I have always found it a natural part of my life to want to head out into the wilderness to be surrounded by pines, to be next to a river or lake and to feel the cool northern air about me. My first instinct in this setting is always to start a fire and to sit by its warmth, listen to the crackling flames and smell the scent of fresh cut pine and the burning embers. No matter where I seem to find myself in my life often I take a break to head out on to the land. I get this craving to spend time in the northern mushkego wilderness I was raised in.
These days I spend the majority of my life behind a desk. I use a computer for just about all the work I need to do. I also use a computer and the internet to conduct research, connect to the world on a social level and read the latest news. When I take a break from my monitor, I go to my living room to watch more content on a large screen TV with video streamed from the internet. When I leave the house, I am tethered to my device and I keep an eye out for the latest news headlines, social media posts, my email and any texts I may have received. It seems my life is all consumed by a digital connection to the wider world.
As great as it feels to have the world at my finger tips, it gets very stressful and it makes me anxious. Often I find that this overload of information makes me nervous, apprehensive and worried about so many things that I have no control over. The news is mostly filled with tragedy, terror, devastation, disease, politics and negative news. Social media can become stressful as I am constantly fielding messages from so many people and I don’t want anyone to feel I am ignoring them so it is a constant struggle to keep up.
To combat the stress of being constantly online, constantly connected and constantly bombarded with information, I head out into the wilderness. I head for my cottage which is situated next to a small secluded lake in the far north. Here, surrounded by lakes, rivers and forests I have little or no cell reception so I can’t use my phone or connect to the internet. I don’t mind getting a break from it all. It reminds me of another time and life I once had.
As soon as I unpack and get settled, I head to my fire pit which in a way becomes my monitor of flame and sound. Here as I stare into the dancing yellow and orange flames I have a sense of meditation. The sound of the fire, the peeping of the frogs in the evening, the rush of the wind in the trees and the lapping of the water on the lake lulls me to a state of calm and peace. My mind is emptied for a moment and the scent of the smoke reminds me of all those times I spent on the land with my parents, my siblings and our relatives and friends. In a way I am transported back to another time and I am surrounded by the spirits of family and friends who have left this world.
This little place in the wilderness allows me to reset myself. Even though I arrive exhausted and tired, I find the energy to take the axe to split some wood, wander around the property to collect kindling and check to see what the beaver, loons and ducks are up to. Even those nasty mosquitoes help me out by reminding me of where I am and they serve to keep my mind from wandering into worrisome thoughts due to the fact that I am coping with their constant attacks for a bit of my blood.
Many of my family and friends just recently returned from their annual goose hunting trips to their traditional territories along the James Bay coast. I can imagine that they felt the same sense of relief as I do when on the land. They probably liked to be away from their digital connections for a few weeks. Visiting and living on the land is a natural part of our lives as Cree people and one that is integral to our health and well being. It is something that is born into us as our parents raised us on the land, our grandparents lived in this wilderness and our ancestors roamed and survived on Mother Earth for countless generations. Mother Earth in all her natural beauty is the best medicine for me.