Sneak Peek: The Ghost’s Verandah

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Disclaimer:  Sneak peeks may include material that has not been sufficiently edited. Read at your own risk. All content in this category is copyright material.

Where you see one of these: “Canoe Lake (Creek, 1908)” it refers to a piece of Thomson’s art. Go to Google and image search for Tom Thomson’s “Creek”

Here’s an excerpt from “The Ghost’s Verandah”:

I went for a walk up my washboard lane and onto the main, rough gravel road. Each step produced a satisfying crunching noise that brought back thoughts of my childhood in northern Ontario.

I’d left at around ten o’clock in the morning thinking I’d clear my head a bit from the tasks of the previous day. The leaves were twitching, and I could hear a creek in the distance gurgling its merry way into Canoe Lake (Creek, 1908). I reminded myself that this was why I moved there, and I did love long walks. In particular, ones that are taken without seeing another human being for hours, or perhaps never at all.

I hadn’t gone 500 yards before I heard a crunching noise, and the rustling of leaves, cutting across the forest in front of me. It was a doe and her fawn. They stepped out onto the road as I stood perfectly still, just a few meters away from them. We remained locked like that for at least five minutes with the odd huff coming from the doe. Then, with the twitch of an ear, the doe led her precious fawn along the road, away from me, and then stepped back into the forest. Five minutes is a long time.

Credit: The Couples Resort

Some people have “spiritual” experiences swimming with dolphins (in captivity), but there I was with an animal standing before me on its own terms, choosing to remain in my presence. I think that can’t be beat. If you tell me it can, then I will shout from the foothills that you are a lunatic and a liar.

I carried on down the road in the direction of the Portage Store. I had already noticed many of their signature aluminum canoes traveling up and down Canoe Lake. Many stopped at the cairn erected as a memorial to Tom Thomson, at the southern end of the peninsula extending out into the water. Some would be out for a day trip, others to camp on the lake, and still others going deep into the park interior where all the action happens. Giant squirrels and raccoons the size of a Ford Focus. I may be exaggerating a bit. But, clearly the interior is where the action is at.

After a few hours I turned around and started making my way back to my cabin as a car flew past me at Mach 0.85 (which is far too fast for the road conditions). Turks. I’ll explain later, but it has nothing to do with a country, nor it’s countrymen. It was now nearly four in the afternoon, which meant cheese, wine… well, probably just whisky really, as I wasn’t entertaining that evening. I’m a Scotch whisky man, I drink it straight. If you want to drink, enjoy what you’re drinking. It beats the hell out of drinking on the cheap. Cheap whisky comes pre-watered-down, you see. This obscures, to the underdeveloped palate, just how excellent it can be. I don’t drink cheap whisky. Judge me if you’d like, I don’t really care about your opinion on whisky.

I turned to walk down my lane and found a family – kids and all – moving into my cabin;

The Dock
The Dock (Randy Mitson), Algonquin Outfitters

my home! The car looked remarkably like the Boeing 757 that had filled my nose with tiny bits of gravel. I was not pleased.

“Excuse me, but what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

He, who I assumed was ‘Dad’ said, “Uhhh, not much of your business; we rented this cabin for two weeks.”

“Well you can pack all your stuff up and get back on the main road. You’ve got another eight kilometres to go. Did you notice a camping sign on the driveway?”

“Uh, no.”

“Right, so please leave.”

“But the road is so rough up there,” he whined. I couldn’t believe my fucking ears. As if I was responsible for the road conditions and should let his entire family move in for a couple of weeks. We’d share the shower and stagger our mealtimes. Perhaps in the evenings, on the verandah, I would read to them from Service, or Yeats, or the world of Archie. I made a mental note to put up a sign. I never lock the doors, you see.

“I don’t care how rough the road is, this is not a campsite, it’s my home.”

Disappointed, they loaded their car back up and rattled up my lane before turning right onto the main road. My heart swelled as I watched them go, while the leaves twitched in the light summer breeze, the sun reflecting off the water and kissing the leaves with their playful light visible on my ceilings and my walls.

Anyway, I’d learned enough to discover the family was from Toronto (I was in shock at such a bold revelation), and up for a couple of weeks of rest and recreation, unplugging themselves from the Internet, and cell phones. They had two canoes lashed to the top of the car that I just knew would come off on the road. The road leading north was rarely traveled, and it wasn’t maintained year-round. I had a bad feeling that I’d be seeing them again, as the Park officials hadn’t gotten around to filling in the crevasses and laying down fresh gravel after the last storm that dumped it’s payload of water all over us.

It was a splendid way to finish my walk off, defending my little patch of woodland paradise. I strutted inside and poured myself a whisky feeling very Churchill-esque. “We will fight them, on our roads. We will fight them, on our gravel, we will fight them, in our cabins and down our lanes.”

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