Algonquin Images:  Personal Reflections


Moose Sighting

Speeding along the highway: a cluster of randomly parked vehicles comes into view. Can only mean one thing: a moose by the side of the road. Adrenalin rush! Gravel flies, as the car screeches to a halt. I leap out, camera in hand, and run to join the gawking masses.

I catch a glimpse of her through the crowd, ten metres from the shoulder. Heart pounding with excitement, I fire-off a series of photos, quickly, in case she decides to leave.

With mission accomplished, I sling the camera over my shoulder, and pause to watch the moose for a moment. She seems like a stranger from another land. I wonder where she really lives, how many generations of her ancestors have stood here before her, how it feels to be on display.

Her gentle, brown eyes meet mine. Suddenly, I feel uncomfortable, self-conscious. I glance down at the ground and nervously kick the gravel with my toe. Soon, curiosity overcomes my discomfort; I lift my gaze once again.

There she is, this magnificent creature, quietly eyeing the throng of human onlookers, as she lunches by the side of the road. I begin to wonder who is really watching whom... I mean, we didn't come upon her deep within the wilderness, in her natural setting. This elusive giant chose to expose herself to us, to stand here by the human travel corridor. Perhaps she has come to satisfy her own curiosity, rather than to provide us with a "vacation photo op." Maybe I am actually the stranger from another land; maybe I do know how it feels to be on display.

I chuckle inwardly, as I realize how foolish we must look to her. Here she stands, calm, and full of poise and dignity, watching humanity rushing about in a mad frenzy, just to catch a glimpse of "a real live moose." Perhaps this piece should have been titled, Human Sighting ...we humans seem to have put on quite a show!

Then, much to my horror, I realize that I have been caught playing the role of the consummate tourist. I feel sheepish, embarrassed, for allowing myself to become part of the human circus act. How undignified. I feel ashamed, guilty, for treating the moose as merely a thing to be photographed, an impressive trophy to be captured on film for my den wall. How degrading. How disgraceful. This moose is not an inanimate object; she is a fellow living being, deserving of honour and respect. Next time we meet it will be different time I will be different.

© Margaret A. Black (nee Kean) 1993

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Eden, by Canoe

My name, Your name, Make a name, No name
My place, Your place, Workspace, Cyberspace
Telephone, Voice mail, Fax machine, E-mail
Meetings, Out of town, Expense account, System's down

Public transit, Drive alone, Carpool, Car phone
401, 404, Construction tie ups, Door-to-door
Rush hour, Fumes & Noise...Gridlock

Rate of pay, Wage freeze, Risk of layoff, Banker's fees
TD, CIBC, Stocks & bonds, GIC
Easy credit, Student loan, Mortgage payment, Lease to own
GST, PST, Income tax, RSP

Politicians, Welfare fraud, House invasions, No more cod
Simpson case, Ozone layer, Bosnia, Train nightmare
Cancer risk, HIV, Drunken driving, LSD

Telemarket, Television, Tell two friends, Listen, listen
IBM, GMC, Coca Cola & NIKE
Infomercials: buy CDs, Math Made Easy, Earn degrees
Hair Club, Great pecs, Psychic Friends, Phone sex
Join the '90's, it's not too late; 'round and 'round, don't hesitate!


Eden, by canoe:
Air, Water, Earth, Fire
Food, Canoe, Clothes, Tent
Mind, Muscle, Heart, Soul
Perseverance, Vulnerability, Simplicity, Solitude

Paddle, stroke, stroke, stroke
Portage, step, step, step
A brilliant sunset shimmers across a pristine lake
Water gently laps at the shoreline
Wind brushes through the pines...shh, shh
A moose and a bullfrog feed in the marsh
A loon calls out to his mate.
[download 85K loon audio]

Eden, by canoe:
Renewal, Adventure, Accomplishment...Peace

© Margaret A. Black (nee Kean) 1995

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Déjà vu and an unmistakable sense of belonging: these are the sensations that flood my consciousness every time I enter the wilderness, or revisit its splendor in my mind. I struggle to summon forth a specific recollection of how or when my love affair with the land began. I fail. I cannot recall a time when I did not feel this bond; its origin is a mystery to me. All I know for sure is that, for some reason, the natural world grips me at a deeply spiritual level. Each sojourn into the wilderness is a spiritual pilgrimage to God's grandest cathedral. In this holiest of holies, I feel contemplative, worshipful, peaceful, eternal... The forest transforms the very essence of who I am.

As if they are memories of my own life's experience, shadows of antiquity begin to rise within the dark recesses of my mind: Through the mists of time I see the loving hands of the Creator, gently sculpting the hills and valleys of this place; filling the sky with air; pouring life-giving water into the lakes and streams; sowing the seeds and spores of trees and bushes, mosses, fungi, lichens, and a rainbow of wildflowers; populating the land with mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, mollusks...and oh yes, insects, a myriad of insects! Scenes of an ice age flash before my mind's eye: Immense, frigid, barren, lifeless. And then the plants, the animals, and the people return. I sense the presence of the spirits who inhabited this land in ages past. Before me, larger than life, are the people of the First Nations, dancing around a roaring fire, chanting songs of thanksgiving and intercession to the Great Spirit. Sparks fly skyward into the night, joining the blanket of stars overhead. As that scene fades into obscurity, yet another comes into focus: an aerial view of a handful of tiny beings, courageously trekking through an endless foreign wilderness, on a quest for a new home: the European settlers, the "pioneers."

Dizzying images of the vastness of this place rush in and fill my mind to overflowing: the massive network of forest, and lake, and river, and sky. I gaze up at the trees that tower overhead; their sheer size and number overwhelm me. I feel engulfed by the natural order, dwarfed by the glory that surrounds me; like an ant on the side of a mountain. But I do not shy away from this image. It is good to be reminded that the universe does not revolve around me; to feel part of something infinitely greater than myself: Creation... If "home is where the heart is," then the wilderness is (and perhaps always has been) my true home.

© Margaret A. Black (nee Kean) 1993

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Morning Mist

Serene, silent... the lake and its inhabitants still slumber.

I arise at the break of dawn, slip a canoe onto the mirrored surface of the water and venture forth alone. I feel like I'm paddling into a photograph... a landscape in suspended animation. Only the sounds of my breathing and the swirl of water, as my paddle cuts into liquid glass, betray this illusion.

Gradually, I work my way toward the shroud that clings to the marsh. From a distance, the morning mist appears as a motionless mass; a more intimate view reveals that it is, in fact, a lingering fluid entity, slowly whirling and swirling at the hands of imperceptible air currents. The sensation of mist washing over my skin surprises and delights. I take a deep breath. Cool, moist vapour rushes inward to cleanse my lungs. I stow my paddle and allow the canoe to drift while I dwell in the moment...

Suddenly, the tranquility is broken by a shaft of light and heat, cutting its way through the trees and striking the surface of the marsh... sunrise. The mist retreats into the shadows and then vanishes, its subtle essence overwhelmed by the sun's might.

As I paddle back to camp under the warm rays of summer, the morning mist is just a memory... but one that will abide with me for a very long time.

© Margaret A. Black (nee Kean) 1997

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Striking plumage, coal and snow;
Fiery eye, a crimson glow;
Plaintive wails and gleeful raves;
Wizardry beneath the waves.
Untamed heart, so wild and free...
Spirit of the north.

© Margaret A. Black (nee Kean) 1997

loon picture

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Symphony of the Rain

The conductor taps his baton. All instruments are at the ready. He lifts his arm and motions for the music to begin.

The composition opens with a harp: the wind rolls, and then falls silent. Next comes a stark flute solo: a bird, hastily retreating for shelter, sounds an alert. A flash of light is followed by the crack of a snare drum. And then the music begins in earnest...

A staccato plucking of a dozen violins rises, as the first raindrops patter against the leaves of the towering maples.

Nature's fireworks illuminate the celestial canopy: sheets of brilliant yellow, and bolts of blinding white. Kettle drums and snare drums punctuate the fire in the sky.

A thousand more violins begin to pluck, as the rain intensifies.

I stoop to hear a gentle palpitation on the tom-toms: drops of mud joyfully splashing skyward, as rain meets the parched dust of the clearing.

Soon, a tinkling of the ivories catches my ear: a determined trickle flows downward, into the forest. I follow it as it weaves a path through the trees; eventually the piano's descent leads me to the shores of a nearby lake.

Cymbals rub together: the lake hisses as water alights on water.

I strain to hear a single instrument, barely audible within the aquatic harmony. It is a distant tuba: the call of a bull frog, reveling in the sensation of water showering over his amphibious skin.

A triumphant flourish of horns breaks forth: loons and geese sound off from several vantage points around the lake.

As I make my way back to the clearing, the staccato plucking becomes irregular, the light show and the percussion begin to fade.

When the drums and violins abate, it is time for the flutes and piccolos to make their entrance. In the wake of the storm, all manner of avian life lift voices to the sky in glorious song...

Many do not appreciate soggy weather, but it seems that I have been granted a special ability: the ability to hear and find joy in The Symphony of the Rain. Just as the creatures of the forest, I know that the water that cascades down from the heavens, is the very lifeblood that flows through the veins of our planet; that without it life would not exist; that rain is to be celebrated; that rain is a gift from God...

© Margaret A. Black (nee Kean) 1993

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Lone Pine

Lone Pine Gif

The wind blows. A delicate wafer is plucked from the forest floor and carried-off into the blue. Tossed to and fro by the tempest, at last the seed is laid to rest in a crack on the surface of an immense boulder; along with it, a scant few particles of life-giving soil. The sun and the rains coax the infant conifer out of its womb. Against all odds, the lone pine begins to forge a life for itself, in this most inhospitable of places.

The rugged little seedling holds fast to its host, tiny root fibres cleave to both dirt and rock. Day-by-day, it advances in stature, as nutrients are drawn, first from the soil in the crevice, and later from the mineral-ladened boulder itself. Year-by-year, the tree's ability to brace against gravity and the elements increases; roots burrow ever deeper into stone, exerting subtle but continuous pressure within the fissure.

Perched high atop its rocky pedestal, the lone pine raises its branches triumphantly toward the sky. This is life-on-the-edge; life clinging to the very margins of existence. It is yin and yang; adversity and the life force in perfect balance...

© Margaret A. Black (nee Kean) 1993

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The Wolves

Off in the distance, a chorus rises toward the heavens. Voices echo out across a darkened landscape. They hunger to break the isolation of self. They thirst for the companionship of soul friends they cannot touch, cannot even see. They seek oneness with others through sound.

They call out. Then they fall silent...and wait. Restless, unsatisfied, until met by the familiar voice of another, they call out. They fall silent...they wait. From a different part of the acoustic stage comes the answering call. The dance of the souls begins.

They sing in a language that is foreign to my human mind, yet deeply familiar to me. It is the melody of the lonely, reaching out to each other across vast distances, to fill the void that lies within.

Their song summons up an awareness of the chasm within my own heart and soul. I shudder. All of a sudden, I feel desperately alone...

The singers call me out of my isolation. Their voices have become clearer and stronger, uplifted by their communion through song. Their melody has changed too; they now sing of unity, of wholeness.

Finally, as the voices trail off and the song reaches its conclusion, I am taken by surprise; I find myself feeling utterly peaceful, complete. The singers have cast away my emptiness, by including me in their dance of the souls. I am one with them. The singers and I...soul friends. [download 83K wolf audio]

That I should feel such a kinship with the wolves is understandable. For, like the singers, I too reach out across vast distances, seeking the companionship of friends I cannot touch, cannot even see. The wolves find connectedness in sharing of themselves through vocalization; I, through written expression: through allegory, and poetry, and prose...

© Margaret A. Black (nee Kean) 1993

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