Writing Conversation

The Red Canoe 2

Today on the Writing conversation, a little book by Ross Fleming.

THE RED CANOE

“Climb up on top of that large rock at the head of the rapids” said the young instructor.  “Be sure your life jackets are securely fastened, then jump into the river, and float down face up and feet fist.”  We were terrified.  The water was turbulent, and there were a number of rocks.  We avoided calamity as we were carried down the rapids, and climbed out on the shore, exhilarated.  Having passed our first test, we were then allowed to get into ourcanoe and begin to learn the fundamentals of whitewater canoeing.

Thus began our lifelong afection for our new red canvas covered wooden canoe.  It began life 63 years ago in Fredericton, where its ribs and planks were carved from the cedar trees of the New Brunswick forest.  Made by hand, it is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.  So aesthetically pleasing, and so responsive.  It survived the trip by Canadian Pacific Railway from Fredericton to our home in Toronto.  Over the years, it has trained and carried three generaation of Femings on many, many happy trips in Ontario’s northern lakes and river.

Like the snakes of the northern woods, our red canoe has shed and re-grown many skins, but always the same colour.  Like we, its family, it has survived broken ribs ans planks, all repaired and replaced by skilled and loving craftmanship.  All of which has enhanced our mutual affection. It understands us and we understand it.  It protects us, and we protect it.

My daughter’s poem reads:

This is my dad, happy,

In a canoe, long legs tossed out before him,

Arms paddling like legs walk.

The stories it could tell.  At the cottage, my elderly mother would appear at sunrise, banana in one hand and fishing rod in the pther, seat herself on the bottom of the canoe, her oldest son paddling and removing fish from her hook, the fish destined for breakfast.  Mother-son, son-mother love.  Our red canoe has patiently taught us how the relationship between bow and stern whitewater paddles provides an ideal model for married couple – no one person in cherge, each skillfully playing his/her own role, but respecting and depending on each other’s part.

The canoe connect us to Mother Earth, from which we cam and to which we must return.  Last summer our beloved red canoe carried Patricia’s ashes to be returned to the wilderness whence she came, and which she loved.  Hearing the bagpipe playing across te lake, one could picture Patricia kneeling tall in the bow and paddling strongly, the canoe rising and plunging in high splahing waves in strong wind, joyously calling out ” I LOVE THIS!!”

Since then, our beloved canoe has once again carried its now 88 years old compamion through the wilderness, crossing portages on now younger shoulders, but still enjoying the peace, beauty, freedom and adventure in our land of rocks, trees and lakes and rivers.

The Red Canoe 1

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