The wind on Crooked Lake was going due east, my purposed direction. I saw cottages all along the northern shore, gulls everywhere, and pelicans on the sandy points. One pelican did not settle for the black skull cap worn by the others. He seemed to have a long black wig, down to his shoulders. Queer bird.
I began to see campers and boats on the shore and knew I was near the Provincial Park. Large storm clouds were building behind me. The wind picked up, throwing decent waves at me and making it difficult to steer. I put on my life vest. The waves washed me ashore at a beach between the park's two campgrounds.
I walked up to the registration booth. It was self-registration during the week. I went back to the canoe and paddled to the first water site beyond the beach.
A man hailed me as I approached the campsite. He was wearing blue coveralls unzipped a few inches revealing white hair on his chest. White hair spilled out from under his blue cap as well. The cap read "Svein Bryeide Construction Ltd", but I did not notice that yet.
"So are you into wild parties and loud music?" I said.
He answered without irony. "No, I never really got into that."
"Me neither." This was going to be a quiet campsite, which made me happy.
We talked about my trip. Svein Bryeide had run a construction company for 30 years, working for the oil industry. He had no thought of retiring yet. He and his wife Mariann had graduated from tent camping, to a tent trailer, to a camper top, to a trailer camper. He claimed the current model had a living room with "a chesterfield and a fireplace", and that might have been true. It seems like a luxurious way to travel. They were taking a week's vacation at Crooked Lake, visiting friends in the area.
I was canoeing through southern Canada, and I was traveling alone. I was exposed to all the dangers of the waters.
"But a little caution goes a long way," Svein said.
"What's that?" I didn't hear.
"A little caution."
"Still, probably safer out there than on the highways."
Svein's comment stirred far more latent emotions in me than he could have expected. Every time someone had tried to point out the risks involved in the trip I was making, I wanted to tell them to look at the risks they accepted everyday. Driving is not safe for being common. There was more.
My friend Melissa had been a constant companion in Calgary. I was not there long before she invited me to go hiking with her, which became something we did any time the weather was warm. The Canadian Rockies are beautiful in the summer. You will never run out of places to walk, no matter what your skill level. Clement often came hiking too. Sarah also frequently joined us.
The winter is often hard on me, and the 2007 Canadian winter was no exception. I felt uneasy, the things I took pride in were valueless, everything I did was wrong, I had no value as a man to women. It is a difficult state of mind. When you don't care for what you can do, you try all those you can't and that only confirms your ineffectiveness.
I began to lean on my friend Melissa. It is strange how friendships can evolve. Sometimes they can become deep quite suddenly, sometimes they can totter on that edge and then back off. One night I called her in an almost manic state and she calmed me down. She did not doubt I had value. She was patient as I wavered in spilling myself out to her. She was going to Australia in the summer but there was time enough to talk before and after that.
I decided to stay in Calgary for my PhD.
I also decided to build a boat. Some year of undergrad I built one out of cardboard and duct tape. It was easy and it was hard and it took my mind off of some things. It was a success and a failure; it died on its maiden voyage. I was floating under the engineering building when a pipe opened overhead, and the inside was all wet cardboard.
I decided to build a better boat. A wooden canoe, and I looked until I found the easiest plans to build a decent canoe. It would be a JEM Merrimac, and the plans cost about $50. I ordered the wood on June 14, 2007.
The next day was very bad.
"My friend died about a year ago. She never got to go to Australia, and she'd been planning that trip for years." I was speaking wildly.
"It happens to everyone," Svein said.
I hadn't explained anything. He looked away.
"It's always hard," he said.
Day 53 ended: 50*36.218N, 102*40.335W