We woke at 515am to the beginnings of rain. We slept until 6 and, with the rain persisting, I felt God say it was time to get up and so we did. We were on the water by 7, no morning dip, chased out of camp by the rain. We make good time down Obabika Lake, light rain and wind but nothing obtrusive. As I paddle I pause mid-stroke to look around me. The air is saturated with the scent of water and pine, the wild tops of the ancient forest in the foreground and the hills rising up through distant fog. This is real.
The car is growing ever closer and with it thoughts of home. IPhone, computer screens… So much of my life in Toronto is lived either in fantasy land or vicariously through computers—connections with friends, news, facebook news about friends (or aquaintances… or strangers for that matter), bragging about parts of my life, comparing myself to other peoples fake ‘for the camera’ lives, working towards some fantasy life that never seems to grow any closer.
But this, here, now, this is real. Paddling down Obabika, relying on the strength of my body, the gear in our packs and our mind’s wits to survive and propel us forward, pushing water with my paddle so we move quickly through the rain, content to be in this moment.
We arrive at the car soaked through and with squelchy shoes. I kept telling myself that once we got here we could change in the car into the dry clothes from the drybag. Once we do arrive it’s officially pouring and I realize that to get into the car we have to dig to the bottom of the drybag to retrieve the keys, pulling out the dry clothes in the process. We perform some gymnastics with the tarp and manage to keep the dry things dry.
Finally we are on our way back to Toronto, warm and dry with the seats pumping heat across our back and legs… But I was already warm… We kept commenting throughout the morning that if it had to rain at least it was warm! The car tells us it’s 14.5*C, not exactly balmy. I try to adjust to my surroundings. The trees and lakes flashing by at 60km/h is a bit of a shock to my 4km/h adjusted system. The world sounds different in an enclosed space. Smells different too for that matter! We sit in silence. The hour hand ticks by in what seems like minutes. I need to use the bathroom. No, I will not squat beside the highway. We’re in civilization now.
We don’t want to be going home yet. Our silence is almost a kind of mourning. As we arrived at the car we commented on how most people are happy to go camping for awhile but are very happy to get back to convenience and comfort. Not us. We love living outdoors so much we could have turned right around and kept going for another 3 months easily.
4 or 5 hours of slow, silent watching later we arrive at a Tim Hortons in Bracebridge, ON. The music is too loud, the people too many, do I smell? I’m sure I do. I order food from two people paid to make it for me quickly and with as little inconvenience to me as possible. A poster raves about organic bacon or some other health-food nonsense. I hate advertising. I don’t know how anyone can work in that field with a clear conscience. Sure, it’s great money and pseudo-artistic but at what cost? You’re lying to people, preying on their insecurities, igniting desires for otherwise overlooked extravagances.
Throughout the next week I continuously realize that I crave food or things that I was perfectly happy living without in the woods. But here in the city there are so many options! Everyone and everything is selling something. The bus tells me that Mission Impossible is the “must see movie of the summer”, every time I leave the house my well fed stomach craves a treat from the many fast food restaurants that crowd the sidewalks, even the pedestrians in their fashionable clothes fan the flames of my covetousness. Yet I don’t need or even, really, want any of it! Our consumerist culture is very strange – something I’d never noticed before. Having a break from the bombardment was so good.
It takes me 2 or 3 weeks before it feels normal again.