This is the week the Cree School Board travels to Osprey for meetings and a bit of fishing. I have been looking forward to this, travelling back through time – a time to remember. I hurried in many directions trying to put everything together, hoping I had everything I needed. After all, there were no stores, phones or television where we were heading, only the forest and us. It seems the more I hurry, the less I get done – isn’t that a fact.
We are finally ready to leave and we are going by boat – Ida, Tina, Jennifer, Stephanie and I.
Thinking I was getting the best seat (it was out of the rain), I scurried into the boat first. With the high waves I bounced so hard I thought I would be shaken enough to regret my scurried action and I did. The lake changed back and forth between rough choppy waves to calmer waters as we made our way to and through the islands and our destination.
We sighted the cabins high above the waterline, nestled in the forest of tall pine trees. It was a welcoming and serene place. We anxiously made our way to the docks and most awkwardly, I stepped out of the boat to be aided by many friendly hands.
I shared a cabin with Ida and Tina. They graciously let me have one room while they shared the other. The mention of my snoring prompted them to that quick decision. The chill of lake was soon warded off by the roaring fire in our cabin. As the warm glow filled the cabin we basked in the heat and soon became drowsy.
I lay on my bed and let a flood of memories come into my thoughts. Remembering times past when my parents and grandparents travelled along these shores and experienced the weather conditions as they changed from warm sunny days to rainy cold conditions. I felt their unseen presence, their compassion and their love come flooding back as if it had never left but just waited for me to see and feel it again. I longed to be back for a time with those shadows that shaped my life and made me whom I had become this day.
Especially clear in my mind was a time when my father had started a fishing camp near the Rupert River in the northern part of Mistissini Lake. Our grandparents were as much part of our family as our parents. In another sheltered cove, we spent our summer catering to fishermen and swimming in the “not so warm” waters along a sandy beach.
We were young and tough; even so at times we’d be running in to stand shivering by the stove where my mother cooked. A scolding here and there was noted, then, soon forgotten as we raced back to the water, testing each other to see who would be the first in the icy water. I can almost feel the numbness in my fingertips and visualize us all standing there shaking from the cold.
As supplies ran low, my father became creative with meals. Little did I think it would become part of my family meals and now, in the future, part of my son’s meals.
All too soon our selection and intimacy with our family would come to a close. The voyage back on the big lake to Mistissini meant returning to school and separation from our parents, grandparents and younger siblings. Sad to say, babies born in September or January were almost toddlers by the time we returned in July. We missed all the cute stages babies go through.
The sounds of the wind rustling through the trees and the waves lapping at the shores brought back many familiar sounds of the forest that we treasured.
So in this cabin I sit by the crackling fire, the scented smell of burnt wood, deep in the forest, away from interruptions of our cellphones, televisions and vehicles that have increased in past years. Contentment and the reminiscing of a time past have made this trip worthwhile. Still another day to live between the past and present.
It is late afternoon and the winds have stopped. The bay looks calm and my hopes surge. Would I get to dip my new line into the lake! By this time, as a bonus, it would be to catch a fish, any fish! I am anxious to see the clear water that reflects the rocks so vividly to my gaze that I can reach down and touch them.
I had made my way down the entire length of the lake during my first week after being born. A passenger barely even able to see more than the light around me I could still feel the gentle rocking of the canoe moving over the waves. Mistissini, the lake represents where my journey began and where I wish to end it. Ashes sprayed across the waves to ride and dip with glistening rays of the sun.
Tomorrow I go home to my husband, family and old friends. Back to a world that is still alive and full of promises yet to come. Tomorrow, I leave these memories behind and go forth to make new ones.