Summer of Becoming – nwse

This trip was with a group of four women, who have known one another as participants in a nature-based spirituality group since 2012, a group that was about healing our broken connections – with other women, with the natural world, with thesacred, and with ourselves.  We called our group, NWSE-(north-west-south-east)  Nurturing Women in the Sanctuary of the Earth and used the cycle of the Earth and her seasons as our guide. Last summer, I offered to ‘guide’ these women to this place that I love so deeply. It was my first time hosting a group of non-family members on a canoe camping trip.

Day 1, Thursday, August 25, Farm Lake, near dusk

About a half hour’s paddle from the Farm Lake access point, in the narrows between Kitty and Farm Lake, we have settled and made camp.  This spacious and open campsite has the feel of a peninsula with the way the water winds around it on its southeasterly way.  Indeed, the site has more the character of lazy river campsite than a lakeside one  (no expanse of open water, no long views, no loons ), which I suppose it is in a way, as the Opeongo River narrows and widens many times throughout this string of lakes on its way from Annie Bay to the Madawaska River.

From the seat of a canoe on previous visits to this part of the park, I have often admired this site as being picturesque as I paddled through this way. During our base camp stay here, I expect we’ll also have a bit of ‘traffic’ passing us by on this particular narrowing of the Opeongo’s course, and will likely have close neighbors just across the water, too. However, seclusion is not the goal of this inaugural trip, rather introduction.  Given the experience and comfort levels of our group, this seems to be a wise and sheltered choice for all – with no portaging required.

The rounded site sits high over the water with ample views of the meandering river and the small intimate coves that surround it, as well as lots of room for spreading out and finding personal space. Foot trails down to the water’s edge offer seclusion for those of us who long for a closer intimacy.  I suspect, based upon initial exploration, that otters and beavers reside in the neighborhood, too.  And so, despite my initial resistance to being tucked away from the more open waters of the lake, I’m certain that this spot will work its unique wonder, as any place in Algonquin will do.  The artists and poets, nature lovers and bathers, and first time canoe campers among us will all be content to drink from the bosom of the land here for a few days.

Expectation so often destroys our ability to appreciate the beauty that is spread out before us.

I have been surprised already by a few unexpected responses from two of our women.  One of the women mentioned that the lake reminded her of her favorite reservoir back home.  I wasn’t exactly sure if that was a delight or a disappointment.  Another has surprised me with her relative comfort and familiarity with camping in tents, as she has always refused to sleep out of doors when we met as a group back home, choosing always to sleep inside the cabin instead.


Ah, Algonquin, I trust you will have your way with us all. I must remember how overcome I was by you when I was a virgin in your arms, just around the corner from this very campsite, in a cabin as a matter of fact.  There is nothing I need to do, nothing I need to force or make happen, no particular experience I need to create.  I need only be here, fully awake and trusting, allowing with full humility the days to unfold as they will, and you to do the magic you do.

And so I roll over in your arms even now to breathe in the depths of your stars.

(more text after the images)

Day 2, Friday afternoon, August 26

The stars were indeed delightful last night, a wide swath of the Milky Way painted across the dark sky, visible from the southeast shoreline near to where the boats were pulled ashore.  Celie, who joined me when she heard me crawl from my tent, was also enchanted, though she said she’d seen better somewhere back home.  We indeed do have a more limited view from this more enclosed setting, a smaller portion of the bowl from which to drink.

I am noticing something in many conversations of late that has me troubled. I’m wondering about the ways that we share the life-giving and transformative experiences of our lives without turning that sharing into seeming one-upmanship.  I understand that on some deeper level our ‘Yes, Me Too-s’  come from our longing to connect, from a yearning to know and be known, but too often they come across as ‘Know-it-All’-ness. I shall try to watch for that in myself.

Listen. Listen. And Listen some more. Of course. Ask questions, Be curious . Be open to receiving from the other, to learning something new. Oh sweet humility, here is your invitation to me once again.


A small mammal lives along the bank near to where I sit this afternoon, but it is not an otter as I imagined. It swims with its nose just above the water, trailing a telltale V in its wake.  Something smaller- perhaps a mink or a muskrat ? – that uses these watery passageways into the river bank.  Early this morning, we heard someone splashing, as if into the water from the shore, as we sat here together in silence.

After breakfast, we packed for a day trip and then paddled to hike the portage trail over to Booth Lake, the wind crossing Kitty Lake strong enough to affirm my decision to not paddle into bigger water with this small band of women. One of the women, struggling physically with the 600 meter hike to our lunch spot, made clear to me that the choice not to portage camping gear on this trip was a wise one. Even the steep climb up over the root ‘stairs’ to our campsite is a challenge – we need to use hand holds and so carrying water is tricky. I have overestimated the stamina and strength of some of my friends, forgetting that some are 15 -20 years older than me. Once again, assumptions and expectations are clever tricksters, keeping me present and responsive to what is, or at least inviting me to do so if I don’t try to control or resist.

We discovered a charming swimming hole, a large eddy with a small lodge of some sort nestled into its cove, just downriver from the dam on Booth Lake. There the water, which was roiling just 50 yards upstream, was still and deep. Aster and goldenrod had replaced the summer blossoms already, tucked into the boulders along the river bank. Even the tea is dying back now and just one lone, overripe blueberry clings to the thicket near where I sit writing.  My guess is this same thicket was swimming with blueberries when my friends spotted a bear swimming across the river here just one month ago when paddling these waters.

Several small water snakes dart about in the water now. At first I thought them to be small turtles, as their heads poking out of the water appear quite similar, but their swift agile movements made me look twice. I wonder what it is they are zigzagging to eat? Insects of some sort, no doubt. A heron glided in a half an hour ago to perch on a log to my right, while the cormorant has taken up her sentinel post on the tip of exposed boulder across this small bay.

The afternoon has quieted nicely. I am grateful for this place away, even from dear friends who are with me on this trip, to be alone and not responsible for another’s happiness and comfort in this moment. Hmmm, now that is interesting to write out loud. I realize how unrestful some of my trips have been with my constant worrying and care-taking in that way.  I am not complaining, nor would I take back any one trip as they each have been special in their own unique way—building relationships and shared memories—but just noticing what ALSO might be needed.  Some more time like this—just to BE here.

I think of how stressed I was before leaving home for this trip in those readying days leading up to our departure, how I was unable to slow down and be still, to be there for my daughter during her unexpected visit during that busy time, for instance. But then I think that perhaps she may need me to NOT ‘be there’ for her as much as I am, that what she needs more than that is to learn how to ‘be there’ for herself.  And I realize that this is my work, this letting others be responsible for their own happiness, this letting go of trying to ‘make’ – to make the other see, experience, feel, be, what I want them to see, experience, etc.  The Mary Oliver poem, ‘The Journey’*, comes to me now, with those lines about those in your life, whom you love, tugging at your ankles, clamoring for you to ‘MEND MY LIFE’

I long for Don’s presence here with me too, the way we move in rhythm with one another when we are here, the unspoken communication that occurs between us, the intimacy that develops in the quietness of this place, like dancing together to the music of silence.


Evening paddle, like a prayer, quieting my soul and bringing me peace

Alone, I paddled through the silken water, each stroke as softly and smoothly as I could. I’d thought at first to paddle only in the cove immediately beside our campsite, but my sister’s flute lured me on. Around the bend, it trailed me with its haunting melody, as if we were playing a duet.

The water was so terribly still that my paddle strokes, along with the wake of the canoe, created a ribbon of silk, refracting in her mirror the images of the trees along the riverbank. Long silken-haired grasses lay down with the current to sway with her invitation.  Though bright green, they picked up the angle of the setting sun’s light like strands of silver.

Oh, I wish I could say more about those exquisite moments on the water, but now I am quite sleepy. My hope is that this brief entry will remind me of the way in which the water caressed my soul this enchanted evening.

Day 4, Sunday, August 28

Yesterday, three of us paddled over to Crotch Lake, retracing the paddle strokes that had brought us from the put-in and then continuing on beyond it.   Elsie duffed in the center of the canoe, on a throne of birch logs we loaded for her, while Alice chose to take a day of rest altogether, remaining behind in camp. It was a lovely day of paddling and bathing in the beauty.  A leisurely day of exploration, we stopped by many campsites along the way, and lunched at last on a fabulous double site on the island in Crotch Lake, just south of the portage to Shirley.

Last evening at twilight­­, we paddled as a group around the bend and out into the open water of Farm Lake, returning to camp after dark, a dark that was hastened by a sudden heavy cover of clouds, which made navigating our way back in the shallows a bit delicate. The sunset colors that had painted the evening the day before were absent this night from the sky, making of the same vantage an entirely different view.

This morning, Elsie woke with a headache and an upset stomach, so today, she and Celie chose to stay in camp while Alice and I paddled across to the portage to Bridle, where I carried the canoe with my daypack so that we could continue exploring once we arrived there.  We extended our walk in the woods from the other end of Bridle Lake, taking the 1600m trail over to Shirley Lake, where we breathed in the sweeping view from the sandy shoreline over our lunch.

Along the way, we took time to appreciate the small life of the forest trail.  Lichen and fungi, mushrooms and a variety of fern lined our way. One great old trunk hosted an entire village of mosses and mushrooms. Another old one that had fallen left in her wake a boulder strewn cavity that I mistook as a dry streambed at first.  Returning the same way we had come, my intimacy with that forest trail deepened as I recognized and greeted those we had passed coming.

A moose antler, left propped at the base of the sentinel tree, was curious to touch.  I was struck by its parched boniness, by the weight and the coarse texture of it.

Returning to camp just as a few large drops of rain began to hit the water, we were pleased to note that the weekend ‘crowd’ that had been at Kitty Lake cabin had packed up and departed.  The return of the quiet will be welcome.

Tucked into my own quiet nook this morning, in what has become my morning ritual on this trip – rising quite early to boil the water for coffee and tea, then taking my cup to the edge of the water as I wait for the others to awaken, a beaver swam quite close to me. Laying still in the shallows nearest the shore for what seemed a long stretch, she basked before turning and slipping away, seemingly unalarmed or unaware of my presence. I’d heard several crashes in the night while in my tent, which I realized this morning was likely her doing.

Now I am beneath the tarp with my friends, though the rain has been brief, occasional and light, and now the sun is peeking down at my page through fast moving clouds, creating a strobe-like effect. I am comfortable though, so I will likely remain here, with this view of the water. My hip is talking to me a bit after those carries today. I really must lighten my daypack for days such as this, though I really wanted to lighten Alice’s load today, freeing her to walk farther.

Celie is painting. Alice is reading. Elsie has gone to lay down in her tent. And, as they say, Life is Good.

Day 5, Monday morning, August 29

My day has begun, rising again at 5:30 to boil coffee, while watching the last of the stars turn off their lights for the day, the silver sliver of the waxing moon still bright in the bluing sky. Sitting here now, I notice some clouds have crowded in, pushing across the horizon, steel grey but blushing pink on their undersides from the touch of the rising day star, not yet visible to me but revealing his whereabouts in that subtle reaction.  Already, even as I jot down these words, a touch of gold glances upon those pinks and peaches and greys, casting a luster where I’d imagined dreariness a moment ago. How revealing is that?

They pass so quickly, as if downstream in a fast moving current, that the sky is now practically blue once again, tinged only faintly with yellow and lavender highlights. A light mist is beginning to rise from the surface of the water and I imagine it too will soon be flowing in earnest toward the bright sun that draws all things forth.

Moment by moment, changes. Nothing is constant, it seems. So noticeable is that truth here, without the distractions that prevent me from seeing and being present to this great gifting earth.

Last evening after dinner, we attempted, once again, a twilight paddle and float, but those same heavy clouds blanketed the sky, darkening our way back to camp quite precariously again. Upon our return, we enjoyed a campfire, our first evening fire of the trip, where the conversation turned to future trips- which pleased me as it revealed that this one has been meaningful for my friends.

Oh, those low clouds continue to roll, more coming in from the west The sun in the clearing for just a moment, I drink in her welcome. Soon she will be high enough to warm the earth here.

A loon wails in the distance.

Day 6, Tuesday, August 29

Another morning on the lake, another bank of clouds, another mist rising. The clouds this morning are more heavily striated, gray like yesterday, though I am learning that even the white ones look gray before dawn!  Indeed, even now I can see through a break in those low lying clouds, higher ones already lit up like gold.

Last evening, I sat here, watching the beaver peruse the shoreline.  Indeed, I think I spot her even now, headed this way. Over breakfast yesterday morning, we watched a pair of otters off the opposite side of camp, in the distance just before the river bends, near to Kitty Lake Cabin.

Alice has joined me now. It is 6:45 and I have been up for an hour, boiled water for coffee and again for tea. It takes awhile longer to prepare enough for everybody, but I am fine with it all. I am content to share- because I have enough – an interesting thought and awareness that has unfolded in me on this trip.

A pileated calls as she crosses over the water, calling again from the far shore. I hear her drilling now. Perhaps she has found nourishment too.  A flutter of wingbeats in the bush at the water’s edge near my feet announces the arrival of a companion, even as Alice’s footfall did the same.

The greys are now flushed with peach, trimmed in gold, the lower ones a long streak of lavender on the horizon.

Yesterday morning, before our contemplative sit, I read a few pieces aloud. I am grateful that my friends indulged me so, for in the reading of them I heard what was not clear until then. The first piece was about water, the myriad ways it is transformed and transforms, recycled and reused, across time and distance- flowing, freezing, cleansing, filling. The other was about canoe tripping, the daily routines, the getting into the water, the being a part of the flow of it all. I came away with an awareness and an affirmation of why a moving trip is so potently meaningful to me, why I feel so much more alive and present, immersed and intimate in such a trip, flowing with, being transformed by, and becoming a part of the natural world

(Now a trio of ducks comes in for a landing with such velocity and suddenness that it is as if a gust of wind as touched this still lake)

There is , of course, another sort of intimacy in this sitting here, quietly absorbing, witnessing, though I feel somehow detached and a bit distant-from, hidden here in a way, I suppose. I expect this is life-cycle stuff, this longing to flow with, this desire to dive in and become a part of something bigger than me.

Now the loon wails her alert on the next lake and the beaver returns to her lodge at my feet, blowing bubbles in the water as she dives for her underwater doorway. The cormorant again announces her arrival, the beat of her wings moving currents of air to vibrate the drums in my ears, then alighting with a cackle upon her perch. Good morning.

Fingers of sunlight reach for the reeds on the opposite shore before the rolling clouds pull them back once again. Something splashes in the water, just to my right- someone taking a morning swim before breakfast, no doubt.

And it is time, as well, for me to prepare breakfast here for my friends.


Our last full day in camp was spent exploring an old logging road, looking for an old bridge over a beaver pond, which I’d remembered lunching at once upon a time.  We never did find the bridge. I suspect the beavers finally had their way with it after the logging company stopped maintaining the earthen road. The ‘road’ was overcome by watery beaver runs in some places, and filled in by wildflowers in others. We eventually came out on a newer logging ‘road’, which we followed for a bit, half-heartedly so, before fatigue turned us back.

Tomorrow morning we will breakfast, pack up camp,  paddle out to the ‘real’ world.





summer of becoming – two women, one canoe – 6


Day 7, morning, Hay Lake Lodge

Silver lake, early coffee, quiet dawn. There is something about this place that simply elicits stillness, and though I had thought to sleep late, the quiet of the dawn enticed me to rise with it.

The lake is rippled silver, mirroring the sky, a subtler beauty than the riot of pink that washed over both last evening at dusk. We were late (too late) arriving after a long, long day….

We’d begun the day early, as planned. I’d been awake since 4 am, when I rose to walk to the water’s edge for a view of the stars, which had finally come out to play. The southwestern sky was littered with them, so many I couldn’t name one in the crowd. An hour later, I was dressed and packing my tent as the water boiled for the coffee.

We were on the lake paddling in the rising and rolling mist/fog of dawn. Once again, my camera (at last with a dry lens) ran out of battery power on this, the last day, which was the most beautiful by far ! I suppose I really must stop attempting to video anything. It’s just that that loon call so early in the dawn was so clear and so haunting, echoing across the bay, that I wanted to capture that beauty. Can one ever ‘capture’ beauty? Is it wise to do so? So often I wonder, does attempting to do so take me out of the moment, or draw me into it?

We watched a beaver, and later her mate, on their morning rounds in the dark water as we entered too. Rounding the bend, the yellow sun warming the morning fog with her golden haze, we encountered a family of otters in the lily lined passage. We also spooked some black ducks and mergansers, whose flutter of wings stirred the still air. Approaching the portage, two herons, one drying her wings in the tree, the other wading for a fish, joined the morning array.

The paddle through the Petawawa between Little Misty and Daisy was laden with watery jewels, individual droplets dotting the lily pads with diamonds, thousands of dewdrops coating the morning webs, so as to make them appear to be crocheted from my grandmother’s thick cotton thread rather than from the silk that they are. It is wondrous to me that their intricacy can bear all the weight of that water.

The frogs poked their eyes from atop the grasses, bent over in the subtle current, and from lily pads moistened with dew, as we paddled along disturbing their beds but not seeming to stir them to distraction, intent as they were upon breakfast.

We stopped by the campsite on Daisy, where my husband and I had watched the moose splash in the shallows last autumn. I’d so love to bring my women to this site in a few weeks when I return, and I wanted to check it out.

(oh, a loon just emerged from the depths next to this deck where I sit with a fish in her mouth!)

The final lakes and portages were busy, full of people also in love with this place, folks coming in and going out- one large extended family group of 18, another of 9, and multiple groups of 2 or 4, making the portage trails feel hurried, though perhaps the rush got us to the takeout sooner in the end.  One group had 6 little ones under the age of 7, each one carrying some piece of gear across the 400 meter portage from Daisy to the ‘pond’. I hope to be bringing my little ones to this place one of these years.

A grandmother with her children and teenage grandchildren also inspired me (this was the group of 18). So, now I am imagining my children and grandchildren swimming the sandy shore of that Daisy Lake campsite, leaving those waters at dinnertime to allow the moose family its turn.

The drive from the east side of the park to Hay Lake was long, after such a long day (though we were in the parking lot at the Magnetawan access point by 2, sooner than we’d imagined) . The stop at the visitor center with its fabulous bookstore, I could’ve easily passed by on this trip, as I will have so many opportunities this season to visit, but how could I deny that nourishing stop to my friend. Too often, it is me who longs to stop and browse there, just awhile longer, The next stop, for nourishment of another sort, at a lunch bar was somewhat less satisfying, but by then it was far too late to arrive at Hay Lake requesting a meal.

Now, my friend has also risen from sleep. Breakfast will soon be delivered to our room. And so, we will break bread together one last time, the sacred and rich nourishment of our time away sealed with a morning croissant.















summer of becoming – two women, one canoe – 5

Day 5, Misty Lake

Morning. Sitting quietly now, next to the marsh, down the shoreline trail from our campsite. It is still quite grey  and damp, occasionally breaking into a light drizzle, even after those few spots of sun on the rocks during breakfast enlivened our hopes for drying our gear.

I am donning dry clothes, which I intend to keep that way, though even my raingear is damp. So, the tent may be my refuge and my retreat if the rain picks up again in earnest. The shelter she provided last evening and overnight awakened me, warm and rejuvenated.

This marsh is lined with wildflowers- purple gentian, yellow goldenrod, pink aster, and that fuschia plume that we hope to identify. My camera lens is fogged on the inside, so photo taking, which would ordinarily fill my eyes with wonder on a slow day like today, is not possible. Perhaps this is yet another invitation to stillness.

A red squirrel chatters, a distant loon calls, a small patch of sunlight passes, though the skies remain heavy.  A quack, a flutter, the rush of a breeze, a splash. Now, a bee skims by my ear on the breeze. Moment by moment, changes to behold. …Now, I am chilled with a blast of cold air. Now, I am warmed by the sun.

An otter is busy, far into the marsh. I can spot just his head swimming to and fro. A slow, spreading circle reveals that something has risen, or perhaps alighted, to snatch an insect from the water’s surface. Now, a distant bawl of some sort and the sound of something large plopping into the water. I wonder if a moose is grazing just around the far edge of my vision, wading in the water there. Or perhaps it was the kerplunk of a beaver tail’s warning, which sounds like a bowling ball being dropped in the water, according to Jeb.  I could rise to explore, but I am content here, simply being , my senses awake, noticing what is.

There is a scent here that I would not have named before now… not muck, but more green somehow than that. I wonder if it were able to put it into a box that I could open sometime later, perhaps this winter, if I would recognize it as Algonquin marsh. I suppose that this journal might capture that scent here for me.

Now something peeps behind me, but perhaps it is more like a screech. …..



I have just walked back to camp for my rain jacket, to use as a wind break and to offer a barrier to the dampness, though now the sun has broken through. (Oh how glorious is the sun!) Still though, it mists, and I scan for a rainbow, which surely must appear, and I notice that to my left, along the southeastern horizon, the clouds remain dark and ugly.

Across the bay, a large bird, perhaps a cormorant, perches on the exposed end of a submerged log, attempting like me to dry her wings. A loon fishes nearby for her noontime meal. I realize that I too am hungry. My friend has taken a walk around to the end of the cove to see what she can see, so I shall wait for her company, even as the loons have also found theirs – there are four of them now in the bay, fishing.

Much later,

What an absolutely glorious last day in camp! Thank you

As we sat watching the marsh, this late morning, a family of otters came out for their day of apparent play (though I’m also certain they were out fishing for their sustenance.. a lesson there, yes?) They slide through the water like dolphins, then pop their attentive heads, like periscopes, to peer curiously about. Across logs and through lilypads they dart and they glide. Once, the young otter became separated from his parents and began yipping in distress, his calls quickly responded to.

After a long while, the otters swam back toward their den in the shoreline, where at this time my friend and I were inadvertently standing. We had noted several dugout areas in the bank, into which one there was still a watery passageway leading. When the male spotted us, he rose to his full length and grunted quite disapprovingly at our presence. The other two grunted their dismay, as well, from a spot safely behind him, until at last they all turned on their tummies and slipped, disgruntled, away.

After lunch, a loon wailed so plaintively from around the bend, her voice echoing round the lake and into our cove. I was struck by the mournful quality of her call, so haunting in its beauty. Ahh… another calls even now, breaking the silence of this evening in which I sit recalling and writing, an evening at last without the sounds of the rain pounding or pattering, or wind rushing. It is quite still, the stars at last reappearing for the first night since our very first one here.

Sometimes, I feel as if the earth is apologizing on nights such as this, just to make sure I will still love her, as after a terrible quarrel with a lover.  She tests my resolve and reminds me that I am indeed small and vulnerable, not at all in control as I’d like to be. The colors of this evening’s sunset, reflecting off those at last retreating clouds, feel like the rainbow after Noah’s infamous flood.

I took the canoe out for a paddle after lunch (a late lunch, albeit, for it was after 4 when I embarked) only to quickly discover, after just a minute or two of paddling,  two moose – a mother and her calf – just around the corner from our campsite at the edge of the marsh! I called to my friend, excitedly yet cautiously, and she took off by land to watch too.  I paddled as close as I could, until the marsh muck proved unpassable, then returned to the land and the trail with my friend. My approaching footfall at first frightened the moose back into the bush, but soon they emerged at a point further along, and we sat watching them for probably two hours or more, hunkered down in the brush opposite them.

I was delighted by the way that the moose blows air from her nostrils, blowing bubbles, when she plunges her mouth into the water to tear at the grasses and lilies. The calf stays very close by, mirroring her mother’s movements, learning from her while guarded by her. Their ears, like a deer’s, are quite sensitive, turning independently of each other in the direction of the slightest of sounds. At times, either startled or cautious, they would lift their heads from the water, to stare, frozen, with fronds of plants dangling from the sides of their jaws, which made me giggle more than once. Moving quite slowly and apparently deliberately, through both water and across the land, the calf stays close to the tail of her mother. Entering the woods at last, it seemed that almost at once they disappeared, like an apparition melting into the landscape so completely one would not believe they had been there at all.

During that long sit, I also delighted in a hummingbird visiting the marsh meadow, coming so close I could almost have touched her, along with some bees, bumble and otherwise. A small flock of wren-like birds fluttered in the dwarfed pines nearby as two hawks screeched overhead. Later, a beaver made his early evening rounds as we ate dinner on the rocks.

Now, we are as packed as we can be, ready to begin our long paddle and portage tomorrow. We hope to be on the water by 6 as the day’s travel may take as long as 8 hours to complete. I do hope the weather holds. I must sleep now. Early to rise.




summer of becoming – two women, one canoe – 4

Day 4 – Misty Lake cove

Another full day of steady and heavy rain.

Last evening we finally were able to take a brief paddle along the north shoreline of Timberwolf Lake, just before dark, during an after-dinner break in the rains.  (The cove into which the 845m portage from Misty Lake emerges is quite charming, a spot in which I might choose to camp if I were to visit this lake again soon) We’d whiled away the afternoon beneath the tarp, and the remainder of the evening and well into the night, it continued to rain in earnest, with brief occasional pauses just long enough to trick one into believing the storms had passed. Indeed, one such pause around 3:30 this morning filled me with such hope, but alas it has rained throughout this entire day too.

We were able to stop at the campsite on Misty Lake, where Don and I stayed last fall, nearest the 130m portage that skirts up and around a small but exquisite waterfall. It was good to revisit that site and recall those intimate moments with him, watching the vivid oranges and pinks of that sunset, delighting in the beavers swimming their wide arcs past our rock, listening to the call of the loon echo around and around the lake, and swimming in that boulder strewn shoreline. My friend and I lunched there after exploring the coves and the bays and poking around in the marsh near the portage to Shah. There we watched a hawk and were hearkened by the calls of a duck in severe distress (likely because of that hawk!)

After lunch, we continued westward through showers, stopping once at a potential campsite on the south shore of the narrows, which was really quite lovely, though we decided to press on toward the westernmost sites so as to not encounter a difficult paddle should the wind pick up later on in the week. So far, Misty Lake has been quite accommodating to us, as each time we’ve paddled her length she has cooperated with calm waters or tailing breezes, but I have known her to behave quite otherwise.

The site we have landed upon could really be quite pleasant – the marsh that it neighbors feels both secluded and alluring – though it is well used and the designated campfire/kitchen sits so far from the water’s edge.   I wish we could have visited the marsh more intimately this evening, but the rain chased us into our tents once again, long before any creatures had come out for the night.

Inside my tent now, I imagine it may be finished precipitating at last, though it is difficult to discern as so much water has been caught by the trees that they continue to rain even when the skies above them have ceased. On second thought, I think there may be a light drizzle, still. Everything is wet, despite our tarps and our carefulness. The dampness has seeped into everything. I have learned that it might be a good idea to pack the tent floor liner into a separate bag than the tent itself to keep it away from the wetness. Some other learnings from this trip – A second tarp may be helpful to create a more complete shelter from blowing winds, a bundle of dry sticks should be gathered and carried for starting the stove, a back-up canister of fuel for the pocket-rocket stove would ease my anxiety on trips such as this. Even the torch lighter failed this evening to light, having gotten too wet in my pack.

Now the loon’s wailful call resonates. My spirits are flagging abit this evening (after the frustration with lighting the fire in the rain, despite splitting the sticks with my knife to reveal their dry centers, I couldn’t get a fire burning with the (un)available firewood on this picked over site… more skills to hone and develop) Mostly, I am tired of the rain and the chill, eager again for the sun and her warmth. Oh, for those 90 degree days from the start of our trip.

Oh, I almost forgot, today we heard a tree fall! while visiting the other campsite. So heart-pausingly remarkable. That campsite was much more cozy than this one, though the rocks here would have been phenomenal perches had the sun come out to play.

The tent is drawn tight as a drum, the raindrops making sweet music now. It is good to be still, to be quiet, to be soothed. Though the conversation between my friend and me is sweet, I do find myself longing for silence at times throughout the day, and so I find myself dreaming again of coming here alone. Each trip prepares me in some way for that eventuality, I trust, both teaching and beseeching me.

I do miss Don…. I am sleepy now. Good night.



summer of becoming – two women, one canoe – 3

Day 3, rainy day on Timberwolf

We retired early again last night (in our tents by 9), the rains that had threatened all evening finally arriving sometime during the early morning hours. I had awakened already several times by then, zipping open and closed the tent doors to allow air to pass through, alternately throwing the fly back and then redrawing it over the top of the tent. Each time I stirred to adjust, I’d checked the sky for stars, hoping that the clouds might have cleared enough to reveal the promised star show, but it soon became evident that the heavy skies of the evening intended to persist. Finally, sometime around 4 am the skies let loose in earnest. From then on, ironically, I slept much more soundly. Letting go has that effect, I suppose.

We rose at last at 7 for a pre-breakfast paddle, softly into the bog and back, in hopes of encountering some fellow early morning risers, though we met only a heron and a black duck. At the farthest point from camp, as we floated, turning slowing, watching and waiting, to our wondering ears suddenly came from the distance what sounded like rush hour traffic. At first, I thought perhaps it was the wind, though there was no evidence in the trees along the shoreline or the grasses nearer by that it had risen. At the last minute, we realized it was the sound of approaching rain, heavy rain, drumming the surface of the water and the leaves in the trees, making its hasty way toward us. Let’s just say we were ‘damp’ by the time we returned to camp for coffee and pancakes, huddled beneath the tarp.

I had hoped to explore this lake more thoroughly and perhaps even make a day trip to McIntosh Lake this afternoon, but the sky is still quite heavy and each time it seems to be clearing a bit, a new wave of stormclouds passes over and gushes upon us. The wind has completely shifted direction, and is now blowing from the Northwest (it had been steady from the southeast since we arrived)

I wandered a bit on a exploratory walk before lunch, over to that rocky jutting point that seemed so enticing to me yesterday. The way was overgrown but there was still some evidence of a trail, probably part of the old ‘tote’ road that is mentioned on the map as having collapsed to partially obstruct the passageway through which we paddled this morning (said collapse making of it a wonderland, I might add). There was definite evidence of human occupation along the trail- rusted barrels and glass dumps- though the bush has grown in thickly, taking the land back to itself. Multiple piles of moose droppings, some fresher than others, promise that they have also made this place home again.

My friend and I are now taking an early lunch beneath the tarp as it is raining again.  (We were both hungry!! )  Pitching this new tarp went relatively easily for me, save the tossing of the rope over a high branch, which I’m certain was quite comical to watch. I think I learned that a sidearm toss may be a better approach for heaving for me.

There remains for me a peace here, even in the storminess of the weather. I realized last evening that it comes from the simplicity of merely being here and present, so that I am not overwhelmed by the seemingly complicated messiness of my life back home. Choices and decisions here are simply given, as there is one barrelful of food from which to draw, one satchel of clothing, one river or lake before us upon which to travel, a solitary book to read, a single friend with whom to make conversation. Here, there is little to distract me or to draw me away from the moment or the deep immediacy of presence. Beside me now doll’s eyes guilelessly gaze from atop the stems of these 5 leafed plants and bunchberries emerge humbly as fruit from within the seven leafed palm.


summer of becoming – two women, one canoe 2

Day 2, afternoon, Timberwolf Lake

Sleeping last evening with the fly pulled back, I was greeted with a canopy of stars each time I woke to roll over. Awake for the day at 5:30am (we indeed did go to bed early), I rose to a rose-colored dawn kissing the edges of my friend’s tent. Another leisurely morning over coffee, my friend and I talked for unscheduled hours, sharing what had remained unspoken between us for these long months since the breakup of our children’s longtime relationship. We shared our mutual grief at the loss with a tenuous grip on how to tread carefully in exploring that tender terrain with one another, wanting to protect and to honor both our children’s trust and their hearts, while somehow maintaining our relationship. We have both tried not to ‘talk about’ what happened, but rather to simply love one another – and also our children without judgment or blame. It has been tricky, of course, to negotiate that boundary, as the conversation between women friends so often revolves around our concerns for our children. This morning, I learned that my friend’s grief is fresher than mine, her love for my son still strong, as is mine for her daughter.

Getting a much later start in the day, therefore, we have set up camp here on Timberwolf Lake, where we’d stopped for a late lunch and decided to stay, as the wind was already up and my friend was feeling quite fatigued. The day has been warm again, the heat sapping our energy, but, unlike the last campsite, there is much shade here. This campsite is as overgrown as the one where Don and I stayed on this lake last autumn.  Along the path to the box, one’s body is tickled by the tendrils of plants, whose fingers reach toward one another across the passageway, and there was not one speck of paper in the hole. Though there is a strong breeze stirring the waters, this lake is quiet of people- I wonder if it is not often used.

Definitely less exposed in myriad ways, I feel sheltered here. There is no sandy beach, nor granite ledge overlooking the water, so I have created a perch for myself in amongst the greenery on a small boulder, replete with a back rest. The dome of sky is teeming with white and gray cumulus clouds, which I do hope will clear by nightfall as tonight is the night to view the Perseid showers. I think perhaps we may have showers of another sort, however. I do hope they hold off until after dark, as we hope to revisit the boggy passageway through which we paddled to arrive here, to pay a visit with the other creatures who may also come out for a drink in the evening.

The water lapping intoxicatingly now, I gaze up to be surprised by two canoes that must have passed through the longer 845 meter portage from Misty Lake. It looks as if they are headed toward McIntosh Lake, our originally planned destination for the day. Reenergized by my afternoon rest, I feel as if I too could pick up a paddle and make my way there, but my friend is still weary, and I am content with where we have landed. A good lesson is here for me in letting go of preconceived notions (control) and instead responding to what-is .

There is so much plant life here- flowers and grasses, berries and shrubs- that are unfamiliar to me! A wide variety of habitat is visible from where I sit, nearly 360 degrees of forest and water, meadow and bog. I think I shall delight in what is here, rather than lament over what I imagine to be ‘there’.

Ah, such moments, hours, afternoons, days, of rest are healing for us all…body and mind, spirit and soul. For now, though, I think I should pitch my tent before the night is upon me.

It is already 4:30pm



Summer of Becoming-  two women, one canoe


Day 1, Aug 10, Little Misty Lake, 6pm

The view from this rock is so inviting, that beguiling alpine bog to the west stretched out before me, beckoning with her enchanting and wild mystery….

 We passed through there on our way to here, along our leisurely but long day, which began at 6 am in the cabin at Edgewater Park Lodge.  Lingering over an unhurried breakfast of cold snacks and coffee, which we’d planned thinking we’d want to make haste, we weren’t out of the lodge until 7:40. Still, we made the Magnetawan Lake parking area by 8:20, and were on the water by 9. Getting an earlier start than most paddlers, who may have had to drive from farther distances, meant that the put-in was all ours and we were able to paddle mostly in quiet solitude for the first several hours, even when entering the park at this more popular access point.

We encountered our first party of 2 (women, full of what felt like deep joy) in Hambone Lake, where they had been camping, and the next party of 2 women at the 55m ‘portage’ between Hambone and The Pond, which we skirted by wading and lining the boat over the shallow, rock-strewn passage. Last evening, we encountered a group of 7 women, who were planning to enter the park together, at the permit office and then again at the Lodge where we were staying. It has felt both heartwarming and encouraging for me to notice so many women here like us.

Right now though, I am a bit concerned about my dear friend and companion. She has lost a lot of strength and stamina since her accident this spring, where her jaw was broken and thus was unable to nourish herself well for such a long period of time. Plus, she doesn’t sleep well and I worry about her stores of energy, what her body is using for fuel. I must be attentive to her needs on this trip. Already, I am thinking that we will not push so far into the interior as we had planned, stopping somewhere short of the Grassy Bay, so as to build in a day of rest and recuperation.

It was quite hot today, especially so when we arrived here at this exposed campsite (the only one on this lake) at 3 this afternoon.  There is no shade at all on the granite-ledged point of the site where the available tent sites are, though the woods grow quite thick immediately behind and around us. We cooled off after setting up camp by taking a dip in the lake, which I sorely needed as I had stepped into muck up to my armpits at the dock on Daisy Lake. ( Note to self- use the dock! ) My clothes, down to my bra were full of muck, as was the pack that I had in my hand when I went down, trying to hurriedly place it into the rear of the canoe that had drifted away from the edge. (note to self- patience!) There was muck in every pocket, every nook, every zipper, of my pack, so I was also grateful for that hot drying sun, this exposed site with well-heated rocks, and for the breeze that came through late in the afternoon, for everything has now dried and is repacked into my dry pack.

The Petawawa river enchanted me, as she always does, as we paddled her sinuous path this afternoon, and as I gaze back at her invitation into the alpine bog now, I ponder paddling back into that charming channel during the magical twilight hours later this evening, though I think we will likely be ready for sleep early. The water is lapping the rocks now in such a soothing, hypnotic rhythm, the gentle breeze so calming, I could sleep here and now, but I should get up and gather some sticks for the stick stove so that dinner is not too delayed. It is already 6:30pm

but the view is so lovely.



summer of becoming- part 2 – me and the boys

July 24, Shirley Lake

I had hoped to slip down to the shoreline alone, to sneak from my tent for a private showing of the breaking dawn, but those darn tent zippers are like alarm clocks out here and it seems I have stirred at least one other awake. Still, I have come to the edge, if not into the boat as I had envisioned- though in honesty it was my own desire for stillness and ease as much as it is the presence of the other that has kept me grounded this morning.

I do not understand exactly why I opened my journal entry this way, complaining of the presence of the other (except perhaps that my journal is a place that I go to be alone with myself) for the companionship of my husband and my sons on this trip has been a deep source of joy to me.

There is a chill in the air this morning, enough that the convection fog is rising from the water in a steady stream, departing the shoreline next to me to drift wraithlike across the lake toward where the loon and her mate were swimming in and around the islands last evening as we paddled. Overhead now, a woodpecker drills for her breakfast, more distant the bullfrog’s low bellow, morning conversations of  ravens , the low hum of a few lingering or awakening insects, and morning birds chatter and flutter and chirp- with an occasional ‘Oh Sweet Canada’ breaking in – but it feels so very quiet nonetheless. Unless one is still and attends closely, the presence of life is quite easy to miss and this makes me wonder, having been so inattentive to the pages of my journal of late, what presence I have missed in my internal landscape as well.

The sky is so blue again today, with low clouds- those to the east brushed across the sky as by an artist in great sweeping strokes on the canvas, while the westerly ones are puffy like cotton batting. The moon has journeyed halfway across her daily arcing path, waning from her fullness of last week. …

We entered at the Shall Lake access point yesterday, the first day of our trip, and paddled through Crotch Lake to the portage to Shirley, then north the entire length of her to this last campsite in her northernmost bay. It was a hard paddle on Shirley, with the afternoon winds high, and we were all beat, but content,  when we finally made camp, which felt good – though I am keeping my codependent checking on everyone’s happiness in check.

There are a few other campers on the lake- we passed five campsites that were occupied on the way to this one  – but Shirley is a large lake so still there is the feeling of solitude here.

I have little more to ‘say’ this morning, so I think I shall listen instead….

Day 3, July 26, Bridle Lake

How wonderful it is to be with my sons, sharing this place of my heart with them. They are enjoying it as I had so hoped they would, and so I am blessed. This afternoon we are settled on the favorite lake of our friends,  who introduced us to this place. It feels good and right to be here where they have found such comfort and joy, in this place that feels like home to them, with my sons- like passing the torch somehow.

Yesterday, we paddled to find the hidden portage to Fog Lake, which, thanks to my sons’ intrepid bushwhacking up a dry stream bed, we were able to find. The ‘portage’ was straight uphill through the bush to a remote and pristine little lake atop the ridge between Shirley and Bridle lakes. Seemingly untouched and wild, the men were disappointed that there seemed to be no fish in the lake other than minnows. As they attempted to find fish,  though, I discovered much evidence of the life that frequents the water here- oodles of tracks in the muddy outlet,  a plethora of wildflowers, and piles of scat.  

This morning I was awakened by a strong wind rustling the treetops sometime around 4:30am, which meant that I stopped sleeping at that time, fretting about becoming windbound with less-experienced paddlers, which was unnecessary as we had no trouble at all crossing Shirley’s north bay to the portage. Walking the 1600 meter portage trail twice, once with the canoe and once with the red bag (UGH!), I spotted moose-berries and tracks in the mud. It would be so perfect if she would come visit the boggy end of our little lake this evening.

Later… a lazy afternoon after setting up camp, playing cards and full of laughter, and now an evening of exciting fishing for my men. (The lake is still at last. It was almost 9:30 until she quieted from a blustery day. ) Don and I paddled the circumference and fished for a bit, too. I caught a large bass not far from camp, my first catch since I was a little girl, but after the initial rush of reeling, I found myself feeling greatly saddened by the whole affair. It seems to me cruel to traumatize a creature for my entertainment. Silly, perhaps, but I likely won’t be fishing again… unless it is to feed us.

The mosquitos are now buzzing, swarming for shore and their dinner (us!) even as my sons paddle in to camp across the glossy water, with excitement in their boat.

I have no more journal entries from this trip. The companionship of my sons kept me outwardly engaged in a way that felt complete to me. My memories of our last few days bring a smile to my heart though. The fish that was in the boat at the end of this last entry was huge – a 38 inch pike that was caught on a smaller fish that my younger son was reeling into the boat. The energy when they brought that monster to shore was so primal, I felt as if I should’ve crafted a drum for the fireside celebration.

We moved again the following morning, taking the two portages through Kitty Lake into Booth, which was busy and where we landed on a sloped site on a small cove. The highlight of that site was the decision to move camp the next morning, after the boys had washed their clothes and so decided to pack up and paddle in their boxers. We landed on a gorgeous site at the mouth of McCarthy Creek, overlooking the bog. Don and I took the downstairs ‘bedroom’ while the boys set up their tents on the high granite ledge. Dinner that night was fish stew, with the pike that my son pulled up over the ledge when dropping a line (literally) after lunch.

The next day we paddled McCarthy creek to Mole Lake, a beautiful meandering paddle through the expansive bog, where we trailed heron around each curve. From Mole Lake, after lunch, my son, Jeb, and I continued exploring, while Don and Zach stayed back to fish. It warmed my heart to see my son’s eyes light up at the map as they poured over it, imagining the possibilities he now understood it revealed. The trek we chose to Raja Lake was mucky and buggy, though, and he was covered in deerfly bites by the time we bushwhacked our way through the blowdowns. Still, Raja was an isolated gem to visit, with just one campsite, and quite a few bays to explore, and I hope to return to her one day.

The boys continued to fish each evening, catching a whopping 117 over the course of our days in the park, the last evening coming back long after dark, which made my mother’s heart anxious despite my vow to cut out the codependence. Booth is a large lake, with islands and small cliff-lined bays, wide open waters and bogs. It would be easy to get farther from camp than you realized while fishing at night.

That final night the dark sky obliged with a wondrous fanfare, the stars inundating the night and our eyes with wonder, delighting us all with their accommodating and gracious farewell.




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