I am so used to the hustle-and-bustle of the city that I forgot how calm and serene it is out in the bush.
It has been three years since I last went on the annual spring goose hunt, and since I was no longer tied to the financial and studious burdens that comes with post-secondary schooling every April, I eagerly awaited going on the hunt this year with my dad and brother.
I was eager to escape my weekday routine in Thunder Bay: riding my bike as I navigate the traffic; sitting in my office, working the phones and writing; and the mundane tasks of buying groceries and paying the bills.
So when the day came when we boarded the chartered helicopter that took us to our camp, I happily turned off my cellphone, closed my laptop, and unplugged myself from the world.
In the bush, I would wake up, drink tea, go to the blind and sit for a few hours. Maybe get some geese in the process. Then I would go back to camp, eat breakfast, drink tea, and head back out again.
There is something special about sitting in the blind. It is not only the anticipation of shooting geese, though that is always fun. But when you are out there, you are exposed to nature in all its beauty. From our blind, we have a fantastic view of the sunrise and sunset.
The sunset is especially magical, as the golden-red glow of the sun reflects on our pond and the decoys.
And you hear the wildlife all around. There is always the family of woodpeckers that peck to the north of our blind, and cranes frolic in the southeast. Small flocks of snowbirds are always flying about, at times swarming around our blind. At night, we can hear the woop-woop-woop of a nighthawk to the east.
At times, the wind dies and birds quiet and you hear absolute silence except for the blood in your ears. Conversations can be heard a hundred metres away.
I liked sitting at the blind alone, because it is a good time to reflect. I would sit and stare at the southern treeline – at times consciously looking out for geese, but usually I drifted off and thought about music, writing, and life in general.
Being out in the bush also makes life simple. Our camp is pretty isolated: 24 kilometres from town and the nearest grocery store or hospital. If there is an emergency, we can always walk the wet swampy trail back to town. Otherwise, we wait for the helicopter we pre-booked the day we arrived.
Being so far out from civilization, we are naturally away from the basic amenities that we take for granted. There is no electricity or running water. Each day we cut wood so that we may keep warm and cook our food. We collect snow to melt so that we may have drinking water. When nature calls, we have the outhouse.
All this is very humbling.
I often think of this when out here, think of how my ancestors adapted and survived the bush and that it was only recent in history that the James Bay people gained access to houses, electricity and running water. My own parents tell me of how it was in their youth growing up without these amenities.
There is history to this camp too. My mooshoom discovered this area with a friend while in pursuit of moose in March in the 1950s. By the 1970s, a ski-doo trail was cut and a cabin built, and my mooshoom, dad, uncles, cousins and friends hunted here over the years. My dad often tells my brother and I stories of back then as well other stories that only Cree people of the James Bay will appreciate and understand.
It was usually at night he told us these stories as we each lay in our beds, the fire crackling and candle glowing. If something special happened, like the nighthawk wooping or if it started to rain, we would all lay quiet and listen. Especially when it rained. My dad always loves it when it rains at night. I’m gonna sleep good tonight, he always says as the rain softly pelts the plastic covering of our tent frame.
I take these things for granted sometimes. Admittedly, I was excited when we heard the helicopter approaching the day we returned back to town. It’s the urbanized me that missed the connectivity to the world in the Internet, cell phone and playoff hockey games.
As I got on the train and plane and slept in my bed the first night back in Thunder Bay, I realized how much I felt in tune with myself, my family and the land. And as I ventured back to work amid the traffic din and concrete landscape this morning, I realize how much I will miss it all and promise myself to appreciate it more next year.
Many families along the James Bay coast are headed out onto their ancestral lands during this time of year. It is our most important season as so many...