I’m gonna be honest here. When I discovered that the week of our wilderness canoe trip promised to be wet, rainy and thunder-stormy, I was a little less than enthusiastic. I imagined hours upon hours of being cooped up in our tent with 3 energetic kids who seem to love to bicker at the best of times… *sigh*
The day before, as I helped my husband pack up our food, I was feeling down. No way to keep dairy products cool meant no cream for coffee (Egad! No mid-morning coffee?) and no real milk for tea either (the usual comforting start to my day)… *sigh* Snacks of dried fruit and trail mix with a plethora of raisins did not make me feel excited. Neither did the lunch plan of bannock smeared with pb and j for 4 days. Mmmhmmm girlfriend, I was bummed!
As we headed out under cloudy skies, the sun broke through a few times. The promised rain did not deliver that first evening or the next morning. Because the overcast skies held an imminent threat of rain, I packed the tent up in a flurry the next morning wanting to avoid getting wet if possible. We set off, did 2 short portages and arrived at the next campsite with rain still holding off. We set up the tent and just managed to get the fly attached before the heavens opened. Honestly, in that moment I thought God must have engineered that perfect timing.
We hadn’t yet had lunch so we snacked on dried fruit, played the card and dice games I had brought and read a few chapters of our family book. When there was a respite in the rain, we emerged from the tent in order to cook and eat some lunch. The rains resumed and once again we took refuge in the tent. There was another break around dinner time that enabled us to cook and eat dinner, and then enjoy an hour outside before having to take refuge in the tent from the crazy swarms of hungry mosquitoes. More games and reading before sleep.
The next morning, the sky was still heavy and grey. We enjoyed breakfast and then the sun began to poke through again here and there. Patches of blue sky appeared. In another hour, the sun had totally emerged and there was not a cloud in the sky. This enabled us to dry the bottom of our tent, and all of our wet thermarests. We canoed to an island to swim and fish. It was a glorious afternoon. All greyness within me faded away. That evening I was extremely thankful for a dry tent to sleep in. It seemed so simple.
At our third campsite, we fished and swam, read and played, and made toad houses. We set up our tent right next to a bumblebee hive in a cedar tree since that was the only possible space for our tent. We lived beside the bees. And three (very large) snakes. And we thrived.
What I find amazing is the difference in my attitude and outlook from the day before we left, until the day we returned. Upon the ‘return’ to civilization, I felt as though my senses were being assaulted. After only 5 days, I didn’t want to return to ‘real life’. In our wilderness campsites, we played, observed frogs and skinks, saved dragonflies, played games and read a book together, enjoyed fishing and swimming, canoeing and creating. We made up a song together using sticks on rocks and our voices while waiting for soup to boil as we cooked it on our little stove on the large bedrock of the Canadian Shield.
Yes, there was some bickering. Yes, there were tears. Yes, things were sometimes hurtful. Such is family life. It wasn’t all sunshine and butterflies. But there was also space….
Space to breathe. Space to sit. Space to observe nature. Time to watch snakes as they basked in bushes. Time to listen to stories. Time to listen to each other. Time to tune into the voice of the One who created all the beauty around me.
It was hard to leave the wilderness. To think of how much I was dreading our time there, the turnaround in my heart surprised me. There is such a peace in nature, in the surrounding noises of lapping water, wind in the trees, a loon calling… and absolute silence. There is an astonishment when you are living with so few possessions, without usual comforts and only a tent to shield you from thunderstorms. There is something about the people you meet on a portage – they are friendly, genuine and down-to-earth. No one is concerned about the latest app, the latest and greatest trends in technology. I sense kindred spirits. There is also a sense of pride to have lived harmoniously with bees and snakes (including a Massasauga rattlesnake) and to find great joy in it all.
It also makes me realize what my heart longs for. I long for more ‘wild spaces’ in my life, more ‘freedom’, and less technology and fast-paced’ness. I long for simplicity. I long to be with people who live a different value system, and have more time for true community, deep conversation and connection. I desire more time for creativity, and reading books, and making music. Thankfully, I do have deep friendships at home where connection is true, but it seems that with work and other commitments, life moves at an incredible pace that stymies our greatest efforts to connect in meaningful ways.
My heart longs for something different sometimes. I consider myself so blessed to have the home that we have in the city here. But after living life on a wilderness canoe trip, the echoes in my heart breathe whispers of something else.