We’ve been on treasure hunts today. Gore Bay, where we’ve been staying, has a Friday morning market; it proved too inviting to miss and Cristal soon found some woodwork bowls she wanted to buy. But the walk to the bank for cash only led to a garage sale and, as fate would have it, it was huge and impressive. Combing through junk to get to the good stuff was fun, and we each finally made decisions to buy some glassware that was going cheaply—all thoughts of woodwork bowls gone.
Early afternoon found us once again combing a trading post on the far side of the island. I’ve been after a porcupine quill basket I could afford and finally found one, while Cristal grabbed a deerskin purse. At long last, we drove over to the Spirit Circle Centre for a medicine walk, to learn about the various properties of the plants the First Nation peoples use.
I should explain that Manitoulin is considered a sacred island by the various sects of the Ojibwe who live here. Our guide, Red Sky, showed us how to ‘smudge’ to protect ourselves before going on the walk. He had us taste cedar leaves and balsam and feel the bark of birch and other trees, and he ended the session giving us bannock and jam and a mint tea. But what stays in my mind the most is how he said the native people must live in two worlds, the everyday world of paying bills and driving cars and dealing with modern problems, and the spirit world of his ancestors and how they would exist in the old ways. And it struck me that, that is true of authors as well: we live in the everyday world of our families and jobs and the domain about us, but in our heads we live in our books with our characters and the world we’re creating.
So if I’m taking any treasure home from Manitoulin, it’ll be the memory of this afternoon spent learning not only about the plants, but a little bit more about myself as well.