I’m watching a show about a family that lives in the Alaska wilderness. They shoot caribou on the tundra, skin them on the spot, and have dinner, each person with a big bone in their hand, gnawing. The next morning they go searching for sea gull eggs. It was in between the egg hunt and the dad making some kind of fish catcher with a giant branch that he bent in a circle and was then going to weave something, not sure what since it is the tundra after all, to make a net-like instrument that my husband turned to me and said, “I’d trade this (looking around our living room) for that life, wouldn’t you?”
Another guy on the show, living in another part of Alaska, just built his own sweat lodge, again out of those handy bendable branches and then he put pine boughs on the bottom to sit on, naked, and lit his little stove and apparently sweated enough to run out of the sweat lodge with the TV people blurring his ass as he ran into the part of the lake in front of his cabin where the ice has started to break up. When asked, my husband says he doesn’t not want this man’s life because “he’s by himself.” “I don’t want to be by myself in the middle of nowhere.”
There is a chick named Sue who lives by herself in the way high up Arctic Circle. She wears a hat that has little animal ears, like a kid at a playground would wear, and smokes a lot. Sue has major ornery balls. She just shot a caribou and is, this very minute, slicing it up in between drags on her cigarette. I’m sorry. I can’t fucking imagine. My dad used to make me clean the fish I caught and it was just the most gruesome and foul thing on earth. How does a person graduate from a blue gill to a giant, furry animal with hooves? Sue talked to the dead caribou first, some kind of survival of the fittest simpatico thing. Creepy.
This morning, not wanting to set my husband’s day on a downward course (which is almost impossible to do if there’s football on TV), but still thinking that it was something we should discuss, I asked him, “What would be the first things I should do if you dropped dead right this minute?” He looked at me for a quick minute and went back to reading the sports page, murmuring something about it not being a very cheerful topic.
A few hours later, after I’d gone on to other worries like getting my pie done before I had to put the turkey in, he came into the kitchen and told me what I should do. Here’s what you should do first, call this person, and then make sure you do this, and don’t forget these things. All of it was about making sure our money was in order, our caribou. It was sort of like if we get split up in the blizzard, here’s your beef jerky and a box of matches.
I’ve been holding him back. I see that now. We should be sitting, naked, on pine boughs, not lounging around on leather sofas like spoiled, soft, ineffectual city slickers. It’s my fault he hasn’t led the life he wanted. It’s taken years and many episodes of Life Below Zero for me to get to this realization.