This was us, stuck on a bus in Denali National Park eight years ago. The steep, winding Polychrome Mountain road had washed out. We waited for five hours inside the old, dusty uniform green bus as sludgy mud was plowed off the one-lane gravel road. We played card games and napped. We took short walks in the cold drizzle. But mostly we sat side-by-side inside the park service vehicle because earlier in the day, a near miss with an enormous carnivore had reminded us that we were in extremely wild terrain. Anything could happen at any moment. On that one day, it had rained, hailed, and snowed. A shaggy, brown grizzly headed towards our path as we hiked. And now we were trapped in a bus because of a landslide.
I love this memory. Marred by mishap and high heartrates but untainted by cancer. It would be eleven months before Ewan would be diagnosed with leukemia. Another twenty months later he’d die. In this memory, I am no less stessed than most days. I am wondering if we have enough water and snacks to last us until the road is repaired. Will we be warm enough if we are trapped on the bus through the night? In the back of my mind, I am worried about our cat back home. The anxiety-provoking list is endless, but the threat of cancer doesn’t make the cut.
While we were in the great Alaskan wilderness, our black cat took an adventure of her own and clawed her way near the top of an eighty-foot Pinus Sylvestris( Scots pine) tree.
The neighbors heard her cries all through the night. They called and texted, but we didn’t have cell phone reception. Three days passed. On the morning before Ewan and I got trapped by a mudslide, for a brief window, my phone worked. Inundated by the neighbors’ increasingly frantic messages, I returned their voice messages immediately. In that phone-working window we came up with a plan for the cat’s rescue. On my behalf, they reached out to two former lumberjacks who rescued cats stuck in trees. From my shivering seat on the bus, I didn’t know it yet, but Canopy Cat Rescue…