Canoeing to My Destiny
Chapter 3

Copyright© 2012 by Lance Manne

The next morning I arose early. I was surprised to find that the girl with the floppy hat was already up and had a nice fire going. She greeted me shyly and asked whether I would like some coffee. I gladly accepted the cup that was offered and drank it slowly. I took down my tent and proceeded to pack my gear and load my canoe. It was another beautiful morning. I planned on putting in a few miles before taking a break and grabbing some breakfast.

I handed the coffee cup back to the girl and then hopped in my canoe and pushed off from shore. She waved to me as I paddled away. One of the other girls came out of a tent wearing an extra long t-shirt. Her long legs were exhibited wonderfully against the backdrop of the pine trees and boulders.

I paused as she waved at me and I waved back. I guess most men would have loved to have been in my situation. My desire was to be alone and enjoy the beauty that was all around me. I did, however, take one long look back. Then I slowly turned, and began to get develop a rhythm with my stroke and the long pull of the paddle.

I passed over several more portages before I stopped to grab a bite to eat. I boiled some water on my compact stove and prepared some oatmeal, tossing in some dried fruit. It is surprising how little food you really need to eat in a day. I looked out over the water and marveled as an otter surfaced. He rolled over on his back, floating effortlessly. The colors and sights are so intense when one is out in nature. I was finally beginning to feel more at peace, as some of my pain began to slowly ebb away.

I sat and thought about Sandy. I closed my eyes and imagined her diving into the water. I watched as she effortlessly swam along and then rolled over on her back, just like the otter. Oh how I missed her. What I wouldn't give to reach out and feel the warmth of her body. Yet somehow, I sensed that she was with me. It was surprising, I didn't really feel alone. I felt as though I was part of something much bigger than myself. I opened my eyes and the otter was gone.

I packed my supplies and pushed off from shore. I had a few more lakes to conquer before setting up my camp for the evening. I paddled along in silence. A gentle breeze had picked up and it was giving me the slightest bit of a push. The next several portages proved to be rather tricky. I learned that I needed to be very careful where I placed my feet. Several times I had almost lost my footing. A sprained ankle or a broken bone can be a very serious thing in the wild. I wanted to insure that nothing like that happened to me.

I finally reached the lake where I planned to camp. There was only one campsite on this lake and it was empty. I maneuvered my canoe over to the rocks and climbed onto shore. After securing my canoe, I checked around. It was a beautiful campsite. I noticed some evidence of fish remains lying in the shallow water. I watched as the crayfish tore at the flesh and then scurried under the rocks. This was a good sign. It meant that there were fish to be caught in the general vicinity.

I set up my tent and laid out my sleeping bag. My next task would be to go out and see what I could catch for dinner. I had snacked on some energy bars earlier in the day, but my stomach was beginning to grow hungry.

I found a beautiful little bay that looked promising for fish structure. Over near the shore I saw a moose munching on some lily pads. It was beginning to get close to that time of evening that I loved so much. The sun was becoming lower in the sky. It shone on everything from the side, rather than from above, as it did during the day. It was at this time that the bark of the trees and the plants on the banks were highlighted. The orange color of the lichens and bright greens of the moss began to stand out.

I made some casts toward the various areas that I thought looked promising. The fish didn't seem to be too hungry in that spot, so I moved over to where I noticed a small stream cascading down from the hill above.

I observed the natural setting before me. I watched as the water rushed over the rocks. I followed its path as it cascaded, twisted, and flowed to its destination. It was bringing nutrients and oxygen to the lake below. I noticed moss, mushrooms, and fungus growing on moisture sodden logs. They were completing the process of breaking down the dead wood into a source that could be used by new life and future plants.

Here was an example, right in front of me, of the cycle of life. Things lived, served their purpose, and then died. After they were gone, new life would spring from the matter that they left behind. Maybe, just maybe, there was a chance that I would be able leave this area with a new and revived source of enthusiasm for life.

On my first cast, the water exploded. I pulled back. I had hooked a nice fish and it gave me a good fight. Several times it came out of the water and I saw that I had a nice northern pike on my line. Some people don't like to eat pike, but I find them to be very tasty. After reeling the fish up to the canoe, I gently lifted him out of the water and placed him on my stringer. It was a nice size and it would make a very tasty dinner.

I paddled slowly back to my camp. I looked around and savored the oneness with nature. I had taken my shirt off so that I could enjoy the gentle breeze that was flowing over my skin. I looked at the reflection of the rocks and trees where they met with the surface of the water. As I paddled near shore, I could see tiny minnows scurrying to and fro. The moon was slowly rising, even though it was still light. Life was good.

I quickly cleaned my fish and then placed the pieces in a zip lock bag containing my special fish batter. This batter had been perfected after years of research. Into the pan went the fish while I waited anxiously for my first taste.

As far as I am concerned, you may visit the most expensive restaurant around, but when it comes to fresh fish, it doesn't get any better than one that is caught fresh in the wild. That incredible fresh taste comes from the quick transfer from the lake and into the pan.

I wasn't disappointed. The fillets were delicious. I broke off a piece of bread from a baguette I had brought along. I sat back and savored every bite. When my meal was done, I poured some hot water in my cup and made some tea. I thought about the meal the ladies had made the day before. It had been very tasty, but my simple meal left me completely satisfied.

As I sipped my tea, I threw some more wood onto the fire. There is something hypnotic about a campfire. I watched the flames as they leapt upward into the sky. Different colored flames would appear from time to time. Blue, yellow, red, and green flames would hop around from place to place.

As the fire began to die down, more changes would occur. I watched the hot coals, glowing red, pulsating, and then bursting into a flame. The flame would burn briefly and then turn back into a hot red coal. A campfire can be so restful and enjoyable. They can also be very conducive to contemplation and deep soul searching.

I thought back to the times I would spend with Sandy around the fire. We would often just sit quietly. She would place her head on my shoulder, and stare at the fire. Sometimes we would talk about events of the day or make plans for the future. We were very content in the fact that we were together. It was nice to not have the nuisance of everyday activities around to distract us.

I remembered back to the time when a thunderstorm rolled in. I told Sandy that we needed to get in the tent before the rains came. She insisted that we go down to the water's edge to brush our teeth. As I stood nervously, out on a rocky ledge, a lightning bolt suddenly shattered the darkness before us. As far as I could determine, it struck maybe 20 feet away, out on the water.

I instinctively fled from the shoreline, with Sandy right behind me. With hearts pounding, we climbed into our tent. When we had a chance to take stock of our situation, Sandy found that she had put the toothpaste on the backside of her toothbrush. We had laughed many times upon recalling that experience. Just thinking about it brought a smile to my face.

I began to realize how lucky I had been to have opportunity to spend time with Sandy. Many people go though life without ever experiencing the special relationship that we had forged together. As I watched the fading coals, I remembered many more special times that we had shared together. I found those memories to be far better than any photos. They were always with me and I could bring them up at any time.

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