Day 3, September 3
We tucked into our down bags shortly after 9:30 last evening. I awakened once or twice throughout the night to clear skies, those slow trolling flotillas of clouds at last having slid into port somewhere east of us. On one of those mid night calls, I made my way out to the point to drink in the milky way, noticing that the dipper was also plunging her ladle into those waters, her bowl almost making contact in the northwestern bay.
The morning waters now are just beginning to ripple, after the stillness of dawn, and a low scattering of clouds, thin, is beginning to build, settling in to cover….or perhaps pass over as did those great spreading fans in succession last evening. This morning, however, they seem to be moving from the east back to the west, as if they are in a great spiraling dance above us.
We are not moving today, so I do not need to move either. Breakfast can wait. Don can sleep. I can be. Still, beneath a dancing sky.
We went out fishing before breakfast, paddling past the sentinel islands and into the fingerlike bay in the gradually graying morning. The bright berries of Mountain Ash punctuated the banks, lending the sweetness of ripening that things only can do when they’ve matured.
After trolling down one shoreline and back up the other, I climbed from the boat in a small cove tucked into the south shore, where a great pile of sunbleached logs had gathered, their trunks twisted and curled about each other, like lover’s limbs, where they lay. It reminded me of a pile of bones in a mass grave. This morning, we’d heard the lumber trucks motoring along a logging road somewhere to the north of us. The vestiges of the logging industry all about us here in this lush landscape– the rusted alligator, the remains of the log chute, the simple cross marking the death of a log driver – remind me of the tenacity and resilience of life, but also the oft-short sightedness of man who commoditizes its gifts, forgetting that he is an integral part of our mutual thriving.
The fishing line came back empty, so we returned to camp with our empty bellies to fill them instead with pancakes, cooked over the fire. It was already 10:30 by then. So, fairly hungry and hunched over beneath the kitchen tarp, the cooking of those pancakes, one at a time in my little skillet, seemed a protracted process. I soon realized I’d forgotten to pack maple syrup (sprinkling the buttered tops with sugar made the last batch more palatable). Finally, after boiling the same pot of water one too many times (I’d not heated enough for the cleanup), I was more than ready to be back out on the water, as we set off again to explore. Upon kneeling in the boat again, that feeling of what I can only describe as a deep sigh, through my own weary bones, flowed into and out from me.
Catfish lake is really quite beautiful, with its many fingers and larger bays, some of them quite isolated from the main body of the lake, offering a wide variety of habitats – from meandering wetlands to high rocky cliffs. It harbors wide open waters, island studded bays, and jutting peninsulas. Through the narrows that lead out of this northeastern bay, we paddled, noticing the remarkable water lines, some 2 feet above the current water level, on the rocks there.
Past turtle rock and around ‘Shangri La’ island we traveled, getting out of the boat once, on a long point of land jutting out into the water, to explore a campsite there. On to the southernmost end where the lake narrows again into the wide sweeping curves of the Petawawa river, we continued. With the low water levels, large swaths of sandy shoals were exposed around those broad bends. We noticed several beaver lodges with their ‘underwater’ doorways exposed and others that appeared to be suddenly stranded on sand spits. Stopping for lunch around 1:30 at the last site on the lake, we too were surrounded by marsh.
As we were boarding the canoe after lunch, a light rain began to fall, and so we donned our raingear before launching to head back to camp. The rain bounced on the water in a rhythmic cadence, increasing in tempo as the drizzle grew to a shower, as we also began paddling a more deliberate pulse. Still, the lake was quite beautiful, with its high knobs and shallow notches bathed in gray.
By the time we arrived in our bay, an hour later, the rains had temporarily ceased. So, Don decided to try his hand at trolling the last stretch. Just as we were pulling close to our campsite, a strong pull on his line indicated he’d caught something- either a large fish or the lake bottom. In fact, he wasn’t sure which it was up to the last moment, when the line was directly beneath the boat, drawing his rod into a great arch. By then he thought he surely was snagged, when suddenly out from the water emerged a 21” lake trout, speckled with gold.
It’s funny how we can’t always discern what that tug might be. I know that I struggle with this so much of the time. Is this thing I feel just in my head, or is it real? There are so many tugs and pulls, so many stirrings in my belly. Are such nudges merely what it means to be a sentient being? Does any one particularly strong pull mean that I should act, or is it something I can release? Am I being invited to bring it up to the surface, so that it can be released, or should i let it lie? Is it even mine to grab hold of in the first place? To what call do I respond? Could that heart tug be anchoring me…for good or for bad…or will my persistent attention to it draw forth something wet and wiggling into my hands to offer its nourishment, guilded with gold? .
Delectable, pink fleshed, seasoned just right, we dined on the fresh fish with delight, grateful for the gift. I wondered if the fish tasted so delicious somehow because she had so recently been alive- breathing in oxygen, swimming in these waters of life. In this strange earth, of life and death, where one thing naturally gives up its life so that another may live in this reciprocality of being, what does it mean that the fish, that ate the frog, that ate the insect, that drank the nectar, that gathered in the bloom, that blossomed on the stalk, that grew from the earth, is now a part of me.
Now we are beneath the tarp again, the fire keeping us warm and dry. It is blowing mist, and quite gray. I’m pretty tired tonight, though it is only 7 o’clock. I think I will be headed to the tent before long.