caught in the mystery

Our last morning in camp, we awoke to a clear, cloudless sky, though the air was so heavy with moisture that the trees – standing there in the near freezing cold, unable to hold any more in their outstretched limbs – dripped and dropped…upon our tents, then our shoulders, pocking the sandy soil at our feet. The sun had not yet broken over the horizon as we arose to break camp. We’d wanted to set out across the large lake while the waters were calm and still, before the certain winds of the day whipped it up.

The fog lay heavy over the water as we set off , so we paddled within view of the shoreline, about 20 feet or so from our boats, in order to keep our bearings, for we would’ve quickly become disoriented had we lost sight of the land. Beyond those muted edges, the water and earth were obscured by a blanket of white, impenetrable. It made me think of being lost at sea, with no identifiable features in sight, by which to gain one’s bearing.  Navigational methods other than landmarks are required in such places as that.

Perhaps I too am in a necessary cloud at this time in my life, my own outstretched limbs unable to hold it all anymore. This evening, thinking upon that morning fog as I am about to embark in tomorrow’s dawn on the journey back home, I wonder which direction to go from here? Do I keep the safe but known shoreline within my vision, even as I long for these deeper waters? Where are my landmarks for such a time as this?

Some part of me understands that there is something particular  in the landscape here that draws me. Its forms and its beauty -those sweeping curves and spires- interplay so gracefully with the water, both evoking and remembering me to a similar harmony within myself and my life.  I too am made up of both. Water and Earth. How to hold the truth of that within my vision? Hold gracefully the tension between these two in me?

What navigational tools do I have for a place such as this?

As we came out of the  last portage trail of our journey onto the large lake, which would take us an hour to paddle before arriving back to our waiting cars, the sun was just gaining enough strength to begin clearing the fog. Beauty gradually opened upon us, liquid ribbons flowing across the blue water, autumn colors just beginning to kiss the hillsides.

Perhaps something will clear in the warmth for me too… the shroud will unfold and open the way for me .

For tonight, I will just keep paddling on before the winds of tomorrow whip.

 

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Wilderness Within

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It is late in the afternoon of our last full day the park, a day of paddling and portaging, which began around 9 am this morning just as the blanket of fog was beginning to break over the still, sleeping ­water surrounding our campsite on Bonnechere Lake.  A morning of pure delight, I had awakened pre dawn, @4:30am, to pull back the tent’s fly to a vision more lovely than any dream that might have seduced me to lie a bit longer in the sleeping bag’s relative warmth. The late rising moon, having waned from her fullness-of-light — so bright in those earlier days of our trip that she cast shadows upon the tent roof as if she were a city streetlamp shining its beam through a canopy of limbs and leaves– now at less than a quarter. Still, though more subtly, she silhouetted those dark pines over the water, her light not at all burning away the fog yet somehow diffusing its heaviness.

Bundled against the frosty air, I walked to the water’s edge with the blackened pot, which has become a vessel of the morning’s awakening warmth, to fill her belly with the crystal water, wading in myself a few feet – as far as my rubber boots will allow. Then, curled into the boulder-backed firepit, feeding sticks to the fire, I sat, my own belly being filled by the quietly unfolding blossom of dawn.  Soon the bog, spread out at the feet of the spruce like a petaled wedding aisle, began to sparkle with the gossamer topped twigs of so many cupped spider webs, capturing the morning dew while also waiting to be fed.

 A lone loon wailed her broken chord over and again, a melody made more mournful than usual somehow by her inability to find the opening tone, her voice seeming to break as mine might also do if I tried to sing my way through some grief.  Broken limbs, caught up in the shallow waters of the inlet, shone like specters in the rising mist, as at last the sun broke over the horizon, culminating the breaking of the day by casting the shadow of the treetops onto the almost opaque screen of fog.

With the light down the path near my friends’ tent and  a rustling nearerby in my own, where my husband was now stirring, at once the stillness of the dawn began to shift and move. Cranberries, picked along yesterday’s portage, were poured into the buckwheat mix, as sleeping bags were stuffed into dry bags. But then, a sudden sound, and all was still again.

A lone wolf howl. We paused and pricked our own ears, even our breath quiet in anticipation. And then it arrived, the chorus of reply, the yips and the whines of the young, the moans and the wails of the old.  We were now moved to stillness, listening deeply, harkening to something old and wild within ourselves….

Their moving chorus accompanied us as we also moved throughout the morning, cleaning pots and pans, loading boats, then paddling softly through the parting blanket of the morning across the mirrored water, on our way.

Each stroke of the paddle, each step of the boot, carried us into the day and away from the morning, as with each lake we traversed, each trail we carried, we were brought back from the edge of that great wild silence. We watched two eagles circling and soaring in it, far overhead, near the south end of Big Porcupine before passing a campsite, upon which we’d stayed in earlier in the trip (a rain-soaked day) on the point where the lake turns in great C curve, and needling our way through the shallow narrows. The lake’s campsites were populated with weekenders, likely arrived late last evening (Friday), curled up next to morning fires. Indeed, the chill of the morning was still evident when we stopped by an empty north-facing campsite for lunch, the shade inland beseeching me to seek the patch of sun near the water’s edge. The second portage of the day was brimming with seekers of wilderness, like us, lining the trail and the shoreline alike (to be clear, I am talking about a dozen, not a hundred here). By the time we entered the southern end of this lake, where we now have set up our final evening’s tents, the calm of the morning waters was replaced by a wind-whipped passage through the graveyard of treestumps and sunken logs and a seeming armada of canoes making its way toward us from the north.

But now I have made my way around to the rear of our campsite. Late afternoons have become a time of solitude and renewal for me. After a day’s worth of paddling and the busy-ness of making camp, I am ready. Early in the trip, on one such late afternoon, I’d followed a trail of mushrooms, a myriad of colors and sizes and shapes, far back into the hemlock grove, slipped into a crevasse between the clinging-to-boulders roots of two giants, down over the granite embankment to a silvered gray log perched out over the boggy water.  Yesterday afternoon, around this same time, I found myself atop a great granite cliff overlooking Cradle Lake, where I’d actually howled aloud myself with the pure joy of having bushwhacked and hauled myself by my fingertips to that great outlook. (hmm, now that seems like an interesting metaphor. I wonder, is it possible to bushwhack through the overgrowth of our own selves and haul ourselves to a great outlook?). The freedom of being up there alone, literally stripped of the clothing I’d worn throughout the day before adding a fresh base layer, made me realize there is something profoundly liberating and necessary about such a stripping, about such a howling to a sky that would later that evening be ablaze with its own fire, as the setting sun hovered beneath the light-catching tinder of low-lying clouds.

This afternoon, I find myself far away from camp, having trudged and crunched my way across the sandy marsh that lies between the lake and the isolated pond that lies some distance behind it, hidden from view unless one makes the short journey over the hassock and hole laden thicket, clamoring over the graying skeletons of once-great trunks, as the streambed that once fed it is now a bog, created when the beavers dammed this passageway from the main body of the lake.  I wonder about the way I am drawn like this, away and away, further inward and into, behind and beneath. I wonder about the way that it satisfies so deeply some urge in me to go deeper, and deeper yet, to follow the uncharted over and under, to slip quietly through a passageway, hidden, that opens out into wonder.

Of course, a part of me knows it is the introvert in me, seeking renewal, seeking that ‘room of her own’ even out here in this vastness, retreating to find a place to tuck herself away for awhile, to breathe, to play, and to dream. But a part of me also wonders at this Great Wildness-Untrammeled, that I seek in these afternoon forays or when rising early to bask in the Great Aloneness.  Is it also that within myself that I seek? This Untrammeled Wildness, this Hidden Jewel , to and from which I return. “I Am that which I seek”, it is said.

I have had the feeling for some time now that there is some piece of myself with which I lost touch somewhere along the way from there to here, some part cut off from the main body of my life when the water levels were lowered, something fresh-and-wild, dammed up, separated from the day-to-day of my life, something hidden to which I can no longer seem to find the way.  I miss living from those sacred depths, from that rich source of aliveness, from that Presence of Something within.

You know how it is, don’t you?  

And so, I take myself by the hand, and show her the way back, the way forward, the way into… Wonder. And Beauty, And Silence. ….where she howls her joy and her grief into that Vast Wilderness.

 

 

 

just another 3 days in paradise

Wednesday, September 21

This morning, we rose, packed up camp, had a leisurely breakfast and then made our way across 3 lakes and as many portages to this campsite on quiet and secluded Lawrence Lake.  We are alone here, far enough at last from the logging noise that has plagued this trip up to now. The wind and the water are now calm though they were not earlier, as we paddled the length of this lake to the campsites on its eastern end, causing us to choose this site around the bend from that driving wind but also away from the long view the one other site would’ve offered.

We passed through picturesque and secluded Phipps and Kirkwood lakes on our way here today, through grassy inlets and boggy outlets that looked ripe for moose, otter, and beavers. After passing through those bodies of water, I think we were all a bit disappointed in this one, with its less picturesque campsite, but I am satisfied here and now, despite the no-seeums biting.

I am seated on one of the few exposed rocks in the weedy riverbank down near the water’s edge, for a close view of the water, if not a wide one. It is the only view possible here.  My friends are perched above me – the bank proved too treacherous a footing for them, especially in the ensuing dark- so I am seated at their feet, listening to their easy comradery, a fitting place for me this evening.  

I imbibed in some coffee around 3 o’clock this afternoon, so I am feeling less fatigued and definitely less hangry than I have some other evenings. Perhaps I will stay up for a bit…..

 

Thursday, September 22

I took our new boat out this morning, before the others had awakened, for a trial solo paddle. I’m still trying to befriend this beast, and I miss the easy relationship I had with the MadRiver, the way she and I could dance in the water together. Though this new boat is lighter, she is large and long and cumbersome to heel, but I trust I may grow accustomed to her after a time, learn her temperament, perhaps even learn to love her.

After breakfast, we packed a lunch and paddled our way into Pardee and Harness lakes. Pardee is definitely a destination lake, with only 2 campsites, one of which is simply spectacular, with its great granite slope of a threshold in front and its rear ‘door’ opening out to a scenic waterfall, where the rushing water is channeled through a granite flume. Just beyond those falls, there is a picture-perfect bog in the lower end of Harness Lake. Evening treks to that bog for visiting wildlife could be easily made from the Pardee campsite. Harness Lake itself is along the path of the Highlands Backpacking trail and there are some lovely bays on the lower end, where backpackers might take in the beauty of the water on an evening’s layover.

Returning sometime after lunch from our morning’s escapades, I explored the wild untamed area downriver from our campsite, where there are gorgeous downed trees, covered in moss, lying in dense hemlock shade. The terrain was thick and involved quite a bit of bushwhacking. The scents of the forest filled my breath with the pine and wood and bark fragrance that my body still wears.

Now, seated again at the water’s edge, I notice the grasses here are browning, ready to let loose their seeds, at once. White puffs seem ready to burst in this breeze, to be carried by the water to some fertile pocket of soil downstream, where they might sprout and take root next spring.

And so it goes. Those seeds of summer released. Where will they land in me?

The mushrooms continue to amaze me. How they can NOT be here one day and be in full flower the next – all of that work underground, miles and miles of growth laid down, giving them the strength to push through those layers of soil and duff, rock and moss. I delight when I discover one, caught in the act of emergence, with a tuft of moss still on its head, and I wonder, what did that look like on me when my friends caught up with me here a few weeks ago.

Now, the breeze soothes, as does my friend’s flute from the ridge behind camp, carressing body and spirit alike. Her melody echoes across the water, which is now speckled with rain, lightly falling. So many circles…

The wisp of a breeze teases up a ripple.

Raven’s wingbeats pulse in my ears.

The scent of dry grass, in which I am tucked, fills my breath

This is my kind of happy hour.

Friday, Sept 23

We left our campsite on Lawrence Lake and made our way back to Bonnechere, passing through Kirkwood and Phipps again on the way. Beginning the day in raingear, thinking we would be paddling in it, we wound up in sunshine. Though the wind did pick up again later, seeming to come from the northeast, it gave us a helpful push along the way.

Stopping at the beginning of the portage from Lawrence to Kirkwood, I picked more of the cranberries that I’d gleaned from that end a few days ago. Those cranberries baked into bannock quite tastily and I hope to add them to a breakfast of pancakes here on Bonnechere.

The trail to Kirkwood was littered with the first red maple leaves, lining the pathway to autumn. It was such a pleasant day… though Don and I bickered about rocks and canoe control. I mean what is there to not understand about the words, ‘I think we should paddle farther away from the edge’ (the canoe is not nicknamed a divorce boat for no reason).

We paused for lunch on Phipps Lake, on a site wrapped around by the water, with a long sandy beach, leading back to the bog, littered with tracks of moose and otter. There, a long and low jutting ridge, rising up from the surface of the water like the back of a great ancient fish, invited a walk out onto its back, where it was easy to imagine oneself lying back on dark nights for a complete view of a star littered dome.  And the long, intoxicating view into the spruce spired bog at the end of the lake… I cannot imagine a drug more alluring than that.

Arriving at the isthmus between Bonnechere and Cradle, on that evocative site at which we had lunched earlier in our trip, we made camp for the night. I yearned to dip my paddle into the water on Cradle Lake, to complete the exploration of her circumference that we had cut short when we passed through her before, but I was more eager than the others to do so. Don finally relented, though his reluctance made the paddling less satisfying for me. Still, the grove of yellowing Tamarack in the far end made for a nice consolation.

While paddling back to camp, my weary eyes alighted on the lichen and moss covered cliffs, leading my heart to wonder. And so, upon landing, I whacked my way through the bush and pulled myself up over those rock faces to one of those perches, where I stripped off my too-many layers and actually yelled.. just a little.. the feeling of liberation and power in that exhaled breath.

Later, we cuddled around the fire, the four of us holding our feet to the flame, soaking in as much heat from that fireplace, with its great boulder backdrop, as we could. The night had grown blustery cold by then, though we’d sat as long as we could on that ridge, watching the setting sun light up the bank of low lying clouds with a fiery orange blaze.  

 

 

 

 

 

Bonnechere balance

 

 

“The name Bonnechere is made up of two French words: bonne and chère. Bonne, as an adjective can mean good, fair, pretty. As a noun or naming word, bonne can mean a servant girl, a maid. Chère as an adjective means dear or fond or loving or darling. When the two words are put together, there are new meanings: dear one, fair maid, good servant, darling sweetheart. (It can also mean a place of good food and fine dining)”

 

 

Monday afternoon, Sept 19.

We have landed upon a most stunning campsite –majestic sweeping views AND intimate coves, granite ledges AND sandy landings contained in one place, like holding a two sided gold coin in the palm of your hand. The long narrow appendage of granite rises up from the lake -at this moment so remarkably blue as it holds its mirror flat to reflect the cerulean sky – to form a cliff, upon which stately pines, white and red, also rise. One sentinel pine stands alone on the point, at a distance from the rest, invitational in her posture of patient watchfulness.  On the back side of the prominence are found countless shaded nooks, from which to bask in the beauty of the more intimate, many fingered bay that reaches around behind it.

So…. what have I been doing for the past hour instead of opening my heart and soul to wisdom and delight in this place? Baking my body in the sun on these rocks, casting a line over the edge (and getting in snagged more than a few times in the submerged boulders) attempting in vain to snag a fish to feed our bellies! Ugh. I am no fisherwoman. What am I trying to prove?

Our days do seem to be falling into a rhythm. Space for afternoons of solitude – exploring, reading, fishing, or resting – seems to have emerged, in which each of us can be alone with our thoughts (and at times, blessedly, in order to not inadvertently speak them aloud!). Conversation when we come back together has deepened and improved, perhaps as a result of this more spacious slowing of our days.

Tuesday morning, Sept 20

I have been up since 5:30 am-  dressed and combed my hair, tiptoed past the sleeping tent of my friends along the long path to the box, made a small fire and then coffee, which I tended as night turned to dawn over these still waters. How the silence of these early hours quiets me, the calmness of these pre-dawn waters stills me, and I find myself centered somewhere deeper within myself than I have been.

It can be quite difficult to marry the rhythms of four persons. Then, inevitably, control and power struggles emerge- nitpicking disguised as advice, for instance. Each of our different ways begin to feel more like belligerent ‘one’ ways butting up against one another in competition, rather than complementing each other in cooperation. Fatigue and conflicting rhythms can lead to frustration and irritability.

Oh, I so wanted to be out on the water last night! I’d wanted to paddle all afternoon (our morning journey from Big Porcupine to here had been a mere hop, skip and jump) but by the time Don and I finally got out on the water, we had a mere 30 minutes –just long enough to slide our canoe over the ‘devil’s razor’ – before it was time to rush back for dinner before dark.  The thing that frustrated me most, I think, was that I suspect we ALL wanted to paddle, it was just the coordinating of our various rhythms (or shall I say, melodies? to play with this notion of harmony?) that proved to be troublesome. None of us wanting to take the lead, none of us wanting to leave the others alone in the chores, some of us more deliberate while others are more spontaneous, we spent a lot of time playing ‘hurry up and wait’. How might I be more mindful, more present and centered right in the midst of that ‘hurry and wait’?

Rising early like this, then, to be still – and to be alone in that stillness- is life giving for me. It helps me to quiet, to put things in perspective, to begin my day, not in a rush, but mindfully. Attentive to goodness.

My friend, like me, is also an early riser, likely for the quiet centering it brings to her also. I suspect that when she is here alone, she, like me, relishes the silence and solitude of this time and space. The quandary then is how to invite and allow her to fully inhabit this space without her feeling the need to be a ‘helpful servant’ when I rise to work on morning chores,  while at the same time not making it seem as if I must be central to the cooking chores.

Last evening, for instance, because I’d wanted to be on the water during those precious moments before dark, our friends cooked the dinner, for which I was grateful. I felt it only fair that Don and I would then take care of cleanup, allowing them the luxury of basking for a time. But they insisted on helping with cleanup, which created a strange sort of tension between us.

Oh, group dynamics. How to live in community without strife. How to love well… without judgment, without fear of judgment. It seems that all of our people pleasing scars come ripped open here, and I grow quickly fatigued by the constant vigilance and over accommodation, especially my own. That fuse in me is short. Perhaps it has been used up through this seeming lifetime of accommodating others.

Perhaps it is true that accommodation has a lot to do with conditioned codependency, but could it also be true that accommodation is a piece of hospitality? Making a welcoming space for another … with all of their quirks and wounds…in one’s heart?

7:30 am.

My friends and my spouse have now joined me over coffee, drinking in friendship and beauty together.

Evening.

The day developed from that breathtaking dawn into a picture perfect morning. A sensuous paddle ensued as we intimately explored Bonnechere Lake from her chin to her toes, teasing our way down both of her arms, stopping to more intimately investigate a few campsites along the way and discovering the charming and hidden, Cradle Lake, where we lingered a while on a slip of land between the two bodies of water. I was rather enchanted by that site, with its natural boulder fireplace and foot trails leading up to lichen and moss covered overlooks, and hope to land there again one day, if not on this trip.

The wind picked up quite a bit after lunch for our paddle back to camp, making it a bit more strenuous, but exhilarating too. By late afternoon, it was downright blustery on our granite outcropping, though shelter was to be found on the east side of the cliff, facing the quieter bay. For some time, I wandered about in the marsh behind the bay, which was quite satisfying to me.

Much later, after dinner and cleanup (during which our friends at last took advantage of our offer and went out for an evening paddle) Don and I cuddled together in a warm, intimate nook tucked into the side of that granite ledge, our satiated faces reflecting the setting sun. The night was growing quite cold by the time we watched the clear sky explode with stars, our first starry night of this trip, the Milky Way painting her broad sweeping swath overhead as we laid back to drink in her artistry.

Friendships were deepened and tensions were eased again today, as we grow more comfortable with both ourselves and one another. Those rhythms that had gotten a bit out of sync reestablished themselves today and the right balance of solitude and community, silence and conversation, autonomy and mutuality emerged again.

A wise woman once shared with me that balance is never static, as we like to imagine it is when we use the word, but is fluid and dynamic and sometimes veers way off center before correcting itself with a counter movement.  Perhaps harmony is more like a canoe, heeled to the rails, making a grace-full turn, each paddler leaning and reaching just enough, before setting her back on her more even keel

 

 

Big Porcupine

 

DSCN0195Saturday, Sept 17

 It has rained throughout the entire day, from the time we pulled away from the shoreline of our Ragged Lake campsite (where Dennis and I decided NOT to don our raingear for the short paddle, across to the only portage trail of the day, during which the heavy skies of the morning DECIDED to let go their weight) until an hour or so ago, when we sat down together beneath the tarp for dinner.  We spent some time, after arriving in camp, holed up in our tents, just to get out of the deluge, which was wind driven for some time. Chilled and soaked through to my undergarments, I am grateful for the addition to my pack this year of the insulated synthetic jacket, which is holding my body heat in nicely right now.

My sopping clothes are now strewn across the line I strung near the exposed granite point, where my hope is that the sun, or at least a storm-chasing wind, will dry them.  Thus far, that has not proven to be an astute assumption on my part as the clouds burst open upon them again almost as soon as I’d hung them. However, there are hints of clearing now – small patches of blue through the thin veil of grey.

While paddling our way to this site, our heads bent into the driving rain, we passed by a few sites occupied by hunkered-down campers. I always try to imagine the view from a potential campsite when choosing a place to call home for the night, and so I lifted my eyes to drink in the perspective from those western horizon facing sites. Alluring long views of the alpine bog and islands shrouded in fog beckoned a lingering glance. Indeed, what I have been able to see of this large meandering lake has been quite satisfying.

We are situated on a jutting point where the water wraps around the land in a great S curve on its way from one side of the lake to the other, and so we are surrounded on 3 sides by water. To the north is the narrow lily and log choked paradise through which we maneuvered to get here. To the south the large open waters of the lake.  Even now, that water summons me to come and explore her secrets, but I will stay ashore, as already, since I have sat down to write, the clouds have returned to darken the horizon, the sky overhead no longer breaking to blue.

Camp is quiet.

Don has started a fire, at my request, in the great boulder-backed firepit, so I really should go appreciate his accommodating efforts, though the quiet is at the moment so peaceful and my pen is beginning to flow. I wonder why I didn’t open the journal this afternoon when we all retreated to our tents during the rain?  Too much stirred up on the surface of me to let myself down into these still waters, I suppose.

Ah, but the play of light on the land holds me fast. Already, the small island offshore, which a moment ago was bathed in light, is now dark. Where just minutes past there were hints of red on the leaves and pinks on the rocks, all is now muted, not quite to shades of grey, but nearly. I will wait here after all to see if anyone other than me comes out to enjoy this dusky reprieve… perhaps another, like me, drawn to the water. A beaver, perhaps.

 Sunday morning, Sept 18

Liquid silk on the water, a patch of reflecting light mirroring a small breach in the gray clouds of morning. Silence, save the occasional peep of a tree frog. Now the plop …of a fish? 

I cannot discern if it will rain or will clear, but I will be with what is.

Mornings seem to be the time of day when I am most able to be still. This morning I decided to try to beat the ‘system’ (for indeed, mornings seem to have developed into a well-oil machine) by coming to the water to sit for a while before brewing the coffee. ..

Now, the concentric circles of something rising pock the water’s surface.  My own body must also rise to attend to nature’s call….

In such a short time away from the edge, the water, the light, and even the land has completely changed. Now a ridgeline is visible beyond the far shore that was not before. Now the sky is bright blue. A red squirrel chatters. Two crows give voice to their call and response.

Is change then as fleeting (or as instant?) as this? It is disappointingly obvious to me here on this trip that I seem to fall back into old patterns so easily, so quickly. In relationship, almost automatically, patterns of thought, feeling, response, and behavior reemerge.  Oh, perhaps I have not changed whatsoever. I have the same personality traits and dysfunctions as always.  So afraid am I of being accepted.  Sigh.

A duck quacks (is there another word to describe such a sound?)  My ears also vibrate with the wings of a gull as they slice through the air overhead .  Now it is silent again.

Silence.

Can I live from THIS place?  This silence. Inside. Carry this with me into the day.

Color now- sunlight pinking the opposite shore. Already in the time that I jot the words down, it is darkened by an obscuring cloudbank. But I know it is there, that color. I have seen it, even if just for a moment. Being hidden or visible changes not the truth of that light being present, a light that can reveal and tease out this color, even in me. 

Being covered over changes only its apparency,  not its reality. 

Evening

We paddled the morning away, following our curiosities, exploring the south bays of this lake. Don and I disembarked on the small northernmost island. With its view of a string of rocky islets, lining the shallow bay, I imagine it might be quite a charming spot to make home for a while. This lake is easily reachable in one long day’s paddling and portaging. I am imagining a trip with Kelly and the boys someday. Always my beloveds come to my heart in these places where my heart opens wide.

We arrived back in camp in time for lunch and then spent the afternoon in quiet personal pursuits of intimate leisure. With my camera following an intriguing and inviting trail of fungi and mushrooms, I was led deep into the damp and sheltering darkness of the forest.  At times on hands and knees I crawled down embankments , over and under great fallen giants ,through hemlock and moss strewn terrain, tracking that delightful array, landing at last on an old graying trunk overlooking an intimate cove.

I returned to camp as full as my arms, which were wrapped around an offering of dry limbs to feed the fire, (I’d been able to dry out my rain gear last evening over that gracious fireplace, after all) to rejoin my friends who had also, it seemed, filled themselves up, each in his or her way, in the solitude of an afternoon whiled in this enchanted place.

 

Ragged Lake

 

DSCN8992Sept 16 Ragged Lake Morning.                                                                                          ­­­

Perched high above the water on this steep site with a wide view of the lake, I watch the unfolding dawn. Last evening these waters, stretched out before me, lay still and reflective as glass; this morning they faintly ripple. Of course, the ripple itself is also a reflection, though of something quite different.  Here, the subtlest of shifts is revealed, the lake stirred awake, as am I, by the caress of the sky.

Both of the skies, evening and morning, have been clear with just a smattering of clouds low on the horizon, enough to catch the late and then early glow, as the earth turned her back and then re-turned to face the sun, rolling over as I also do to my husband in bed.

When first I arose, the morning mists also were rising, heavy, from the surface of the water, completely obscuring even the large island for a time. Soon, painted peach and then gold by the rising sun, the fog began to lift.  I’m never entirely certain if I should refer to this morning blanket as mist or as fog, so seamless is the sky/lake on mornings such as this.

When I return home, this sky is the one piece of this place that returns with me.  I need merely turn my gaze to her encompassing presence, and I can recall, within the span of a breath, that I am at home. Sometimes, if I make my eyes soft, I can soften the harsh lines of humanity… industry and infrastructure..and see the earth hiding in plain sight just beneath the cover, imagine trees reaching for this sky and water stretching out beneath it like a woman beneath her lover.

Might my own turning away and then back … Algonquin to Pennsylvania (I am no longer certain which one to call home )…feel as congruous as the turning of the earth toward and away from the sun, as certain and assuring as the turn of the seasons?  Might I allow my own transition to be as seamless as water to sky to water again, for I too am made of the same substance in either place… whether I am fog in a low lying cloud there or mist from a rising lake here?

My friends are stirring. It is time to begin preparing breakfast. This makes me wonder, am I simply stepping back into the roles I have performed? Not so much the chores that I do, but the persona I put on, the form that I so automatically retake?  Something to ponder and to watch as I remerge with these persons whom I love.  Can I hold onto the shape that has begun to emerge from the fog during this time apart?  Can that often elusive, ethereal and shy presence who shows up in retreat, take form, become tangible… as perchance cloud or rain, river, lake, ocean, even solitary drop from time to time…not merely dissipate into thin air. Can I make of my essence something embodied, something that doesn’t slip so easily away?

Later,

We spent the day paddling, through South Ragged Lake, then west through Crown Bay to Parkside and back, stopping along the way to visit a few campsites, once for a potty break, once for lunch in the narrows. We will be back on this lake for the last night of our trip, 10 days from now, on a Saturday evening, when sites on a lake this close to the access point will likely be filled on a weekend in September, so we thought to take a look around the neighborhood. I got quite disoriented again, navigating around the curve of land in the west bay, then felt foolish and incompetent. I’m still getting used to being with people again and the self-consciousness that evokes within me, this great internal power struggle to be embodied … free to be/express/trust Who I am (inhabit an authentic shape?) without constant censor or defense, proof or apology.

Now, it is late afternoon and we are all fairly spent, having paddled from 10 until 3, and are glad to be back in our camp, which is, of course, already thankfully set up as we did not break camp to move today.  Dinner will be chili and corn bread, a heat and eat affair. I have time to relax before that chore must be done. Good thing, for I have poured a bit too much rum in my cup, and the view of this cove behind camp is so very delightful. Don says it leads to a hidden lake that he discovered when he wandered this way to fish earlier, and has offered to show me his secret find. And so, I am off…..

…The waters are once again calm, reflecting the stillness of evening. Indeed, it is true that the surface of these waters reflects the subtlest of shifts in the atmosphere… the caress of the morning sky lifts, the buffeting of late afternoon winds disturbs, the coolness of evening settles. She is not separate, after all, though the delineation appears to be so, her boundary is fluid and seamless … sky flows into water. Yet, somewhere in her depths she remains.

Still.

 

 

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summer of becoming – the unfolding blossom

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These last days at Hay Lake have, oddly, begun to feel like reentry of sorts, like I’ve been diving down and am beginning to surface again. Rhythms have a way of emerging, seasons unfolding, open and closed like a blossom, without our need or ability to control, often outside even our awareness.

Saturday evening, leaving the site in my car for the first time (in what seemed like so very much longer than the 10 days?? I had been there) to attend the long anticipated evening of ‘Celebrating Algonquin’- in photography, art, film and live presentations -at the Visitor Centre felt strangely enlivening. Finished with my chores for the day, I wrapped a skirt around the t-shirt at my waist and let down my hair.  Erin noted that I looked like Cinderella going off to the ball.  Indeed, it felt something like that, me, the anonymous stranger milling about in that intimate crowd of Algonquin’s admirers.

The weekend unfolded as weekends here do, with guests to attend. The power was out for 9 hours or so on Sunday morning. One might have thought it was from the wind that rattled the panes, it felt so utterly synchronous, but it was a planned outage for maintenance, and so we were prepared with lanterns and a large-enough generator to make coffee in Erin’s kitchen for guests.  The mountains of laundry from Sunday checkouts were mine to tackle after the power came back.

On Monday, I was out early to make the 4 hour drive to Killarney, then back, to pick up the used canoe that we’d purchased from an outfitter there. She’s atop my car now, still a stranger, the outfitter’s decal removed, in its place a turtle to pledge her as my familiar.  Even a drive in this landscape floods the eyes with beauty – pink granite poured out on the canvas like silk, deep reaching horizons of alpine bog stretched across the frame of the windshield – inviting the entrance of the imagination much moreso than any piece of evocative art in the gallery.

Later Sunday evening, shortly after I’d returned, a call came into the lodge that an 84 year old gentleman down the lake had collapsed, unconscious, in his cabin, and Erin took off with little else than a flashlight in her boat to retrieve him. Leaving the lodge, she feared she was being summoned to gather a body. I stayed behind, feeling quite powerless, to stand by the phone and await the ambulance.  When Erin returned with the man and his family, we all breathed a sigh of relief, for he seemed to have recovered from whatever episode had besot him. Erin opened a cabin for them to stay the night, while I thought to look up a recipe for biscuits when the family requested some with their tea.. but soon foolishly realized that my definition of biscuit was likely quite different than theirs. Our laughter around that made for a release of the evening’s adrenaline.

I continue to be amazed by Erin’s role here. She is relied upon by more than her guests, she is also integral to the community that has sprouted around this rural lake. Folks show up at the lodge with stray dogs they have found, or call from the lake when an engine is tangled in fishing wire. Guests fall from chairs to break windowpanes, or to knock open their heads on the dock. Neighbors fall from ladders.  Guests request maps to search for mines they have purchased, unseen, or plywood sheets for beneath mattresses, either of which Erin reaches in to pull out of storage like a white rabbit from inside a black hat. In return, they bring to her offerings of gratitude.. lake trout from the day’s catch or leftover lasagna from a reunion of friends, afghans for warmth or lamps made of stone.

Lodge owner, musician, coroner.  Carpenter, mechanic, guide.

Friend.

So quickly, it feels as if we have been together like this for years, rather than just these 13 days. In such a brief span of time, we have cried and laughed together. Worked hard and laid back, shoulder to shoulder.  She has shown me so very much of who I might be.

When the blossom of time slows down like this, folding into itself, it makes one understand how it is that eternity can fit into a grain of Blake’s sand, how so much life can fit into such little space. With nothing here to pull me asunder and scatter my parts to the wind, perhaps the whole of me has been able to show up, to come out and play.  Perhaps it is this quality of ‘being here now’ that saturates a space such as this with belonging.  

Looking through the hand lens at this microcosm of moss near my feet, I wonder if perhaps I might also be invited to spend my one wild life in just such an eternity as that, filled with small wonders as this. Simply Being – here where I am, as I am, who I am – without feeling so overwhelmed by the ‘too much’ in which I so frequently find myself, feeling lost.  If I am to bloom where I am planted, perhaps I need a small nook tucked into a rock by a body of water.

My canoeing companions will head out in the morning, email lists have been flying and last minute addendums attached.  Tomorrow I will hold vigil, in a way, keeping the place here as my friend keeps an appointment, but also safekeeping this space in my heart.  As I clear out and clean out my cabin, my loved ones will be driving north, our time of reunion drawing closer. May my heart remain cleared out, as well, and the whole of me show up to greet them.

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