Connecting the Dots

The Darkness of Night Falls over the North Woods.

It is moments like this that make life complete. It is night. There is a silver sliver of the moon rising in the east. Loons laughing fills the night air. The dark night’s sky is chuck full of stars; so many in fact that it is down right overwhelming.

The sheer and vast number of stars in this sky within northern Quebec, where there is no ambient light from human civilization, fills me with awe. I am aware of my utter insignificance in a universe that seems endless and yet somehow very connected. I am nothing more than an observer in a rich sea of lights that appear as pinholes on the inky horizon.

Several days prior to this great evening six men, of which I am one, traveled to this remote location in search of respite, peace, and good fishing. This is my 15th trip to these great north woods of Quebec. I have come each and every year faithfully, knowing that each trip could be the last. I hope to continue this for years to come but my advancing age and the sheer magnitude of our personal economics could change that in a heart beat. Yes, literally a heart beat.

My two sons (Brendan and Liam), their good friend (Danny), my long time good biddy (Smitty, also known as The Marine), and new good friend Giaco are sharing this adventure. Three of us are younger and three of us are older. We have collectively, and in good humor, decided the have a fishing contest which will be tallied at the end of our stay in this vast wilderness. Originally it was billed by all as the young guys against the old guys but that morphed into the “young guns” versus the “wise guys”. After all, a little respect never hurt anyone.

This vast forest of Quebec, a province just shy of the size of Alaska, is nothing but overwhelming. The vastness, the beauty, the thousands of lakes left behind by the last Laurentide glacier, the thousands of miles of logging roads, and the bountiful wildlife all are nearly beyond imagination. It is the planet as it should be; free, without human worries, and balanced. It is not hard to lose yourself here. If something was bothering you from the civilized world when you arrived it disappears as quickly as a black fly slipping into the dark night.

Natural Beauty Fills the Vast Wilderness.

Our temporary residence is at a small cabin on at Lac Wetetnagami. This cabin is miles, and miles, and miles from the small town of Lebel sur Quevillon over dusty logging roads and then miles over water in a small boat and outboard motor before you arrive at a sandy beach and a terrific view of the lake looking north and west. You haven’t seen blue until you’ve seen a northern Quebec sky on a bright and sunny day. And you haven’t seen pink, orange, and salmon colors until you’ve seen a sunset over Lac Wetetnagami. It is that beautiful; a place where every sound, every color, and every scent seem an order of magnitude beyond anything you have ever experienced before.

There is no luxury here. It is the simplicity of the life style here that makes one imagine a life without conveniences as, perhaps, something superior. Even the outhouse is charming. With the door open one can take in the wild world that operates absolutely fabulously without human intervention. During one morning outhouse visit I was reminded that the Earth would do just fine without us humans. We seem to think, for some odd reason, that we are necessary. We are not.

The Marine takes it all in while in search of Walleye.

After an evening of our first day’s fishing Giaco and I brought two beach chairs down to the water’s edge. A thin silver crest of a moon hung in the sky. The night was nearly black. The contrast of the millions and millions of bright, white stars that loomed overhead was as powerful experience as I have ever had. Surveying the sky from southwest to northeast I was awed by the randomness of the stars placement. To my left there were bright stars pin wheeling up from the horizon. Here they were relatively sparse.

Directly overhead the Milky Way produced so much light that the light from one star was diffused by the light from another star. Only the brightest stars were easily distinguishable. The blurred back ground of light was the result of looking into the depths of our galaxy. We were looking at light emitted from stars many thousands of years ago. There is something mind shattering when one contemplates time and distance.

To my right there were ample stars, some familiar constellations like Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. I knew if I located these two constellations finding Polaris, the north star, was made easy. I still try to fathom why all the other stars seem to move while Polaris stays in a fixed position. It is a deep thought the contemplation of which would be better served on another night.

All of these stars, it would be impossible to count them one by one, could be formed into countless random patterns. I wondered why some were joined into explanations of myths and gods by our human predecessors, while other patterns easily identified in my mind went largely forgotten. There seems to be no easy answers to some questions.

Giaco and I were largely quiet and said very little. There was really nothing to be said but the obvious. And even that would have been a severe understatement.

Imagine looking into the starry heavens. Loon calls echoing across the waters. Light from the stars shimmering as a reflection on the dark water’s surface. All of this without any human distractions. In my mind’s eye defines perfection. Enough said.

Life imitating art on a distant shore at Lac Wetetnagami.

The next day we fished for 12 hours. We worked hard for a modest harvest but our luck was good enough to fill everyone’s belly that evening. Drinks were had by all. There was great appreciation for where we were, what we were doing, and who we are; six guys simply seeking refuge from a modern world.

That evening Giaco and I returned to water’s edge. The empty beach chairs were waiting for us. Giaco had an Ipad with him so that we could look at the night’s sky and see the named constellations. The Ipad, using a built in GPS, could be held up in front of your face and give you the exact name of each constellation. No matter where you turned it reoriented itself and revealed to us more names of stars and constellations. A lesson in astronomy for sure, which is not without merits but for this observer the device lacked imagination. Yes, the technology is stunning but without the ability to create new thoughts the exercise lacks in imagination. It is my imagination that drives me to see new points of view, to examine issues from a new point of view, to write about parts of my life experience yet unexplored.

Nature called. Giaco had to leave. I was left to my own devices which were, quite simply, a mind full of wonder and not much else. I looked into the dark abyss. Stars filled the night sky and the voids in my mind. My imagination went into over drive and started seeing networks and associations between all of the different stars. The possibilities seemed endless. I imagined that if one were able to connect the bright white dots in the right order it might unravel the mysteries of the universe. It might reveal laws of nature never before understood. It might even decode our beginnings, our intent, and where the universe was heading. And if one were able to connect the dots in just the right pattern it might even reveal new dimensions where we could look at our earthly experience from afar. The amounts of infinite possibilities entering my finite brain were maddening. I though about my own life. Seemingly unrelated events from my childhood that controlled my behavior now, the subtle observation of an act of kindness that forever changed my actions in the future, or, perhaps, the vast elegance and symmetry of the natural world taken in years ago that now directs my feelings for our planet. Without connecting the dots few of my present day experiences would have as much value or meaning. My life seems so much richer because I am aware of these related patterns. Giaco returned and I brought myself back into the here and now.

The next morning while on Wetetnagami with rod and reel in hand we watched bald eagles, diving ducks, and loons harvest bounties from this remote lake. The sheer joy of watching other species fish along side of us was beyond words. Each cast, each retrieve seemed to be in slow motion. Each fish caught came into our collective view as a natural act. Our angling was no different than the fishing skills held by other animals sharing these waters that were essential for survival. It was as if each flick of the rod where the bait and hook sank to the bottom a piece of our past consciousness was put back into place. Some might see this as primitive. For me this way of seeing the world proves to be essential.

That night the stars again filled the night. And while it is true that I spent more of the evening sharing the days adventures with the rest of our gang I did manage to spill out into the evening before resting my head on a pillow in a cabin bunk.

Twilight in the great north!

The millions of stars and the endless patterns still boggled my simple mind. But on this evening I approached the dark mysteries of the skies form a different perspective. I no longer wondered if it held all of the necessary answers. From some innate part of my inner soul I knew that the night sky did, indeed, hold all of the forgotten truths. It is just a matter of connecting the dots and exploring all of the possible combinations. The answer is held in the night’s heavens. A lesson long forgotten by most. A lesson that we should all remember into eternity.

Written for in September 2014.

  • Montucky

    Through your photos and your words, I enjoyed taking that trip with you. You know, if everyone could have experiences like that, we might just be able to start connecting all of those dots.

  • Hudson Howl

    Long, long, long time since I’ve wandered in here. Sorry Bill, but I had to slow things down over the last year and a half. That said, a few days ago, out of the blue, I wondered if you had made your yearly trip to la Province du Québec . And surprise surprise, I could not have pick a better time to drop in. I remember in one of accounts, and para phrase “if I could take anyone not accustom to nature and the wilds, stand them here, see this, that it would have lasting impact on them’. That all of this was worth protecting for generations to come. And you captured the spirit again with this. Du lac WetetNagami looks like it has done well with this seasons abundance of rain -incredibly green and breathing well in your pictures and story. You do this area and the environment a great service, in stowing what such areas mean to our existence. Thank you, Bill.

  • Wild_Bill

    First, so nice to hear from you! I simply report what I observe. It is the beautiful planet that deserves all of the credit. My goal is to get people to pay attention. There is much to be lost with our present system of economics and unwavering consumerism and little to be gained in the grand scheme of things. Earth is our home and we should treasure it.

  • Wild_Bill

    Thank you. Agreed, wilderness puts the wonder in all of us and a desire to see the Earth’s beauty and poise preserved through all eternity.

  • Emily Brisse

    What a beautiful post, Bill. I’m often overtaken by the magnitude of night sky–when I do have a chance to see it in all its expanse and glory–so much of your language in this essay brought me right into some of my most precious out door moments. I particularly loved this line: “I was left to my own devices which were, quite simply, a mind full of wonder and not much else.” Because how wonderful that this was all you were full of. Sounds like a lovely adventure, indeed. Hope you are well, Bill!

  • Wild_Bill

    Geez I look forward to your comments, mostly because you totally get me. Yes, my mind is often full on nothing else but wonder. Does not say too much about the rest of my intellect but the curiosity and appreciation part is there!

  • Ratty

    The closest I’ve ever been to a place so wild is living at the edge of the small town I do now. I’d like to experience a place like this at least once in my life. It must feel so free to be there.

  • Wild_Bill

    Yes, free, if I had to describe it using only one word I would likely choose “free”. You should go to a wilderness one day Ratty. It is overwhelming the first time you experience it.

  • Teresa Evangeline

    I still recall the night I first saw the Big dipper. we were outside after dark playing kick the can and my cousin or someone pointed it out to me while we stood at the corner of our farmhouse. Finally able to connect the dots, it changed everything. I will never tire of looking at the night sky. It represents all my wondering about the universe and its deep mysteries. This story is beautifully told. “From some innate part of my inner soul I knew that the night sky did, indeed, hold all of the forgotten truths.”
    That is just one of the many wonderful sentences you’ve written here. And that sand beach looks so inviting ! Beautiful photos.

  • Wild_Bill

    Thank you so much Teresa. We live in an seemingly infinite universe. While it seems so vast, so distant, everything is connected. We are made of stardust, the largest parts of the universe are arranged very similarly to the tiniest atomic assemblages, and yet we seem to be devoid of any knowledge of all of these integrated parts. It may seem like only my imagination can make any sense of all this I really do believe we all have innate knowledge that only if we paid attention to it would unlock our past and greatly aid our future. As always thank you so much for reading. Your comments are greatly appreciated and I always look forward to them.

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