Just a little intro to the poem below — Quetico is just across the Canadian border from the U.S. Boundary Waters. It is paradise. I was lucky enough to be invited to go on a fishing trip there with a group of gentlemen who knew I could handle the rigors of backcountry travel/survival (they journeyed there annually). They’re all near and dear to me today. The trip was especially poignant as a beloved friend and one of the fellows who fought hard for me to go was killed in a car accident a few months prior to the trip. He was beside me every step of the grueling portages, the man-eating mosquitoes, the rowing of canoes in white-capped water. I saw Quetico through his eyes and wrote the poem from what I’m certain was his revered perspective.
By Tammie Johnson (Dooley)
Do you think it matters we were there? Do you think it makes a difference?
Our presence there passes unnoticed, as the water understands what we cannot know
In the timeless miracle of life known as Quetico.
The fog doesn’t need us to dance its magic over the cold, clear water.
With tendrils of mist, ghostly plays of light and shadow, it teases and tricks.
First here, then gone, then back again…
For all the ages it will sneak from its elusive hiding place.
It’s not for us the undergrowth creeps year after year,
On every island of every lake towards the ancient perimeter of rock.
And the silver white bark curls and spirals a delicate pattern on the side of the Birch,
Spun like the sugar on a grand wedding cake.
Our guidance is not required for the eagle to prey
Or the loon to croon its haunting wilderness song.
Or for the water to spill over boulder and shore
With the uncontrolled vengeance of Poseidon.
The pines seek not our counsel as they drop their needles to the forest floor,
Lovingly padding the impact of tree after tree whose course of life is complete.
With nothing more to add to the undulating beat of the living,
They fall to the ground with the new purpose of shedding light on the dying.
The glaciers thundered and crashed during the prehistoric slide,
Leaving angling dreams in the form of fish-filled streams
Without a glance to our approving eye.
And in our absence
The lilting gait of life indiscernible,
Sustains a cadence that bears no resemblance
To the unnatural procession of our struggle for significance.
Everything there has a purpose in life and in death,
And goes about fulfilling it
With a clarity of vision and perfection of execution
That we will never possess.
It leaves a footprint on our heart…
An undeniable trace of order it imparts.
A rise and fall of quiet acceptance
We could strive for eternity to embrace.
Do you think it matters we were there?
Do you think it makes a difference?
It doesn’t need us to endure,
Unknown to time,
Unaffected and pure.
But WE will be changed forever.