I drove out to Slave Lake by myself, parked on a dirt road and went swimming. This area was pristine wilderness in northern Alberta close to the Northwest Territories border. My cottage in Ontario on southern Georgian Bay is lined with dwellings and roads, and I had sometimes wondered what it would have looked like hundreds of years before.
At Slave Lake in Alberta, there was noone there, trees circled the lake, I could have been a primeval woman in or out of history. No road signs, no people, no dwelling places. All alone on a lake, without friends, relatives or strangers knowing I was there, except for my car parked nearby.
I was well out into the lake, when I turned around and saw someone sitting on the water’s edge. I became worried because my shoes, clothes and keys were in a bundle at the edge of the sand. A man sitting there was watching me. I was swimming far from shore. I kept swimming, there was nothing else I could do. He watched me. There were several moments I considered alternatives, but could not think of any. He could take my keys and drive away, or take my money or both. I could not see his car and I could not see anyone else.
After awhile he got up silently, walked away and disappeared into the bush. Some time later, I swam back. All my possessions were intact where I had left them by the water. Sometimes I wonder if he had been an apparition or a being of the fourth dimension, but that is conjecture. When you are far away from home in the wilderness, maybe the truth is bendable, perhaps time stands still and there is no past and future, and you don’t know what you are seeing, an eagle or a spirit of eagle. He was there and he was gone, and I drove away relieved.
Maybe being alone in the wilderness of the far north is reckless. But when you are young, you are propelled to do things that are primal, and maybe recklessness is a sign of youth. I don’t think I would drive thousands of miles now to the north by myself and swim alone on a mystic shore. Perhaps those are things one does in a poetic universe where the experience of a woman in nature can occur without consequence. That is an ideal world, a world women imagine and dream.
copyright 2010 A. Mandlsohn