I sat down at the cottage recently and looked outside a picture window that faced the lake. It was a cool afternoon and I watched the light fade under layers of dreary clouds that hung lazily overhead. I sat comfortable in my warm chair as I sipped on a cup of hot tea while being warmed by the crackling fire in the huge old stove. There’s nothing like that feeling of coziness that you get when inside a comfy warm place with cold, wet weather situated on the other side of the window.
A cool wind blew in from the west and the pine branches on the towering trees nearby swayed under the force. A light misty rain showered the scene and I could almost feel the cold penetrating the forest. I sipped at my tea to relish in a little more warmth and I thought about times like these when I was a boy growing up on the James Bay coast.
I recalled one trip we took in September by freighter canoe to Akamiski Island. It was a late season voyage and we were taking advantage of a free weekend mom and dad had taken off from their work schedules. However, as we left town, we realized early on that the weather was not with us. Clouds hung low overhead pregnant with rain. A nasty cool north wind pierced our fall jackets but mom and dad consoled us with promises of sun and a blue sky. So we headed out.
The water was rough on the Attawapiskat River as we set forth in our freighter canoe and a cold rain pelted us as we made our way out onto the great saltwater James Bay. My brothers and sisters and I sheltered with mom under a layer of blue tarp along with all our supplies. Dad braved the rain and the saltwater sea-spray on his own at the controls of the outboard motor. He made light of the cruel weather and teased us in a game of peek-a-boo as we children ducked under the protective tarp. To keep us feeling safe he sang or more or less shouted religious hymns over the roar of his two-stroke motor. He seemed to enjoy the adrenalin rush he got from facing the storm.
When we finally landed on the southern pebble shore of Akamiski, our world was a misty rain, driven by a frigid wind and framed by dark clouds. My younger brothers and I stayed with the canoe and hung tight to the tarp to keep our supplies warm while our parents and my older siblings headed out to make camp. We watched patiently but anxiously as the prospector tent slowly sprouted on shore.
Once the tent was up, our older siblings came to fetch us and we scrambled for shore and the safety of the huge canvas tent. I recall falling happily on the soft pine boughs safe from the twirling storm outside. The light was fading fast and my parents and the older children raced to set up the little camp stove and fetch wood. As the light faded and the shadows bled away dad pulled out the Coleman lantern which he filled with fuel and primed. That swish-swish prime sound made me feel hopeful as the last threads of light left our world. In a matter of minutes, the lamp hissed to life and filled our dark tent with bright yellow light.
The next thing we knew our little camp stove was alive in a roaring fire. We had light, the heat of our stove, the protection of our old prospector tent and the comfort of a fresh pine bough floor. On this day our timing was perfect as the weather had taken a turn for the worse and the wind howled while heavy rain pelted the tent. I recall how good it felt to be in a cozy, warm place with a raging storm just a few inches away. Hopefully, I will always have the luxury of finding shelter from the storm.