This author and a small band have just completed a travel to the North of our Western Lands and upon our return now are attempting to adjust to life as she is lived in our Nation. At first simple things are difficult to understand. How is it that my place of work resembles a madhouse? How is it that the tasks that I am compensated for with money pieces that I turn into booze, heat, light, and complex carbon chains have no resemblance to the real world, that world of the epic boreal forests of the North where earth, wind, water, and fire dominate the cardinal directions and a blanket of feather moss, stunted pine, and lakes stretch in all directions kilometer after kilometer punctuated only by strip mines, clear-cuts, skyscraper high electrical poles, and gigantic dams.
The cold expansive lands are home of the First Nations, but also of Hydro Quebec, who work hard to translate that earth, wind, water, and fire into power to bundle it up in hundred acre transformer complexes and shoot it far and wide to the cities of Quebec and beyond. The landscape was certainly stunning. Camping outside in all conditions of late summer fantastic. Seeing wolves, coyote, and fox, a treat. Being concerned for a short time only with real things – hunger, sunburn, bugs, making a fire, setting up our shelters, gathering wood, drying clothes, washing off dirt, pooing in the woods with only the sound of the ringing in my ears (damage perhaps from riding far too many loud subways) and a far off call of some animal was a break from the cluttered mystifying tasks that daily pile up on so many devices… take their power… not from some glowing ember given to us by a Start Child a’la 2000&1…. But these wonders of our age and Power for all our technobasterbation, iEveryfuckingthing, TeeVees and vibrators taken from the wilds of The North, where gigantic machines plunder the landscape shove rocks and dirt into piles and transform the burned forests into sunken lakes to ebb and flow based on our voltammeters demands and not natural seasons. Up North entire raging rivers have, are, and will be diverted as if they were culverts on some rustic lane in order to make the wires come alive, millions of miles of wires that web above the trees and buzz and snap in the morning dew. Our micro computers and interwebs depend on those primitive elements the ice gods one surveyed.
This trip was indeed a good lot of adventure traveling, even if it was only for 10 days. This blogger must admit that s/h/e/it did not take some bike woven together by Native people from recycled soda bottles, but put down a trail of carbon footprints riding high on top of a Burgundy 1984 Dodge 600 Convertible. I benefited from the truck stops and hot showers. Poutine and Hot Hamburgers made in test tubes and mailed up those gravel roads by logging trucks the size of small houses and delivered to propane stoves and poly containers. I had a tent made from polysomething, thermos of glass and plastic, drank coffee whose beans traveled further to get into my cup than our entire adventure up North plus a thousand miles. As I sat on a beach, on an island populated only by a few Cree Natives and a multitude of animals, and watched the fog roll in from James Bay and awaited the Northern Lights, I knew that my delving into nature was not brought to me by nature, but those same power poles, and environmental blasting dams that I regretted.
In building a fire night after night, one is reminded how wonderful hot water on demand is. By the last night we didn’t even make dinner, so tired of the process we were. We knew in another day we’d shake off the dust of the gravel Route d’North and sleep in beds, order a fantastic breakfast of organic blahblahblah and real coffee and settle back into our comforts able to brag to our more tied to the grind friends that we “got away from it all.” The wilderness. Those woods and sky I so wanted to see. Well, they are not such a nice place to live beyond such a visit. Cold, damp, hungry waters abound and those woods are bent down by punishing winters, crushing winds, and the famine of so many creatures that sift through the sands looking for nourishment. I, and my companions, were protected from that famine by a bubble of plastic baggies filled with snacks, and a magnificent mixture of The Shark and The Whale from Fear and Loathing that smoked power steering fluid and burned liter after liter of essence ordanare sans plomb. Sitting on that beach, so surrounded by our Mother Earth, I knew The Burgundy Whark lay waiting for us at the top of the path on the small dirt track and that by late the next day, we and all our equipment would be hundreds and hundreds of kilometers away.
Perhaps there are other ideas and lessons I will take from this trip beyond those obvious low fruits I have picked and placed here. Meditations on the finality of existence, absurdity of how we live, exposure of my own love of driving vintage cars to ridiculous places…. These may indeed pile up punctuated by rants and screeds on our broken political process or crazy antidisestablishmentarianism ideas or again marvel that having taken such a short break we all were certain that something was going to happen or had happened in our respective Native countries (United States, New York City, and France). Perhaps not. Perhaps as simple as our rituals during the day of breaking and making camp, of considering wind and sun direction, or getting rained on at night and drying out during the day, of gathering rocks for fire circles and avoiding those in the lake or streams, perhaps the lesson need be no more obvious than again appreciating just how many resources keep us alienated from that frozen hunger that those woods represent in my mind, and that pull the plug on even a few of those resources, and we must live differently, camping as the adventure of life, not an adventure in life.
Should the doom come. Even a little. It’s up in the air what I’ll miss more. Hot water on demand, toilet paper, or checking my email on my phone.