An Echo to be Seen and Heard




This last weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada.  For many this is a time to gather together around a roast turkey and pumpkin pie.  As we planned our Thanksgiving this time year, we realized that two of our three girls would be unable to join us, and so my wife Gwenanne pondered the possibility of meeting our middle daughter N for a camping weekend.  Gwenanne and I have never camped in the fall, and thought it might be fun.  N agreed and so we asked her where we might meet.  Algonquin Park is a favoured spot but was found to be full and so N suggested Bon Echo Park.

Bon Echo Provincial Park was unknown to me, but rather important for a couple of reasons, perhaps the most important being that the massive cliffs found at the narrows found in the middle of Mazinaw Lake served as the canvas for a massive number of pictographs, created by First Nations.  It is not overly surprising that these massive cliffs became the site of these ancient and mystical works of art: the cliffs are potent and the water pounding these rocks offers both access to them and protection for them.

The park was once the site of an inn, built first for retreat for the wealthy of Methodist persuasion until the Inn was purchased by Flora McDonald Denison, whose vision was to replicate in a Canadian context a place where the philosophy of Walt Witman could find a home.  Members of the Group of Seven also found a home here, who along with others, visited this site in their quest for Canadian artistic expression in the early 20th century.  The family ran the inn until the Great Depression, at which point it was leased until fire destroyed it in 1936.   Bon Echo was made a provincial park and opened in 1965, and still today park visitors come to be inspired, moved and quieted in much the same way that those First Nation and Group of Seven artists did.

On our last day there, we rented a canoe and paddled along the cliffs, taking in the many pictographs.  Knowing their provenance, and the fact that these pictographs were often painted in places deemed spiritually potent, I attended them with a sense of expectation, which was not disappointed.  I was also deeply moved as I looked up to see cliffs formed by massive geological events encoded in the diagonal press of rock from the horizontal of water splashing in song against these same cliffs.  Here and there, cragged trees pushed out of these cliffs, marbled with tales to be read by geologists with their long game wisdom.

I took a few photos of the park in our brief sojourn there.  As is usual, these woefully underrepresent the power of the place.  Yet, I hope to explore some of these paltry photos in painting on canvas in service of my soul as I discern how to echo the heavens “declaring the glory of the Lord and the firmament proclaiming his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)

It was, in fact, a most fitting way to spend a thanksgiving weekend, even if the turkey we ate was soup (lovingly prepared by my wife) and the pie we ate was forfeited for a pumpkin loaf (a first time attempt on my part).  The sun illumined trees iconically.  The wind spoke to my soul.  The ground opened up, here and there, and showed divine fingerprints on our walks while bonfires at night reminded us that life is gift, pure gift indeed, and we have every reason to be thankful people.



8 thoughts on “An Echo to be Seen and Heard

  1. shoreacres says:

    It’s interesting that the Group of Seven also was involved with this place. The artist as shaman is an interesting construct, and probably more true that we like to imagine. Certain places do exert a powerful attraction; the presence of people in this spot over millenia is proof of that.

    I’ve had unusual Thanksgivings over the past few years, and your menu reminded me of that. My friends and I have learned that replicating (or trying to replicate!) the traditional meal isn’t necessarily satisfying. A chicken and dressing casserole conveys the essence of turkey and dressing, and pumpkin bread provides the taste of autumn. Creativity always wins the day — and often provides unexpected satisfactions.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Thanks for the thoughts about the shaman. I think you are correct in connecting the two. Both, in my estimation, are so very attentive to the intuitive moment. Glad to hear that others step outside of the box on festive days. Nothing is quite so nice at a warm soup outside on a day when the air is crisp, and the sun on the cusp of being warm. As for the pumpkin loaf, it needs some fine tuning but was certainly edible! Best wishes on your travels Linda.

  2. Sometimes the non-traditional holidays help us keep our eyes and souls wide open. Well written, as always.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Amen to your observation on the holidays. The traditional holidays sometimes get so jam packed that we endure rather than enjoy them. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!

  3. Sounds like a wonderful holiday, A. I could go for some of that turkey and loaf.

  4. Denise Hisey says:

    May be a new tradition you’ve started Allen!

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