We have been spending these long winter nights by the wood fireplace, pouring over topographic maps and books about the Barrengrounds. In Morten Asfeldt and Bob Henderson’s book Pike’s Portage – Stories from a Distinguished Place John came across this passage.
“To the man who is not a lover of Nature in all her moods the Barren Ground must always be a howling, desolate wilderness; but for my part, I can understand the feeling that prompted Saltatha’s answer to the worthy priest, who was explaining to him the beauties of Heaven. My father, you have spoken well; you have told me that Heaven is very beautiful; tell me now one thing more. Is it more beautiful than the country of the musk-ox in summer, when sometimes the mist blows over the lakes, and sometimes the water is blue, and the loons cry very often? That is beautiful; and if Heaven is still more beautiful, my heart will be glad, and I shall be content to rest there till I am very old.”
This is from Warburton Pike’s 1892 book. The Barren Ground of Northern Canada.
We struggle to describe why we yearn to return to the Barrens despite the mosquitoes, black flies, incessant winds, the cold. Perhaps it has a little to do with our comfort and happiness in being outside. We have been travelling northern Canada for twenty years. We are quite happy travelling in a wilderness among muskoxen and loons.
Can it really be as simple as that?