In retrospect, if I had known the upcoming consequence of leaving the city with my ex-husband, I might never have made the journey. It was, however, exactly the result of having been placed in such a precarious situation that I discovered the spiritual realm and the significance of working with my spirit.
During the summer of 1983 we moved to a small rural village called Lac La Hache (translated ‘Axe Lake’), located just north of the town of 100 Mile House and about 300 miles north of Vancouver, B.C. My ex had bought a cabin with no running water and no telephone connection on a dirt road about a quarter-mile from the main highway.
Shortly after we moved in, my ex drove to the city and returned with his son, Jesse, who was then 10 years old. Most of the day they were outside shooting gophers with slingshots and practicing ax throwing and archery in the nearby woods and fields. My ex had been raised on a farm and learned to hunt as a child. One day they brought home a dead gopher in a box and placed it on the back fence, saying it was to dry for a few months so that they could examine the bones. Before doing that, though, my ex had cut off the rodent’s tail and nailed it to the side of the house. I thought all this to be very strange but, since it was a guy’s thing, I wasn’t supposed to understand. Jesse’s mother came to pick him up and seemed puzzled at why we were living under such conditions, especially noting the water tanks above the basements stairs that supplied our ‘running’ water.
Our next-door neighbor had a structure with several long poles tied together at the top, and he had tied his very large ever-barking dog to a chain. He told me that the pole structure was for hanging deer, and I was horrified to think that I would have to view this from my kitchen window. His dog, he explained, had been abused, so it was dangerous and couldn’t be released. I decided to thwart that man’s cruelty by showing some kindness. One day, while my ex was on one of his many trips to the city, I saw some deer on the edge of the fence that separated our properties from the forest, so I ran outside and shouted at them to go away. Several times when my ex was away, I saw the dog off the chain and invited him over with the scent of a meat snack, which he would gently snatch from my extended hand.
There wasn’t much for me to do in that place, and my ex always seemed to be going somewhere without me. I remember someone saying to me one day that I should be careful not to get cabin fever, because it happened a lot up there. I laughed, but wondered what that meant. Sometimes, when we went to town to buy groceries, we would have lunch at the hotel or at the local popular diner. While at the hotel I was watching one of the waiters who seemed to be having some sort of meltdown, while other people were talking to him. I asked my ex what he thought was going on, and he said that the owner of the hotel was in the habit of bringing homeless youths from Vancouver Island to work and live. He added that the owner was someone who had the means to build the only landing strip along the highway so that he could land his Leer jet when he visited. This person was rumored to own 25,000 acres, including the town.
One morning I woke up with a burning itching sensation on the top of my left foot. I pulled off my sock and saw that there was a half-inch long triangular-shaped scrape there. I wondered how I could have hurt my foot at that spot and not known it. Then I thought that maybe a spider had bitten me, and I had just scratched the skin off. I showed it to my ex and he shrugged. The wound took at least a week to heal.
Later that year, my ex brought his son up to stay with us during the holidays. I remember how cold it was to go outside in -40F (and C) to quickly toboggan down a nearby hill. The cabin wasn’t very well insulated, and when it got really cold, the windows would ice over. It was dreadful, to say the least.
The next month, in January 1985, my ex announced that I was to go down to Vancouver to stay with Jesse for a couple of weeks while his mother went to the Dominican Republic on holiday. On the way back to town with Jesse, my ex announced that he also had to go out of town, so I would be staying with Jesse on my own. I never questioned him anymore, since his answers were always so elusive and, besides, it meant being in the city away from that ridiculous cabin near the woods. I enjoyed being in the city again; it was my first time back in over a year.
Jesse’s mother, a former nurse, had made a practice of traveling around the world to learn various healing methods in the hope of setting up her own practice. She had lived in Ecuador where she set up a sensory deprivation chamber, and had studied acupressure in China. When she returned from her trip to the Dominican Republic, she told me that she had also gone to Haiti to sit in on a voodoo ceremony. When she mentioned the voodoo ceremony, I recalled the shrunken two-toed sloth that she had brought back from the Amazon years before as a gift for my ex. She startled me when she said that she thought that my ex should be more spiritual. I didn’t know what she meant by that, and just nodded in agreement. Since my ex was now back at the cabin, I was expected to return the 500 miles by bus. My car had been sold to raise money to buy the cabin and a rental car was not an option at the time.
Before I got on the bus in Vancouver I bought a Psychology Today magazine to read en route. I read an article that sparked something in my mind and lead to a realization about my life. The article referred to some studies that found that individuals who had been raped had suffered ongoing trauma, especially if they had never received therapy from the event. The study showed that, if a person went for more than 5 years without getting help, their symptoms would compile and cause significant psychological damage. I suddenly realized that I had never received help from the times when I was assaulted as a very young child and, moreover, that I had been raped as a teenager, such as by my best friend’s brother after high school and again, more violently, while on one of my trips to Europe. I had survived all of that, but had never considered any further consequences. I just kept going as best I could, without ever telling anyone.
Upon my return from the city, I gasped when my ex announced that we were going to join the local gym, and that we had an appointment that afternoon to take a tour. Although I had attended aerobics classes at the university, there had never been any mention of a gym in our lives up to that point. Although puzzled I was enthusiastic, since I have always made a point of staying in shape. That afternoon we met with a charming woman who showed us around the facility just outside of town. Before that, I never even knew the facility existed. My ex was so interested in this gym that I asked him when and where he decided to join. His response was garbled and then he demanded: “Do you want to join or not?” Despite the unusual offer and my ex’s sudden change of mind about fitness, I agreed to a one-year membership. Interestingly, I would never set foot in that building again.
The next thing I knew, my ex had to leave on another trip to the city and would be gone for about a week. He brought me some supplies, including some food, cigarettes and a gallon of wine. There I was, all alone at the cabin, with no telephone, no vehicle and almost no money. The only money that I had at the time was a hundred dollar bill that I had hidden away for emergency use. At least I had that. It was now bitter winter and I spent almost all of my time indoors because of the cold. When my ex returned from his trip, the bizarre sequence of events that followed could only be described as scenes from a scary movie in which I was the one running for my life.