This poem is by my little brother and is based mainly on our shared memory of a day on an idyllic shell beach in Florida, when we were teens.
‘What doesn’t kill you will only make you Stronger’
By Guest Writer: Luke Player
Around six in the evening, the canoe finally drifted into the little cove on the island. They carefully unloaded the gear to assure it would remain dry. They set up the tent, threw the sleeping bags inside and paddled off to Echo Rock. As they paddled, Luke looked up at the rock cliff, and he began to remember the first time he had jumped from Echo Rock. He recalled the mixture of exhilaration and frightening feelings, as he slowly scaled the naturally laid stones to the precarious ledge which opened to a panoramic view of the bay. Local history has it that in the late nineteenth century, before roads were built in the area, a steamship that supplied the towns of Maggie River and Almond Harbour caught fire and sank in the bay. On a clear day, one can still see the timbers of the old steamship from the ledge at Echo Rock.
They docked the canoe to the side of the majestic rock surface and tied a line to a birch tree conveniently overhanging the surface of the water. Like most hot July days in the north, the day’s end was a subtle transition into a long, warm evening, with the heat of the day still prevalent in the mid-summer air. On this particular day, the late evening temperature was higher than usual. As he dove through the air, he anticipated the cool feel of the water on his sweltering body. After thirty minutes of climbing and diving, they were both ready to retire for the evening. They jumped back into the canoe and headed toward the tiny island campsite, just three hundred yards in front of them.
As the distinctive sound of crickets filled the air, accompanied by the multitude of mysterious sounds from other diverse night creatures, the sun’s powerful radiance created a timeless portrait on the night’s western sky.
The buzz of thousands of mosquitoes hovering over the surface of the water were silhouetted by the red glow of the sunset. The night became animated in sound and the peculiar northern environment came alive with tranquil vitality.
The time was 9:30pm. Jason started a small fire and they cooked a meal of beans and wieners as they quietly watched the flickering flames. Luke turned and asked Jason a question and he was surprised to see him already heading for the tent to go to sleep. Just then, he looked up at the night sky and saw a ring of clouds forming in the western horizon. Suddenly, he heard a splash on the other side of the island. He ran over to a barren rock-shelf and flashed his light in the rippling water.
A big snapping turtle appeared in the dark water below him. The characteristic hooked head and long tail on the lonely reptile gave it a sinister look as it frantically swam away from the light. As he looked over the water, the rain then began. Nevertheless, Luke doused the fire and headed for the tent.
The air in the tent was hot, but after a while the rain’s hypnotic sound on the tent softly lulled him to sleep as it quenched the night air of its sticky heat. The wind was picking up as the sound of trees bowed to its might and it could be heard all around the tiny island.
Suddenly, Luke awoke. He looked out the tent window and saw a flash of light in the night sky. Just heat lightening, he optimistically thought, as he drifted again into a twilight sleep.
Twenty minutes later, however, the tent abruptly shifted as the wind became strong and severe. They were both awake now and wondered if this was a smart time to get off the island.
Luke looked out the window of the tent at a tiny porch light, about a quarter of a mile up the lake. The light flickered and went out. A power-line must have gone down, he thought to himself. He realized then that this was not a normal storm. As he looked out at the turbulent lake and heard the white waves hit the shore of the island, he knew they were trapped.
The canoe could easily capsize if they took the chance to reach the nearest shelter. The storm raged on, and with every flash of lightening their fear rose as they waited for the inevitable clap of thunder, which sounded so close it shook the tiny island and rang in their ears as a warning of its fury.
Luke reminded himself and his young nephew not to panic. The combination of rain, wind and lightening became so intense that they were forced to yell at each other to communicate over the furious tempest.
What could they do?
Their bodies were drenched from the deluge of rain. They were sitting ducks in the midst of a powerful storm. The lightening flashed with great intensity and they both knew that they could be electrocuted at any second.
The time slowed to endless crawl. The lightening crashed down so close that the ground was alive underneath them. Fear became their greatest enemy. Luke thought about the headlines in tomorrow’s local paper:
Two Careless Canoeists Swept To Death Camping On Tiny Island
They had to act!
They both jumped out of the tent and into a blinding shower of rain. They had to get to the canoe to get off the storm-besieged island. They looked in amazement when they realized the canoe had flipped over and dislodged itself from its original place high up on the rock. The tie-line had torn off the tree limb. They were just in time! Luke had to get to the canoe before it was swept away into the deep water of the lake. He dove into the tumultuous water and came up on the other side of the canoe. The waves lapped against his head and he luckily braced himself on the bottom of the lake, pushing the canoe into the island’s rocky shore. Jason grabbed the tie-line and they lifted the canoe up and over, to empty it of water.
The lightening flashed and they saw its giant forks crash into a tree near Echo Rock, splitting it in half with ease. But, they were paralyzed with fear and decided they had to wait it out in the water-soaked tent. Going out on the lake now would put them in more danger.
It was three in the morning, and the storm had raged for more than three hours. At three-thirty, the lightening and the wind began to subside and they were ready to risk an escape in an empty canoe.
They placed the canoe in the water and paddled for the nearest cottage with all their might. The lake was still rough and the white waves became a formidable obstacle in the dark.
The wind gusted unpredictably. The canoe turned abruptly and the waves haphazardly hit the side of the tiny craft, pushing it into the bay. Luke started having second thoughts about their decision to cross over to the cottage on the mainland, but they could not turn back now.
The cold rain dripped from their weary faces as water lapped over the sides of the canoe.
The wind subsided and attacked like a bull on a rampage. After forty-five minutes of wind and waves, Luke pointed to the dock in excitement. Just as hope became alive in them, a colossal wave rolled mightily over the side of the canoe, sweeping them into the uproarious lake.
Fortunately, Luke and Jason were both strong swimmers and they did not panic easily. The night seemed endless and surreal as the dark water encompassed their every thought. Luke then looked behind him and saw the protruding dock just a few feet away.
They had made it….
Luke opened his eyes and it took a few moments to realize where his exhausted body had fallen two hours before, in the dark. The water was now calm as the early rays of the sun shone over the tree-line in the east. The canoe was rhythmically hitting the rocks just twenty feet to the left of the dock. As Luke’s eyes came into focus, he thought that the once proud craft looked broken and demoralized as the water swelled over its humble crescent form.
A man then appeared on the dock and told them about the tornado that had touched down in the area. They suddenly realized that the storm had left a path of destruction, with immense pine trees split in half and cottages with trees leaning on them, precariously.
As Luke and Jason drove out onto the main highway, they looked in wonder at the legacy of the storm. It was a storm that would be well-remembered by the two fortunate survivors.
Luke turned to his nephew and said:
A philosopher by the name of Nietzsche once wrote what I am feeling right now…
‘What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.’
Leave a comment! I love ’em and the guest writer, Luke Player, will love ’em too!
(All photos were found on google images and pinterest and https://naturesknocking.wordpress.com/ )
~Guest submission by Luke Player~
Here’s a fabulous adventure and survival story from my little bro. Prepare to be very, very scared. Shivering in your boots and thanking your lucky stars that you’re dry and warm as you read…
The winding country road was once again under construction. In the twenty-six years both as passenger and driver on that road, Luke had witnessed few changes in the 14-kilometer trek from Rex Falls to the town of Maggie River. Every inch was etched in his mind: every bump to avoid; every curve that had caused a fatal accident; every long hill that brought back the rush of deliberate speed of bike trips as a teen; every business sign battered and torn by winter’s cold and every cozy structure that lined the highway with backyards of dense forest or boggy swamp with poorly rooted trees leaning loosely to one side.
This road often triggered a set of paradoxical emotions, with both excitement and melancholy. Every turned corner held another vividly colourful memory of childhood summers. Driving to town with siblings to do errands was always a treat and the family’s weekly trip to church brought all of us together to share in the week’s joys and sorrows. Luke’s reflections were suddenly cut off by an unexpected bump and the long rough sound of gravel under the car’s wheels.
The heat of this July day was exceptional. Luke casually observed the straggling construction crew, noticing the look of dogged monotony in the eyes of one anonymous worker, draped in the ubiquitous orange which made him stand out like a flash of fire at the side of the road. He thought to himself that the sign in his hand was more than a warning to drivers to slow down; it was a warning as well to slow down before the power of the sun stripped them all of their energy.
As he turned another corner, just before entering the camp, he reminded himself to stop at the spring on High Road for some cold water. He could remember as a small child looking down at the bubbles in the crude wooden box which contained the spring water. His mother dunked the neck of the water jugs to fill them as she commented (with a pained smile) on how perfectly cold the water was on her hands. Today, the old wooden box has been replaced by the modernized well and tap that create the seemingly never-ending sound of water on the smooth, polished rock below.
Luke bent down for a long drink and he noticed a tiny bright green frog playing in the stream of spring water. As a child, he caught the same tiny green frogs for the purpose of scaring his big sister with the slippery creatures. He splashed cold water on his face and the memory was driven away with a feeling of cool, refreshing relief.
He filled the jugs, threw them in the back seat and was confident that in a few minutes he would be unabashedly running to dive in the lake that he had known all his life.
As he finally neared the entrance to the camp, that old familiar anticipation rose in his being. He looked to his left and saw that the sprawling bay was unusually calm except for the group of children diving off the raft near the beach. Even though the raft was far away, he knew they were his boisterous teenage nephews. He turned into the old camp road, reducing his speed, as the car rolled gently over the incorrigible rutted grass-line, cutting the rugged road in half with long green grass. He then drove straight for the beach.
He parked under the natural shade of an old pine tree, quickly exited the car and did a running dive into the water. As he swam in slow motion under the water, his heat exhaustion was washed away. He thought to himself about an ongoing contest he once had with his sister Morgan, in which they had devised an underwater race, with the winner being the first to come up to the surface and touch the raft.
He reached the raft and called to his eldest sister’s oldest son, who was swimming about ten feet to his right. The last time they had talked in May, they had decided on canoeing up the lake, and all they had to do now was decide when to go.
They had planned to paddle to the small island, approximately ten kilometers up Eight-Mile Lake, near a gigantic landmark by the name of Echo Rock. It is the name for a place where one can climb up 50 feet to dive into the deep water below, with the Precambrian wall of rock providing a unique, natural location for diving.
The water was extraordinarily calm as they started up the lake. It made the canoe’s speed easy to increase over the glass-like water. The afternoon heat was overpowering in the middle of the lake; so they headed over to the shoreline, to allow for the natural shade of the over-hanging trees.
As they paddled through a narrow stretch of the lake, they kept their eyes on a well-known wooden bridge which gave access to a dock for a group of cottagers. The canoe skimmed briskly over the serene waters of Eight-Mile Lake. As Luke looked down into the water, he saw the flash of rock and dead tree stumps, but they were just deep enough to be missed by the canoe, and Luke thought that the canoe is truly a superior water craft, for it can intimately explore every inch of a lake. He would soon think a little differently about it…
…Continued at Canoe Island’s Cataclysmic Storm part 2
(all pictures courtesy of Google images except the highway and the two spring pics which are from ‘Nature’s Knocking’ Blog on WordPress)
As I stand alone at the window
In search for what I cannot see
I wonder to what might show
Some of you or all about me.
This poem is a guest submission to my blog. It was written by an old high school friend who, almost nine years ago, had a freak, totally sober accident with a patio door that, when it broke, nearly severed his arm. He almost bled to death in front of his family. How completely scary that at any moment, anything could happen to any of us. Al explained to me that he had to learn to write with his other hand. He said the body is an amazing machine. Don’t I know it, Al. Our bodies do so much for us and walk us on this Earth. Al said he didn’t start writing poetry because of the accident, but, that his poetry became much deeper and intuitive because of it. Here’s his poem.
A Poem By: Allan Edward (Po Po) Kinsella
S E A R C H I N G – H I D I N G B E H I N D O F M Y S E L F
As I stand all alone at the window
In search for what I cannot see
I wonder to what might show
Some of you or all about me.
I often will hide what I’m thinking
Or disguise it with something else
When in reality it is simple
I’m hiding behind of myself.
The sun and the moon I do turn too
For answers I simply can’t find
The thoughts and tears of a lifetime
Once left in a time way behind.
I realize the answers not out there
Not found in the moments gone by
To find them I need to stop searching
And look in the mirror inside.
So, lately, I was looking through some old yearbooks and came across this adorable picture of Al. An old friend from high school in a place three provinces away. I always liked Al. Everyone likes Al. Such an easy going, nice person. Because I reached out to him, due to this picture, he is now going to bring out his poetry to be read by others.
You GO Al!
Leave a comment about your near death experience (or one from someone close to you). Did it change you? Did you learn something? Tell me…I love it!