and they are among the few real heroes I have. Mushers are REAL people, as down to earth and friendly and helpful and kind hearted a group of people as you will ever meet, most of them. I like a person who had dog hair on his or her coat and is unapologetic for it. And, when you've followed mushing as long as I have, and read all the bios and stats and everything else you can find on them, and follow all their races, either in person or online, those people become real to you, as well, You feel like you "know" them, even when you've never actually met them. It's a community of people I would be proud to be a part of, if that were possible.
I read this quote on that same Facebook page today - "Hope never abandons you; you abandon it" (George Weinberg) and it helped. I realized that I MUST keep hope alive. If I were in her shoes, would I want everyone to just give up after a certain number of days had passed? Of course not. I also have felt a little bit faith-shaken. Not in a big way, just a little of the "I know GOD knows where she is - why won't He give US a clue?" kind of way. But, then, I remember that we are suppose to pray unceasingly, and continue to hope, so I will do that. Or try to. Try hard to. It's all I CAN do. If I lived in Alaska, I would put on my hiking boots and join the search. I would post fliers everywhere. I would offer to help feed the dogs, water the flowers, take care of the yard, anything at all I could DO to help bring Melanie home, and to keep hope alive in a physical way. It's HARD to wait, hundreds and hundreds of miles away, with nothing tangible to do to help. In times of need, or sadness or frustration, I'm a do-er. I bake. I clean. I DO. And it is driving me out of my mind that in this case, there is nothing I CAN do. Nothing that would be of any use from the thousands of miles away I am.
Last week, one of "them" went missing from her home of Talkeetna, Alaska. Melanie Gould. She's run 6 or 7 Iditarods, and by all accounts, is an all around pretty great person. Quiet, but really nice. Helpful. Conscientious. A hard worker. A good friend. And a musher who would never leave her dogs unattended and uncared for, as she did last Tuesday when she disappeared. At the moment, the details aren't really all that important here. I've read and re-read the Facebook page set up by her friends a hundred or more times, scanning for all the details I can glean for myself. I have questions, lots of them, but have to trust that the people searching for her have had those same questions too, and are actively seeking answers to them. The questions circle around and around, trying to drive hope away, and open the door to doubt.
Another woman went missing outside of Fairbanks just a couple of days after Melanie, and another young girl disappeared from a British Columbia campground about the same time. So why am I not gripped by those Missing Person reports as much as I am by Melanie's? I guess it is because I feel a kinship with Melanie that I don't with the others. I don't "know" the others, or know anything about them at all. I don't feel any connection to them, other than sadness that they, too, are missing. Melanie lives by herself in a small, remote cabin with no running water, no electricity. That's about as off the grid as you can be, and still have friends and a job and a community surrounding you. I envy and identify with that lifestyle.
In addition, she has dogs, and is, gosh darn it, a musher, two things I again can identify with, and aspire to. I keep thinking of her dogs - do they wonder where she is? Do they miss her? Mine would. They don't eat much when I'm gone, and only return to their normal eating and sleeping habits when I'm here. No one can take care of my dogs the way I do, and the dogs know it. It's hard for me to leave my dogs for long, knowing this, so I feel certain that she would feel the same way.
Oh, my heart just aches for her dogs, for her, for her family and friends and community, and even for Alaska. Alaska is a funny place. It's big, but it's tightly knit when it comes to "one of their own,". I know all of Alaska, as well as half of the rest of the world, it seems, is watching and waiting and checking and hoping that THIS will be the day Melanie comes home. My days have become a ritual of ongoing mental prayer: thinking of Melanie, picturing her, picturing God knowing where she is and holding her and keeping her safe and strong and not afraid, not irretrievably hurt or injured, just holding her, and her terrible circumstances, close in my heart.
I light a virtual candle every 48 hours for her on line, but starting tonight, I'm going to light a real one at home as well. I will let it burn for an hour every night until she returns. I know it's not much, but lighting a candle will symbolically let me DO something. A friend on her facebook page (http://www.diamonddogsracing.blogspot.com)(I feel like we are ALL friends on that page, though I know no one, but we are all strongly united in our hope and concern for Melanie and that pulls people from all over together, I think) put this one on line, and I think it is just beautiful. She allowed me to repost it here.
So, to Melanie, keeping the faith and hope alive, and the candles burning, until you come home... I pray it will be tomorrow.
(The other pictures on this page I took from the page started for Melanie as well: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Have-you-seen-Melanie-Gould/160060884060648?sk=wall)