Home, away from Home
Driving over the French River bridge for the first time decades ago, I was struck by the landscape that challenged my views of the natural world. I left my car, and I bush-walked along the river banks. There it was, nature at work, slowly colonizing the bare rocks of the Great Canadian Shield.
How could I relate to this thin layer of interconnected life on a rock surface that forms the vast environments of my province?
A decade later, when I mastered canoe travel, I navigated the length of this river as many past generations of Canadians did, looking for the “promised land.” They eventually found it to cultivate more than a thousand miles west. I found mine to hunker down and think about what I saw over the weekends. It became a secret hideaway on a small forgotten channel at the river’s delta.
Human beings are a creature of habit. As I returned there repeatedly, I developed my own adequate for this place. Morning coffee on an elevated rock, seeing the sunrise, a bear scouting the shoreline, a deer, a rabbit or a beaver here and there. Morning swim, midday nap, fish for supper. All needed to elevate me to a certain level of abstraction and to see things clearly yet differently than in an urban environment.
To truly see it all, as it was ever possible, was a slow, painstaking process. The reality of this place was hard to uncover. Time there had a different meaning. It was outside my time frame or the means of my control.
Across these years, I took numerous photographs illustrating ecological processes that were eventually used in educational materials published on four continents.
“Water is Life,” people were saying across ages.
Life has always been about motion, collusion, and compromise. It is an open-ended process that one can accept to be a part of or not, regardless of the expiry date. It starts with all kinds of contributions, and ideally, it should gracefully fade into memories of a similar nature.
Although water maintains a stable greenhouse effect and, therefore, Earth's living conditions, its molecule’s temperamental properties can quickly destroy everything. Properties that no human eye would ever see.
Over the decades, I shared this hideaway with my friends and visitors of different countries, backgrounds, cultures, and seven different nationalities. Undoubtedly, each had an undefinable food for thoughts to take back home. I brought my daughters, their friends, partners, and distant family there. I looked forward to introducing it to my grandchildren as well.
It is all gone now, a burned victim of the carelessness and negligence of construction workers far from my home of thoughts. And I’m left with an enduring presence of loss. Why is it still in me after three years?
Life, or being alive, apart from self-organized chemistry, escapes our commonly accepted definitions. We often adopt one as we go through it and according to our needs or circumstances.
In that quiet, hidden place, I had a chance to understand that all life’s survival chances are far from easy to maintain.