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By Virginia Heffernan

Virginia Heffernan is a former exploration geologist who met her Welsh husband when they were both working on a gold project in Namibia. They live in Toronto with their teenage son. Virginia mostly stays put these days, but Roger continues on his global quest for the next big ore deposit.

In the days before cell phone coverage and wireless internet, if your partner was an exploration geologist you could expect days – sometimes weeks – to go by without a call or e-mail message. It was better to forgo expectations of communication altogether than to worry if the “arrived safely” message would come through or not. Even now, my husband Roger and I are casual about connecting – great if it happens, but no big deal if he can’t find a communication channel at some remote project at the top of the Andes.

That’s not to say I haven’t had my share of scares over several years of marriage to a man who travels frequently to distant and sometimes dangerous places, even so far as the bottom of the Bismarck Sea. Here is just one.

It was Halloween, that international day of the dead. I was on my knees on the kitchen floor, carving a menacing line of pumpkin teeth, when the doorbell rang. Already there was a chill in the air, a precursor to winter, and I shivered as I washed the pumpkin innards off my hands and headed for the front door. Our five year old, who was curious but perhaps a little Halloween spooked himself, clung to my leg as I (with some irritation) took bets on who might be on the other side: a canvasser, a courier, or a Jehovah Witness disciple determined to save our wicked souls?

But she was none of those. She was a uniformed cop asking, “Are you related to Roger Moss?” And that could only mean one thing. My son and I both turned ghostly.

The officer explained that Roger’s truck had been found, covered in snow, on the side of a dirt road in northern Ontario and the police were concerned about his whereabouts. Repeated calls to his business landline had gone unanswered over several days.

Her look of unease turned to puzzlement as I raised a hand to my heart and exclaimed “Hallelujah!!” I knew immediately and with gratitude that Roger was not dying in a snow bank but doing his usual prospecting, heading deep into the bush for dawn-to-dusk traverses. That would explain the “abandoned” truck. We both laughed nervously and parted ways with considerable relief.

I’m sure most of us whose partners work in remote locales have had at least one experience similar to my police-at-the-door incident. I try to keep the fears at bay by trusting Roger’s knowledge and intuition and remembering that his fate is entirely beyond my control.

But I still have the occasional sleepless night, especially when the bears are coming out of hibernation.


A former geologist, Virginia is now a freelance writer and member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada. www.geopen.com