Tales from Otter Lake II

I firmly believe that any sort of camping, be it with a tarp and a blanket, a tent and a backpack, or an RV, you need at least three days on either end of the actual ‘holiday’ time.

It takes three days at the beginning:

To arrive and get set up.

Resolve the inevitable equipment failures.

Do some creative engineering to replace the (also inevitable) things left behind. I’m a firm believer in wire coat-hangers, duct tape, and pegs – if you can’t make do with those three items then whatever it is you’re trying to duplicate isn’t worth the effort, or you need to head into the nearest town and buy a new one.

And finally sit quietly (or exhausted) in front of the fire and breathe for at least an hour.

The three days at the end are for:

‘One last visits’ to the things/places you didn’t get to see/do.

Finding a way to get everything you bought with you back into the same receptacles you packed them in. Including mysterious items that magically appear out of nowhere, as well as the items you so valiantly tried to duplicate with your pegs and tape and wire.

And wind yourself up for the journey home and re-entering your life. Which at this point you’re either desperate to get back to, or wondering how far up into the mountains you can get before you run out of logging roads.

And then there are the stories.

I’m a night owl, (it’s when I do most of my best writing) but the nature of camping, at least for me is that I can’t sleep much past sunrise, or even earlier.

Otter Lake valley runs North/South, and is very narrow and deep, so it takes a while for the sun to appear over the mizzen-mast, let alone the yard-arm.

We were up early one morning waiting for the fire to mature enough to cook breakfast, sipping our tea, and watching the world around us come awake.

The forest is a mix of the usual suspects and lodge pole pines that have died or are dying from the pine-beetle infestation that has devastated swathes of woodlands, and millions of trees, both sides of the Canadian/U.S. border.

A crow had taken up residence at the very tip of one such skeleton, and sat there, occasionally preening, cawing to others of its kind deeper into the forest, but mostly it seemed to be waiting for something.

Once the sun peeped over the high bluff above us, the crow flew away … and I wondered …

Crow has come to make Sure the Sun rises over the Mountains to the East For Sun is Capricious today And may decide to rise elsewhere Or not rise at all

Crow has come to make
Sure the Sun rises over the
Mountains to the East
For Sun is Capricious today
And may decide to rise elsewhere
Or not rise at all


Many thanks to the wonderful Susieee Mac and her artwork ,for inspiring me to take my coloured pencils with me and play with them again, after far too long away.

Crow’s Message

I’d taken myself off to an outdoor cafe the other day to indulge in a soy chai latte. Made with soymilk because I can’t do a lot of dairy, and because this cafe makes the best chai latte EVEAH!

The cafe’s location isn’t exactly salubrious, it overlooks the car-park of a small mall. The kind of mall that attaches itself to the vacant lots where two or more major roads intersect, and is in turn surrounded by wall-to-wall suburban homes that all look exactly the same. I try to imagine what it would be like moving into one of those houses. How would you know which one was yours on a dark and stormy night?

Back to my cafe.

The sun shone bright on the tarmac, (one of the few sunny days we’ve had here at Widdderlake – although today is turning out to be another one) as I sipped my delicious chai latte and watched the world, and cars, go by.

At the far corner of the carpark, but still in my field of vision stood a dumpster. Rust stains and faded olive-green paint blotched it’s surface like lichen on steroids. The lid had been propped open (I hoped they closed it at the end of the day, dumpsters being the take-out venue of choice for the local black bear population) and I could see that it was almost full of bulging black plastic garbage bags, random pieces of splintered wooden furniture, wilted hedge prunings and a few smaller domestic white garbage bags sulking next to their boisterous commercial cousins.

A crow flew overhead and made a bee-line (crow-line?) straight for the dumpster. This crow had the look of a town-dweller, scrappy, a couple of tail feathers missing, and a complete disregard for humans and all their creations, except for the contents of it’s favourite eatery, the dumpster.

Crow hopped along the top of the bin, casting one eye upon the delicacies within, then turning its head, and casting the other eye. Something must appealed to it’s taste buds because it flapped and disappeared into the bin.

I waited, curious to see what delicate morsels it would choose.

I waited some more.

A polystyrene burger container erupted from the depths of the dumpster and fell to the ground. Moments later a string of what I hoped were not some form of animal entrails, followed.

Still no sign of Crow.

Several bits of white plastic bags floated up and were caught by a breeze. I was beginning to suspect Crow had set its sights too high and was feeling a little disgruntled at the offerings.

Crow appeared next. It balanced on the edge of the dumpster, empty-handed, (empty-clawed?) rather disgruntled, as I’d suspected, and vented it’s spleen with a racuous,”Cawwwk”.

It flew into a nearby cherry tree and proceeded to shake a storm of cherry-blossom petals onto the cars of the inconsiderate humans below.

I smiled into my chai latte as I paid attention to Crow’s message.

Even if you’re a crow in a dumpster, never settle for less than exactly what you want.


“ Method is more important than strength, when you wish to control your enemies. By dropping golden beads near a snake, a crow once managed to have a passer-by kill the snake for the beads”Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Poet 1807-1882