Advice to Myself

Put the eagle feather which I found in Canada on my altar. Never forget the sacred water healing which we did at the Michipicoten tribal fire. Shiver under the frigid river water pouring over my warm body, all of it. Hear the sound Evelyn made as it drenched her. Remember the taste of tobacco smoke in my mouth, though I wasn’t supposed to inhale it. Take in the scents of burning tobacco, cedar, and sweetgrass coming from the fire. Hear the voices of the women sharing their pain and worries but only take on some of their burdens–you also have burdens. Hear the drum made of deer hide and its resonant bass. Receive the gift of the medicine pouch and share with them the gift of dance. Watch two friends tear off their clothes and run into the lake, their shrieks and laughter as big as the lake and the sky.

See Lake Superior’s mighty waters and imagine the First Nations paddling and the fur traders making their way to other destinations. Pack a Voyageur canoe with 12 women, supplies, words, songs, opinions, ideas, laughter. Abandon cell phones. Keep time with the Avant, stroke by stroke. With each paddle dip, churn up that little bit of the lake and watch the eddies float past the canoe. When the horseflies bite, wipe the blood off of your legs.

Be full of wonder at the bald eagles we see from our canoe. Count more and more until we forget how many.

Go to sleep in a tent on a soft bed of moss, compressed by my weight, which springs right up again when we leave. Be astonished by the size of the tent vestibule. Tell bedtime stories, which are autobiographical and dreamy, to my sleepy tent mate.

Crawl over an abandoned beaver dam. Pick blueberries and eat them straight away, not saving any in your left hand for later. See mushrooms of many colors and shapes which delight us. Eat camp food as if I’d not eaten in a week because eating out of doors is much more delicious. Drink scotch out of a coffee cup and refill liberally. Huddle under the canopy to stay dry in the hard rain. Dance under the stars and among the forest trees.

Release into the warmth on the beach. Make sand angels and find infinite amounts of driftwood. Skinny-dip in Superior’s calm waters, which along with black clouds and wind, become menacing in a moment. Canoe down swelling Michipicoten River rapids, as my arms remember the strokes from camp as a pre-teen: j-stroke, back paddle, sweep. Witness friends capsize, quickly pop up and go to safety, cold but secure.

Advice to myself: Sing more loudly at the campfires. Marvel at how there is a Canadian version of “This Land is Your Land,” something about plains and maritime shores. Listen to the chorus of ten women who are my friends. Exult in beauty. Take in sunsets: their molecules and particles of light are alive. Take pictures with my mind. Stay present.

6 Responses

  1. Danielle,

    Your essay took me where you are, in spirit. “Dance under the stars and among the forest trees.”

    Thanks so much for sharing yourself, and for your love of nature.

  2. I think I’m understanding that much of what you write is not only an affirmation and intense seeing and experiencing of life, it’s a meditation, a slowing down, an observing of all the many, many things there are to observe, much of which flow through us without notice. Thank you for slowing down and noticing.

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