After I spent what I had considered to be the most stressful years of my life completing my Masters, I went directly into a job that was very rewarding personally but one which continued to add to the constant stress and pressure on my life. It had been almost 10 years since I last spent any time in the bush, so I decided I would make the time this spring for a well-deserved rest and go to Robbie and Sally Matthew’s camp at Aa-neesheo-jigoh-bidich.
When I, like thousands of fellow Crees, took two weeks off for the goose break. I did not anticipate the vast amounts of time I would have to relax and reflect on my life.
I expected the usual hustle and bustle of a goose camp—getting up at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. every day, plucking and cleaning geese all day, fetching water, getting spruce boughs, getting by on a few hours of sleep a night, etc., etc.
As it happened at dozens of other Cree camps, the snows melted early, the streams and lakes became dangerous to drive on, and vast amounts of water opened up giving the geese thousands of feeding spots from which to choose. They flew too high or at night. They did not bother with the decoys; they were in too much of a rush to nest Our camp was inland, kilometres away from the nearest road (over an hour away by helicopter from Chisasibi) or from any of the camps. It was a beautiful spot with high hills, dozens of lakes and rapids within walking distance. It was quiet It was heaven.
At our camp, there were three adults, four youth and one child. We had time to relax, to laugh and to talk. We spent hours playing cards. Best of all, we had time to listen to the teachings of Robbie and Sally, and to listen to the tapes of various Elders which Robbie played when we went to bed each night.
As we listened to the complaints of many hunters over the bush radio about the small numbers of geese that were being killed, Robbie taught us to be grateful for any geese or any other game that we received from the Creator. He taught us it did not matter if we killed only one; that everything we got should be considered a gift and that we should be grateful for everything. He taught us many things and I consider myself extremely lucky to have spent that time at his camp.
I had hours to walk and to fish along theedges of the lakeshore and at the rapids. It did not seem to matter whether I caught anything or not. I had hours to think and to take the time to try and heal from the many personal losses and disappointments I had experienced over the years. I spent hours on top of the highest mountain within walking distance from our camp and looked out over the land which I could see spreading out before me for dozens of kilometres in all directions and dreaded the day we would leave.
Towards sunset on the evening before the day three of us were to return to Chisasibi, rain fell briefly. A huge and full rainbow came out and as we all stood outside to look at it, a second rainbow appeared over the first one, with the band of colours reversed from the normal order in rainbows. The first rainbow then became three rainbows, one after the other so that we were looking at four rainbows all at the same time. A very extraordinary ending to our stay.
My two weeks at Aa-neesheo-jigoh-bidich were very special. At times I was very emotional; at times I was very peaceful. During one of those times, while in the company of one of our youth, the following poem came to me and I would like to share this with your readers in the hope that it will help them as it has helped me.
Mourning the loss of a loved one,
I sat on a mountain top and wept.
A soft and gentle voice whispered,
“In time that loss will be but a gentle memory.
You mourn a love that is ever-changing. You mourn a love that is ending.
You mourn a love that hurts you.
You mourn a love that pains you.
My love for you is never-ending; I have loved you since time immemorial; I have loved you since your birth; I will love you through eternity.
Did you not feel my love In the gentle hands of the grandmothers who delivered you? Did you not taste my love In the sweet mother’s milk that nourished you? Did you not hear my love In the gentle teachings of your grandparents? Did you not see my love Surrounding you throughout your life? Do you not feel my love In the soft winds that caress you? In the bright sun that warms you To the very depths of your spirit? Do you not hear my love In the gentle sighing of the trees? In the joyful voices of the geese As your spirit soars to join them in their centuries-old journey? Do you not feel the warmth of my love From the sacred fire before you? Do you not see my love As it dances before you? My love for you Is higher than the tallest mountains before you,
Deeper than the deepest lakes before you, More vast than the clouds and sky that surround you.
My love for you Is pure as the whitest snow before you,
As beautiful as all my creation before you, As eternal as the earth springing to life before you.
From myself I have created you,
For I am love itself; To me you will return with love,
When your time on earth is done.” I turned my face to the gentle wind And felt the healing love of my Creator,
I looked at the beautiful creation around me And saw the healing love of my Creator.
I listened to the joyful songs of the birds And heard the healing love of my Creator. I reached out my hand to the universe And touched my Creator and wept.