Stories from our Land: Celebrating Canada’s 150

Getting T/here

EDITOR’S NOTE: In conjunction with Canada’s Sesquicentennial in 2017, members of the Manitoulin Writers’ Circle are crafting stories and poems to pay tribute to our country on this pivotal milestone birthday.

A dark, blank window at four a.m. Switch off the alarm

before it shrieks. Stretch. Reach for piled clothes

placed for quick dressing. After taking quiet turns

with a hasty wash, our numbed fingers

empty fridge and freezer into the waiting coolers

softly close doors, lids, more doors. Slip away lightless

into the night until out of sight and sound.

Alone on the highway we glide through flatlands,

car sounds muffled in the curling mist eddying

around shadowless shapes etched in black

against an already indigo sky. The flashing

lights of a windmill or a line of hydro towers

blink company with headlamps pushing

through swirling, ethereal grey.

Dawn comes before you know it. The rising sun,

hidden behind trees in aureole, is a sudden pink gash

in the night sky; the mist moves off in slow streaks,

pearling grasses on the gravelled shoulders.

Suddenly that thin slice expands to clear whiteness,

dew-soaked fields glisten and trees slowly appear,

their branches forming through a haze of greening leaves.

A few more cars appear out of nowhere, heading our way

to the harbour. And then, amiably sleepy teenagers

are guiding us to the ticket booth, and to our particular place

in the far right lane of waiting cars. We join other travellers

eager for breakfast, blurry-faced under café lights, grateful

for those three perfectly poached eggs and a last gulp of coffee

as the approaching ferry’s whistle signals readiness.

The huge jaw of the Chi-Cheemaun slowly gapes open.

Waved within, we park inches behind the car ahead,

snatch pillows, blankets, books and hurry up the stairs

to the lounge deck for a place on the sunny side, by a window.

Another blast warns us she’s leaving Tobermory

and of our chance for a morning snooze, curling

awkwardly around chair arms (there used to be benches).

As the day warms, lolling heads and sprawled limbs

begin to stir. A wake-up stroll around the deck

to the bow to catch our first glimpse of the island,

a long, humped shape on the horizon. A final whistle:

“Will all passengers take their places inside their vehicles.”

Once more in the belly of the ship we watch, awed,

not quite believing that island dock and ship’s mouth will meet.

Released, we burst blinking into full day in a line of cars

surging ‘round the corner from dock to road. And stop. Pull over

to taste the cherished smells of this big Lake Huron sea; listen

to the cough of laden fishing boats labouring into port

gulls swooping and screaming around them, waiting, as we are,

to savour fresh fish, endless afternoons, and night skies

thick with stars in the summer now stretching before us.

Vehicles disembark from the cavern of the Chi-Cheemaun.