Melodie is only nine months old and she is already a comedian. My friends Serge and Lyne had their granddaughter, little Melodie, up to their chalet in the wilderness recently. I met the pretty little girl and her parents Jennifer and Mathieu a few weeks ago at the lakeside retreat.
I am always amazed at how open, kind, full of good humour and generally sensitive French Canadians are. That is a generalization, but so far in my life I have found that to be true. One thing for sure when the Europeans came to this land, the French easily mixed with the Native people and, as a matter of fact, that is why we have such a large Métis population today. Other European cultures were more formal and conservative. Happily, I have a lot of wonderful French-Canadian neighbours.
In my remote little place in the wilderness, way up north, things get very quiet. Most of the time all I ever hear are the songbirds whistling to each other in the trees, the loons crying in echoes on the lake or the wolves howling far in the distance.
Sometimes in this quiet my imagination gets the best of me. I hear rustles in the brush or thuds that could only mean the movement of large mammals on the land. At best, I think of the moose on the run from wolves or in search of tasty saplings. At worst, my mind conjures up images of huge black bears prowling just outside the clearing near my camp. These bears have menacing red eyes and snort like the hounds of hell. Much of the time, I leave an axe within reach simply to make myself feel better.
Not long ago, I was up at the far end of the lake. This is a place of towering poplars and majestic pine. A friend and I were collecting a little firewood when we heard a sound in the deep woods.
At first we ignored it as some muffled high-pitched cry of a small animal or bird. We kept working but with a little anxiety. The sound became impossible to ignore at one point.
We stopped and listened carefully. Of course, thoughts of the big black northern bear were on our minds. Recently we had seen bears down the road and my neighbours Chantal and Alain had pointed out tracks nearby.
Waaaww… came the sound from the far end of the lake. We listened intently and the cry came again and this time I realized it must be a baby bear cub. There might be two or three I thought. Then, of course, it occurred to me that the mother would be nearby.
Stories of murderous rampages by outraged mother bears came to mind. I know there is nothing worse in the forest than meeting up with a full-grown mother bear and her cubs. I realized that in this case, no human is safe as the mother will do her best to eliminate what she thinks is a danger to her cubs.
The cry of the small bear cub moved closer and seemed to be travelling towards us. We held tight to our axes and ran in sheer panic and fear towards our half-ton truck on the dirt road up the hill.
The old Ford never looked so good. Once inside with the doors slammed shut and the windows rolled up tight, we peered out at the forest and the lake in great anticipation. We had no doubt that the mother and her cubs were on their way towards us.
Suddenly, there was Serge, Lyne, Jennifer, Mathieu and beautiful little baby Melodie all sitting happily on their new pontoon boat coming out of the bay nearby where we had been working. The floating platform parted the waters quietly driven by an electric motor. The peace was broken only by the muffled cries of sweet little Melodie who was urging the family back to the chalet for lunch. This floating family waved at us enthusiastically from the lake.
I looked at my friend and we both realized our fears of the unknown in the midst of this vast wilderness had turned the cries of a baby for lunch into a family of bloodthirsty black bears. We began to laugh uncontrollably as we exited the old Ford and waved back at our friends floating on the mirror-like surface of the lake. Melodie’s muffled cries echoed all around the bay.
It may be a few years before Melodie realizes the joke she played on us in the far-north wilderness that summer day, but one thing is for sure, she gave us a good story. There are still sounds in the forest that baffle me and cause me to conjure up all kinds of threatening images, but I pause to check first whether Melodie is somewhere on the lake.