ON THE WAY back from my recent quinzhee stay I meandered by Brainard Lake. In summer the location can be horrendously busy and the atmosphere far from wild, but on Sunday February 14, with the temperature at minus twelve Fahrenheit (minus twenty-four Celsius), and snow burying the land, and no one else about, it wasn’t busy at all.
It didn’t stay long – it was Valentine’s Day after all, and my wife and family were awaiting my return – but I still stayed longer than I’d planned. Truth is, I struggled to pull myself away. Despite the low temperature, the sun actually felt warm, and the wintry arena was captivating to all the senses. It wasn’t merely impressive to look at – it was impressive to ‘feel’. The space, the quietness, the cleanliness, the brittleness, the wildness, the realness… it soothed my spirit.
I took a series of photos (shared below) to try and capture the place, but I also stood and savored the location and the moment, trying to be fully present within both. I took deep breaths, opening myself up, pulling the wild inwards, making it a part of me with each inhalation. And I felt that magical joining, that connection, the thing I head into the wild to experience more than anything else. For a short while I wasn’t merely a visitor passing through.
There’s always a bitter-sweetness to moments like these, a sense of joy and gratitude, but also a panging ache of loss. No matter how magical a place or a moment in time neither can last. Eventually, we always have to move on.
At least when I did that, and snowshoed away, I was able to do it without regret. I did it with a sigh of immense gratitude.