faith

Faith. Another laden word for me. Sigh….But a favorite author that I read uses it like this, ‘faith in the wellspring of life’.
Wendell Berry suggests that when despair for the world grows in me, I take myself to the ‘peace of the wild things, come into the presence of still water, and feel above me the day-blind stars’. There is little that restores my faith in the goodness and beauty of life more than paddling a canoe in the waters and woods of a northern lake. While some may think these annual migrations are escape from the ‘real’ world, I have come to understand them as homecoming instead. A coming home to what is real, what is true. A coming home to myself. A return to my remembrance of the sacred on earth.

In her book, Behold Your Life, Macrina Weiderkehr explains the purpose of a pilgrimage

A pilgrimage is a journey with a hallowed purpose. A pilgrimage is not a vacation; it is a transformational journey during which significant change takes place. Life giving challenges will emerge. New insights are given. Deeper understanding is attained. New and old places in the heart are visited. Blessings are received and healing takes place. On return from the pilgrimage, life is seen with different eyes. Nothing will ever be quite the same again.

Yes.

Like the birds whose calls echo in the shrouded dome of this fog laden day, my spirit this time of year begins to call me home to a place of quiet and simple belonging, where something I have not yet been able to name is being incubated, in me as in those northern nests. Perhaps it is peace.

When I was a girl, I remember climbing up on the risers on the stage of the capitol forum to sing with a specially selected chorus. That year my wing was broken, slung in a cast, and I felt quite a bit off balance on that top rung. But the song that we sang soothed like a lullaby.

The mystery of music is perhaps a second thing that restores my faith. How is it that something ineffable is carried by those melodies and chords that speaks to the human soul of what is deep and true. I am reminded of the story of the pianist who played for nursing homes as a volunteer who tells the story of playing a concerto, written by a prisoner of war as a way of expressing the grief of losing a friend, who was shot down. How the playing of that piece stirred similar memories awake in an old man there, bringing him to tears in the remembrance of the feeling of losing one of his own friends, who was similarly shot down in the war all those years ago.

That song i sang as a girl has likewise come back to me all these years later. I don’t know what this particular piece of music is awakening in me, but I’ve been listening to it on repeat over the last month now. Each time it soothes me like medicine for my soul. Who understands a mystery such as that? What is inscribed in that Melody? Perhaps my Scottish ancesters blood is stirred awake. Perhaps my longing is addressed and expressed. Perhaps my young self, with broken wing, is tended.

I have faith that there is meaning in it, even, and perhaps especially, if I cannot name it. The same holds true of life. My deepest knowing is that Love is encoded within it all. And that I belong to it somehow.

Today, I spent the better part of the morning bringing together these two… this sacred geography of my heart and this tender piece of music, and then most of the afternoon listening to and watching the images that were like a lovesong from my soul to my soul, feeling deeply the presence of Beauty. Deep Sadness and Great Joy were there in one place. My heart awake, listening, calling, responding.

I have faith that something is answering me.

‘Everyone must believe in something. I believe I’ll go canoeing” -Hery David Thoreau

limited

My response to this word feels like pure grace. Contained with its seven letters is the simple invitation for me to remember who i am.

While often the invitation to ‘remember who you are‘ is extended to uplift one who is feeling diminished in some way — as a reminder for instance of how beloved they truly are (eg “little lower than the angels and crowned with glory”, or “O, nobly born, remember the fundamental dignity that was born into you”), an appeal for them to reclaim their birthright as bearers of something divine — this evening ‘remembering who i am‘ feels much smaller than that, a bringing me down to earth, a remembrance of my humanity.

I am as blessed by that remembrance as I am by the remembrance of my sacredness. It is good to remember my smallness. Good to recall that I cannot be Godde, nor even Godde incarnate. An antidote for feeling overwhelmed, for feeling powerless, for feeling not-enoughness, remembering my humanity heals my feelings of inadequacy and shame.

It is good to know I have boundaries and to bless them. Boundaries of body. Boundaries of time. Boundaries of energy and gift. To know that I am but one within and beheld by the One, even while holding the hope that the Love is somehow embodied and working through this particular me in some small enough way.

In the last few weeks, I have had to say ‘no’ to quite a few invitations. While a part of me longed to rush into them, in order to say ‘yes’ required me saying ‘no’ to other equally beloved relationships and/or ideals. Carrying around the weight of those choices was difficult and even felt heartbreaking. But what i discovered is that when i finally let go and accepted my ‘no’, the heaviness lifted almost at once.

I am a finite being and, no, despite what the culture teaches, I cannot do it all, have it all, be it all. I am not all powerful nor all knowing. Thinking that I should be makes me a little neurotic, a lot anxious, and mostly feel like a huge failure. I cannot begin to recount the number of times the word ‘overwhelmed’ shows up in my journals. (When I typed the word into the search box of even this public confessional blog of mine, 25 posts came up with the word in its text.) When I spread myself too thin, try to juggle too many loves, I cannot be generous with any one and am left feeling as if there is not enough me.

I don’t think that’s what we are supposed to take in with the nourishment that we are ‘just a little lower than the angels’. I suspect that our spirit is supposed to be a little (a lot) more grounded than that, that we are supposed to do and to be ‘one’, not all, and to trust that our very finite and earthbound oneness is both beloved and essential.

I also suspect that this is the secret hidden within the word sacrifice, that in order to be and to bring our gift of light to this place, we have to say ‘no’ to other equally light-filled paths, let some other ‘one’ follow that other star, so that we can focus the light of the gift that we are, and so pour it out generously. (I also suspect that this word, sacrifice, will come up later in the list so I’ll save that pondering for later). In the meantime, Indra’s net comes to mind, each one of us a bejeweled knot in the web, holding the world together by keeping our place. Tonight I cherish the preciousness of that binding knot.

tell me what is it you plan to do with your ONE wild and precious life- Mary Oliver

wilderness afterthoughts – what if we truly belong?

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This one won’t let me go.

I couldn’t figure out how to finish that previous post, kept returning to edit here and then there (you may notice the subtle changes and additions) and still it feels incomplete, as if there is more stirring in me beneath that barely scratched surface.

I think (and perhaps that’s the real problem! LOL) that some part of me recognizes the alienation I create in the delineation between what is included as good and what is not, (the good nature/bad human dichotomy) and feels that as heart dis-ease when some deeper wisdom wants my heart to open to hold it all.

I am aware that my heart feels heavy when I walk with my eyes looking for brokenness and devastation. I also know that my heart can choose to seek beauty even there within it. It can and it does see wonder in the ruins when I gaze through those tendered eyes. I am also aware that the definitions I choose to believe color the way that my eyes see. What is good? Who is bad?

To put it simply, have I made the same mistake that my ancestors made when they separated out what was wilderness from what was human? Good over here. Bad over there. Is my desire to keep the ‘bad’ ( man ) out of ‘pristine’ wilderness just the flip side of their desire to separate the bad wilderness ‘out there’ from man. Perhaps both perspectives contain a large dose of the hubris that colors humanity’s vision, as if humans are somehow separate but not equal.

What if we are truly part of the wilderness. Included. As the wild creatures that we are with our particular impact upon the whole. What if we truly belong? – to one another, our wild animal self to the earth’s.

Can I love the creatures that trammel without labeling them as waste-full, even as i love the creatures that perish because of that trammeling, the way that I love the beaver and also the trees that she smothers to death. Can I honor the true needs of both without putting one over the other?

listening….

My heart wants to allow while also inviting healing. Again, it suggests a return to relationship. I see that if we insert ourselves as dominant over and view the earth as commodity at our disposal, there is a huge imbalance of power, which is devastating, of course, in any relationship. Conversely, if we view nature as set apart, requiring our protection, are we not also making it smaller than us and ourselves as master? Hmmm.

Can we envision a relationship of mutual need, where we honor the gifts that the other offers as different than our own, not lesser or more than, but sacred and worthy of reverence? How might we relate differently to an other whom we view with such tenderness and respect? Gratitude is invited, humility is deepened, care is extended. And not to leave ourselves out of this imagined equation, how might we feel to find ourselves viewed through the same lens? Our gifts and our needs also honored? Our place and inherent dignity valued. How might we act differently from this feeling of being valued?

Still, this tiny treatise veers toward ‘us and them’ thinking, when what i am feeling is so much more whole than that, more ‘one’ if you will.

We are wilderness.

Untameable, pristine, dark, mysterious.

Everything.

wilderness

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Hiding in plain beauty.

When I noticed today’s word, wilderness, in the queue along with such heavy-laden words as confess and sacrifice (to be fair, beloved and presence are lined up there too), I admit to wondering what the list’s creator’s relationship with the word is. One of darkness and fear of the unknown? Or of delight and sacred wonder?

Earlier this week, I pondered the word ‘awe’ with a similar bewilderment* wondering why we use it the way that we do. Why does the word ‘awesome‘, for instance, connote something amazingly wonder-ful and inspiring while the word ‘awful leans towards the terrible.

For human beings the line between beauty and terror is a thin one, and that line is likely crossed on the way between Some and Full. Some wildness is awesome?… but too much is terrifying. When confronted with something that fills us with awe, that something often can make us feel humbled (notice the root in that word is the same as in the word ‘human’). We can be brought to our knees in the presence of great beauty. Perhaps to be human is to feel overcome in the presence of intensity, be it vast or deep or mighty or dark or unknown.

Perhaps it is also human nature to run from that.

So, back to the word of the day, wilderness. When I looked it up in the dictionary, I was brought to my own knees, in a way, with sadness and bewilderment once again, to see there in entry after entry its association with the word ‘wasteland’

Wasteland?

Wasteland, because it is deemed ‘inhospitable to humans’, ’empty, neglected, abandoned, undeveloped, uncultivated’, as in a ‘garden allowed to run amok’. As if somehow the taming of the earth (or a person, place or thing within it) then makes of it something worthwhile, makes of it something hospitable and worthy.

Only once did the word ‘beautiful’ enter the descriptors, used with it in a sentence. Only once did the word ‘pristine’, which I associate with the word, appear, whereas wilderness for me (and I suspect for many) sings of such untrammeled beauty.

Now, I realize that the usage and meaning of words changes with time. It is likely that when the word ‘wilderness’ first came into usage, it was defined more by our fears -on that terrible side of awe- than by our wonder, at a time in the human-earth love story when we had fallen out of the right-relationship with the earth and had separated ourselves from her goodness. During those middle years, between that earlier consciousness (romanticized naively by me?) of sacred trust and reverence and our current consciousness, where there now dwell men and women like me, who long for a wise return of that primal belonging, perhaps we were simply afraid. We feared monsters and so sought to evict, control, or tame them to our will.

Oh, who am I kidding, we still live in that place, where trees are cut down because they ‘might’ fall on houses or heads, rivers are dammed because they might flood, insects are feared because they might carry disease, and children are kept indoors because there might be monsters out there.

As I write this, I sit in Urgent Care because there is a tick deeply embedded in the flesh of my rear ribcage. I’d plucked 3 others off the surface of my skin when i returned from a walk in the ‘wastelands’ near my home earlier this week. The irony of the word ‘urgent’ in response to an insect is not lost on me. I had thought not to come, as i am fairly certain my little bugger is not of the lyme-disease carrying variety, and I tend not to panic, refuse to stay inside that prison, but a small seed of fear the size of a tick has been planted in me. I know one who has been struck ill for years by its tiny bite.

Ironically, the word, wilderness, comes from the Old English ‘wilddeornes’, meaning a land inhabited only by ‘wild deer’. Today, deer run rampant because we have tamed them, tamed the landscape, stripped it of its wildness, making it inhospitable to the flora and fauna that would keep the deer in balance. On their warm-blooded bodies, these ‘tamed’ deer now harbor the insects that embed fear in their human hosts when they nuzzle their way under our skin.

These woods behind my home became a wasteland when gypsy moth caterpillars feasted and thrived in a predator free paradise. The state forest managers then decided the best response was to clear cut the forest. What was thus stripped has grown up into this thicket of wasteland in which the deer thrive. It seems to me that most of the wastelands of which I am aware have been created by human hands through toxic waste, resource extraction, introduction of nonnative ravaging species, the list goes on.

Does that make of them wilderness, then?

My concept of wilderness is richer than that. I want my wilderness to be untouched not because it is unworthy or inhospitable, but because it is inherently worthy of dignity, and is hospitable to legion – wolf and bear, coyote and deer, mouse and tick, trees that fall, and even human beings that falter. I want my wilderness to fill me with wonder and awe, even if that awe can sometimes lean into ‘ful’ness, because I understand that reverence and belonging grow deep in that thin space between some and full, the wise place between naivite and fear where terrible beauty exists. I want my wilderness to keep me humble, to remind me that I am a part of something vast, of which I am something quite small.

And I want the wilderness within me to be afforded the same grace and dignity, hospitality and fullness, reverence and belonging, for all the terribly beautiful ways that I am.

And I don’t want it to be a waste.

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

– Rilke, Book of Hours,

*bewilderment- from the same root, wilder (pronounced with the short ‘i’) , state of unknowing,to lead astray, lure into the wilds

confess

Ok, I confess that when I set out with my camera with the word of the day on the tip of my heart, I believed that word to be ‘forgiveness’. I really should’ve doublechecked before I wandered about for 2 hours, searching for it under roots and rocks.

Still, I’d thought it would be an easy word to find, had an image in my mind of what I was seeking. I envisioned the remains of a tree, cut by the arborist’s blade (sadly, there are an awful lot of them in my neighborhood, as fear of falling seems to be running rampant), with a few seasons of decomposition under her bark. Surely, I’d find a colony of life growing in the nourishment there.

You see, that’s what forgiveness looks like to me. Given enough time, the pain of betrayal or wounding is transformed, as the incredible impulse of life makes something unexpectedly new of the broken pieces. Atoms are rejoined by others, molecules synthesized, and suddenly there is a verdant carpet on a rotting log. My biology is rudimentary, admittedly, though I apprehend a deeper mystery within these life-death-life cycles of life, an ‘all is well’ that undergirds this sorrow-joy dance.

But perhaps my definition of forgiveness is weak. Perhaps what I label as forgiveness should be identified as ‘healing’ instead, for I suspect that true forgiveness is more about letting go of resentment regardless of outcome, and springs from a deeper love that allows all to be received, a wisdom that enfolds everything in compassion and understanding, prior to any ‘healing’ that might occur.

There is a particular stump along the path that cuts through the rhododendron thicket behind our avenue of cottage homes. I frequently check inside her hollowed womb for signs of life. A greening bed of seedlings, a nest of gathered debris, a placental mat of fungus.

Today, however, when I peeked inside, I was greeted by the neon blue of a doggie bag, the kind folks carry with them to pick up after their pets, tossed inside as if she were a garbage can. It felt like the proverbial adding insult to injury.

I confess (there I got the word in here legitimately, after all) it disgusted me. Disgust is a strong word, and I expect it’s not at all good for the heart, at least shouldn’t be allowed to take root there, but I noticed it there right alongside judgment. But I was also aware that beneath both of those two, there dwelt a deeper sadness, and at the root of them all there was simply Love. Love for this earth, and the life within it, which is so casually desecrated.

There’s a lot of that (desecration) on my walk. I want to see goodness, but too often I witness disregard (at best, dishonor and defilement at worst). I look for beauty in the ruin, and yes, I can find it, but again, I wonder if that is the true path of healing.

I confess, I pulled a book out of yesterday’s bags this afternoon before I struck out on that walk. From the bottom of the first bag, which I’d packed full of tomes dedicated to healing from trauma, I withdrew ‘Issues in Intimate Violence’, noting a few of my bright yellow highlights and scrawled marginalia. Peeking momentarily into that cavernous tome, I can see just how much I have healed those broken places in me, witness the lush, profound beauty and rich nourishment that has grown from that cutting wound.
Paradoxically, the joining of cells, as occurs in the recycling of something new out of death, is also embedded in the sexuality of life in this place, within that joy-filled dance of two coming together in the creation of new life. Too often that celebratory dance of delight is instead one of defilement where power, control, and fear overrun reverence and love.

I honor the deep mystery that is the natural life-death-life dance of deep sorrow and great joy in this place. But, I confess, that I doubt.

I doubt that desecration is a necessary step in the dance.

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dust

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Storage: when i moved from one house to another
there were many things i had no room
for. what does one do? i rented a storage
space. and filled it. years passed.
occasionally i went there and looked in,
but nothing happened, not a single
twinge of the heart.
as i grew older the things i cared
about grew fewer, but were more
important. so one day i undid the lock
and called the trash man. he took
everything.
i felt like the little donkey when
his burden is finally lifted. things!
burn them, burn them! make a beautiful
fire! more room in your heart for love,
for the trees! for the birds who own
nothing — the reason they can fly.
– mary oliver

This winter, I’ve been clearing away clutter, externally and internally as these practices will do. That mass of rubble bearing down upon my spirit and burying my joy? Cleared away. Those boulders blocking access to this well of wisdom, where the awareness that All is Well lies calm and deep? Hauled off, one by heavy one.

Last week, I noticed something had shifted, that my daily diligence had perhaps furrowed a new pathway in my heart, for there I was, standing in the midst of a storm, yet somehow didn’t feel either caught in the middle nor swept into the cyclone – tossed this way and then that. Instead, I felt calm in that eye, the one that can see it all with Love. A strange sense of calm, for sure, in that familiar drama.

It felt subtle, at first, that shift from being caught in the middle to being centered in the midst, like a delicate sort of balance had been achieved. My sister imagined it to be like being balanced on a beam, perhaps above a roiling pit, in which, if I leaned to either side, I would be consumed. Oh, I’ve stood precariously there many times, afraid to move one way or the other. But, no, this balance felt much more grounded than that, more like yoga’s tree pose.

As I sat with that image, I realized she was a mighty tree at that (not at all some tender sapling), rooted and secure, her heartwood soft, protected by a strength secured through seasons of buffeting winds. A strong gale or a blast of ice might knock a branch loose, but would not uproot her from the soil of her belovedness.

Makes me wonder how that tiny seed grew so quickly, the one I’d found buried beneath the snow on the Solstice.

So, today I tackled the book of rooms. As I started writing in this entry, I’ve been decluttering my ‘house’ (in many ways). We  typically do this kind of massive overhaul when we move from one house to another, and I do expect there is a great shift taking place in my life, a tectonic shift, strong enough to crack the plates covering over my soul. (or was it the strength of that seed of Love pushing upward through that rock?). At other times, we are forced to do this kind of major clearing out when someone dies. Again, the metaphor is not lost on me. Some old way of being is letting go its hold upon my life.

So, there were the books, most of them moved into this house with me, then left upon the shelf. Books, mostly, from that last phenomenal transition of my life (could it possibly be 18 years ago?), when my world shattered and then opened into something so much more wonder-ous and beloved. In those texts were voices, who midwifed me through that oft treacherous and unknown passage; now, a cloud of witnesses.

Letting go is often painful. Sometimes it feels as if one’s very self is being rent in two, this saying ‘no’ to the old in order to make space for something new. Sometimes the old is terribly beloved. Old selves. Old roles. Old ways. Old relationships. Old places of belonging. Old identities. Old truths.

When they were packed, there were more than five hundred, to be passed along to someone who, as I once was, is hungry for the particular kind of nourishment they offer. I sneezed my way through the unshelving, my body’s defenses rebelling against what was stirred up, as my heart has often done in response to my attempts at letting go, when those old fears and feelings would get stirred awake.

This evening, in their place, as when anything has died, there remains just a layer of dust, a faint reminder, a mere outline of what was.

Ashes to Ashes

Dust to dust.

And I wonder…. what will this phenomenal place we call earth – and this myterious journey we know as a human life – make of these wondrous remains.

healing waters

Plunging into the pages of my journal. Summer 2017.

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 planned to take a walk this afternoon across the portage from the other end of the lake 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, 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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