SOMETIMES, IN THE DAYS we spend at our island cabin on Rainy Lake, I return in memory to the days of my boyhood. The happiest ones of all were spent nearby on Lake Kabetogama—family vacations where I fell in love with big pines and loons, rocky shores and the great Canadian Shield. In my Deep Woods, Wild Waters memoir, I end the second chapter—From Echo Island to Lost Bay—with these words:
“Now, these many years later, I cannot help but think that in these early childhood experiences a path was laid, a path of wild woods and waters.… Although I could not yet see the path, or even imagine it, I would somehow faithfully follow it.
The elements of which it was composed would never change—wind, water, wild distances, the love of exploration and discovery amid my shoreline woods and caves; the pull of adventure and the anticipation I felt while waiting on the dock; and perhaps most of all the sense of a place and a way of being in which family—a small group of human beings connected deeply to one another—came together, experienced things that mattered, and told stories deep into the night.
For a boy who, for years, did poorly in school, who suffered from profound shyness—and ADHD and dyslexia that were not identified until decades later—these experiences were life-giving. I knew that there was in the world a place more beautiful than the town I grew up in. A place where I felt successful and connected to the vital, living world around me…
As time passed, I would eventually discover that the water trail from Echo Island to Lost Bay was only a small doorway, was in fact connected to a vast and nearly endless labyrinth of waterways that stretched and beckoned from Lake Superior north to Hudson Bay, and far to the northwest to places like Wollaston, Great Slave, and Athabaska. In time, trading the fishing boat for a canoe, I would explore a great deal of it, exploring life itself in the process.
I also found that many shared my feelings and longed for the same sense of freedom and deep connection as I did. I learned that a life could be made of guiding, of writing, of sharing stories deep into the night. A life could be made on a path of woods and waters.”