“I have heard the birds singing, each to each. Every morning, afternoon, and evening, I have heard them singing as I sit, run, lay, swim, kayak, read. I have seen so much of nature here, or more precisely, absorbed it; it's more than seeing it. Nature is around, and my soul is happy to be around it.”
I'll probably never do this again, but that's a direct quote from my journal. I was on vacation in Ontario with four girls. My boss said it sounded like a new reality TV show: 5 Girls in the Canadian Wilderness.
That sounds too close to Girls Gone Wild for my ducks-in-a-row Midwestern sensibilities, and besides, we weren't really off in the wilderness with the moose, bears, and Royal Mounties. We were in cottage country.
Doesn't that have a pleasant, homey ring to it? Cottage country. Sounds so much more upscale than cabin land, and it flows off the tongue better than second home country.
This cottage country is near the Georgian Bay, which is part of Lake Huron. I'm hoping that's enough of a geography lesson for you, because all I want you to take away from this is: I was somewhere beautiful for a few days.
As always—as frequently—I took all of nature in and wanted to send it back out from me, fully inked and lined up. Fully described and explained and appreciated.
That push, that desire, led to journal entries like that one above, where yes, I did paraphrase T.S. Eliot.
And it led to this one particular moment on a hike, one of those moments you hope never fades. Not because it's a rollicking story you want to tell your grandchildren one day—but because it so holds together a particular time or thought or life stage for you.
We hiked at Killbear Provincial Park on the second day of vacation, and when we got to the point of the hike—a view onto Georgian Bay—I sat down on a rock to take in said view.
Clouds grew at the water's edge, just at the line where it drops off the earth, creating a waterfall to Narnia or some other imagined home. Above me, though, there weren't many clouds, as if they sky didn't want its reflection in the bay marred too much.
The water on the rocks did not crash, did not foam, did not draw attention to itself.
It whispered, lapped, rocked. I could look to the bottom; I could see the rock floor pushing up gradually, inclining a little, to meet the rock I sat on.
I could see how if you drained the bay, you'd find underneath a world that looked just like what I was sitting on: rocky but with green life growing in improbable places—as well as in all the places you'd expect to find a patch of grass, a bush, a tree.
I stared and stared and tried to make the words form—the words that would say just what I didn't know I intended.
Instead, a lot of detached openings and segues opened up before me: choppy reflections on what I saw reflected in the water below me.
And it felt like that—trying to write about, wanting to write about, the clouds when all I could see was the inconsistent, moving reflection of the clouds in the water.
Nothing good came, and what did come, I wanted to laugh at because I was trying to be deep. I was trying to hit the theme of the discord of nature and modern life. The discord between the cool calm of the water and my frenzied push to do more and describe more and be more.
What did come to me as I looked at the Georgian Bay was trite. Or maybe it felt trite in the face of an exquisitely-expressed nature.
I kept staring, though. I kept listening, and I heard the birds, friends talking on a rock above me, the water below me.
The friends pulled more sharply on my soul then; I wanted to share the scene, not try to describe it. That's why I was restless, even looking at the ever-moving water and clouds, a combination that usually puts me far beyond the boundary of introspection.
I wanted to be not alone, and so I stood up from the rock and turned my back on nature, on trying too hard, on forcing depth.
I walked up to my friends, sat down between them, and said, “My gosh, it's just so pretty here, isn't it?”