I am accustomed to living in towns and cities surrounded by people. However, when I am out on the land for long periods of time everything changes. There is no longer access to all those luxuries that we take for granted like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, theatres, television, radio, phone and internet connection. Most of all there are no or few people around.
My social life becomes the familiarity I experience with the creatures near me in the wilderness and on the lake. It takes some time before this kind of socialization can take place. You can’t expect to go camping for a week and develop some rapport with the environment and the surrounding creatures. A month seems to work for me.
My day starts when I am routinely rudely awakened by the bang, bang sound of pine cones falling from the tall trees onto the roof of my cabin, thanks to the work of Anakoochas, or Mr. Squirrel. I believe he does this for the sheer enjoyment of knowing that it bugs me at six in the morning. I open the door to my camp to step out into a world of towering pine trees and the reflections on the lake. On cue, the squirrels chatter at me and I am greeted along the path by a couple of chipmunks. They seem to be involved in some conspiracy to wake me early. They continually remind me throughout my day that it is in fact their world. The squirrels and chipmunks are never far away and often I find myself gazing into their stare as they sit perched on a log or stump just metres away.
Magwa, or Mr. Loon, and his lovely wife and young one paddle up to the shoreline every morning at around nine to say hello. They have become accustomed to my friend Mike singing to them as they fish on the quiet waters of the lake. Often they join in and entertain us with some wonderful tunes of their own. Sometimes the little songbirds seem to appear out of nowhere to join in the sing-song and many times now I have been astonished at that scene on the shores of the lake alive with nature’s music.
There were a lot of ducks, or Sheesheep, on the lake a few weeks ago but one day I spotted a Mikisew, or fish eagle, circling high in the sky and then the ducks were gone. Sadly, we also lost one of the young loons early on and it is suspected that the eagle had his claw in that disappearance. I understand of course that the eagle is only doing what comes natural, but I would rather he spend his time grabbing the many mice that scamper about on the land and leave the loons and ducks alone. The eagle and I have not been on great terms these past few weeks.
My little skunk friend, Shikak, shows up from time to time and always with such pomp and ceremony. She makes a little noise to let me know she is about and parades by with that confidence that only a skunk can manage in the animal world. She knows everybody out here regards her with a hands-off respect and she seems to wallow in it. She never stays long and just takes a little walk near me, then saunters off into the forest.
The beaver, or Amisk, family swims by slowly every night and sometimes stops to check out the trees I have cut. The old poplars up the hill were rotten and sick so I took a few down. The beaver family seems to approve of my work and I see them now and then wandering about the stumps and chomping on a few woody morsels here and there. They have a wonderful lodge down at the end of the lake, but they don’t much like visitors and are more than happy to let this be known by the great slaps they make with their flat tails on the surface of the lake when we approach.
At times we hear the howls of the Maheekan, or wolves, coming from the mountain far in the distance. They let us know they are around but they are but shadows on the land. Last week we saw a moose calf crossing a road nearby and he seemed very focused on getting to a lake nearby where he probably has family. There are signs of Maskwa, bears, about but for the time being they don’t seem much interested in us. That is a very good thing.
A huge Peeshoo, or lynx, walked softly past us one day last week. She was surprised to see us taking a break along the path and she turned to look at us directly. We were a little spooked by a face that seemed more human than cat. It almost seemed as though she wanted to say something to us. The encounter reminded me of all kinds of stories from my Elders on the land, but those tales and legends will come another day maybe when the snow is falling and we are gathered around a warm fire drinking tea.