Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Day 53, part 1: Wounded pelican

I was worried because once again I would be passing through an Indian Reserve. While it's true that I often passed beside reserves, my interpretation is that when the river passes through a reserve, on both sides, the river must actually fall under the laws of that people rather than being Crown land as I assumed elsewhere. I, doubly a foreigner, felt like an intruder unprotected by law, and so I hurried through the reserves and avoided setting foot on land.

As you've seen, this has only caused trouble for me. In the Siksika I became stranded, trying to sleep in the canoe rather than going to land and hoping for forgiveness. In the Piapot I cut the fence that stood in my way. I knew I should just start thinking of the reserves the same as any other land, within reason, to prevent myself from turning minor mishaps into major ones. Still, by now I had an expectation that Something Bad always happens on the reserves. Since there had been fences of varying difficulty since Lake Ketepwa, I imagined a river simply clogged with fences or even walls.

Just as I entered the reserve, a pelican sitting on a gravel bank was spooked by my appearance, and swam out into the river ahead of me. This was unusual behavior for a pelican, which rarely precede their flight ith swimming, unless they were already on the water. I drew close enough to see that its wing looked wrong, and I knew it was injured.

Although I count pelicans as friendsI don't think this relationship is symmetric. I use their presence as a sign of pleasant camping, but before I reach the site they all fly away in caution. I am sure they view with annoyance this man who goes around stealing all their favorite basking locations. And here I was chasing a wounded pelican down the river.

My logical side sees it so, but my romantic side, given to building mythologies, was in control that day. Here was my spirit guide, come to lead me through the dangerous territory! And so I followed at a respectful distance, while the pelican turned its head from sideto side, looking back to make sure I was still following.

My guide was powerful and benevolent. There were no fences, there were no troubles. Just before the bridge that marks the end of the river, the river split into two channels. One, shallow and gravelly, continued straight forward under the bridge. The other meandered around to the right, rejoining just before the bridge.

Because I knew the pelican was wounded and I was thankful for its faithful guidance thus far, I knew what I should do. I took the right hand channel as the pelican took to the gravel on the straight one. When I meandered around the pelican saw me and swam back upstream whence it had come.

I proceeded on alone.

Day 53 continues.

No comments: