Last Thursday (Sept 20) we returned from a 9-day wilderness trip with Coldwater Canada. We had a phenomenal time together, engaging in everything from laughing to crying to sharing deeply from our hearts. Here are a couple reflections from our students:
“We headed out a couple weeks ago into the wilderness with an air of exuberance and high hopes for the coming days. Dipping our paddles into the water, we headed out on our first adventure.
Every day was different. One day we travelled 19 kilometres, including 9 portages, one of which was over a kilometre long. Another day we sat in silent reflection, fasting and giving ourselves to God. We watched with sadness as injured friends were evacuated, and smiled with joy as they returned to us. We sang around the campfire, prayed under the canopy of trees, and laughed endlessly. We invented “synchronized circular canoeing”, which yes, is as fun as it sounds. One special day we were given the privilege of hearing a First Nations elder tells us his story and proclaim his love for his homeland, inspiring us all to appreciate the rugged beauty of Lake Obabika.
Each of us was challenged to lean into community, to learn to trust. We were dared to pay attention to the small things in life, like the crawling bugs or the chattering squirrels, and learned to simply enjoy the small pleasures of life. In the words of Wendell Berry, we went into the wilderness to be restored, and when we returned, it was with tired minds, heavy eyes, but a rejuvenated soul.”
“I ventured out for nine days in a canoe, weighed down by 70 pound green, red and grey packs full of supplies, ready to face the unknown with people I barely knew at the time. This trip was quite the experience. As we pushed off the shore, we were submitting to be intentionally and completely immersed in the wilderness, no distractions.
So much was seen and learned that it’s hard to organize it all in my mind, but this is what I do know: paying attention is a necessity and a talent that needs to be practiced more. It is what will allow you to notice the sound of a bald eagle’s cry above you or the power you have to create ripples that upset a glass lake. You’ll notice how terrifying black water is while paddling against the wind and waves at night, but how inviting and blue it looks in the morning. You’ll notice how your new friend’s nose crinkles when she laughs or how squinty eyes get after a good joke around the fire.
We felt disgusting because of the lack of showering but surprisingly refreshed because we let go of the concern for what we looked like as we rolled out of a sleeping bag.
We felt a sense of accomplishment after 9 portages and over 19km of paddling in one day. We felt remote and small but not insignificant. We experienced perfect stillness on a day of fasting. We saw untouched landscapes. We felt brilliant rays of sun and pelting sheets of rain. We listened at the feet of a First Nations man who blended into the landscape behind him.”
The next 7 weeks we are in a sort of “Ordinary Time” as a community. Apart from one week which will be set aside as time to learn with Oshwegen Baptist Church on the Six Nations reserve, we will be rooted in our home, taking courses, exploring the city of Hamilton, and engaging in rhythms of life together.