Discovery at Five Finger Rapids


I opened my sleepy eyes to the call of a loon through my bedroom window.  Ripples of reflected sunlight on water, danced on the beamed ceiling above my head. I knew without looking, that Joan was already awake and down by the river watching the sun come up.  It  was a daily ritual for her, even in the city.  I prefered to spend the early morning sitting on the enclosed veranda with a cup of herbal tea to do some reflective writing. The rhythm of life was slower here – simpler.  There was no agenda beyond flowing with the unfolding day.  Gadgets and daily details are readily left behind.  Our days are filled with the more meaningful pursuits of sinking into a landscape that calls to me in ways I can’t explain.

Lucy and Geraldine were enjoying their rest after our visit to Five Finger Rapids the previous day with our host, and owner of the lodge, Alex Strachan.  There was only four of us on this particular trip.  A willing audience for Alex’s stories about the history of the French River as the western trading route for voyageurs in the time of Champlain.  We saw a beaver dam and learned about the beaver population and the importance of this amazing mammal to the ecosystem.

Five Finger Rapids was part of the Dokis Native Reserve.  Alex tied our boat to a rock and we followed him, single file, through the twisted, hilly path to the rapids.  The ground underfoot was spongy where moss covered the roots of the pine trees.  The roots reached out to each other, interlocking on the granite surface. This explains how they are able to survive at 45 degree angles on the side of a rock face without falling over.  Some of the pine trees have cones that only disperse their seeds after a fire, enabling them to survive even after a disaster.

At the end of our trek, the rapids converge.  We gathered around Alex as he told us stories.  My mind drifted as I gazed at the scenery.  Cumulus clouds drifted across a blue sky, the perfect backdrop for the pine trees that dot the rocky landscape.  The crystal clear waters crashed against the rocks creating a hypnotic effect.   Then my ears tuned in to familiar words from our host.  Words that I haven’t heard in a long time.  They alerted me to the present, while transporting me back in time.

When words are not enough.

“What?  Wait,” I said, needing to confirm what I might have heard.  “Did you say you came to Canada 49 year ago on the Empress of Canada?”

“Yes,” replied Alex.

“I was on that ship,” I said.

“July 21, 1966?” he clarified.


“We could have shared the same dining room.”

How absolutely incredible.  There were no words left, only emotion at a shared experience.  We hugged.  Fellow travelers to a new world in search of a better life.  I couldn’t help but wonder if our paths crossed for a reason, or was this just one of those unfolding moments in life that reveals itself when you slow down enough to pay attention.

Categories: Memoir

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