Healing waters – part 4

Thursday, July 27, Bonnechere Lake

Morning in the tent.

Outside the flung wide tent flap, I spy small patches of blue, but mostly encroaching and retreating gray, as it also was when I was awakened with a start in the middle of the night. Having felt something scurry across my hand, I was certain it was a mouse, run in through that open tent door, seeking our warmth. He was nowhere to be found, however, when we searched the sleeping bags for him, startled as he also was, no doubt, into a hiding place.

Rising from the tent then, drawn to the majesty of the stars outside that window, yearning for another long drink of them before we depart this place, I walked out to the point. The dipper was just above the horizon by that time, 4:00am, dipping its ladle into the water in the northern notch, I understood completely in that moment why the ancients saw it as a dipper. Some gazer long ago surely beheld this same starry sky spread out over the water. The morning ‘star’, rising bright above the eastern sky was there as well, as was the milky way with its broad stroke of hazy white in the west. How awake and alive I felt in that moment.

Just as quickly as that sky had unfolded for me, as I turned to walk back toward the tent, the clouds rolled in across half of the sky. The stars tucked themselves back beneath the blanket as did I, each of us returning to sleep. I was suddenly quite grateful for that little mouse.

I dreamt again last night. Two nights ago, I awoke screaming, “DADDY!” as a menacing man had come into my room intending to harm me .  Last night, it was feelings of unworthiness and shame that made their appearances in my dream. Neighbors from my home town, putting me in my place, ‘subtly’ reminding me that they were more important than me. I was, after all, nothing. Then Don on the phone being badgered to confess that ‘Vicki doesn’t Love me anymore’ Whew, the way these camping trips bring up the wilderness in me!

I gaze at this man asleep beside me and I know I will love him until the day I die. My definition of Love over these past years (and even months) has so deepened and expanded. I realized the other day, when sharing with Don how I long for my daughter to find someone who loves all of who she is – who sees her fears as lovable for instance – that he deserves the same. Someone who simply loves the whole of him, who gazes upon him with tenderness. I am that one.I read a few weeks ago that contempt is the biggest predictor of divorce. I must guard to not allow contempt to find its way into my heart. I think perhaps it is time to wash Don’s feet.

Now i must rise from the tent to begin preparing breakfast. The winds continue to whisper, then roar, in the pines. The wood frogs with their strange clacking are slowing, and a few twittering birds are busy in the blueberries. The world is awake. Now, so am I.

Thursday Afternoon, Ragged Lake

We left camp this morning at 10:00, arrived here at the north end of Ragged Lake by 1:30. This campsite is not very nice at all, exposed in a way that is not pretty, with downed trees and scrubby vegetation, but it will serve its utilitarian purpose, allowing us to get an early start on the waters of Smoke Lake in the morning. We need just a spot for our small tent and I can really cook just about anywhere with the isobutane stove if the fire pit proves to be too oppressive in the sun or the wind. Don is currently under the tarp, ‘exposing’ himself, as he is quite chaffed from our travels!

We are both fairly tired again. The paddling was hard against the wind today. Perhaps this evening we might go out again, on more placid waters should that occur. For now, we will rest.

The day broke with gray cloud cover, though those thin patches of blue have now evolved into a brilliant blue sky with white puffy snowballs of clouds, very similar to the way the storm system eventually broke up earlier this week while camping on Phipps Lake. I expect stars again tonight 🙂

Now, I am popping chocolate coffee beans and water, a fun substitute for an afternoon brew.  I may move to the point as the view there is quite sweeping, the breeze there refreshing, the waters lapping. I had thought this nook might be more private, which it is, but it is quite warm here, tucked away from the afternoon breeze.

There is a great root/trunk of a grand old tree washed up and graying on the sandy beach around the corner from this point. She must’ve been stunning! I also noted empty mussel shells on that beach, and a turd on this point. Perhaps some otters have been visiting here. Now, a merganser paddles by.

ON the portage from Big Porcupine into Ragged Lake, three baby bears were treed over my head. I was carrying the canoe at the time, but the young couple who were carrying in the opposite direction were wide eyed at the sight of them. No sign of the momma was to be found.

Now I observe a young human family, arriving on the campsite opposite us, the children scurrying up the bank with enthusiasm, checking out their home in the woods. Earlier, two adolescent boys down the lake, paddled across the water to find firewood for their evening campfire. Now their axe echoes the labor of their preparing it. It does fill my heart -with gladness to witness these families out here, and, as always, with longing to share this place with my own.

Ah. Such joy, such beauty, such aliveness, such wonder. I found myself feeling sad when paddling out of Bonnechere this morning, as always I do on the last morning. I must admit, though, that I am ready for someone else to prepare me a cup of coffee, a meal, and a soft bed. It will feel good to be pampered at the Bed and Breakfast we have booked for tomorrow evening.

Now, I believe I shall indeed move to the point, take up my Sigurd book, immerse my self a few more times before this trip is over in the beauty of his words, so fitting for the beauty of this place.

Coda. August 8

It’s been over a week since we left the park. As I recall, I got Don down on that point with me later in the evening, after a dusk paddle around the northeastern bays of Ragged Lake. From that jutting granite peninsula we watched the sky unfold its evening garments of color, then mantle of stars, Don’s arms wrapped around my waist as I leaned back into his body.

We were on the water the next morning by 7, and at the north end of Smoke Lake by 8:30, the winds already blowing briskly by then. We were grateful for the early start. After loading our gear into the car, we headed to the Portage Store for ‘breakfast and a show’, overlooking the livery of canoes being doled out to the eager and naïve alike.

We then visited the Art Museum, where I was one again taken by the work on exhibit there, and the Visitor Centre. Then, on to the outfitter, where a new set of gunnels for our Souris River canoe had been dropped off, and a quick visit with Erin before we finally headed south to Gananoque.

By this time, Don was in excruciating pain, once again. It seems that he let down his guard perhaps? when he went back into his regular shoes during our day’s explorations. I am saddened and confused that he is hurting. This healing is surely taking a very long time.

 

 

healing waters- part 3

Tuesday afternoon, July 25, Bonnechere Lake

The day yesterday continued to be blustery with driven rain, never really letting up completely except for a brief spell after lunch, when we momentarily considered packing up camp, as we’d spotted two other parties traveling and wondered if they might be warmer than we were, sitting there in the cold and raw conditions. In the end, we chose to stay, a wise decision it turned out to be as the rains picked up in earnest soon thereafter, blowing from the east.

For my body’s sake, though, I needed some movement, and I went in search of firewood that might be split to find some dry insides. After helping me with the chopping and splitting, I persuaded Don to paddle me back to that bay behind the first campsite, where I had discovered the berry patches earlier in the week. My plan was to pick enough to bake into a bannock over the fire I’d hoped to build with that split wood.

OF course, the conditions worsened as soon as we hit the water. Don tried to fish again as I gleaned the berries, but, quickly, he got quite wet and cold. I was fairly soaked as well, mostly from the wet foliage brushing my legs, though my new rain jacket performed quite admirably .

The fire was such a mood lifter, warmth to ease the chill and dry our dampness. The mac and beef dinner was super yummy, perhaps more so because of the open fire cooking, no cozying this meal. The dinner warmed our bellies as the fire had warmed our spirits and our flesh. The baked bannock I tucked into the barrel for a quick breakfast in the morning, as we hoped to make an early start the next day, rain or shine.

This morning dawned with a blue sky! Two full days of raw rain are quite enough and I found myself singing ‘Good morning Starshine’, a song that often rises in me on these trips. As we had agreed ,we were up by 6 and on the water by 8. Paddling past the first campsite on the lake, we noticed some movement. We’d watched that party paddle in late last night, hoping that they weren’t destined for the site upon which we were camped, as we didn’t actually have a permit for this lake last evening.  We were relieved when they made a bee line for the other site. Really, for most people that site is the prime one; it just wasn’t right for us this time.

Soon enough, we were on Bonnechere Lake, paddling past the campsite that straddles it and Cradle Lake, where we’d heard the wolves so nearby on that magical, misty morning last fall. Unoccupied this morning, we decided we’d prefer this time one of the sites at the southern end of the lake, all 3 of which we felt were quite nice and believing that the mosquitos might be quite intense this time of year at that Cradle site.  When we reached the south side though, we were surprised to find all 3 sites occupied. Since the morning was early (9 o’clock) we chose to wait for the possibility of one of them clearing.  We ditched our gear on a rocky point in an eastern bay to take the canoe exploring down a wetland creek. That creek led to a much smaller lake, Head Lake, where we thought we would spend the morning fishing, then lunching upon her shores. A private oasis kind of day we had in mind.

We were able to paddle about half the distance to that lake before the stream became impassable, and so we ditched the canoe too and hoofed it the rest of the way. As it turned out, we walked a lot farther than we’d planned, as the lake proper was quite a distance beyond where the waterway reopened.  When we return to this place another time, I will carry the canoe across that spit of land.  Doing so would give us access to the entire lake. The bushwacking through the woods was hard work, but we made it!! Unfortunately, the fishing from that wilder shoreline wasn’t great and both of us got our lures caught on the logs and rocks on the shallow lake bottom there.

When we returned to Bonnechere, two of the sites remained occupied. We suspect it is one large party of young people. They are a bit louder than we’ve grown accustomed to, having been mostly alone for the week, but they are enjoying Algonquin too!  (we later learned that one of the sites was being used by a pair of park rangers, who had been dropped there by float plane, camping in the park for 2 weeks as they performed trail and campsite maintenance) So, we grabbed the third southern site, both of us fairly exhausted from the day’s excursions. What a surprising find this is, as we had once dismissed this campsite as less-than. What we hadn’t realized then was that there is a perfect landing around the corner in a small protected cove, and a nice path leading into the campsite proper from there. A good reminder for me to look deeper than surface impressions.

There are pleasing viewscapes from various vantage points along the length of this site, including the long projecting granite point, covered in lichen and blueberries, with its requisite sentinel pine. Perhaps tonight at last we will have our star gazing delight.

But now, Don and I are resting on the rocks directly in front of the camp, having chosen to rest and refuel for a bit before setting up camp. My feet are refreshed at the water’s edge, the sun is soothing my tired muscles, and my eyes are nourished by a momma loon, fishing for her baby’s lunch, slowly encircling the perimeter of our perch. She dives for a fish as the young one watches from above, ducking his head beneath the surface of the water until she emerges with a morsel for him.

I think the kids next door are packing up now, so perhaps the evening will be quiet after all. I am grateful for this day with Don.

Later,

In the shade of a large cedar I rest, the sun on the west facing rocks at the edge of the water having grown too intense for me. It is quiet. Low lying cumulous clouds retreat into the notch on the horizon. A soft breeze caresses. The only sound comes from a few flies buzzing, occasionally, nearby. Now the gulls call. This morning it was Thrush, who awakened me from my sleep, her song persistent, incorporated completely into my dreams as she roused me gently.

Ah, this view is so very intoxicating, entirely more so than the shot of rum I put into my afternoon drink.  This sky so very blue, that sunlight sparkling on gently rippling waters, this curve of the land. I am grateful for shade, for breeze, for water, for beauty. For this.

 

Wednesday morning, July 26, Bonnechere Lake, granite point of campsite, from which a trillion stars struck me dumb with wonder last evening.

We’d stayed awake to be with the starry array, as it was the first clear day and evening since early in this trip, when we were so tired we’d gone early to the tent. Don was fairly physically exhausted last evening, again, after the day of bushwacking, and was not able to remain long with me here even last night. I understand now that his stamina and strength are diminished and accept that as part of our relationship, something to love. As the years progress, I imagine that will only become more prominent. If I am to remain in loving, which I must, I shall have to learn to let go. Perhaps I am coming face to face with aging for the first time in my life. Don is much more than his physical body. This is perhaps what we all eventually realize as our bodies decline and fail. Our identity no longer can come from our physicality, thank Godde.

Later,

Again, I gathered blueberries, handfuls of them, plump and ripe, upon each plant, the picking so much more fruitful than a few days ago. Afterward, I collected firewood as Don split a few larger pieces. We baked pancakes on the silicone sheet I’d brought to trial. I learned that the fire needs to be quite a bit hotter than I’d imagined – either a bank of coals or higher flames, which is what I landed upon in the end, this morning. The silicone held nicely, yet I am not at all certain the entire process was any more efficient or expedient than cooking them one at a time in our small skillet.

We took a short day trip, up the length of Bonnechere again and into her other arm and across the liftover to beautiful Cradle Lake, those protective rock cliffs protecting her deep blue waters. We paddled the short length toward the larches that crowd her northern bay, where the portage to Plough Lake begins. The portage trail was quite primitive and overgrown, perhaps seldom used as it leads to a long thread of small lakes with no campsites. The walk was quite lovely as a result, the ‘path’ lined with solomon’s seal, bunchberry, and blue-beaded lily. There was a great old pine along the way and the largest turkey tail fungus I have ever seen, 18 inches across, on the trunk of a fallen giant. We lunched on the opposite end of the portage tail, a mucky landing overlooking a bay of little Plough Lake. Fortunately the mosquitos, for some reason, abated long enough for us to eat.

On the way back through Cradle we exited on the opposite shoreline, carrying the canoe across the campsite there that straddles the span between Cradle and Bonnechere, exploring there for a bit. That spot really could accommodate a relatively large group. I am dreaming again of bringing my sons and their daughters….

Now, I am tucked beneath the billowing tarp, flapping as it is in these returning gusts. I have spent some time tweaking the tarp here and there so that it might offer more of a windbreak, though I don’t know how much warmth we can muster beneath it with these windy conditions. Perhaps it will be an early to bed evening. I am more tired than I typically am. Perhaps that late night under those intoxicating stars. Ha.

I think for now I shall put down my journal, stop fussing with nylon tarps and redundant words and be here for a while, watching the slicing rain, listening to the patter, the gusts, and the occasional song of persistent bird or frog. Close my eyes. Be here now.

Night in the tent.

It is 9:30pm. I am feeling quite a bit better than earlier in the evening. The winds and rain blew cold and raw before they let up. My tummy and head was stirred up too. Fortunately a hot dinner helped with both and soon thereafter the storm system blew over as well. We were able to wash our dishes and close up camp in ‘dry’ weather, after which I made myself a cup of hot fennel tea to take with a few Tylenol.

Soon the sky began to put on a fabulous display. For over an hour, we basked in that beauty, as low lying clouds rolled away, revealing layer upon layer of thin clouds overhead, upon which the setting sun projected her light. From fiery oranges and reds through to fuchsias and pinks, peaches and golds, purples and dusky mauves, the colors flowed, unfolded, and flowered. In the waters below, reflecting so exquisitely that brilliance, a lone loon floated, as if she were also basking in that beauty.  No human made light display could begin to compare.

Don and I stood in silence for long moments, blessed by that beauty. I thought to myself that the earth could offer me no more perfect apology for the physical discomforts of the day than such a parting pageantry. And still. Everything belongs. Everything is beauty. (another song that I find myself singing here)

Tucked into the tent now, I note the gusting winds again, perhaps the tail of that dragon, but perhaps it is not yet ready to depart. Either way, I shall sleep peacefully, secure in the shelter of this tiny tent. I hope that loon is also hunkered down securely somewhere, safe in her nest, as am I. And now, to fall asleep to this lullaby of sound, winds in the pines, water lapping the shoreline, my husband’s breathing beside me.

 

healing waters – part 2

Saturday evening, July 22, Phipp’s Lake, campsite #2

Yes, we moved into the ‘house next door’. After fishing the rear bay this morning (no luck), we returned to camp for a breakfast of bacon and cinnamon buns (also a failure). It seems nothing was rising this morning. Several small groups paddled by as we ate breakfast, perched on a rock on the east side of the island, to which we’d bushwacked a bit for the view.

Back in the bay for some exploration after breakfast, Don dropped me on the far shoreline, where earlier I’d taken notice of a skinny trail into the bush, heading in the direction of the isolated body of water I’d noted on the map. Over the ridge, again I bushwacked my way down to a pristine spruce bog pond. The peat and moss mat was thick, alive with pitcher plant and blueberries, laurel and leatherleaf. The earth alternately crunched then sponged beneath my feet.

On my way back to the bay, where Don was waiting/fishing, I gathered handfuls of berries, popping them into my mouth as I went. Back in the canoe, we paddled around past our campsite to explore the second of the two sites on this lake, because, though I’d been certain that the one we’d landed upon yesterday would be perfect, I was surprisingly dissatisfied there.

So, despite Don’s reservations about moving camp, here we are on this site, high above the water, with the most spectacular views, though decidedly less friendly in terms of access and level ground. Everything is uphill here, quite significantly so, but of course, that is also what makes it so wonderful! 

We packed up everything and transported it here, including the wash line with my freshly laundered clothes (they smell fabulous now after a day in the wind and the sun!) and our pile of sticks for the stove. The cooking fire/ kitchen leaves a lot to be desired, with one small log upon which to sit, and it was difficult to find a level spot for the tent, not to mention the granite just beneath the thin layer of duff, making the placement of stakes a bit ‘hard’.  I know, it must make you scratch your head, too, but the negatives are so easily overlooked with this breathtaking overlook. Upon the ridge facing west, we are currently propped in our crazy creek chairs, soaking in that long alpine view. Seated in front of the netting we hung from the tarp, we are ready to retreat when the dusk barrage of mosquitos swarms.

Don and I tried fishing once again, trolling the length of the lake and back, after dinner. Again, with no luck. Of course, the hour we chose was the only time all day that the wind rose, and we were certain a storm was blowing in. But now the lake is still as glass, though the sky remains heavy with those clouds that were rolling in with the after-dinner blow.

The wood frogs croak their raspy rattle, the thrush picks up her evening flute, the loon calls out for her mate, and the mosquitos begin to drone.

Today, I felt the shift. No longer in a rush to get here, it feels as if we have arrived – in slow time, in presence, in companionship and rhythm, a rhythm that feels more natural between us than it has in a very long time.

Sunday, July 23, Phipp’s Lake, 6:30pm

The rain began overnight and has continued throughout this morning and afternoon, a steady rain, though not heavy, most often light showers. So, we kept to our plan to explore Kirkwood, Pardee, and Lawrence Lakes today. We had originally thought to move to Pardee today, but Don was uncertain about that with his ankle when we were making the reservation, so we decided to make it a day trip instead. 

The 715 meter portage into Lawrence was a muck mess, much different than I had recalled from last fall, which made it quite a bit more challenging with the canoe on my shoulders. Still, I am glad that I could carry it, because it opened so much more exploration to us. That campsite on Pardee Lake is a delight, as is the one on the far end of Lawrence Lake, which we’d bypassed last year by mistake, the wind deceiving us so.

Back now on the rocks overlooking Phipps lake, the clouds have not given up their hold on the sky, though it has not rained since we left Pardee @3:30 this afternoon. I am hopeful that they will clear before dark, The starry nightscape, for which I long, awaits beneath their cover.

I was fairly tired when we returned to camp, having carried the canoe 1500 meters today, especially since we’d gotten such a late start on our day, with the rainy morning convincing us to linger a while longer in our tent, listening to the patter on the roof. Breakfast was also a longer todo, with preparing it under the tarp, though we greatly appreciated the view from that perch, reinforcing again our decision to move here.

Now the breeze caresses my face as the waters lap the shoreline, each a pleasing sensation. The water today is much warmer than the air, which is surprisingly chilly for the end of July. This breeze from the east makes it so. There was even some convection fog as we returned to camp this afternoon. I have donned my heavy fleece for the evening, even though it is still rather young.

Monday, July 24, Phipp’s Lake

We are huddled beneath the tarp, pulled to the ground on the east wall to block the cold blasts of wind-driven rain. It is cozy enough and the view is still pleasing, even or perhaps especially in this gray.

The rains began again in earnest in the wee hours of the morning, intermittent at first, but by the time morning dawned fairly steady with occasional down pours. For a time, between showers, I had the tent door open to watch the water and sky, the air blowing in quite refreshing when curled beneath my down quilt. I was awake for the day by 5:30am but remained in the tent, listening to the rain and the wind before (human) nature urged me to venture forth. Fortunately for me, there was lull enough in the weather to fashion a cozier shelter by shoring up the tarp and to gather the things I would need for breakfast preparation beneath it before these hard driving rains began.

And so, I sat in the silence for quite some time, watching the sheets of rain blow down the lake, the windrows and ripples form and reform on its surface, the swirls of fog be picked up at cast into whirlpools of mist, the sky and the water one continuous element.

For a time, during the lighter showers of the morning, there were 2 birds, waxwing-like in appearance, snatching up blueberries on the bank beneath my feet. Last evening, we watched the dragonfly over this same embankment swirling and diving, snatching her own meal of evening mosquitos. She danced her food-gathering patterns for fifteen minutes or so before moving along. It was, for us, ensconced behind that bug netting,  like having front row seats at the ballet.

We are supposed to move camp today, just an hour’s paddle back from here . We will do so if the weather breaks, perhaps later, this afternoon, though we are not very good at all predicting such things. Usually it is more wishful thinking that convinces us of clearing weather more so than what our eyes see. If the weather remains this blustery, we shall stay put, move tomorrow, as we have the luxury of flexibility. It is always more pleasant to pack up camp and set up again when conditions and gear are both dry, though moving about does help a body’s warmth!! Who’d have guessed a down sweater atop my fleece in July.

Things feel well between Don and me. He does continue to struggle with walking, even around camp, tripping often and having great difficulty with the inclines of this site- the cost of this fabulous vista. I so appreciate his willingness to be here with me. He has even begun dreaming of future trips. I don’t believe a person begins dreaming if it is not something they hope for. Still, I know that he comes here for me. He told me yesterday that he ‘really does want me to be happy, after all.’

As I lay watching him sleep, even there, I can begin to see his aging, in the lines around his eyes. We may have only a few years of this. I must be able to live in the joy and beauty of this moment without clinging to it so tightly, be willing to let go when it must die. I note the grief in me at this, even as I accept this truth.

Who knows? Perhaps I will go before him.

There is only now, this breath, this view, this conversation, this chill in my toes, these trees, who stand in this great silence, witness to and giver of life long after I am gone, these ancient rocks, this perpetual recycling of water and sky, this thirsty earth.

 

 

 

healing waters – part 1

July 19, early evening

Big Porcupine Lake, Algonquin PP 

We have finally made it back into the park! After what feels like such a very long time since we have been able to journey together without pain, of either the physical or emotional kind, we are here. Don is currently sleeping next to the water (I hope he doesn’t get too much sun out there, but he is sleeping so deeply, exhausted from our day of paddling and portaging, that I don’t wish to awaken him. That second time across the Ragged-to -Porcupine portage, colloquially referred to as the ‘devil’s staircase’ whooped him – his words, not mine- though it was the strength in his legs and his aerobic conditioning that got the better of him more so than his ankles. Strength and fitness can be improved upon, of course, if he should decide that this is something that is important to him. But, for now, we are here!)

It has been threatening rain all day, spritzing on us occasionally, but each time the clouds seem to pass over just as we are deciding to pull our raingear back out of our packs. As it’s turned out, the weather has been quite perfect, as clouds and breezes have tempered the heat and humidity while also keeping the insects at bay. (Last evening, at Erin’s, where we’d stopped to visit and enjoy dinner with her family, the mosquitos were wicked, though admittedly it was much later in the evening, nearer to dusk, when we were outside there).  A few biting flies lunched on my exposed calves and ankles as we crossed Ragged Lake this morning, but since then we have been most fortunate as far as being meals for insects is concerned. We are now perched upon a west facing site with a long view into an inviting notch, where I expect the sunset could potentially delight us this evening — if we can stay awake that late!

I continue to hold Don in compassion and lovingkindness, while not putting myself and my needs as subservient or secondary- holding myself in lovingkindness too. Staying out of judgment of both of us! We were noting the level of relaxation we have had with each other so far – up until that second time across the Devil’s staircase, when Don likely pushed himself a bit too much. It is still hard for him, even with me, to let himself do ‘less than’ (I had offered to make the extra trip across, which would’ve been no problem for me), but we both noticed how much less pressure we put on ourselves when it is just the two of us here. I suppose that is fairly typical, but also something to be aware of, without judgment or over-identification, so that these behaviors don’t become habits, unconsciously driving us.

Let go. Let go. Let go. And be love. Love requires no performance, no measuring up. I wish to soften on this trip, soften our relationship, soften my need to push, soften my heart — and harden my muscles!!!

We were on the water this morning by 8:15, having left the motel near the park’s boundary at 6:40 and hitting some road construction on the ‘highway’ through the park to the Smoke Lake access point. At that early hour of the morning, the access was delightful.  We were alone on the docks, and encountered only 2 slowly trolling motor boats on our passage south through cottage-lined Smoke lake, which took us an hour to paddle. The first portage, around the dam at the south end of Smoke lake, went quite smoothly. Though a bit of an uphill climb, it took only 10 minutes to walk the 250 meters on fresh legs. Three times across and back for a second load and we were on Ragged Lake by 10 am.

On Ragged, we paddled past the site we’d stayed on last fall with our friends and were soon enough in the deadhead graveyard at the south end of the lake, meandering our way toward the grassy/mucky entrance to ‘the staircase’. I don’t know what time we arrived at the portage, but the walk took me 15 minutes one way, so I’d guess it was shortly after 11, since we were finished with it and eating our lunch on the banks of Big Porcupine shortly after noon.

After filling bellies and water bottles, we made the short paddle to this campsite, one of the two we had hoped to find empty. It is a delightful site, with a spacious and breezy rock outcropping and well protected tent site. We set up a tarp, expecting rain as we did, and seeing as we will be staying here for 2 nights.

I suspect this may be a popular site, within a half day’s paddle from the put-in as it is, though the lakes we passed through to get here have felt empty, especially for mid summer. We spotted only 2 other campsites that were occupied, one on Ragged Lake, and one on this lake, though we did pass a few parties departing, perhaps from long weekend trips. One young couple portaged the ‘staircase’ along with us but they kept moving, on their way to Harness for the night. Since we have landed here, no parties at all have paddled past. There are no human sounds here at all.

This early evening, with the sky clearing overhead, I bathe myself in the silence.

Don has awakened and is casting a line. I believe I will being dinner prep.

July 20. Morning, Big Porcupine

Hot Coffee!!!

The birds are chattering, fluttering, squawking all about me in the brush. Perhaps I have disturbed their morning routine with my arrival on this bouldered perch. As I walked the path to the water’s edge, I also spooked a small family of black ducks, about a half a dozen or so, the same one’s that flapped low across these waters, back and forth several times, last evening as we sat watching the sun set.

Now the light hits the trees in the far bog, though the ridge closer is still in shadow. A moment passes as I pen that sentence and the scene has shifted, negating itself entirely, the close ridge in light while the far notch is in shadow, as the morning clouds roll overhead. Two loons appear next to the miniature island off shore, hooting softly – now yodeling! – as another flies overhead with her tremolo alert. Yesterday, on Ragged Lake, we spotted a bald eagle, likely a predator for these and their young, whom I so hope to spot on this summertime trip.

Oh, the hot coffee!! My own morning routine alleviated by the convenience of a thermos. I can make coffee the night before, during evening camp chores, and so free myself to relax and BE with the dawn without the need to fuss over a cook fire and the boiling of water. At least in mid July, the coffee remains HOT by morning.

Small pleasures.

Don remained tired, though not in pain so far as I could tell, throughout the evening. I took care of the fire building last evening. I needed but a few sticks to bring our simple soup to a boil. Camping in summer can be easier that way without the need for a fire for warmth. Of course, there are other challenges, like mosquitos and deer flies. Each season has its pleasures and its ‘annoyances’.

Last evening, we spent a bit of time fooling with the mosquito net shelter, which we didn’t end up using after all. Perhaps it is a better solution for small groups than for two?, as we’d found it to be quite useful last summer when we tripped with our sons. Don and I prefer being close to the water at dusk, where we can watch the evening unfold with the setting of the sun and the turning on of the stars. It was 10 o’clock when we climbed into the tent last night, though, and the first of the stars had just barely appeared. Star gazing had to be delayed for night-time nature calls.

I dreamt last evening that one of my sons was so upset with me that he legally changed his name (to officially proclaim the disconnection he feels from me?) In another snippet of a dream, I was babysitting a grandson who was frustrating me so with his behavior. I imagine these dreams reflect the inner, unexpressed turmoil and guilt I feel over not attending to my family/loving well enough. It remains difficult for me to let go of that judgment and that fear. For this morning, I will simply note that and listen for what the invitation is in it for me.

Time to be here now. In love and compassion. With whole-hearted attention. To NOT take responsibility FOR the other, but to BE WITH the other in love.  Gazing upon beauty, I can feel everything without judgment (self) or blame, this joy AND this sorrow. I dismiss nothing as trivial, while also holding the truth that life is an enormous gift, an immense fullness, a fullness that I need not carry as weight but as blessing. I need not be all things to all people. I need simply be who I am and let life unfold as it will. If I remain in love, all will be well, no matter.

The vastness of this place helps me to put life into perspective – the big AND the small – and to find my small place somehow within it.

AFTERNOON

This morning, we paddled down Mud Creek through a lotus and lily crowded channel as it meandered through an alpine bog – one of my favorite kinds of paddling here in Algonquin. The bog was in full array, with cotton grass and pitcher plant and some birght yellow beauties that i know not.  There were pinks and yellows, reds and whites, and i delighted in them all.

We paddled until we reached a small beaver dam. From there, it appeared that the creek would peter out long before we reached either of the small lakes we could see on the map, as the channel was barely a canoe’s width already and the thin blue line on the map grew much thinner before we would have reached them. So, we decided to turn back rather than lift over the dam, as we had hoped to paddle to the other end of Big Porcupine lake this afternoon to walk the portage to Little Coon Lake and wanted to save time for that.

As it turned out, that portage trail into Little Coon was a swamp at its beginning, impossible to access without going in over your ankles and calves in moose muck soup. By then, neither of us was up for plowing through – it was already 2 in the afternoon- so we found an island campsite in that southern bay, where we stopped for a late lunch of chicken and apple slaw wraps before returning to camp.

All in all, it was a pleasant day, just enough exploring for me, not too physically exertive for Don. Oh, I forgot to mention the campsite across the bay from our campsite here on Big Porcupine. We visited it this morning before our paddle into Mud Creek. Replete with secluded nooks for sitting next to the water, rocky outcrops, great fishing spots (according to Don), a gorgeous campfire ring and pine needle carpeted expansive tent sites, it sits on a point with a cove around its back side. It’s only drawback was the box, which sat low on that back side and was quite mosquito infested this time of the year (of course, I had to ‘check that out’) The site is basically a long jutting granite ledge with a long view to the east for sunrise views (less so to the west but possibly a glimpse would be offered). That large fire ring sits high on the ledge and comes complete with a stone ‘table’. It could easily be a destination site for a family or other large group. Should Don and I come this way again, it is likely we’d try for that site, with its proximity to the marsh for wildlife viewing and nighttime paddling,  and its interesting shoreline of tiny inlets lined up like miniature fjords for exploring.

Friday, July 21, Phipps Lake, 3pm

I’ve found a spot of shade beneath an obliging pine, her roots holding tight to this granite outcrop so resiliently. She teaches me, perhaps , to draw nourishment from even the hard places in my own life. We have reached the campsite we stopped on for lunch one afternoon last autumn during our trip here with D&M, deciding then and there that this was a destination worth returning to. Private and secluded, we are alone on this lake. The water wraps around our site in a great arch, forming a large secluded bay behind us. It is quite breezy here this afternoon, as it was during the overnight on Big Porcupine last night, though the morning paddle from there to here (from 9 to noon) was calm and sunny, a real surprise and delight after the heavy gray cloud cover of day’s dawning. Again, the breeze helps tremendously with the heat and the insects, making the water sparkle and carrying the scent of pine and heath to my inhalations. The rustle of the tree tops, stirred to life by the wind. completes this sensory elixir.

Don is sleeping next to me. I have brought a pack to prop beneath his knees as they were bobbing haphazardly to and fro, and that didn’t appear to be very restful to me. He is fairly ‘spent’, he says, though today was an easy one, the portages short (200 and 175) and flat and the paddling easy. I expect the physical effort is simply much more than he has become (de)conditioned and accustomed to.

I am grateful for his companionship.

We saw a momma with her baby loon just after climbing into our canoes at the end of  portage from Porcupine into Bonnechere Lake, and here on our little slice of heaven, a pair of adults have been fishing the shoreline. I like the way they watch out for one another, often swimming, diving, and emerging side by side, but also at times going their own way, to come together again when one or the other calls, perhaps becoming aware that it has been some time since they last connected. They seem quite attentive and nurturing of one another that way.

I gathered a few blueberries from the shoreline, popping them into my mouth as I did (I have none to show for it, though tomorrow perhaps I will take a bowl to gather enough to add to the morning’s oatmeal or pancakes). They tasted of pine and heath too.

I wonder if we may have a bear or two come around, foraging. I did take note of two sets of moose tracks- a large and a small – in the muck, and this area is also the general vicinity from which we heard the wolf serenade that ‘mist’ical morning last autumn with D&M. Any or all of these would be terribly delightful to see, though the views alone are deeply satisfying enough.

I had thought to go swimming, but the deerflies dissuaded me when I was nearer the water. I am content enough to remain smelly for now.

Saturday morning, July 22, Phipps Lake

Quiet morning. Stillness. A loon calls. A dragonfly buzzes, snatching at a mosquito drawn to my body’s warmth. The lake reflects the silhouette of a loon soaring down into her watering landing, as my ears pick up the vibration created by the shape of her wings as she slows her descent and resists falling. A low convection fog hovers and swirls here and there, almost dissipated now by the warmth of the rising sun. It is 7:30 am. I have been up for some time. When Don rolled over to ask the time as I climbed out of the tent, it was 6:30 but I had by then already spent considerable time changing my clothes, applying insect repellent, coming my hair, etc. He has returned to sleep, still tired from these days of travel. He shall have to build up his stamina again, over time, I trust. I expect he will sleep 12 hours this night by the time he arises. We went to bed last evening at 9:30.

It is so very lovely here. I have found a rock from which I have a long view of the lake. Tomorrow, perhaps, if I can brave the insects, I shall rise to be with the rising of the sun, which I could watch from this vantage. I wish I could capture this image, but my camera (new to me on this trip) has taken its last photograph with the battery life that it has. (note – I shall have to purchase several backups) That’s okay, though. It will force me to ‘be’ here in a different way, attending with perhaps more stillness than I often can find.

Last evening, the insects defeated my desire to be out with the stars, once again. I suspect the culprits may have been no seeums or midges. My hands were swollen by the bites- at least 8 on my left hand- and burning. I simply needed reprieve. I wonder what human beings must have endured before mosquito netting. Perhaps they knew what we have forgotten.

This morning the insects are behind me, back in the bush, where I can hear their persistent buzzing. Here, at the water’s edge, I am at peace, unbothered, and seemingly unnoticed, by them. Reprieves are helpful for one’s sanity. Beauty helps too.

The pair of loons swim in tandem quietly now, from around the bend where the flyer landed a few moments ago. Down the length of the lake, smoothly, silently, they pass, as if they are basking in the morning. All the while I have been writing, a thrush has been singing. From further away, I hear the faint call of the white-throated sparrow (one of those fellows visited our fire circle yesterday morning, picking at the dirt, perhaps accustomed to finding morsels nearby, coming quite close as we ate our breakfast there)

Ah, this morning has been so healing. I think of person for whom there is no reprieve from the things that bite at them, from the things that pain them, for whom there is no beauty to offer such balm. I am filled with compassion for them this morning. How do they cope?

I am grateful for this reminder. Oh, what a beautiful morning.

 

 

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