My CIGARette Boat : poetic musings on a faithful old canoe

4 04 2012

On the last day of March, my oldest son and I launched the canoe – an old, patched up discard that my husband and I bought from a canoe rental in Guelph, 30 years ago.   The $400.00 we paid for it seemed like an astronomical amount, especially since what we got was a sun-bleached canoe with cigarette burns all over it.

Rich cottagers on the Muskoka Lakes may have their antique cigar boats, but I have my rickety cigarette canoe and, believe me, it’s no less precious. So far, we’ve enjoyed 30 splendid years of canoeing in that faithful  vessel and she’s still plying these northern waters, still tracking straight and true, despite the extra bit of duct tape patchwork.   Never once has she dumped us, even with all those restless toddlers who would suddenly lurch over her gunnels to drag their curious, little fingers in the water.

As we slide the decrepit canoe  into the newly thawed lake, and gingerly lower ourselves onto the flimsy, wicker seats, we are extra careful not to put any weight on the paper thin floor. We don’t want to go through.  There are still chunks of ice floating around in the lake.  Did she survive another winter, we wonder?  Any sign of a leak spouting out from under the duct tape?   We watch anxiously for a few seconds, but, she holds together and soon we are swinging the bow around the end of the dock and heading exuberantly past the ice and out into the open water.

How can I describe to you the thrill of those very first moments of canoeing each spring?  To grip the smooth, wooden end of the paddle in your cupped hand once again; to feel both the weight of the water against the paddle and the familiar strain in your muscles; to hear the water gurgle as the moving paddle forms little eddies and ruffles around the paddle and canoe; to glide and bob gracefully and freely, like an equestrian under full gallop, over the surface of the water; all that makes me almost burst with joy.  In those first few minutes, I want to canoe until the next freeze up.  (Just  toss my easel in, too.)

I think of all the pristine lakes and serpentine rivers of Muskoka, Haliburton  and Algonquin Park, over which our canoe has safely carried the family, to secluded places of astounding beauty, and of ear-pulsing silence.  Those are the magical  hideaways where the sky pierces through the dense, golden green foliage in little blobs of bright blue;  where undisturbed, fallen leaves paint the forest floor gold, red and rust, and the soaring purple-blue  rocks wear wigs and vests of lime-green moss. .

Is it any wonder that I ended up being a painter?  I am so grateful to my humble, cigarette canoe that has taken me to see the remote, secret colours of our grand, Canadian wilderness.  How can I not paint them?

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5 responses

4 04 2012
Jean Ankenmann

So Elizabeth,
You have warmed my heart this morning with one of my favourite activities – canoeing. And your description makes God’s creation such a beautiful place to live. I look forward to once again slipping into your canoe and paddling
in the pristine waters

4 04 2012
info@ejohnsonart.com

Thanks, Jean.  I`ll see to it that the next meeting at my house includes a paddle on the lake.  Elizabeth JohnsonWebsite: http://www.ejohnsonart.com

4 04 2012
feistyredhair

Beautiful post, Mom. It makes me wish for a canoe here on Lake Huron.

8 04 2012
Jane Nigh

Your post is very evocative of all the canoing we’ve done in the past and some of it has been with you! It makes me think of the cedar strip canoe Harold built in the living room of our first home. Some years later he sliced the hull by running rapids on the Mattawa River and hitting a large submerged rock. Our canoe has never really recovered from that wound. Your post is a lovely description of your beautiful lake. Thanks!

16 05 2012
Jenny Earp

Lovely story. you are a great writer. Excited to follow your posts to read more about your adventures.

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