north shore – week six

Good evening from Pancake Bay.

This is the field component’s last stop. I feel like I’m already on my way home, in a sense – yesterday I made a grocery run into Sault St Marie, and driving back on Highway 17 North towards Pancake Bay I thought, “well, starting now I’m technically on my way home”. Feels like just yesterday I set out for the Sleeping Giant and now here I am, tying up the loose ends.

Anyway.

I feel an oddly personal connection to Pancake Bay, in a kind of way that feels rather silly at best, but I can’t help but feel it. In trying to remember why it’s called “Pancake Bay”, I found this post here – http://www.ontarioparks.com/parksblog/how-pancake-bay-got-its-name/ – and had a flood of nostalgia for my old summer job. I used to work at Fort William Historical Park (formerly called Old Fort William, and still called that by literally everyone I know), a fur trade fort re-enactment on the Kaministiquia River. I was an interpreter, but to anyone who asks what the job entailed you basically say “you dress up, adopt a character, and give the unflinching illusion to visitors that they have been dropped into the fur trade in 1815”. You adopt real names of real people. Sometimes a name and birthplace are all you get, and you build the rest yourself with as much integrity and respect as you can, and sometimes there’s much more documented for you to work with (one year I had a Norwegian character so I suppose the red hair would have been more plausible). After a few years of playing a French Canadian voyageur and gradually “understanding” the details of his life day in, day out, you can’t help but feel some sort of connection to your historic inspiration. Pancake Bay being an important stopping point for the voyageurs on their way from Montréal to Fort William, I sit here, on the beach, watching the water, imagining this person and his crew, canoeing into this bay, unloading cargo, cooking, sleeping under a canoe … two hundred years ago. It’s an intersection with someone whose life I have portrayed. It’s an interesting feeling. It lends a certain familiarity, a warmth, to this place, and also a curiosity for all the things that have transpired on this beach. A moment of rest for exhausted travellers. Hopefully some music. Pancakes.

I’ve also enjoyed a few opportunities for stargazing in the past week or so. Agawa Bay and Pancake Bay are both pretty good when it comes to minimal light pollution, and the sky has been mostly clear. I forgot about the meteor showers so I was surprised to catch at least six or seven just last night. When I went camping as a kid, stargazing was one of my favourite things to do, but thanks to the way we set up our lives these days it’s pretty hard to get a decent view without going to the middle of nowhere Northern Ontario like I have this summer. When I was younger, I would stare at the sky, see the faint light of our galaxy and the stars between us and its center, and sometimes for a moment the three-dimensionality of the universe would click into place. I felt like I could get a real perspective on what I was seeing – a transient sense that I was stuck to a tiny rock floating in endless space. For a moment the vastness would be overwhelming and terrifying, and then it would be gone again. It was like a magic eye puzzle, although to be honest I have never ever succeeded in doing one of those, and not for lack of trying. The fact I no longer seem able to get that sense of perspective when I look up at the night sky is disappointing, try as I might. But I remember how it felt when I had it. Maybe it’s because my imagination is less adventurous than it used to be, or it just can’t grasp that concept of vastness anymore. That’d kind of suck, eh? Maybe it’s just because my contact lenses are out of date. I hope that’s why.

I finished writing the — I don’t even know anymore, eleventh? Twelfth, maybe — song for the album a couple days ago. I thought I’d be lucky to have the creative capacity for eight songs tops, but now here we are – AT 150 PERCENT! YEEEEAH!! I think this most recent one might be my new favourite, so I made pancakes to celebrate. Now I’m working on what will be the last song I write for the album. It’s a granaína, and it’s built on an idea I started on a cold rainy day under the picnic shelter at Neys. I sort of forgot I had it, but I was scrolling through voice memos on my phone and realized I had this great little fragment made up. One week left, eh? I think that’s more than enough time for one more.

Your week six photos are below. Please enjoy responsibly.

1. Near-sunset at Agawa Bay. 2. Suspended rock near Agawa Rock pictographs. 3. Hazy sunset at Agawa Bay. 4. Katherine Cove. 5. View from Awausee lookout. 6. Rock point at Agawa Bay. 7. Sunset at Pancake Bay. 8. My car. His name is Bob. And my guitar. She doesn’t have a name.