I am not entirely sure where I heard this phrase, but it struck a chord and has stayed with me for years. We all have a song in our heart; it’s the thing that drives us and renews us. Since I was just a young child the song of my heart has been the land.
At first it was just lying in the grass on a warm summer’s day, watching puffy clouds and listening to the buzz of the various insects. Some days I would be found, fast asleep in the middle of the park just steps from my front porch – the rest of the innocent. As I grew older I explored the woods near my home; sometimes alone and sometimes with friends. I loved it in there! Forts. Hide and seek. Digging clay out of the creek. Little campfires and lunch (sorry mom, I did have the matches!). Solitude.
My first “alone” to the real wilderness was as a sophomore in high school. Five friends, Leasa, Chris, Roger and Derek and, on what was supposed to be a weekend canoe adventure in Algonquin Park. There was a ton of adventure but not a whole weekend. Gear and teenagers were packed into every available space of Leasa’s Mercury LTD and we were off on the 2 hour drive to the launching point where rented canoes awaited. Our trip started innocently enough but as the day wore on; as the temperature rose; and as hunger increased; the first hints of discord became evident.
Those were the days when campsites weren’t reserved and as we studied the map and agreed on what appeared to be a good site, we were disappointed to find other campers had beat us there. In the spirit of naive Voyageurs we carried on – and passed camp site after camp site. Some were empty and mutiny began with us girls; who possessed the sound judgement of just stopping because the light was fading; being overruled by the boys who insisted the best site in the world was just ahead. (LOL…..Chris and Derek, who are friends on here may have a different version but this is MY blog!).
We finally landed at a nice and empty (key word!) spot and tense muscles relaxed as camp was set up. I remember the night being so clear and beautiful and Leasa came up with the idea of skinny dipping – girls only. As we floated in that wonderful cold water the sudden cry of “bear!!!” split the silence. Sure enough there was the black bear…in our camp….heading straight for the backpack of food that had been diligently hung between trees. The boys jumped in the canoe, sans paddles, and pushed off shore, gliding towards us.
We watched by flashlight as that bear made several attempts at the food pack, finally tearing it off the metal frame. He scampered into the woods with it and we all headed to shore. It was a long sleepless night as that bear hung around the edges of camp all night. The wondrous silence of an Algonquin night was shattered with us banging whatever was at hand and yelling at the bear whenever he would reappear.
At first light we followed his trail through the bush, picking up bits and pieces of food containers. The only thing he left us was a bag of carrots! I really don’t like carrots. Bone weary we headed back to the boat launch – paddling all day on almost empty stomachs, except for carrots and a little bit of food we scrounged from another camp site.
That adventure only served to fan the flames of my love, my heart song, my need to be on the land. There have been some spectacular expeditions – almost all not involving a raiding bear. I’ve hiked and paddled most of Algonquin Park. How do I adequately describe the thrill of floating in a canoe on water so flat it’s like ice, with fireflies dancing all around and the heavens filled with stars? Is it possible for you to see through my mind’s eye that crisp fall morning, when I was sitting on the shore of a small pond, fog rising from the water, when suddenly a moose strolls to the water’s edge for a drink?
I’ve laid in my sleeping bag, tucked in my dog sled and watched a sunrise so beautiful it took my breath away. I’ve walked through the jumbled sea ice of the Arctic Ocean – the air so cold it burned my face. I have heard the beautiful language of hundreds of roosting ravens raising their young. And once I listened to a polar bear tear apart the pantry of a kitchen I worked in; wondering if, once he was done, would he breach the “bear proof” door I was standing behind.
I’ve sat in the ancient camp sites of the Thule people – now long gone – and heard the murmur of their daily lives. I’ve driven a dog team and rounded a corner one fine spring afternoon, surprising a lynx sunning himself on the trail.
So many more adventures – too many to recount in this post. All however became part of my song. We need people or other living things to sometimes sing our heart song when we’ve lost our way.
For many, many years – decades actually – there have been the sled dogs and one very special, neurotic Border Collie cross, who would sing that song for me. When I would lose my way as I sometimes do, they were always there to remind me of who I am and they were always up for the next adventure! Losing them has always been one of the hardest parts of the journey on this side of the veil. There was always a selfish part of me that would wonder who would sing the song of my heart, while at the same time I would be reminding them of all our grand adventures together and giving them my all, as they had given me theirs, until their last breath.
Tonight on the other side of the continent, one of my dearest friends is struggling with her heart song as she and her children surround their beloved dog in love. Gabs, as she is endearingly called, has tumors – a lot of tumors – and she is being loved on by her humans until she takes her leave. Gabs was horribly abused during the first part of her life and my friend Lisa, rescued her. Then the tables were turned and this beautiful canine rescued Lisa and her kids.
My dear friend has been sick and battles a debilitating and painful illness. This dog has made her laugh when there wasn’t a lot to laugh about. Gabs has heard a lot of heartache whispered into her big ears. She has known when to just be there when it was needed. It is a bittersweet and wondrous thing to have this kind of time with your loyal dog.
Having a creature you love so dearly run ahead to where you can’t follow yet is a painful thing. And yet to be able to love them until the end and whisper “until we meet again” is a pretty comforting thing – for all involved. We should all be so lucky.
So my dear Lisa (and Eilish and Kier), keep on singing the songs of your hearts and of the heart of that beautiful dog. And when it’s time for her to leave, understand that she really isn’t gone. She will be there when you need her. Trust me.