Last night I had a dream about canoeing at dusk on Eight Mile Lake in Ontario’s cottage country. I was over by number four cabin and the dark, soft familiar waters were choppy. I was solo. Suddenly I realized there was a lot of water coming into my canoe and it tipped over. I was in the drink. In real life, I have never capsized a canoe, not even while standing and lunging and reaching to catch bullfrogs as a child, never once did the canoe overturn. But in my dream last night, it did. The current became unusually strong and, still holding on to the overturned canoe, I was carried way down the narrows and into big part of the lake by Echo Rock. I was not afraid. In my dream I realized that my iPhone was in my pocket and was now completely wet. I had the thought, in my dream, that I could fix it by putting it in a bag of rice. The, I was overcome with a feeling of foreboding….but…then, I woke up.
I have many fond memories of canoeing on Eight Mile Lake. Like the late summer of 1983 when my little brother Luke would canoe into town to pick me up from my shift at the diner. He would slowly and quietly walk up from the dock in his male teenage body to the diner to get me. I would be in my uniform and with a carton of to-go food, usually friend chicken and chips or something, I would follow him down to the dock and take up my place in the bow and eat while Luke would paddle and tell me about his day and usually about his struggles with Dad. After I would finish eating, we would sing for the rest of the trip. We would sing: Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad by Meatloaf:
Baby we can talk all night, but that ain’t getting us nowhere, I told you everything I possibly can, there’s nothing left inside of here. And maybe you can cry all night, but that’ll never change the way that I feel. The snow is really piling up outside. I wish you wouldn’t make me leave here…
Yep, we would sing that uplifting song. For some reason we knew all the words and, of course, various Bob Seger tunes and the odd Bob Dylan tune. Mom wasn’t at the lake that year. Dad and Mom had split up. We missed her very badly. Her light always shone so bright at the lake. It was her favourite place on earth. When Mom passed away in 2001, we sprinkled her ashes in the upper field of the camp, under a pine tree. Eva, Amy, Mark and I took turns saying a few words and Mark sang a song. It was simple but sweet. Rest in Peace, Mom. We miss you.
Mom loved to canoe the lake. She would gather us up and we would make a canoe convoy out around the point beyond number six cabin in order to see the sunset.
We would laugh and tease and splash each other all the way. On the way back we would sing various camp songs and Mom’s favorite: Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles. As kids, we loved to go see the sunset on Eight Mile Lake. It was a big event. And Mom was with us, which made it extra special.
When my friend Ben MacNeil would visit (my neighbour from the city, see post: Let the Games Begin), we would go out in the canoe every day and usually we would canoe across the lake and then over to town. Sometimes we would take a fishing rod each and some worms and tie-up near the footings of the lighthouse and try for perch, sunfish and bass. Squealing with delight when we would catch a fish, pulling it into the canoe to be taken home where mom would clean it and add it to the other catches to be eating for breakfast the next day. She would roll each piece of fish in flour and salt and pepper and fry them in the big cast-iron pan with lots of lard. There would be a stack of fish and frogs on the table for breakfast —the most important meal of the day! Mom would say and then after saying grace, we would begin, with gusto.
On calm days we would be beckoned by the still waters of Eight Mile Lake to adventure out for a day in the canoe. Luke and I, or Job and I, or Mark and I would head down the mysterious Trouble River and follow all of its twists and turns seeing blue herons take flight as we rounded a corner or a beaver flapping its tail on the calm black bottomless water. The Trouble River was always so quiet and calm. There were stories about it and beliefs about the water because it was so black. People would say that it was bottomless. None of us wanted to swim in it, but mom would, no problem. Sometimes, every now and then, Job would water ski down the Trouble. He loved the challenge of it but, it did scare him, although he would never admit it. I remember being proud of Job on those occasions.