Place Where You Live:

Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, Canada


I was a sea-child, salt in my DNA.  When I became landlocked in Canada’s continental vastness, I was storm-wrack above the tide line. Then I discovered Ontario’s fresh water, paddling my son and dog along placid, tea colored rivers where for generations skilful hands crafted birch bark and spruce fibre into peerless canoes.  The name of this place is Kawartha, “land of shining waters” in the Ojibway tongue.  The geology is shaped by ice, water with limitless power, a grinding force that deposited eskers and drumlins, and scraped limestone alvers bare as pavement.  In this landscape, water is omniscient: fen and marsh, bog and swamp, lake and river, vernal pools clear as rain over last summer’s leaves. The water seeps and shimmers south, rushes and roars over the tilting incline of the Shield, the land still rising after its release from the weight of the last ice sheet 12,000 years ago. The water pours from the lifting land, gurgling and chuckling to Lake Ontario, muscling down the St. Lawrence River, finally to merge into the Atlantic’s salty currents.  If you fly over my home, the land with its green forests is a mere interruption in the water; the rivers shine like liquid mercury;  wild rice flares green in shallows, fringing the blue eyes of myriad lakes. Their names remind you of the land’s first people, the ones who knew how to fish and paddle, for whom the water was the trail, the road, the great provider : Kashabog, Katchewanooka, Mississauga. Other lakes are named for features: Round, Clear, Raven, Red Boat, Big Cedar. In summer’s humid height, I trail my hands amongst clouds and white lilies. Below glinting rapids, bubbles burst against me in giddy abandon whilst along the banks, Cardinal flowers  are scarlet exclamations amidst the electric dazzle of dragonflies. Snouts of baby turtles swivel towards water like iron filings towards magnetic north.  Teenage boys, surrendering to the same force, give themselves to the turmoil downstream from the dams; at sixteen, my son carried the smell of river in his pores.  A rite of passage, a rightful passage home.