Algonquin – day 8

Day 8, Sept 8. McIntosh Lake to Timberwolf Lake. 1.5km traveled, 450 m portage

6:30 am. Fog laden morning, which I am blessed to see due to these early morning nature calls out here in the wilds, where somehow my body knows when it is time to stir awake with the dawn and fall into sleep at twilight.

The lake continues to be so very quiet, the hum of one persistent insect is the only consistent sound, though even it seems to have moved away. The silence is punctuated occasionally by the plop of a fish, the random chirp of a tree frog, and now and then the yip of an adolescent loon out there somewhere, perhaps the one that we watched being fed small fish by its parents yesterday afternoon.

This blanket of fog seems to thicken, as islands once clearly visible across the water are now shrouded. One lone gull stands utterly still on a sliver of granite rising up in the bay.

I wish I could write more than an accounting of what I see and hear, I wish there were some way to write the way it makes me feel to sit here in the quiet on this fog-laden morn. ( now …a loon trills from somewhere across the water. now… a raven honks).

Oh, I want to be here, not to begin counting down the days (3 1/2) and I know that part of this accounting of these days, this attempt to capture this moment in words and photos, is both to deeply embed the experience in my heart and my mind, and also to be able to carry it with me.

Now the islands are completely impossible to discern on that horizon, the gray has descended so thickly. I see the head of a fish break the surface of the water nearer to me, but on second thought perhaps it was the sleek arc of an otter’s back. Soon, the sun will begin to heat the earth, her waters and lands, and the fog will rise, but for now I bask in this, wrap up in its peace.

Soon, I also will rise, make a small fire for my stick stove to heat water for rice pudding and coffee. A simple meal to nourish me.

The mother loon and her chick appear, the only spot of ‘color’ (though black and white) on this gray-bathed landscape. She feeds him a fish.

Late afternoon.

After the breakfast of rice pudding, Don and I set out for a late morning paddle on placid waters beneath a low sky. We explored the lower side of the lake, with its delightful coves, islands and inlets, which made me love this lake even more . We decided to forego the paddle down to Ink Lake, as the waterway looked low and having just paddled through marshland yesterday. In one of the southern coves of the lake, we were delighted by a family of 4 loons, who swam so close to our canoe we could’ve reached out and touched them with our paddle. At last, the adults became alarmed and trilled a warning to one another and their young, who dove immediately below the surface of the water.Upon one small granite island, atop a pine tree , we saw four heron roosting.

Paddling northwest across the middle of the lake (which we never would’ve thought would be possible just one day ago) we passed the line of islands, strung up like pearls on a strand of granite. The water itself was like fluid ribbons.

This afternoon, we decided to make tomorrow’s portaging easier and move to Timberwolf lake , a lonesome little lake with just a half dozen bereft campsites, all of which seem to see little use and none of which were very appealing. We did spot a family of otters at play in one cove and quite a few wolf tracks along the sandy beach of another site we stopped at. So, perhaps this lake is not so forlorn after all.

We settled on a campsite with a thick growth of young hemlock. Several large old ( and dying or dead) hemlock shelter the grove of new sprouts, not unlike the loons in the lake this morning. The shelter, as it turns out, was quite wonderful as it started to rain in earnest shortly after we arrived, not an unwelcome respite and replenishment for body and land. Before the rains let loose, the sky was so very heavy, the air so thick, that we are relieved (both of us, the earth and me) with the release.

I sit now, down near the water, on the stub of what was once a great limb, or perhaps a second trunk, of this great old hemlock that is shedding the water for me. The lake has grown as gray and foggy as the day began. The one bright red maple we noted with glee on the knoll across the water is no longer distinguishable at all.

Later in the evening, in the tent @8:30pm

It is raining in earnest again after a brief respite following dinner, when we tried to sit by the water for some watching of the sky, which was dark with the rainclouds that seemed to be chasing, closing the brief clearing that was granting us this after-dinner break.

Chores in camp, with the two of us beneath the tarp became a little too close for comfort, as we bumped into one another… with too much of the space perhaps being taken up by packs and barrels and firewood? Cooking was challenging as I was feeling disorganized and each time I set something down it seemed to pick up 100 hemlock needles, which in the end despite my best effort ended up in our bowls. Oh well. Particularly by this time in the trip, the combination of weariness and too much togetherness can cause our engrained co-dependent coping strategies to rear their human heads. Still, I thanked the rain for reminding me of my humanity, and my need to continue to nurture inner stillness in order to be able to remain compassionate and kind when the external becomes stressful as it did this evening.

These great old hemlocks are beckoning me to notice such stillness. I am perplexed that I almost missed them, so accustomed am I to old ones like this standing alone with an understory of spacious darkness. (as they say, sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees) Yet these woods, as I’d mentioned before, are densely populated with young hemlocks, so thick they obscure what were once pathways through these woods. It seems as if the old ones are letting go, stepping aside, making space for new life to take root. I am grateful for their overarching and patient grace.

It is curious to me that I don’t feel as if I’ve gotten as quiet as I have been in the past. Of course, with the two of us here there is no real alone time, save the early morning when I rise before Don, or late night hours, when I have been too tired for reflection. In that respect, it is not unlike our at home life, still sorting out how we make space for each other to breathe deeply enough.

Don and I are quite different, and often that is a real blessing to us both. At other times it is a trial, as we each have such different ways of seeing and doing things that it can turn into misunderstanding at least and a battle of power and control at the worst (of course, a passive aggressive one at that 🙂 ) In places like this, his busy energy and helpful extroverted nature can make it difficult for me to find the quiet stillness that I need, to find the still place ‘from which the writing comes’.

This evening, I read quite a few passages about silence and solitude, that affirmed for me their goodness and value. It is not about ‘getting away from’ as much as it is a ‘moving inward/toward’ something in me that longs to be here. I must learn to honor this need in me as if it were food, water, air, as necessary for my survival, at least the survival of my spirit, my depths. I long to rediscover this one in me, this place of al-oneness, of mutual independence and one-ness.

Too sleepy for more. Tomorrow is another day.

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