At age 12, I leaned over the gunwale of the canoe and plucked a mussel shell out of a drowned tree. Inside, it was a pearly purple, a miniature shining world.
This is what happens on a wilderness canoe trip. You discover a waterfall pouring in a trident over a tall monster of pink granite, or find yourself blinking at a thousand fireflies under a collection of stars shaped like a deer.
I wish for such experiences for everyone, especially those growing up on the twenty-sixth floors or fleeing acts of war.
“Camping with City Boy” has many inspirations, but wilderness trips in Ontario were foremost. I’ve taken thirteen-year-old feisty girls, family, and friends tripping. The being-shoved-in-a-cold-lake incident was inspired by a hotshot lawyer somewhere.
If you’re from the prairies, the coasts, or south of the 49th Parallel, come on over. The towns of Haliburton and Bancroft are good places to aim. The steep wooded hills of Haliburton demand you ease your foot off the pedal to peek at blue water vistas. The Haliburton School of Art and Design is itself worth a visit. In Bancroft, you should become acquainted with blue sodalite. The artists and artisans in these towns have some kind of ancient magic, perhaps touched by their rocks and lakes. I haven’t been able to resist them.
I deliberately set this story in that area. The residents of Bancroft who now sell freshly roasted pear soup beside slices of leopard rock and hand-knitted wool socks are quite likely to build a Skycity — tall condos connected by high parkland where they make electricity and grow food — in the future. They’re a resourceful people, spunky and good natured, this hardy mix of Algonquin and newer immigrants from Europe, Asia and the world. Makemba, the main character, would blend right in.
Hope you enjoy the story.