Eating Authors: Cathy Hird

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Cathy Hird

One of the best things about attending a new convention is the likelihood of experiencing new people, and during the handful of days I spent at Chessiecon after Thanksgiving, I did just that. Among them was this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Cathy Hird, whom I met during the mass signing. Naturally, I invited her here.

Like so many authors who have shared their meals here, Cathy wears a lot of hats. In addition to her work as both a novelist and writer of short stories, she’s a weaver, minister, and a sheep farmer. I’ll spare you the obvious puns about weaving words as well as wool, or tending to both types of flocks. You can thank me later. For now, let’s move on to her most memorable meal.

LMS: Welcome, Cathy. So, take us back to that meal. What do you recall first?

CH: Creamy and sugary sweet. I hardly noticed the coffee flavor as I swallowed more than my share of the offered thermos. A meal followed. I don’t remember the food but I can still see the relieved expressions on friends’ faces as they leaned in to hear the story of how we got lost on the Skyline trail and how we were found.

Before the New Moon Rises

The Skyline trail is in the Rockies above Jasper, Alberta where two friends of mine were working between university terms. The summer before, I had worked in Jasper and fell in love with the place and the community. This summer, as soon as I wrapped a school term, I headed west to revel in the mountains before moving to downtown Toronto for work. Earlier in June, I had broken a bone in my foot and hobbled for six weeks so I was looking forward to stretching my legs and climbing mountains.

The night before we left for a three day trip, we packed our foil packaged soups, noodles and freeze dried meats, while people reminded us it was mid-August. We missed the message: in the mountains, August = snow.

The second morning on the trail, when we climbed out of the damp valley, we found a foot of snow on the pass. We thought we saw the cairns, which mark the trail above the tree line, but other hikers who headed out later that morning saw our footprints and went back down to wait a day. They knew we were lost before we did.

When we finally realized we were off the trail, we knew which valley we were supposed to be in. We headed that way and stepped out onto a cornice–the huge drift of snow that sticks out from the mountain wall. We turned back in time.

Moon of the Goddess

Thirty-some years later, I know the mistakes we made, but we were cold and tired and unwilling to admit we were afraid. We headed down out of the snow thinking we could find our way. A long way down, we remembered that on this side, the base of the mountain was impassable muskeg. We still knew which way was up but finding the trail again? We stopped, put up the tent, lit a smoky fire and waited.

We knew that given the weather, folks would give us an extra day to get back. That meant our food and water had to last at least two more days. We ate and drank sparingly–remember we had climbed down below the snow line.

The helicopter crew saw our smoky fire. They helped us pack and load up. They radioed back the news that we had been found. Friends met us at the ranger station, took us home to a good meal and the story. But in the chopper, all they had to drink was a thermos of sugary, creamy coffee. Nothing ever tasted that good, and coffee has been my comfort food ever since.

Thanks, Cathy. Personally, I don’t drink coffee, but if I had to, I think I’d like my first cup to be like that, a hot mug after a snowy mountainside rescue, aboard a helicopter. With a double shot of amaretto for good measure.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

#SFWApro

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