Baeth leads Tranzi through the bush after dropping the canoe at the loading spot. In a rush of words, Baeth says, “Tranzi, I was just on a bit of a walkabout. I could see a large rock looming up out the trees. I wanted to see how big it really was.” Without saying more, Baeth continues to lead Tranzi. They stop and rising up out of the bush is a large granite boulder.
“Wow. It’s beautiful,” Tranzi says stopping to look up. Tranzi guesses it to be around 10 meters at the base and rising, perhaps, 15 meters. It is pink granite with veins of quartz running through it.
“Yeah. But look here too,” Baeth says hurriedly leading Tranzi around to the other side.
Tranzi stops in place when she sees what Baeth is pointing at. It is a rock carving almost a meter tall. The carving has an immediate penetrating quality. It is a human-like form. The body has some thickness, but the rest is single lines. Its neck is elongated into what looks like the stem of a plant. The hands, without any detail, look to be grasping the base of the neck making kind of a figure 8. The neck extends to a flowering circular head all around the edge of which are strokes – maybe like eyelashes, Tranzi wonders. In the center of the larger circle is a smaller one, like a pupil. They both gaze in silence. Tranzi crouches down onto her haunches, so does Baeth. From here Tranzi can see more clearly the relief of the carving in the fading light. There is a jauntiness to the curving line of the whole figure. It dances, sways.
“I’ve seen a picture of this before … I think that it’s an image of Nanabush, a trickster figure of the Anishinaabe peoples,” Tranzi says. “A messenger between the Great Spirit and humans.” There is a pause.
“What does it mean, trickster?”, Baeth asks.
“Ahm … I heard a First Nations elder tell a Nanabush story once. It reminded me of the Nasruddin stories from the Sufi tradition.” She shifts her weight. “Nanabush works in unexpected ways this elder said, changing perceptions, challenging conditioned responses – bringing in something new. That’s what I remember.”
Baeth nods. “It looks old. There’s lichen and stuff growing around. Anyway, I don’t think it was carved by anyone anytime recently,” adds Baeth.
“Hmm,” Tranzi utters. “It’s old. I can feel that.” She pauses. The eye could also be the sun with rays coming out around it. “It’s intense,” Tranzi says almost to herself. Human. Plant. Eye. Sun. Flower. Trickster. Tranzi ponders the image without allowing any one of the details to rest in her attention. Instead, she holds an empty space there. She’s practiced this many times.
After some of this pondering, holding space, an impression comes. She feels it defusing through the chest. Then the idea of it comes. When she puts it into words in her journal later, she can only understand it as a symbol of consciousness itself, of I, both receiving and transmitting creative force. Plant-like: turning sun into food. Human: turning light into vision. Divine: emanating vision back upon itself both as visible light and as inner presence. It is a symbol of the dramatic universe — interpenetrating levels in contact, spinning up and out and down and in, transforming energies of cycles within cycles. A symbol of both time and timelessness. She lets this impression soak in and find its own way.
Suddenly within the bliss of it, an urgent need enters. Tranzi senses the time shifting around her and within her. “We need to go Baeth. It’s getting dark.” Indeed, the sky above is a deep azure and the trees and rocks stand in quiet relief against the orange glow of the setting sun. She sees the whole of the trip, where they have been, where they have to go, the trek up river to the main road, the guy they hired to meet them at the gas station on #72, the amount of food left, the distance to be covered. She sees this and she weighs it, she senses it, she feels it. She’s looking for cracks and bumps in the trip-field, places in need of attention. They will have to be extra careful about bears tonight and about sealing the remaining food well when they are on the move. Her moment grows to take it all in. Finally she turns to Baeth and says, “Looks like a good night for the stars.”
She and Baeth both stand. Pausing, Tranzi places her hand over her heart and bows. She bows in gratitude for the moment, for the insight, for the opportunity to understand and for the great responsibility she feels, which itself is like a strange gift. Baeth also bows. She is thankful for wandering in the bush, for chewing her fear a little slowly.
The light from the camp fire buffets in the trees as they make the final trip across the river. The sound of crickets pulse. There is just enough light for Tranzi to navigate. Baeth sits low in front scenting the night air. Awake to the rhythm of Tranzi’s paddling. Awake to the uncertainty of the passage in the twilight. Awake to her own feeling of being there. Her hunger for food is growing, and she looks forward to having dinner with everyone.
John and Stefan are waiting on the shore with lanterns to guide them in. They joke comfortably with each other. John and Baeth walk arm in arm from the canoe to the camp. The tents are set up. The fire is hot. The food is ready. Tranzi and Baeth wash up down at river and join the men for dinner. They take hands and Tranzi leads them in offering Grace before eating. Slowly, allowing the words to bring their inner content.
All life is one,
And everything that lives is Holy.
Plants, animals and man all must eat to live
And nourish one another.
We bless the lives that have died to give us this food.
Let us eat consciously,
Resolving by our work
To pay the debt of our existence.
They eat quietly. Enjoying the food. Enjoying the company. Enjoying the vibe of being in the bush. Reflecting on the day.
After dinner Tranzi explains about the rest of the trip. Where they are headed, about the bears. She asks everyone to stay close to the fire tonight. When everything is washed and put away and when the food stuffs are hoisted up out of reach of animals, John and Tranzi head to their tents to rest. John lies on his side and listens to his breathing. Tears well up like moisture out of the thawing ground.
Stefan stays at the fire and so does Baeth. He plays softly on his harmonica and Baeth sings along. They talk quietly together and Tranzi hears their gentle murmur like a thread of smoke rising into the night.
The next morning they get up and find that the black flies are back for another season. By noon they are trudging along the edge of a peat bog through viscous clouds of them.
* This is the Grace that JG Bennett taught his students and which is kept alive in the Bennett line.