I sit today at a library on Queen street in Toronto writing this blog. It is September 10th, 2016. Last time I wrote I was in Montreal. It was the end of July.
So I will pick up the story from there.
It has been the hottest summer ever recorded here in Ontario and Quebec. The kind of weather where you want to find a cool place in the shade close to water and lie down. So I was very happy when Brandon, one of my closest friends, offered to fly out from Victoria BC to help me out. The most urban section of the TCTrail is between Quebec city, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Past here and I will begin moving North and it will be a long time before I see Winnipeg. While I rode my bike Brandon scouted out places for us to camp, got groceries, helped with the filming and played his guitar by the fire at night. It is more difficult to find camping places on the trail when it is near large cities. In fact I like to joke that when I am out in the middle of the wild, people think I am an adventurer. But when I am camping close to a big city, people think I am homeless, which in itself has taught me much.
My favourite part of the trail through the Laurentian’s was arriving in Labelle. There a beautiful old train station has been beautifully renovated into a funky cafe called La Gare ( http://www.lagare-labelle.com) with healthy local food, a great expresso and good wine, an Auberge upstairs and camping. Hundreds of people were riding this section of trail and this small business was booming. This town is an inspiring model of how the Trans Canada trail can help revitalize a rural community. The space had character, history and oddly still did what it did even as a train station, welcome people to their community.
Not far from Labelle is La Minerve and although not directly on the trail, I went there to visit a friend, Dianne Ottereyes Reid and her partner Stephane. Till this point our friendship was based on phone calls and emails.
I met Dianne in March 2015 while researching traditional native healers for a French film company. Dianne is a Cree grandmother, a healer, a teacher, a journalist, a wise woman.
Nine months later in PEI while camping alone in the dark, I awoke to an owls conversation with the night, and I thought of her. I had no image of what she looked like, or what her life looked like, but it was her I thought of in that moment. So I sent her an email about the owl, and she invited me to visit when I was in the area.
I had butterflies in my stomach as we arrived and felt shy as I walked to the door of her house. But when the door opened there stood Dianne with a big smile, a warm hug, and within minutes said, “I have some things planned for you today” and giggled. Within minutes we were in the yard walking towards the pole frame of a traditional Cree cooking teepee. She was going to tell me what to do, she was going to be my teacher, as was her partner, Stephane, in wrapping the four canvas panels around the frame. She said it was like putting on a big skirt but I haven’t worn one of those in 30 years.
Once the panels and door were on the teepee my next instruction was in preparing the wild goose. For those who don’t know me – in high school I took Latin instead of cooking and sewing. But within minutes I was putting on those latex gloves and following both her and Stephane’s instructions, “Put your hands inside the cavity of the wild goose and then rub the blood over the surface of the goose” explained Stephane. “ Makes the skin crispy,” Dianne said. The goose then needs to be cooked hanging beside a fire in the teepee.
As the fire cooked the goose, a wild storm began outside the tent, heavy rain, strong wind and thunder.
Our feast that night was in support of my journey. The next morning we returned to the teepee for some drumming and songs to the four directions to guide me on this journey. She told me we are living at a time when many people are awakening to their roots, awakening to natural law, awakening to mother nature. She said this was an important part of the solutions and changes for mother earth and for people to embrace that.
“ It is very important that people take these journeys in that process and you are part of that, you are doing exactly that, creating the change.”
I cried as she spoke these words. It is what is happening in North Dakota, it is happening in Bolivia, I have seen it happening in Haida Gwaii, BC, in schools in Ontario, in Charlevoix, Quebec and with the Mik’maq in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It is happening all over the world. And this journey is but one very small ripple in that large sea of change that is unfolding right now on this land.
Days later Dianne wrote me
“ Good day Dianne,
Hope the journey is moving along! Just a note to tell you about last Friday’s weather in the region. La Minerve had major lines of pine trees blown down onto summer cottages and downtown had uprooted trees with the baseball field estrade landing on the roof of the community centre along with a tall metal street light pole blown down. We can see the trees uprooted in La Minerve and Mont Tremblant was also hit.
And where were we during that time?…inside a tipi! Imagine if our tipi was blown away we would have had a flying cooked goose!!! “