Non-FictionSpring 2019

“In the North” – Elizabeth Boyle

In the North

the woods are deep and soft and the lakes, at dawn and dusk, carry sound as if it were a holy thing. You travel in July. Like all days in Quetico-Superior country, the day you choose to write about proceeds honestly. Afternoon comes, and the sky above the pines holds clear and blue. Clear enough, almost, to see all the way to Atikokan. When you dip your paddle, you do so, simply, to draw water. To move the Alumacraft forward. But with every stroke, it feels, also—as always—as if you are moving forward in search of something. You continue paddling anyway. Upon reaching the Deux Rivières narrows, mud-ridden and thick with reeds, you slow, but here slow is . . . okay. There are water lilies to behold, and a pair of electric green dragonflies—the ones with transparent wings, the tips dipped inky black—are flitting here and there above the gunwales of the Alumacraft. And, you are still moving forward. You pass back into open water. Only later, at the edge of mighty Sturgeon, do you truly pause, and even then just for a few minutes, to wait for a second canoe, for the other travelers in your party, to catch up. They do, and you continue paddling. But in those minutes you hold still, something shifts. Physically, it is an increase in wind speed. An onslaught of clouds at odds with the morning’s promising blue. A sudden, premature sprinkling of water and the hairs, pulled erect, on your arms. In time, though, you remember how it felt, also, as if a story were revealing itself. As if, for years, you had been trying to say something, and it had taken only the sky darkening to figure out what it was. So when you write about this moment, you write about it as if it were the moment you found what you had been looking for, but you do so knowing that isn’t quite true. Knowing that later that evening, after the mosquitoes emerged and a line of clear sky reappeared, after you zipped your tent and then your sleeping bag, your thoughts already returning to the jagged flashes of light and ricocheting hailstones, to the sound the rain made hitting the bottom hull of the Alumacraft, and, later, to the woods you eventually made it to and the raindrops left, in the wake of it all, on the white daisy petals, what you were still searching for, what you had perhaps always been searching for, even before it got to be too much, was refuge.


The author: admin