CAMP ISLAND, THE CITY, AND THE WOMAN WITH THE BEADED SHIRT.
For years I lived by the lake. On an island,
or on one or two other sites.
I lived in houses, too, but I had to
stop that. I couldn`t hear when I lived in houses.
People visited me when I lived in houses
and some people told me what a beautiful home I
had. But I couldn`t hear the pine tree behind the house.
I couldn`t hear the pine speak to me,
so I left the house.
Now other people live there in that expensive
house. Now I don`t, but now I can hear
the pine again.
I had a tent on the island near where the
old cottages used to stand, behind the sand cliffs.
There I could hear the wind in the trees
and the sounds of the waters on the shore.
The island was an old place, and my
grandfather kept the forest safe for the
last century . So the trees on that island
are more than 100 years old, the white
and the red pine.
. There used to be lumber camps on the
island, and trees were cut from other lakes.
But my grandfather didn`t let them cut
the trees of the island. That`s why the
island is called Camp Island. There
used to be lumber camps there,
but the trees were never cut.
For a while I lived in the City
two hundred and twenty miles to the south of the
lake. I went to school in the city and to
university there, too. But there were so many
loud sounds in the city that I couldn`t
hear a thing, so I returned to the
lake, where there were no loud sounds, and
where I could hear everything.
In the city, everything was so loud
that I started drinking whiskey to shut out
the noise. Then after a while I couldn`t
hear the noise. I just wanted
I took the train back north, and I walked
to my cabin by the lake. Someone had burned
the cabin down. I bought three more bottles of
whiskey and I drank them on the floor
of my old cabin, which wasn`t there anymore.
Only the wooden floor remained.
It was October, late in the autumn; I
sat on the wooden floor and drank all
the whiskey. All I was wearing was
a pin-striped suit from the city. It was
a summer suit. There was no
warnth to it. But there seemed to be
warmth in the whiskey, so I drank all
I fell asleep and I started to dream.
I woke up in the night and tried to drink
water from my tin cup. All the water
in the cup was frozen, so I couldn`t
drink it . I went back to sleep.
I slept all night, and in the night
I really started to dream again. I dreamed
all the waters had pulled back from that deep
lake. In my dream, all the waters
had withdrawn, revealing all the rocks
in the bottom of the lake, the hills
and cliffs that the waters had hidden before.
In my dream all the bottom of the lake, its
small cliffs and many small sharp hills –
they all were made of garnite… like glowing
rubies, all the bottom of that
lake was deep red, crimson sparkling gems.
The paradise that was the lake revealed
itself to me.
I woke up frozen. My mind was
awake but I couldn`t bend my arms
or legs. After a while unable to move, I managed
to sit up. As I sat there in the cold
I realized I was sitting by a sacred lake
and I didn`t want to leave it again.
I got a small light canoe and I paddled
around the lake, time and again. No one else seemed to
live there, I paddled down to Camp Island,
where there was plenty of warm sand and beach.
The sand was warm in the sun there, when the sun
shone, so I paddled down to Camp Island,
one dawn… and when the
sun rose, I sat on the sand, where the old cottage
stood. And I let the sun warm me.
I smelt smoke, so I walked through the forest
of tall straight red pine. Someone had built
a small log cabin on the east-facing shore.
A woman was sitting outside the cabin. A deer was
standing beside the woman. The woman was
sitting on the ground. Several squirrels
sat by the woman and a muskrat was sitting
across from the woman on the ground.
I watched closely. The woman was talking
to the animals. I could see her lips moving
as she was talking, but I could hear no sounds.
The animals could hear her, though, and they
stayed beside her and watched her and listened.
I sat on the pine needle floor and I watched
her talking to the animals and the animals listening…
I fell asleep. When I woke up later,
leaning against a white pine, I smelt coffee.
There was a cup of hot coffee right by my hand.
I drank the coffee.
The woman was sitting in front of
her cabin, stitching something. When she
saw I was awake and drinking the coffee,
she waved at me. I waved back and walked
over to her cabin,as I drank the hot
sweet coffee. This is how I met
the woman who talked to the animals…
I noticed she was stitching a symbol
into a bead shirt…. I asked her what
the symbol meant….
“This is the symbol
for the deer who was here,” she said.
” The deer is gone, so I stitch the sign of the deer
in the shirt… until he returns.”
I noticed there were hundreds of symbols
in her bead shirt. I asked her what the symbols
“These are the symbols of all the animals,”
she said, “Even the ones who have not been here
for a long time… I keep them here in this shirt.
Here I keep them safe,,,,Until they
It was a strange story but it was
a true story, too. There was
nothing I could do but believe her.
I knew the animals were in the beaded
symbols of her shirt, and I knew the animals
(C)2013 story by William Milne