Rat race fatigue got you down? Maybe the demands and expectations of what life was supposed to be have paved over those empty lots in your mind you once explored with abandon and zeal. Sometimes something new is needed to break out of this funk. And, as if on queue, a clarion cry echoes through your mind’s mountains and canyons: there’s gold in them thar hills! Creative gold, the kind that stimulates plucky fingertips to type with reckless joy.
And wham, the rush is on. Anything’s possible in this new frontier of excitement. Be it a new book, a new documentary, or a new AU course, the frenetic pace of action stimulated by new intellectual inputs leads to a sense that somewhere, somehow, at any moment and in any place, you’re about to strike it rich. Just keep digging; keep typing!
Such must have been the mindset of legions of gold prospectors as they descended on Dawson City, Yukon, following the discovery of gold in August of 1896. Joy would have continued into September and October until the frost brought a bitter reality to the passing nature of anticipated triumph. The original triumvirate of intrepid fortune-seekers were aptly named (could Disney do better?) George Carmack, Dawson Charlie and Skookum Jim. Shortly after, almost 100 000 people, all clamouring for riches, thronged over and across the Klondike gold fields (https://dawsoncity.ca/event/discovery-days/) . To newcomer eyes the virginal landscape must have seemed at once daunting, barren, and silent. We, too, at AU may, in honour of this climax of Canada’s archetypal rush to riches, recall that epochal moment when, with daring temerity, we struck out to further our education through Athabasca University.
Yukon: Not a ‘The’, A Place of Pure Potential
Yukon is one of those regions that you hope to land on while playing spin the globe with friends. For those non-initiates: spin the globe involves closing ones eyes and extending one’s index finger onto the spinning surface of a globe. It can’t be a Google Earth touch screen either!. When the globe stops spinning you will, beside feeling a faint burning friction upon your digit, have arrived at the spot on our planet that You Will Travel To Next. Even with eyes closed the players do have some control over where they land—depending upon geometric method in terms of the finger’s interaction with a sphere we can somewhat aim for the poles or any meridian between. Thus, Yukon and Antarctica are each eminently doable. Personally, I’d pick gold over penguinsm, although the latter certainly would be worth a visit. In any case, the mystery of wide open silent expanses yields a natural intrigue. Back in the waning 1800s, the Klondike must have seemed even more remote and mysterious than it does today. It’s no longer preceded by the term ‘the’; it’s awesomeness stands alone.
Facts and Figures; The Gold in the Details
There’s more to Yukon than one Gold Rush, though. Like any person, place, or thing we have only to look at it closely to acquire new and interesting tidbits of interest. (http://www.gov.yk.ca/aboutyukon/history.html)
10 to 25 000 years ago there were “woolly mammoth, Yukon wild horse, steppe bison, scimitar cat and saiga antelope” roaming its land.
In the early 1800s Tlingit fur traders, “acting as middlemen for Russian traders, began trading with interior Athabaskans” That’s a neat Athabasca link right there; but wait, there’s more! By 1852 the Tlingit were so adept at managing their input/export portfolios that they decided to “run the Hudson’s Bay Company traders out; the latter were forced to abandon Fort Selkirk. Today Yukon has 333 fur trapping concessions; about half of these are owned by indigenous persons.
Mysteries Anew, Progress Aplenty
Whatever else those miners discovered, they certainly experienced a new life and landscape. And experience, unlike riches or a cushy job in a prison of a cube farm, are things you can take with you wherever you go. The key is to overcome the tendency to drive forward, ever onward, in search of that next fantasy nugget or that more impossible posture. Sometimes we can get bogged down in our studies and need to give them room to breathe; even the most enjoyable course can descend into mentally-exhausting chaos, for a time. To this end, Deleuze and Guattari remind us to disconnect from our impetuous search for pure answers as we memorize and concatenate our course information: “interpretation is carried to infinity and never encounters anything to interpret that is not already itself an interpretation” (Deleuze & Guattari, P. 114). Just by speaking we enter into discourse and rupture our flow of thought; sometimes silence really does speak volumes and that translates into good essays.
The Yukon’s mystery and potential echoes the excitement we likely felt as we embarked on our AU journey. Anything was possible; not only monetary gain and career advancement but also personal improvement, as we embarked on the academic adventure of a lifetime. After all, most of what makes us who we are happens in our minds; the input of new stimuli yields vertiginous results at the level of self and imagination. Yet unlike us at AU, whose intrepid efforts lead us to the apex of our goals, most of those gold prospectors ended up broke. They straggled home with their tails between their legs. There were only so many mother lodes to go around, after all, and in the silence that followed the city of Dawson fell from its status as the largest Canadian settlement west of Winnipeg to that of a small tourist attraction. Silence followed the rush and this too is how our studies progress; we can crow enthusiastic about what we are about to do, being newly enrolled at AU, but when the metaphoric boots hit the gravel our labour becomes a tedious and silent investment of time and mind. But the Yukon and AU remain similar; each suggests a process of discovery leading to a better life.
Deleuze, G. & Guattari F. (1987). ‘587 B.C.-A.D. 70: On Several Regimes of Signs’. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
‘Discovery Day Celebrations’. (2019). Dawson City: Klondike Visitors Association. Retrieved from https://dawsoncity.ca/discover-dawson/klondike-gold-rush/