An Awakening in Canoes-Part I

 To paddle a canoe on a calm stream denotes perfect confidence in one’s own ability to conduct business in a profitable way. To row with a sweetheart means an early marriage and fidelity. To row on rough waters – you will have to tame a shrew before you attain intimate bliss. And if you’re  rowing through muddy waters, you will have disappointing business affairs.

In dreams, water symbolizes so many things: birth, rebirth, renewal, a return to the safety of the womb. But it also symbolizes the future, especially if the waters are clear.               

And when there is a canoe involved, the symbolism deepens. The canoe represents resolution of a challenge, containment of the issues within a structure that is solid and sturdy and unlikely to be broken. It is the national symbol of Canada, a nation spread so far along the cold and vast land of North America, that its people are divided between those who love canoes and everyone else.

This metaphor of community and life’s journey attracts fewer folks than the latter group, but their voices are fiercer, their enthusiasm never dampened even by harsh conditions. The frail craft, originally made from the bark of a birch tree, thin cedar slats, spruce roots and pine gum, carries in its gulping path a huge metaphorical load.

When I got on the plane and settled into my seat with the seven magazines I intended to read during the five-hour flight to Vancouver, I anticipated a trip of solitude and contemplation, of beauty and reverence and inspiration in the moments. I did not, however, anticipate being over-run with new friends, and least of all I did not expect a religious awakening in the far reaches of Pacific Canada.               

I saw Lisa before I knew her, lumbering up the aisle loudly with her husband trailing behind. At my row, they stopped, smiled apologetically and I rose to let them find their seats beside me. Still, I wasn’t expecting conversation nor friendship – just a smooth ride above the clouds to my once-a-year solo vacation of hiking and kayaking and good food and long restful sleep.               

But the fates had other ideas for me. My gray felt bag of runes tucked in my backpack and a set of tarot cards, too, I turned the pages of the magazines and somehow a conversation began between me and Lisa, whom I learned quickly was also Jewish, originally from suburban Detroit and now a resident of Victoria, B.C.               

By the end of the flight, she was preparing to fix me up with single men in metro Detroit and we had agreed that I would ride in their car with them to the Tsawwassen-Swartz

Bay ferry. He was an electrician, she an artist, and between them there was a son. She had another son from a prior marriage and was as close as a sibling to her ex-husband. They were hippies of a sort, from the wandering days of the 1960s, having migrated across the United States to final roost in the far reaches of

British Columbia.               

I heard the whole life story as the landscape changed from wheat-colored fields to luscious blue ocean waters and seaside cliffs where highways ended and sky began. We bumbled the car onto the ferry in a line of cars heading in similar directions, shut the motor, opened the doors and meandered toward the sun-bathed decks.

As we made our way between out islands and mainland, a pod of whales crested and dove alongside the ship. I stared longingly at their smooth break and curve into what had to be cold waters, I watched as we passed empty beaches in quiet coves, and then two more pods joined the journey and eagles soared above us in the clear late-afternoon sky. We ate food in the cafeteria and I watched the beauty of the Active

Pass and I breathed deeply the air of contentment. My children were thousands of miles away in the embrace of their father and I had myself for comfort.

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