The Circle Dance

by Sylvie O'Rourke

I am searching for the ultimate combination of items to pack for my first multi-day canoe-camping excursion. My head is spinning with indecisions. Strategy is required to travel light and still have everything we need. This means bringing our smallest tent, the crawl-in variety, thin sleeping mats, and non-perishable staples such as pasta, rice, oatmeal, and dried fruit. Most of the water will come directly from the lake and be treated with chlorine tablets or a portable filtration system. Everything must be packed in drybags or made as waterproof as possible.

Finally, the canoe is loaded, and everything is tied down. We are now ready to wander off the grid, swapping modern amenities for the opportunity to experience nature at its finest. The scenery is magnificent, a clear lake surrounded by undisturbed forests and graced by rock cliffs. It is nearly enough to make me forget about our rudimentary accommodations, which include a thunder box in the middle of a forest clearing, or, if you will, a backcountry loo without walls.

We spend our days paddling on the lake exploring as many of the bays and tributaries as we can. We visit a dam, a set of rapids, and a conservation area. Beauty abounds no matter which direction we take. It is all around us, encompassing our group like a heart-warming hug.

During our downtime my site-mates and I swim in the lake or relax on our natural stone patio to watch the entertainment on the lakefront. At times there is unexpected drama. We watch in fascination as three loons swim in a circular pattern and dive in synchronization. It appears to be some sort of territorial battle. Trouble intensifies when two more loons fly in to join the circle dance in what appears to be a bullying match. Ultimately the weakest is evicted leaving four. As the impromptu dancers revolve further down the lake slowly fading into the background, we are distracted by the supporting cast: fish jumping out of the water to perform mid-air flips right by our shore and a beaver swimming across the lake leaving a trail of bubbles in its wake. I feel privileged to be a spectator and to be able to share the experience with friends.

Our time here is coming to an end, and I will soon have to pack up that canoe to complete our roundtrip. I leave with a sense of fulfillment and a new appreciation for the wildlife around me. There is so much to learn from nature, and I hope that I will have other opportunities to study wildlife behaviour in its natural habitat, to witness a small segment of this circle of life.

Published in The Cornwall Seeker, the 2 in 1 Flip magazine, October 2021,, page 20 (back cover)

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