Once upon a perfect day

Every day’s a blessing and a great gift, but once in a while, one stands out as truly superior.

Such a day came my way not long ago—as the musical host of the Voyageur Folk Tour, I literally had a Superior day.

I began by making music as our guides made breakfast, and wound up leaving the glow of a campfire to the sounds of traditional songs and drumming. Between first light and starlight, it was as splendid a summer day as any I can recall.

The rocky shore of Williams Point, on St. Ignace Island was frequented not so long ago by real voyageurs, and before them, First Nations people from time immemorial. To awake at sunrise in such a place is to be immediately aware of one’s great fortune. Simply packing up my gear became an act of glad meditation, and songs to accompany our hot camp breakfast, my best attempt at a prayer to welcome the day.

We sailed the freighter canoe that day, a welcome boost for paddlers with over 100 km to cover in just four days. I worked the shroud lines for our makeshift sail—a tent fly lashed to two crossed cedar poles—while hollering out all the shanties and sea songs I could recall.

We braved the swells across the edge of the lake, and visited timeless Paradise Island, where the gravel beaches rise in steppes, marking Superior’s ancient waterlines, going back eons. It’s among the most sacred of places I’ve ever been, and a walk alone around the perimeter was an act of quiet worship.

The light and the darkness always go hand in hand. Amid the glory of the day, I was reminded of the sober ceremony a friend of mine said at Paradise Island 6 years ago, for her son, who’d been senselessly killed in a random act of violence in a faraway city. I shared a little of her story with another friend, a member of this year’s crew, whose daughter also died tragically, and much too young. Magical as it was for me, this was a tough day for her, and I am grateful for her gifts of truth and bravery.

Our crew lunched at Agate Island, where ‘vision pits’ dug into the tundra-like landscape untold ages ago hold their mysteries to this day.

We paddled in the sparkle of sun diamonds on the big water to the yacht dock and camp in the cove at CPR slip, where friendly faces welcomed us to a warm fire, a sauna and a sweet summer swim. I did dives and flips I didn’t know I could still do, and watched minnows swim below in the warmth of a beaming late afternoon sun.

A bunch of us hiked to a nearby cliff, through deep green forests where squirrels scold, moose and bear roam freely (we saw the scat!) and raspberries, bunch-berries and blueberries abound. Reindeer moss and lichen grow in astonishing coral-like formations on the slopes, and from the heights, the rugged, ancient land gives way to the utter vastness of the world’s largest lake.

On the way back down we came upon two beaver, swimming quite nonchalantly back and forth in an island pond, observing us without fear for a good twenty minutes. An equally curious otter joined the show, and only our own growling bellies kept us moving back to camp and a waiting meal.

A hearty supper of chili and cheese never tasted so good. Amazingly, despite a day of effort in paddling, hiking, and swimming, I had energy enough to split a sizable pile of wood for our hosts. Every stroke of the axe was a welcome reminder of the worth of honest work..

The day gave into evening: swapping stories, making music, and sharing the comfort of a campfire with friends and friendly strangers alike. One of our crew sang and drummed songs that have sung around that shore forever.

The evening became night, and the island settled into the darkness as we settled into our weary sleep on rocky beds.

And with the sounds of the waves just a few feet from my head, I drifted off in total gratitude…

Once upon a perfect day.

6 comments on “Once upon a perfect day

  1. Lovely. Almost like being there to read this.

  2. Superior job recalling the details of a truly Superior day! You have such a gift with words! Thanks again for the invitation to come on the trip!
    New Voyageurs,
    Bernie and Wendy

  3. Beautiful! David, your words capture our amazing experience so well.
    Thank you!

  4. Ah, yes! Many perfect days during that journey, and the one you just recalled was truly blessed. While you guys were hiking, I found the first two good “hammock” trees of the week (no small feat!)…swaying to the rhythm of waves crashing along the rocky Superior shoreline was pure bliss. Only Nature punctuated the silence…sweet. I loved the music around that campfire…guitar, ukelele, drums, native wood flute, and voices drifting upward to the starry night sky. And, once you were all sleeping in your tents, the moon….oh! the MOON!
    And then the rains came ;)

  5. You put it all together so well David, it truly was a fantastic day. For me, it was also sharing the joy of such a great group of paddlers, … and now friends. I also think the tobacco offerings helped us along too.

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