was without a hint of the fury he’d ascribed to her movements. Well. Perhaps he’d misunderstood. Certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

“You made a fire. Thanks! And got all the meat hung up. How did the hides turn out, after all that smoking?”

He handed her the sheep hide, which he’d folded and set on their aspen log bench after taking down the tent. “Real good. Turned them a real good subdued brown color, and now they’ll keep their softness even after getting wet. Won’t have to stretch them to get them pliable every time it rains, now.”

She sat with him, feeling and inspecting the freshly smoked hides and trying to work up the courage to start in on the thing she knew she must say, looking for guidance and wisdom in how to present the matter. Best that she simply start right in, it seemed. He never had much cared for pretense. “About this hunting trip. Before we go, lets consider the possibility that we have enough food…a good start, anyway, especially since we’ll be taking rabbits and squirrels on the trapline to supplement it through the winter. I know another elk or two would be a good thing, but here’s the problem. You (forgive me, Einar, for saying it this way, but this is the way it is…) are hurt pretty badly right now with those ribs, and despite the way you’ve been able to keep going and getting so much done, it’s a severe and life-threatening injury, and to look at it any other way just isn’t being realistic. Combining that with the fact that you’re still not getting anywhere near enough to eat…which so far as I can see is entirely your choice, since we now have plenty…well, I really don’t think climbing around on the ridge for a day or two and then lugging half an elk down on your back is the best way either to help your ribs heal, or to let you conserve your strength and start putting on the weight you’ll need just to make it past the end of November. So. I’ve said it.”

“Ah Lizzie…” he looked at her sadly, tone a good bit more gentle and subdued than usual, but firm. “I know you’re right on this one. Don’t like to admit it, but I’ve been having a mighty rough time with these ribs. Fact is though that we don’t have time right now to give that sort of thing too much consideration. Winter comes on mighty sudden out here, comes whether we’re ready for it or not, and right now the time is real short. We really are doing pretty well on food, especially with this last bear and all the fat we’ve got set aside, but the problem comes in when you look at the hides we’ve got. And what we haven’t got. We can make it through a winter without adequate clothing, but it limits when and where we can be out and about, puts us in a position where we’re either looking at skipping the trap line a lot of times and so eating through our stored food too fast, or risking frostbite or worse every time we stray too far from the cabin. You’ve done winters like that with me--parts of two of them--and you know I’m willing and can make it work, but it seems the benefits of having those extra couple of elk hides--and the materials for snow pants, mukluks, a parka for each of us--outweigh the risks of you going hunting right now with an ornery, crippled up old mountain critter who has trouble getting his breath now and then. Don’t you think?”

“I’m not worried about the risks of going hunting with you. That’s not what I said. I’m mostly just worried about you not coming back with me. We’re way up high here in the basin, the ridge is a couple thousand feet higher, and if you puncture a lung up there with one of those broken ribs, or end up with pneumonia--again--because you can’t breathe deeply enough and your lungs get congested…you do realize that you’re mortal, don’t you? You can die. Push yourself too far, and die. Sometimes I wonder.”

He smiled strangely, eyes distant, and she knew even before he spoke that she’d made a bit of a mistake. “Learned that one real early on in life. That I’m gonna die, that we all are. And that it can happen at any moment, and probably will… Been living on borrowed time for most of my life, and I never forget it. Never really had a problem living with that knowledge.”

“Right, but I’m not sure you’re making the connection between that knowledge, and your current situation.”

Einar shrugged. Current situation? I’ve been in worse… “All I can do it to keep going, doing my best to get us ready for this winter, make sure things go as well as they can for you and this baby.”

“But that’s just my point--you’re not. To watch you day after day, it would appear that you’re doing your best to make sure you’re going to leave us, one way or another. You sit out in the cold every chance you get until you’re hypothermic--I know it’s part of your training and that you know how to handle it, but surely you’re aware of what that sort of thing can do to your judgment, and what if you miscalculate one day, just once, and don’t stop in time? And I’m not here to see it happening and haul you in by the fire?--and you don’t eat. Like it’s some sort of personal challenge to see how long you can go without. You say you want to make it through the winter and be here for us but as far as I can tell you don’t eat at all unless I’m sitting right there with you and reminding you to do it, and you know what happens to starved rabbits and deer when the cold weather comes. You’ve seen it, found their carcasses. Winterkill. What makes you think you can’t end up that way? You’re flesh and blood just like they are, and the same physical laws apply to you, like it or not. It’s a deadly combination, cold and starvation, and you seem determined to keep after yourself until you finally perfect the mixture! Why? Why do you have to go on hurting yourself? What’s so important in that challenge that it’s worth leaving your family over? Because that’s exactly what you’re going to do, if you can’t get this figured out…”

He was angry, tried not to be, because he knew he had no right, not with her. Lizzie, if only I could answer those questions, could tell you…and when he spoke his voice was quiet, carefully controlled and with a hint of sadness which Liz had not expected to hear there. “I have no intention of leaving you. Either of you. I just want to go get us an elk or two, and looking at how quickly the weather’s changed just over the last week or so, this seems the time to do it. May be one of our last chances. Will you come with me?”

“I will come with you. But we’re going to have to some serious thinking about how to pack our elk, when we get him. Will you do that, at least? Try to come up with a solution that doesn’t have you carrying seventy five pounds on your back and doing more damage to the ribs? Please?”

Well now I can certainly carry…yes. Yes, I’ll do that.”

At which she took him by surprise--and nearly knocked him off balance, too--with a big hug, a kiss on the cheek. “I love you, Einar. Now let’s close up the cabin and hang the baskets of fat and the rest of the meat so we can start up that ridge! If we make it up there before dark, who knows? Maybe we’ll even take that elk tonight…”

Together they worked to secure the cabin, barring the door as they always did before leaving the clearing, but taking it a step further as Einar began hauling over the small dead aspens they’d used for their smoking frame, Liz joining the effort when she saw what he appeared to have in mind. Crossing two of the small aspens in front of the door Einar secured them to the house logs first with cordage and then with rocks, stacking flat slabs of granite across the bottom third of the door before he ran out of rocks. Stepping back to take a look--and to catch his breath, for it was coming hard and ragged with effort, ribs not liking the lifting of so many rocks--he was satisfied with the effort. A bear could, given time and enough motivation, still perhaps gain entry, but he believed the fortified door ought to hold off all such assaults at least for the time they intended to be away. Cabin secure, meat and fat hung from high branches and their packs ready, the two of them took one final look back at the place before starting up the trail to the spring, meaning to drink their fill and top off water containers there before tackling the first of several steep, timbered slopes that stood between them and their ridge top goal. Muninn the raven, watching them go and sensing, somehow, the finality in their actions, glided after them on great silent wings, shimmering black and iridescent green in the sunlight as he skimmed the aspen tops.

Comments from 28 July

colspt said...
If Einar doesn't trust Liz enough now to talk to her he never will.

I know he is injured and mixed up in the head but his actions continually put Liz and the baby in danger.

Liz was wondering how Einar could possibly carry half an elk on his back and I was wondering how Liz would be able to carry Einar back to the cabin.

If one of them isn't able to wise up the other one better.

Doesn’t have anything to do with not trusting her. There are some things he simply has a hard time wanting to talk about, or finding the words to express.

But no, it would definitely not be good at all if she ended up having to carry him back to the cabin…

Kellie said...
Looks like someone is about to have a real discussion. Being in the wild, if you have someone with you, I would think that both would have to be able to completely trust and cooperate with each other; but one would have to be the "leader" to make final decisions, etc. just makes sense to me. But if the leader is not "quite right" either because they are either pushing the other too hard or dangerously or pushing THEMSELVES too hard or TOO DANGEROUSLY; then it is the responsibility of the other to step up and "make the truth known". I think Liz is about to do that. Unfortunately, it took Bud some real physical action to get Einar to actually LISTEN and think about SOME of what he said; Liz cannot do that (even with her rabbit stick). So now putting myself in BOTH Einar and Liz's shoes (so to speak) how would I handle it from each view. I'm trying to put myself in both their mindsets also, not just being "me" in "them" but actually try to think like them and how could I "fix" things while still in character.

That must be an interesting exercise…watch out--if you start thinking like Einar, you might not be able to stop!

Yes, Bud was able to get his attention for a number of reasons, and Liz probably wouldn’t be able to do the same thing, nor would it be a good idea for her to try. She’ll just have to do her best with talking, and hope he’ll understand what she’s trying to say.

So, when you put yourself in “their shoes," what did you come up with?

Nancy1340 said...
So are we going hunting today or not ?

Well, that’s what Einar keeps wondering! He’s ready to go!

Kathy/LADY KAYDEE said...
A while back I told you about my nephew and his wife with the hunting show on tv. Well, here is a link to the latest episodes. I wouldn't put a link on the other site,for fear of it being improper.


Thanks for showing us that! It’s great that the two of them can travel around and make a living doing what they love to do.

28 July, 2011

28 July 2011

Liz had not gone to bed, not yet, had simply ducked inside to retrieve her sweater for Einar and had stayed there to give him a bit of space when he began having trouble with the coughing, but when he couldn’t seem to stop she rejoined him, worried that he would do further harm to his ribs. Doubled over beside the tent he was doing his best to press the damaged section of ribs, keep them in place as he coughed but she could see that he was getting tired, eyes wide and staring in the faint glow of the fire as he struggled for oxygen and she tried to hold him, wanting to get her arms around those ribs and hopefully make things a bit easier for him but he motioned her away, gesturing rather frantically at the tent and trying to say something. She guessed at his intent, hurried to open the flap and tend to the fire. He had, apparently, been concerned about its going out. By the time Liz re-emerged from the tent-flap, smelling sweetly of willow smoke and assuring Einar that the fire was well established and no longer in any danger of dying he had managed to get the cough under control, crouched there all doubled over with his arms wrapped around his knees, staring sightlessly out into the darkness--something in his face made her wonder if he even knew where he was, as she recalled previous times when breathing troubles of one sort or another had seemed to transport him back to a rather bad place, trap him there--and taking the incredibly fast, shallow breaths that his body was urging upon him in an unconscious effort to ease the burning, tearing hurt in his side and chest. She sat down beside him, put a hand on his shoulder and the way he jumped in reaction told her she had probably been correct in thinking him lost somewhere off in another time and place.

“The fire’s Ok now, doing real well. Here, let me get you some water…” Einar shook his head, held up a hand to shield himself and turned away from her, breathing too hard to consider pausing for water. He was beginning to feel terribly dizzy, sick, world growing blacker than warranted by the advance of night and terribly strange, knew he needed to do something about it but couldn’t quite think what, and Liz took over, seeing in the light of the still-open tent flap the dusky grey-purple tinge that had crept over his face and knowing he pretty urgently needed more air. Positioning herself behind him she got an arm around his middle, praying that he wouldn’t react suddenly or turn on her, pressing firmly on the damaged ribs and speaking softly--her name, his, reminding him where he was and talking about the baby, the upcoming elk hunt, anything she could think of to perhaps help keep him connected to the present--until he seemed to relax slightly, but still his breathing was far too fast, providing him inadequate oxygen, and she rubbed his arm, went on gently but insistently.

“The coughing was good, Einar, even though I know how it must have hurt, helped clear your lungs and you really needed that, but now you need to breathe…breathe…that’s right, nice and slow, try to slow it down and get full breaths…I’ll take care of the ribs, I’m not going anywhere, so you just concentrate on breathing.”

Several minutes later Einar was doing much better, breathing returned almost to normal--near normal as the injury and elevation allowed--and he freed himself from Liz’s grasp, turned to face her.

“Sorry…keeping you…from getting your sleep. You didn’t…have to do that.”

“Oh, I wasn’t ready to sleep yet anyway. I’d just gone in to get you this sweater, and I know you probably won’t want to wear it, but here it is just in case. I’ll hang it in the tree.”

“Thanks. Get some good sleep, you and little Snorri. Tomorrow, we will get our elk.”

“Einar. Look at me for a minute. Let me see your eyes. Are you Ok? I’m a little worried about your breathing…”

“Breathing’s…enough. It’s enough. Just got into trouble with the coughing, but if I don’t have to blow on the fire, shouldn’t have to cough. It’ll be a fine night.” With which Liz rose, squeezed his shoulder and retreated to the cabin, too choked up to return his good night wishes. Really wish this elk could wait. If you can’t blow on the fire without getting into major trouble with your breathing, I can’t see how you think it’s a good idea to be climbing ridges and hauling half an elk down here on your back. If nothing changes--for the better--in the night, it looks like we may just have to have a serious conversation in the morning before we close this place up and start after that elk.

Einar kept his vigil through the night, glad, after his earlier experience, that he had a valid and pressing reason to avoid sleep, as he was fairly certain what would have been waiting for him there. Even still--sitting cross-legged on the bear hide between his regular checks of the smoking fire and shivering violently at times in the sharp night breeze, for he had left Liz’s sweater hanging in the tree--he dozed a bit here and there, head hanging forward and elbows braced on his knees, seeing the fire-glow through half-open eyes and dreaming of warmth, food, an end to the relentless wind and the grating hunger-cramps twisting in his belly but waking each time with a resigned acceptance of his present circumstances; certain things were simply beyond his reach at the moment, even if he had, in reality, placed them there himself.

After a long night of watching, waiting and tending the smoker Einar rose somewhat stiffly to check the meat, squinting at it in the faint but growing light of the morning, cutting a slice and finding it ready, and he was ready, too, put out the fire and began scouting the nearby timber for the best places to hang the bounty for protection in their absence. Finding a suitable tree he took the chunks of thoroughly smoked meat down from their places on the tripod, disassembled the thing and used the nettle cordage with which he had lashed it together to hoist two of them high up into the branches of his chosen tree. For the third, whose weight he feared might have been too great in combination with the others, he needed more cordage, but aside from the twenty or thirty foot section he always kept wrapped and tied around his waist for easy accessibility, all of their cordage was stored in the cabin, and he did not want to wake Liz. Guessed he’s better get a fire going so it would be waiting for her when she woke, perhaps get a bit of water heating, and he did, stirring up the coals in their outdoor cooking pit and finding a few still living beneath the ashes. Awakened, it seemed, by the smell of the rising smoke, Muninn rasped a few notes, flapped his wings and rose from his nighttime perch. The raven was not behaving normally though, circling the camp and alighting for a few restless minutes here and there on rocks and branches rather than coming to Einar for the morning greeting and sendoff that had been his pattern for the past several days, and Einar wondered if he might somehow know that the day was different, might be sensing their imminent departure.

Whether or not the raven could sense the impending change in the daily camp routine as he had come to know it, he was definitely able to sense trouble when Liz emerged from the cabin that morning, took off from the rock on which he had been keeping Einar company and made a hasty departure to one of the distant spruces overlooking the clearing.

Comments from 27 July

Anonymous said...
Can't seem to get logged in to post this so I'll just do it anonymously.
I feel that Liz and Einar have come a long way in the communication lines. Liz has learned and knows in her heart when to speak and when not to. I also feel that Einar will open up when and if he's ever good and ready and Liz is patient.

oh, that was from me FOTH, Unswydd! lol

Hi, Unswydd.
It does seem that Liz has learned more than Einar when it comes to communicating. He tries, but it simply does not come naturally to him to share the things he may be thinking, all the time.

Nancy1340 said...
I've been wondering how they would secure the door to keep critters out.
It would be heartbreaking to come back only to find it ramsacked and all their good food either gone or ruined.

They’ll need to secure it as well as possible with logs, rocks, make it very difficult for anything larger than a mouse to get in, or they might well come home to a disaster…

Hopefully Einar will try to stay warm and eat more, even if Liz has to keep reminding him.

She is in nesting mode right now and needs to know things will be alright for all three of them.

They can’t read each others minds, so each of them should be asking the other, how can I
help you get through this? What can I do to make your life easier?

I guess that would might to work better than each simply wondering silently what they could do to make the other person’s life easier, though each of them is slowly learning through observation, it seems.

27 July, 2011

27 July 2011

Though a bit leery about leaving Einar to his own devices for the night after seeing how cold he’d deliberately allowed himself to become during his earlier nap in the shade, Liz knew that she really did need her sleep ahead of the long day of hiking that most likely awaited them in the morning. As she would be most unlikely, looking at the matter realistically, to be able to prevail on him to give her a turn at watching the smoker so he could get some sleep, she might as well get a full night of it, herself. Better that one of them should be rested than that neither should, but she knew there would be little chance of her getting sleep unless she had done all she could to make sure, at least, that Einar had available to him the means necessary to keep warm and fed throughout his nighttime vigil. What he chose to do with them would be another matter, but at least she would have done her part. To this end she used the remaining daylight to haul the larger of the two bear hides out by the smoking tent--immensely thankful once more that they were now in possession of two such hides-- recreating the spruce needle pallet that had served her well as a bed that past night and placing beside it on a low granite slab several wrapped portions of the special pemmican-type mixture she had made them for traveling food, hoping the ready availability might encourage Einar to eat when he started getting cold. Einar was himself absorbed in peeling more willow and cherry sticks, chopping the peeled shoots into sections of no more than several inches long to increase their chance of burning and smoldering reliably, despite their being so green and wet, and when he glanced up and saw the results of Liz’s work, he met her with a somewhat confused smile.

“You camping out?”

“No, you are. This is so you can stay warm while you’re out here watching the fire. You can wrap up in the bear hide between times checking on it, sit here and work on one of your projects, whatever you need to do. And I made lots of extra pemmican, so I hope you’ll eat some of this I left out here for you, because if you don’t, the bears and coyotes probably will!”

“Bears and coyotes’ll probably eat me, if I end up lying down in that good soft bed you’ve made and going to sleep next to all this food! They’ll start on the pemmican, and just keep on going…”

“I’m not too worried about that. They wouldn’t get past the first bite before they realized they’d made a terrible mistake. Winter’s almost here. They’re looking for things that will help fatten them up…”

“Well,” he growled, “that certainly isn’t me, is it? See? This is a survival strategy, designed to render myself unappetizing to bears and coyotes.”

“Not a very good long term survival strategy, I wouldn’t think, but you ought to make it through the night just fine. If you eat up a good bit of that pemmican I left you.”

“Ha! If…” Probably because you’re gonna do me in with your war club if I don’t, that’s why! But he knew she was right, put one of the carefully wrapped food bricks into his pocket for later use. “Guess we’d better save most of this for tomorrow, and especially considering that we may be away from here for more than a day, if we find elk but have to follow them for a while to get in a good shot. May end up a good distance away before we end up taking one. After that, of course, we’ll be feasting on fresh liver, but these bars will be great until then! Also need to think about how we’re gonna close this place up. Got to do our best to make sure it won’t be an easy target for bears, since it’s sure going to be a tempting one with all the smells that are wafting out of there…” He closed his eyes then, taking in a great breath as if testing those odors himself, which Liz had no doubt he might well be; even with the increased sharpness the pregnancy had brought to her sense of smell--in the early months, certain routine odors of their daily life out there were simply too much, putting her over the edge of nausea--Einar’s remained markedly sharper, especially when he was hungry. Which he definitely looked to be at the moment, despite having participated at least nominally in testing out the supper stew. Finished sampling the plethora of food smells emanating from the open cabin door--sharp tang of dried chokecherries mingling with the light mustiness of dried mullein, yarrow, hound’s tongue, a hint of honey and the faint but distinguishable odors of sheep, deer and bear jerky--Einar shook his head, shivered in the thin and sharpening evening breeze, and continued.

“Figure we’ll hang the smoked meat and a lot of the other large pieces from the cabin, which should keep them pretty safe, and of course a lot of the jerky is still hanging in its baskets, so that’ll leave mainly the fat in the logs that’s somewhat unprotected should something get into the cabin. Well, lots of stuff in there we don’t want a big hungry old bear rifling through, actually. The dried berries, bulbs, medicinal herbs we’ve set aside, the hides…especially the hides…so barring that door needs to be one of our top priorities before we head out tomorrow. Do a good job of that, make it real difficult to tamper with, and I figure we ought to be fine for a few days. Still wouldn’t want to be away for too long and let them get the idea that the place is abandoned, fair game, but for a couple days…no problem.” He had to stop there, the unaccustomedly long speech leaving him fighting for breath, hand and elbow pressed urgently to his side in an barely-successful attempt to mitigate the movement of his ribs and reduce the hurt as he was seized by a fit of uncontrollable coughing that left him pale and wheezing in its wake, wiping the sweat from his forehead with a shaking hand and staring at the ground until the worst of the pain had passed. Liz wanted to help him, did it in the only way she knew how, by keeping on as if nothing was wrong.

“Where are you thinking we should go? Where to start?”

“Up!” He rasped a bit breathlessly, untangling his arms and sitting up a bit straighter. “We need to go up, so when we get our elk, most of the hauling is downhill. I’ll do whatever needs to be done to get us the extra meat and hides, and I know that you will too, but if we can save ourselves a little work, it seems a good idea to do so. Probably end up with a good draw or two to cross, no matter how we do it, but a generally downhill route would be helpful. Was figuring we’d go up to the red ridge, then out along it and take a look down into some of the other basins, see if we can find one where the elk seem to be spending a lot of time, maybe look for a watering hole or at least a place with good grassy meadows that are still giving them some forage, get in as close as we can and wait for our opportunity. Gonna have to watch real carefully for other hunters, too, because we’re probably not the only ones who know where the elk can be found. There’s a good chance that some of them will still be up high, since the snow hasn’t really set in yet and the elk’ll still be up here.”

“I haven’t heard any gunshots recently. Not since that last batch…a week or so ago, wasn’t it?”

“Think so. Nope, me either, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been folks hunting few basins over from us where the terrain would muffle the sound. We’re gonna have to keep a real sharp watch out, maybe avoid fire altogether if we end up doing a night up high where there isn’t much cover. We’ll see.”

Einar had, as he spoke, been arranging the smoking fire, using a mixture of spruce and aspen to get the blaze going and then carefully adding a few peeled willow sticks, his head in the tent as he worked, and when he emerged in another coughing fit from the smoke and the strain of using extra breath to get the fire going, it was to find Liz missing, gone inside, he supposed, to go to bed, but he was too wrapped up in trying to get his breath to wonder much about it for a while.

Comments from 26 July

Kellie said...
you are right, It MIGHT be an injustice to him but Liz (or rather I) do not KNOW it has nothing to do with her, you have penned some of her doubts, like she felt she did something wrong ....right? those are the struggles I talk about. Sometimes it is hard to know WHICH type of struggle he is dealing with because he does not say. I think Liz WOULD speak up more but Einars attitude prevents it because she does not KNOW what he is feeling/thinking..... BTDT

No, I don’t suppose Liz has any way of knowing for certain that Einar’s inability/unwillingness to communicate certain things has nothing to do with her, but I guess that’s the point. It’s almost always a mistake to assume something like that is all about “you,” and to take it personally, yet that’s what people almost always seem to end up doing, and it appears to lead to a lot of misunderstandings. Everyone has their own private struggles in this life, and it might make things go a lot more smoothly between folks sometimes if we could all keep that in mind, and not be so quick to be offended and take things personally. At least, that’s how I see it.

AlaskaSue said...
I keep flashing on The Gift of the Magi. These two love each other so much and think of the other so much, but end up more or less at cross-purposes, though they are actually united in their intent. Liz was happy that Einar stayed inside - not that he left work for her to do. But she's angry he's not working on the other stuff, that he's not allowing himself to get healthy. And he's confused because she (wisely) didn't say anything so thinks she's mad about having to do the work!
I think she'd better lay off the rabbit stick, though Einar always seems to think he deserves it the goofy guy. ;^)

Well, he probably does deserve it, but that’s beside the point…

Yes, they’re each making a huge effort to understand the other, and to make things easier/better for the other, but I guess most times Liz does do a good bit better at it than Einar, ornery old mountain critter that he is.

AlaskaSue said... I just realized again how much I've learned from this entire story - now I will ALWAYS think about my fires, even if right now I don't care about smoke, I want to try to be smokeless to get the skill (thinking of your firehole and rock lid). You never know! Going dip-netting for salmon Saturday, and will give it a try ~

Great! Just choose the driest wood you can find, and without too much pitch or bark, and you should have a good start. These skills are not thing you can develop overnight, so now is definitely the time to practice them--before they’re needed!

Anonymous said...
I'm glad I found you 'over here',... Einar doesn't have a clue (and neither do I) on how his woman thinks... I thinks she'll 'teach' him... hopefully without too much of 'the rabbit stick'...
Great chapter! Thanks.. TheGatherer

Gatherer! Glad you’ve found your way here, too. Welcome!

Yep, I guess Liz is going to have to educate him, one way or another…

26 July, 2011

26 July 2011

As yet another day slipped away towards evening, shadows swallowing the cabin and the alpenglow fading to a sublime shade of peach-purple on the nearby peaks, Liz could not help but think that their existence over the past several days had been a rather pleasant one in many ways--hard work shared together, plenty to eat at mealtimes, the baby active, healthy and noticeably flourishing within her, a good warm secure cabin growing ever more full of stored food for the winter and providing them shelter after their long days of labor….there was little more she could ask of life, really, and she found herself feeling tremendously blessed, complete, except--she watched Einar as he emerged from the cabin, limping out into the clearing and bracing himself against a boulder as he, too, watched the last light fade from the high and wild landscape of peaks and ridges that surrounded them--for the fact that Einar still seemed so lost a good bit of the time, sometimes taking actions that left her unsure whether or not he really wanted to go on living, and she couldn’t help him, because he simply wouldn’t let her get close enough. Wouldn’t even allow her to give him willow tea for the obvious hurt of his ribs, as if he wanted to hurt, believed he needed to do it, and though she had an inkling of what might be behind it all, she wished very much for a greater understanding. Figured, if nothing else, that it might help save him from a number of good whacks in the head with her war club, because she was getting awfully close to resorting to such measures lately, and might still do it if he didn’t shape up in a hurry…

Liz smiled, shook her head and was about to join Einar beside his watching-rock, but paused, looking up just in time to watch Muninn the raven sweep down over the spruce tops and land heavily on his shoulder; it appeared the impact would have knocked him off his feet, had he not been ready for it. The great bird croaked its greeting, picked a bit at Einar’s hair and accepted the little fragment of sheep jerky he pulled out of his pocket for it, sitting, eating and letting out a series of strange, harsh sounds that could from a distance have almost been mistaken for speech before flying off to its perch in the dead fir. It seemed the raven was there to stay.

“Do you think he’ll follow us when we go after elk? Or will he wait here in the evenings for us to come back?”

Einar squinted up at the bird, which appeared to have settled in for the night. “Figure he’ll follow us. Might not if we left while he was away wherever he goes during the days, but if we leave early in the morning, figure he’ll follow. And might come looking, find us even if we do leave while he’s away. They’re pretty sharp critters, these birds.”

“He certainly seems to have taken a liking to you. Doesn’t seem so sure about me, yet.”

“Well maybe he’s seen you in action with that rabbit stick! Sometimes I’m not so sure of you myself, when you’ve got that thing in your hand!”

“You heard me thinking about it, didn’t you?”

“About what?”

“Never mind! Let’s just say you had a near miss with the rabbit stick not too long ago, a very near miss…”

“Guess I’d better watch my back. Back of my head, anyway. What’d I do to earn such consideration? Moving too slowly on the fat rendering, was I? Guess a good whack with that stick now and then might help remind me to pick up the pace, but only if you can keep it just short of scrambling my brain… I need that thing, what’s left of it.”

And I need you! Need you to stick around for me and for this baby and sometimes I get the impression you couldn’t care less whether or not you do that. Einar! How can you not see the irony here! You talk about duty and honor and all that but when it comes to us--your family--I just don’t think you get it. Will you ever get it? Most of these recent injuries you’ve had, the ribs, the ongoing problems with your foot…the frostbite that started all the trouble with the foot, for that matter…have been largely of your own making. Could have been avoided, and should have been, and you probably wouldn’t even know what I was getting at if I told you all of this, would you?

She was angry, wanted to shout, to tell him all of it and pound it into him until he heard her, gave her an answer, but instead she just nodded, allowed that yes, he surely needed what was left of his brain and assured him that she would make her best effort not to scramble it the next time she found it necessary to “apply my rabbit stick to that bullheaded, addlebrained, three inch thick skull of yours. Yes, I’ll be sure and take every bit as much care as you do, in that case! ”

Which level of vitriol baffled Einar a bit as it seemed rather unlike her, but he guessed it must be due at least in part to the natural difficulties and challenges of the advancing pregnancy. Couldn’t be easy to have to carry that extra weight around all the time, getting kicked in the ribs and having one’s lungs restricted and internal organs crowded out of place by an active and growing young Asmundson like that, and he figured he’d better try and do a bit more of her portion of the work whenever possible, even though she’d never complained or asked for such assistance. He didn’t suppose she would; it wouldn’t be like her, which was one of the things he most respected and admired about her. Yes, that must be it. Would explain why she seemed a bit short with him lately, and he resolved to try very hard and do better. He had, after all, left her to handle the slicing and drying of the bear meat nearly single-handedly while he dealt with the injured ribs and moped around the cabin rendering fat…had wanted very much to do more, but she’d kept urging him to stay inside and take it easy, and I can’t do both, now can I? Well, this is difficult one to figure out, but I’ll just have to try and find a way to make it all work.

When he joined Liz in the cabin--she’d left rather abruptly after the comment about caving his skull in with the rabbit stick, and he had thought it wisest not to follow, at the moment--she was quiet, focused on preparing what appeared to be a pack to take elk hunting, and he left her to her work, using the time to assemble a small bag of his own, checking the condition of his atlatl darts and her arrows, and making repairs where necessary. Soon would come the time when he could again start the smoking fire and begin his vigil out in the clearing--had considered, the skies being very quiet that day, starting the smoking sometime in the afternoon, but had decided against it; too much risk of creating a smoke haze that might be easily spotted by any passing plane or nearby hunter, and they could not afford to draw the interest of either--and he worked quickly to finish the hunting preparations, knowing that it would be too dark out by the smoking tent to do much of the finely detailed work necessary to maintaining their weapons. Finally breaking her silence, Liz held out to him a lump of the travel food she had been mixing and packaging into sections of cleaned and dried bear intestine, each tied at the end with a bit of sheep sinew. The stuff was a mixture of melted fat, pounded, powdered sheep jerky and dried serviceberries, a variant of pemmican to which she had added her own touches by including the dried, powdered leaves of nettles, and a bit of honey for sweetness. Einar tried it and, much to Liz’s delight--she was delighted enough, actually, to forgive him for the moment for his earlier obtuseness, though she knew the time would still come when they’d have to talk about it, and considering his general reluctance to address any such thing, she would have to bring it up, as usual--broke off a second taste and ate that, also.

“Never had anything quite like this. You’re getting real creative with the pemmican. Meal in a bar.”

“That was the idea. Glad it works! Thought if I could get everything we’d need into one little packet like this, it would save us time out there while we’re hunting. No need to stop and harvest nettles or violets to throw into the stew, because the packet already contains all that. All we’ve got to do is toss one of the packets into a pot of boiling water for instant stew, or eat it just like this if we’re not having a fire. Here, come on and join me. I plan to test it out for supper tonight, before it gets dark and you have to start the smoking.”

Comments from 25 July

Kellie said...
really some communication needs to be happening more here.... if I was surviving in the wilderness; I would HAVE to have better communication with my partner.

I'm afraid I would not be able to keep my mouth shut as much as Liz has been. And I would feel very worthless if my partner did not trust me enough to TALK with me. Especially about things so very important as "inner struggles".

You’d be doing him a major injustice, I think, by feeling that way. Einar’s inability to share certain things with Liz has nothing to do with her worth, or with any lack of respect for her on his part. In many ways, he trusts her more than he’s ever allowed himself to trust another human being, but that doesn’t mean he’s necessarily going to be able to express to her some of the things that are going on in his mind, or even that he’s going to realize that there may be a need to do so.

Maybe Liz ought to speak up more, though--it would probably be better than resorting to the rabbit stick…

And I think it will lead to even MORE bad times....like I said, possibly placing Liz AND the baby in harm.

Possibly so. :(

Kellie said...
All that said, this means your writing is GREAT!!! Cause you make me FEEL these characters and make me forget they ARE characters (right?? lol)

Right! Fiction, every word of it. But I’m glad they come across as being so real.

Nancy1340 said...
What Kellie said. :-)

Sometimes I catch myself holding my breath.

Don’t hold it for too long…

Thanks for reading!

25 July, 2011

25 July 2011

Fat rendering completed and the hollowed log standing nearly full of the incredibly valuable substance, four finished baskets full cooling in the corner and awaiting the pitch-sealed lids that would make them secure for carrying, hiding and hanging from trees for later retrieval and use, Einar sat back against the wall surveying his work with satisfaction. Adding the newly rendered fat to that from the first bear of the fall, he estimated that they had somewhere over eighty pounds of the stuff secured for the winter, a better start by far than they’d had in previous winters, and a good thing too, with the baby coming. Sorting through a pile of untreated skins, rabbit, mostly, with a few marmot thrown in, he chose two which, together, appeared large enough to cover the hollow log full of fat, soaking them with water from the water barrel and rubbing them together to speed its absorption. As soon as the skins began growing damp and supple, he stretched them tightly over the fat, securing them in place with a wrap of nettle cordage that he took all the way around the outer edge of the log, near the top, As the raw hides dried they would shrink, hopefully forming a secure and somewhat airtight seal over the stored fat. Being the fresher of the two batches, it would be the fat they set aside for use later in the winter, after that from the first bear had been used up. Liz came in then, kneeling beside him and inspecting the finished container.

“Looks like you’ve got this all finished up and ready to stash aside! Wow, I didn’t think you’d be done yet.”

“Probably wouldn’t, if you hadn’t helped hollow this thing out last night. I’d have got it done, eventually, but…” Shook his head and spread his hands, wanting to let her know how he appreciated her help, her knowing when and how to help, stepping in when he could neither quit coughing nor abandon the project that was causing him the trouble, and finishing the coal-burning, but couldn’t find the words. She heard, anyway, understood and gave him a big smile.

“You’re welcome. I like working with you, and we got it done. Now since you’re done how about coming outside for a little lunch, because I’ve got some smoked bear stew waiting? Then Snorri and I are going to lie down for a little while and see about getting a short rest, and we’d really like to have you join us…”

Knowing he faced a second sleepless night of tending the smoking meat, followed by what he hoped would be a long and successful day of hiking in search of elk--ending with a kill, and the subsequent work of tracking, butchering and carrying the animal back to camp--Einar had no doubt that Liz was on the side of wisdom when she urged him to lie down with her for a short midday rest, something in him still stubbornly resisting the idea but common sense winning out, in the end. With one stipulation. He refused to join her in the sunny gap between clusters of aspens, a fine place and a pleasant one to spend a restful hour or two, no doubt, and quite close enough to the smoking tent to hear the approach of any potential scavenger, but he feared beneath the soft, warming rays of the golden aspen-filtered sun he would inevitably fall into a sleep deeper than he wished, and might well, should Liz not wake him, remain thus for far longer than he had intended. Not being one to find such dependence on another particularly acceptable when there were other available choices, he opted to sleep in the deep shade of a snarl of close-growing firs, knowing the chill would prevent his sleep from being either too deep or too long. Liz, of course, thought this a somewhat unnecessary and perhaps even foolish precaution to be taking; though he'd never told her why he chose to avoid the sun, she knew, but refrained from commenting, lest he give up the idea of the nap altogether. Which he might very well have.

Asleep almost instantly despite the ongoing hurt of drawing breath, Einar lay sprawled out in the fir-shade with his spear across his chest and knife within easy reach. Liz, resting only a few feet from him and herself slipping towards sleep as she watched him breathe, found herself reluctant to let go and sleep, also, lest he grow too cold there in the shadows. Which was silly, she told herself knowing she needed the rest nearly as much as he did and finally tiring of keeping watch over someone who very adamantly didn't want to be watched, in the first place, she gave up on the endeavor. He'd eaten; he would be fine, would be awakened by his own shivering before he had time to get into any serious danger, and hopefully at that point she would wake, also, on the chance that he opted not to do anything about it, as some form of test or trial of the sort in which he always seemed to be deliberately engaging. As if life itself--especially the difficult one they were carving out of the ground there in that high, desolate basin--wasn't a great enough trial, most times. She shook her head--I know it’s a mistake to pretend I understand all that’s going on in that head of yours but sometimes I really would like to…it might make things a bit easier for both of us--rolled onto her other side in the hopes of convincing Einar's rather lively child to settle down and stop kicking her so hard in the ribs, and finally allowed sleep to come.

Breeze crisp and chill through the timber, Einar did indeed wake shivering long before he'd got all the rest his body wanted, curling up at first in a half-conscious attempt to conserve warmth but after a time stretching out again in the chill shade and letting the increasingly strong wind flow over him--got no business wasting an opportunity like this--a bit disgruntled at himself for giving up, somewhere along the way, on the daily cold training he'd been intending to do up at the spring. Supposed perhaps his difficulty making it back to the cabin after that first time might have had something to do with his not pressing the issue since, that, and Liz's reaction to his having been gone for so long... Still, he believed the training to be the correct course of action for him just then, helping him keep both mind and body in line and...right. Keeping your body in line, is it? And how is that possible when you can't hardly even breathe half the time? Need to focus on the ribs right now, on getting them to heal to where they won't be a constant threat and aggravation to you with every move you make...until then, everything else really ought to be given second priority, don't you think? Which he did, to a certain extent at least, but doubted the thinking would be enough to keep him from hearing the call of that spring, and going, just as soon as he was able. After the elk. Got too much to do, until that's been taken care of. Just don’t have the time to spare. Will have to take advantage of little opportunities like this one, if I want to work on my training.

With which he rolled over--away from the patches of sunlight that were beginning to angle their way in beneath his shadowy resting spot, falling in golden serenity across Liz’s slumbering form and highlighting the wisps of hair that had worked their way out of her braid, turning them to a wreath of shimmering brown-gold around her face--and tried his best to go back to sleep. If he couldn’t spend his hour in the spring that day, at least he could nap in the shade, take advantage of the cool ground and the increasing strength of the wind. Wasn’t working, not with the wind whispering so icily through his single layer of clothing and each shiver feeling as though it must be tearing something in his side, which, he told himself, it probably was, the entire exercise seeming suddenly a ridiculous waste of the energy he knew he ought to be directing wholly towards healing. Ought to crawl out there in the sun and get some real sleep, as it would be a lot more productive than continuing to freeze yourself. And he was about to do it, too--longed for the deep, restful sleep that he knew would come out there in the sun--but didn’t get very far.

A lie, something told him, you know that’s all a lie, an excuse, just your weakness speaking, here, trying to talk you out of doing what you know you need to do, get you to take the easy path, and you’ve got to resist it, got to, or you’re not gonna make it, none of you are…you give in on one little thing, just the smallest thing, and it all falls apart, it’s all over…and he crossed his arms over the back of his head, pressed himself into the ground until he could hardly breathe, wishing desperately that he might find a way to shut out both of those voices for a while, wanting only to be left alone, and to sleep. Which--the argument starting up all over again, round and round in circles, he couldn’t get it to stop, no matter how he tried--he knew was not the best plan just then, not as cold as he had already become.

Liz found him when she woke later, curled around the trunk of a fir as if he’d been bound and determined to make certain he didn’t move from that spot in his sleep--which he hadn’t--trembling with cold and clearly in a good bit of pain, though somehow managing to sleep through it. Shaking her head she set aside the knife and spear which were still within easy reach there beside him, worked to free his claw-handed, locked-armed grip on the tree, meaning to roll him out into the sun where he could begin warming. Einar woke halfway through the process, freed himself from Liz’s insistent grasp and sat up, a fierce grin gradually replacing the pained grimace that had appeared fixed on his face, the realization that he had once again held out against great temptation more than compensating for the tearing, searing hurt in his side, for the fact that he found himself very nearly too cold and stiff to move. He had, once again, contended with his greatest foe on a most basic level, and had won. An interpretation of events to which Liz would have taken great exception, had he bothered to spell it out it to her.

“You get…any sleep?” He inquired, nodding in the direction of her sunny little clearing.

“Oh yes, I sure did. That was just what little Snorri and I needed, once he settled down and allowed both of us to rest. He sure is active lately! How about you? How was your…nap, if I even need to ask?”

Good. It was real good. Just what I needed, too. Just the thing.”

Which for reasons Einar could not begin to fathom left Liz near tears and turning away to prevent his seeing it, hastily busying herself with neatening up the stack of willow and cherry chunks beside the smoking tent.

Comments from 24 July

Anonymous said...
I hear about people using a skid to drag stuff.. (two poles about 28 inches apart, with a plat of sorts in between - one end is carried) (can't think of the right name sorry).

In that terrain I don't think it would be useful tho. Here in Kentucky the tail end skids right over many obstructions (deadfalls, etc..), and is NOT prone to sliding backwards (which is useful!).

Of course, if they had time to whittle a couple of 6" wheels - now that might start to help some.

What's a typical degree of incline there anyway (that they cut routes on)?
My hunting terrain (a river valley) varies from 20-40 degrees incline typically, with some places being maybe 60. That's all I travel anyway.


Slopes up there will vary from 30-65 and even steeper, but by picking their routes carefully, they can usually keep off the especially steep stuff. Still, the skid would tend to be more trouble than it’s worth because of the trouble you mentioned with deadfalls and other obstructions. Not even wheels would overcome that difficulty.

Kellie said…
question for anyone: you are in a plane crash in the wilderness and only grab one thing (not a BOB) as you escape the plane about to blow up.... what would it be?

and think about how much knowledge you need to have to use it to its most advantage
Nancy1340 said...

A gun will run out of ammo but a knife will let you make shelters, weapons, tools and containers.

That is a good choice, with a tarp/sheet of plastic of some sort being a very close second, because the weather can kill you pretty quickly depending on the circumstances, and shelter from it can be a very high priority.

Anonymous said...
WOW ! I was so depressed thinking I would not be able to continue this great story. Just found this link today. Bless you FOTH !

Does Kathy have a link to her stories and could it be provided?

Keep up the good work!

Hi--not sure who you are, but glad you found the story here! Please feel free to read and join in on the discussion.

I believe links to Kathy’s stories can be found here:


24 July, 2011

24 July 2011

No chapter today, but I'll be back with another tomorrow.

Thank you all so much for reading, and for contributing to the discussion with your comments!

Comments from 23 July

Kellie said...
ok, thinking about packing an elk or two (or whatever) back to the cabin: they have hacked and hauled, strung up on a pole, and I believe drug down hill....? And made a camp and dried it -there. What other way could they get a bunch of meat and fur back without too much stress on Einar or Liz and their bodies? A travois (sp?) may not do well through the woods and I think they thought about that before. too bad they could not float it!

If snow was already on the ground, it would be somewhat easier to drag/skid the critter back to camp whole, but it’s not, yet, and once it is, the critters will mostly have gone down lower…

They can’t really afford to leave the cabin right now for long enough to make camp and dry the meat--bears are on the prowl looking for a few last big meals, and might get too bold if they don’t smell humans around for a few days.

Looks like they’re probably going to be carrying it back the old fashioned way, on their backs, but if anyone has alternative, please let us know!

colspt said...
How long is it going to take for Einar's ribs to heal? I know they need another elk but it sounds like good news and bad news. Food and skins to survive with and half dead getting it. I also really like the addition of the raven. They better hope he doesn't learn to talk.

With several ribs broken in more than one place as seems to have happened to him, and the ribs being in constant motion because of breathing, I’m guessing it will probably take somewhere upwards of 6-8 weeks (if this timeline doesn’t sound right to anyone, please share your knowledge with us) before they will have finished knitting back together, maybe longer because of his going for so long without enough to eat.

They don’t have that kind of time. The snow will be there by the end of it, if not before. He’s just going to have to wrap his ribs when doing the heavier work, take as much care as he can and make sure he gets good deep breaths whenever he’s able, to hopefully prevent pneumonia from setting in. It won’t be an easy time.

Kathy/LADY KAYDEE said...
Things went well at the BOL... got the dining room flooring down, finished sheet rocking the living room and picked enough figs for two batches of jam. Yum!

Good to see Einar has an appetite again, that’s a start.
His ribs could use some more healing before he goes hunting again.
“Wiley” Coyote may come back for the food.
That skinny, mangy, one eyed critter could make them stay home a while to guard the larder.
My, their food stores have come a long way…
No more tangy “Bear Belly Barf” stuff or “Bear Bowel Blood Sausage”

Hey now, Einar actually likes that stuff! He wasn’t just making it because they didn’t have anything else to eat...

Really though, all culinary preferences aside, only by using every part--or pretty close to it--of the animals that are their prey can Einar and Liz hope to achieve balanced nutrition on the sort of largely meat diet their circumstances often leave them eating.

Glad things went well at your BOL. Figs--yum! Much as I love these mountains, I wouldn’t mind being able to grow things like figs…

Anonymous said...
That raven, while being a great alarm system on the ground can be a sun catcher from things above. Those gloss black feather really reflect the light if the angle is right. The reflection might be enough to get a plane to take a closer look.

Ravens, crows and blackbirds also have the ability to "talk" like parrots do. Liz and Einar might want to watch what they say, especially using names.

Yep, not a good thing to have a bird sailing past the ears of search teams on the ground croaking Einar’s name…

As for the bird being a sun catcher, yes, they’re pretty reflective, but he’s certainly not the only raven in the area, and would almost certainly be discounted as an item of interest by observers from the air. Unless, of course, his presence happened to draw their eye to an area that they might otherwise have overlooked where there was a trail, cut trees or some other telltale sign of human presence… Or if he ends up hanging around the cabin through the winter, which would definitely be unusual. They will have to be careful.

23 July, 2011

23 July 2011

Slicing a good large portion of smoked meat for their breakfast--had to be sure to have more than a few bites each to test, she figured, or the test could hardly be considered valid--Liz set it to sizzle and cook on two hot, flat granite slabs she had been heating by the fire, a most wonderful odor of smoked meat soon filling the air around the cabin and pulling Einar away from his fat rendering work to investigate. Having boiled nearly all of their meat for the past several years in order to take best advantage of its nutrients and avoid losing any of the juice, as tended to happen with roasting over a fire, the smoked and rock-fried slabs of bear proved to be a very welcome change, the combination of willow and cherry smoke giving the meat a sweet, tangy flavor unlike anything either of them had tasted in recent memory. Einar, though greatly enjoying the treat as he savored tiny bites of it and tried his hardest to avoid giving in to his suddenly ravenous hunger and gobbling the entire piece in two bites, could tell that another night of smoking was in order. The smoke had not yet reached quite as deeply into the meat as he knew would be ideal for preserving it into the winter.

Soon such things would not be of any concern to them, as the nights would be freezing and days not far behind, flies gone for the winter and any meat they hung outside would be effectively refrigerated, and then, not too long after, frozen solid all day long. Then, ground buried beneath feet of snow and temperatures not infrequently falling well far below zero when the sun disappeared for the evening, they would find themselves struggling to carve frozen meat from their winter's supply with freshly sharpened knives, the stuff having taken on a texture somewhere between hard plastic and solid stone, hurrying it into the welcome warmth of the cabin to thaw in boiling water on the stove. A fine way to spend the winter, if one has enough fuel for the fire and an ample supply of food to keep one warm internally, as well. They were not doing too badly as far as that food supply was concerned, having set aside a good quantity of dried spring beauty and avalanche lily roots, serviceberries, chokecherries, and the dried meat of deer, sheep, bear and rabbit, but could certainly use more. And would soon have it, if their upcoming elk hunt was blessed with success, but that hunt could not be embarked upon until the fat had been taken care of, meat smoked and securely stowed away. Time to get back to work.

With the day continuing, fortunately, aircraft-free, Einar made quick progress on the fat rendering, several slowly cooling batches soon covering the bottom surface of the newly prepared log and another heating on the stove. He was pleased with the container, its interior walls having turned out quite smooth and almost reflective now that they were coated with a layer of melted bear fat; not particularly portable, but certainly a good addition, once full, to the food stores in the cabin. Between them they had put together and pitch coated four baskets, too, which would be filled with fat for caching and for carrying if they had had to make a hasty departure from the cabin. Hope not. Not after all this work, all this preparation. But he knew their freedom was only as secure as their willingness to drop everything and move on at a moment's notice, knew complacency to be a far more dangerous enemy than either their human pursuers or the seasonal pressures of hunger and cold and scarcity that would forever be a part of their lives out there, if a manageable one, and he knew also that complacency tended to flourish on the very bounty and ease they were working so hard to secure for themselves. They'd have to work equally diligently to prevent themselves falling into its grasp and thus making the one error that might prove to be their last.

Not that you’re in too much danger of becoming complacent at the moment, Einar, not when you're having to work so hard just to breathe. Exhausted and clumsy, maybe, but not complacent. This breathing trouble’s got you antsy as a penned-up coyote all the time and jumping at every little sound just because you know you can't run real fast if you need to, or something like that. Be glad when it starts getting better, quits hurting so doggone bad all the time that it’s hard to think about much else, but for the moment, at least it’s definitely keeping you from getting complacent. Keeping you from getting things done as quickly as you ought to be able, also, and that's really got to end. Ought to be able to pick up the pace, here, at least with this stuff that involves practically no movement, except with your hands. Was hard work carving out the log and then last night with the coal burning...well, guess it's a good thing Liz stepped in when she did and shoved you aside, or you’d have been passing out in the coals pretty quickly. Just not getting enough air in the first place to spare so much of it on a job like that. But, the job is done. And the ribs will heal. Eventually.

The most recent batch of bear fat finished melting and rendering it down he ladled it off the top of the hot water, pouring spoon after spoon of it into the storage log and pausing once to nibble on one of the bits of membrane--would have been a crackling, had they not been using the water method of rendering--that remained behind. Chewy, and quite good. Supposed he was awfully hungry, come to think of it, despite the good breakfast, but the smoked meat had not set particularly well with him, had left his stomach tied in knots and he knew that while the trouble was largely due to the ongoing hurt his ribs brought him every time he took a breath, the fact that he had subsisted on so little for such a long time was not helping, either. His body just didn't know what to do with reasonably sized meals, anymore. Well. It would learn, again. If he ever allowed it to do so. Wasn’t so sure that he could. Or would. Complicated matter, and not one he particularly wanted to think about in any great depth at the moment, but it was reality for him just then. Better not let Liz hear you thinking things like that, or she'll knock you in the head with her war club and tie you up inside until you change your ways. She was joking about that I’m pretty sure when she threatened to do it earlier, but that doesn’t mean she wouldn't like to do something of the sort. So. Try another of the cracklings, how about? Can’t hurt... Which he did, glancing up with a start the next moment at the realization that he’d heard something behind him, that something turning out to be Liz standing in the door with a pot of bear broth--made from bits of smoked meat; he could tell from the smell--as if she’d heard his thoughts from all the way outside, and come in to do something about it. Only she didn’t have that war club in her hand, so he relaxed the reflexive grip he’d got on his knife at the startlement of her sudden presence.

“Look at all that fat you’ve got done! How many more batches do you think it will take?”

“Five or six it’s looking like, though if I could borrow that third pot of yours, it’d go a bit more quickly…”

“You’re welcome to borrow it, but first you’ll have to help me finish up this broth so it’s empty. Here. I’ve had mine already, this is all yours.” And she pressed the pot into his hands, standing unnecessarily close--as far as he was concerned--as he finished it. Feeling a bit trapped all of a sudden Einar took a quick step back and dipped an inch or so of water into the pot, filling its remaining space with chunks of marbled white bearfat for melting and rendering. Five or six more batches--two hours’ worth of work, at his current rate--and he’d be done, baskets and hollow log filled with clean, rendered fat for the winter and nothing standing between them and their elk hunt other than one more night of smoking for the meat. And, of course, the time it would take them to hang the smoked meat and secure the cabin against raids by hungry bears and other fall-frenzied creatures looking for a free meal. It was appearing that they ought to be ready to set out no later than sometime the following morning, if nothing else managed to get in their way.

Comments from 22 July

Kellie said...
It seems that their trap line has not been worked in awhile, is it just me? or did I miss them removing it? And if they did, is it not time to put it out again? Liz seemed to do well checking it. I know they will be going after some elk in a day or two (only one if Einar has his way, I'm sure, lol). But after they get back with their elk and sheep...lol! dreaming aren't I? And it's almost time for acorns too. wow, still so much to do and not a lot of time: but they must make that nice stone cache soon! thanks!

They’ve let the trapline go since getting this latest bear and Einar hurting his ribs--just haven’t had any time to get out there, but that will change as soon as they’ve finished processing this meat, and hopefully returned with an elk or two! It’s getting into the season when there will be good fur again on the martens and ermines that will prove very useful to them, as well as the meat.

Yes, it’s almost acorn time down in the valley, if they’re going after them. Einar may be reluctant to do it because of the greater chance for human contact down in those valleys (it’s still hunting season…) but two backpacks full of acorns would certainly add some good protein and fat to their winter food supply.

Nancy1340 said...
Well it looks like Muninn’s going to be handy to have around.

I like this twist very much.

Yes, it seems he will be a good addition to the family.

Kathy/LADY KAYDEE said...
All caught up. Great chapters as always.
Love the pet raven. Now if Einar will eat
more than the bird and quit "SKINNY" dipping, he might make it. LOL

Glad you’re all caught up! Hope things went well with your week at your BOL.
Yes, I guess Einar really ought to be trying to eat more than the raven does, but as far as the… cold training…as he calls it, Liz may be hard pressed to talk him out of continuing with it, even before he does manage to gain a little weight.

Russell H Whyte said...
Great job, as always :-)

Curious how they're going to bag an elk given Einar's current condition.

Also worried since we haven't heard anything about those feebees in a while - what sort of troubles are they conjuring up now?


Feds are probably working on their plan for the fall and winter--increased surveillance hoping to pick up tracks in the snow and other signs of human presence, night flights with infrared cameras, perhaps even trying to hire hunters to be on the lookout for anything “suspicious…”

Glad you found the story here, Russ!

As for how they're going to take the elk...Einar would have a difficult time using a bow right now, I think, but he should do alright with the atlatl, and Liz has become pretty proficient with the bow. Packing it back to the cabin is going to be another matter. I guess Einar thinks he's going to carry half of it...

22 July, 2011

22 July 2011

Camp quiet during the early morning hours after Einar and Liz sank into their exhausted sleep beside the smoking tent, a coyote slunk through the timber beside the cabin, ribs showing, fur patchy and not as thick as it ought to have been considering time of year, made bold by hunger and the coming of winter and encouraged in its boldness by the hush that had fallen over the clearing, human scent still strong but no one stirring. Tempted by the smell of all that fresh, partially smoked bear meat the wary creature--head cocked strangely to one side, for he had that summer lost the sight in one eye due to an unfortunate run-in with a downed spruce--edged towards the tent of skins, beneath which the fire had all but died, emitting only the occasional faint wisp of sweet, willow-scented smoke. Not enough to deter a hungry coyote from poking his nose in under the tent and doing his best to make off with some of that meat. Fortunately for Einar and Liz, the hapless coyote was even then under surveillance, and the next moment the raven dived at him, leaving his fir-perch at great speed and making quite an intimidating spectacle as he closed with the coyote, a sight lost on the sleeping pair beneath the bear hide, but certainly not on the wiry little canine.

Einar was wide awake in an instant at the harsh, excited scolding of the raven, wanting to jump to his feet but holding himself rigidly still for a fraction of a second until he could get some sense of the situation--not a good one; they’d gone to sleep right out there in the open near the edge of the clearing, and would be clearly visible to anyone who might be watching the area, had no quick cover to dart behind, and nearby only the flimsy concealment of the smoking tent--and holding Liz still, too, and then he was moving, knife in one hand and Liz’s arm in the other as he hurried her into the timber, got her behind him and looked back just in time to see the coyote fleeing up into the rocks behind the cabin, raven still hot on its tail, scolding and diving and making a general nuisance of himself. Einar’s action-readiness dissolved then into a relieved conglomeration of laughter and coughing, Liz holding him, leading him back to the bear hide as he struggled for breath. Inside its tent the smoking meat remained intact; the coyote had not been given the opportunity to enter. Einar put away his knife, worked to slow his breathing so he could get out a few words.

“Quite a start to the…morning, that was! Glad it was…coyote, and not bear!”

“Yes, me too. I didn’t really intend for both of us to go to sleep, but guess we must have been pretty tired, after that night…”

“Yeah, tired enough to sleep right through pretty nearly having the place raided by a mangy old one-eyed coyote, it looks like. One more good reason to sleep cold if you’re gonna sleep at all, nights like this when you’ve got to keep both ears and one eye open. Should have just curled up directly on the ground if I had to go and sleep, and I’d have been a lot more inclined to wake real easily and…”

“You almost certainly would have been waking up dead this morning if you’d have insisted on sleeping that cold. Look at you. You can’t stop shaking as is, and you’ve only been out from under the bear hide for a few minutes.”

“Nah, it would have been fine. You wouldn’t have let me wake up dead. You’d have kicked me over to the fire and poured some more of that bear broth down me before I could do that.”

“Doggone right I would have! And locked you in the cabin for the rest of the day, too, all tied up in the hide so you couldn’t freeze yourself, and maybe left you that way for the following night, too. And I may still do it. But if you were alone, I mean. You’d not have made it through the night sleeping out on the ground like that, not as frosty as everything is this morning…”

“Well in that case, it wouldn’t have mattered too much about my losing the bear meat to the coyote in the first place, now would it have?”

“You’re impossible! Maybe I’d just better go ahead and lock you in there today, for good measure…”

“You’d better not.”

“I wouldn’t dare!”

Having tired, apparently, of harassing the fleeing coyote, the raven returned, landing on the arm that Einar held outstretched for it. “Good job there, critter,” he addressed the bird, rising and reaching inside the smoking tent, cutting a good sized strip of meat from one of the hanging sections. “Guess it’s a good thing one of us was awake, isn’t it? Here. Have a bite of this bear meat you saved for us. Pretty good, huh? Well, you earned it. Looks like I will have to call you Muninn, if you insist on staying.”

Moving slowly so as not to frighten the bird, Liz offered it a second piece of bear. “Why Muninn? That’s a strange name. What does it mean?”

“Muninn,” Einar replied, standing again and launching the large bird up into the air with a flick of his arm, “is one of the two ravens in Norse mythology who spent the days flying out over the earth gathering news to bring back to Odin in the evening, among other things. The name translates roughly to mean ‘memory,’ and he was a messenger, too. This guy is just a confused bird that seems to have taken a liking to our camp for some reason, but I figure if he’s gonna stick around, we need to call him something…”

“Yes, I guess we do, assuming you’re not going to decide to turn him into supper, one of these nights. I’d just as soon he not have a name, if that’s going to happen.”

“Nope, Muninn’s not gonna be supper. He just earned the right not to be supper--for a good long while at least--by keeping that coyote from making off with a ten pound chunk of smoked bear. That would have been a big loss, especially after all the work we’ve gone to smoking the stuff. Guess we’d better test it, by the way. See whether or not it’s had enough time in the smoke yet.”

“We can’t eat it raw though, can we, not even smoked?”

“Not bear. Too much risk of trichinosis. Bear is one that just has to be cooked. Want to fry us some up on a rock? Don’t seem to be any planes around this morning, and I need to get busy rendering fat to fill that log we finished last night, so I’ll get the fire going again…”

Liz of course very much wanted to fry them up some of the smoked meat, being quite hungry herself and anxious to see how the smoke might have altered its flavor, and finding Einar’s apparent enthusiasm for the meal rather encouraging. Perhaps he would manage to eat a good bit of it, himself, to help fuel what was bound to be a very busy day as they took care of the rest of the fat and meat, and prepared to go after the elk they had both agreed they needed before the snow set in for good.

Comments from 21 July

I hope she goes ahead with a "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" moment and Einar sees the logic of strengthening himself. :)

-Captain Caveman

She may need to sit down with the rabbit stick and have a very serious discussion with him, sometime in the near future…

Anonymous said...
you know, I feel odd asking this, because I ~should~ KNOW the answer.... If Liz were to give Einar Mouth to Mouth CPR, while he was in one of the tinge of Blue under the finger nails, etc... but he was Aware, not unconscious, would that help him in the breathing? Am I making sense, or is it my imagination, that she could actually assist him by inflating his lungs, carefully, of course....

who accepts the blogging limitations, because he is so happy (view the happy feet icon here) to read Mountain Refuge!

Philip, yes, it ought to be helpful for Liz to give Einar rescue breaths when he isn’t getting enough oxygen, since his main problem with oxygen right now is related to the fact that his breaths are frequently too fast and shallow to give him adequate air, because of the rib injury.

In an emergency/field situation, conscious patients who are struggling to get enough oxygen can be bagged (with a bag-valve mask) to help them get better oxygenation by adding a little pressure each time they take a breath, which can help them slow their breathing rate and start to do better with getting enough oxygen. A person can even do this on themselves if alert and willing, and it actually works better that way because there is no confusion about when they are about to take a breath…

Einar would have to be willing to cooperate, of course, for this to help him, and that might be the difficult part, as it can be difficult for a person to recognize when they aren’t getting enough oxygen, and he might be resistant.

Thanks for accepting the blogging limitations, by the way.

I’m still working on a solution to them .

Thanks for reading!

21 July, 2011


AlaskaSue said...
I love the Raven hanging out there with Einar ...some of the coolest birds even if they are scavengers. They are very smart and so fun to watch them play!
Thank you for an upbeat and good chapter, looks like Einar's going to be able to accomplish a lot yet keep fairly still, 'cept for working that bear fat log - Sounds like a good plan.

They sure are smart, and very inquisitive, too. I’ve more than once had them come and check me out while I was walking along on a high, desolate ridge, flying along just slightly ahead of me as if they wanted to see what I was, and where I was headed.

Nancy1340 said...
I'm sure if I knew more about Indina folk lore the raven's actions would be clearer. I very much like the raven touch.

Well, Einar is really more Norse by heritage than he is Indian/Native American…

Kellie said...
Love the idea; so here are my comments and thoughts. Putting myself in Einar's position: there are times he does have the thought surface and he doubts he is doing the right thing (aka: starving himself and pushing himself too hard) but then he will squash that idea. I do not think he feels it is necessary. It's like "yes I am hurt and half starved but let me see just how far I can be hurt and not eat and STILL do extreme things to my body".

I guess that may be exactly what he is doing, and if he could understand exactly why, maybe he could stop doing it and focus completely on Liz and the baby, as he ought to be right now.

He must realize that he would be a much more effective predator if he was in better shape, physically, but that realization hasn’t so far been enough to overcome whatever it is making him want to carry on the way he is.

And yes, you were making sense. Thanks, Kellie.

Anonymous said...
One of the things I've been shown, is that if someone doesn't take enough care of themselves to keep going well they risk taking the whole team down with them.

Einar should be thinking about that.

FoTH, btw, I tried a few times to sign up for the blog but it gives me fits. gmail. gah.

-Captain Caveman

Hope you can get it figured out. I haven’t tried it myself, but am wondering if that “join this site” button under the “followers” section might work?

And yes, Einar should be thinking about his place on their “team.”

AlaskaSue said...
I miss the flexibility of forum posting but you seem to have hit on a good compromise for your blog. I like how you did this for comment and reply. Thank you!

Thanks, we’ll try it for a while and see how it works out!