Return to index...
A BOX OF RAIN
Cape Rich, Ontario
I love to drive where few others have, but it is difficult when working primarily in the U.S. and Canada. As time goes on there is less and less wilderness to investigate, particularly in the east. But with an eye for a lonely white spot on any map, I have found one here north of Toronto on the edge of Georgian Bay.
I've been working in Owen Sound for two weeks. The port town crowds the end of a long arm off Lake Huron, a town locally referred to as The Elephant's Asshole. To understand this unique moniker you must take a map of Ontario and turn it 90 degrees to the left, and locate Owen Sound. In my spare time I have traveled the secondary roads up the Bruce Peninsula, wandering back along the shoreline of Lake Huron, a sparsely settled, rolling farmland not unlike that of the more remote areas of our Midwest. Fewer silos, maybe, but a countryside dotted with old brick farmhouses, quaint and stately in their rural elegance.
I have always felt that generalizations are generally true, and our Canadian generalizations are both exaggerated and accurate. Surely traveling north to this area from Toronto their sense of imagination is not enhanced; I drive by the South Saugeen and the Beatty Saugeen Rivers, before crossing the Saugeen, Rocky Saugeen, and North Saugeen Rivers. These waters are just east of the South Maitland, Middle Maitland, Little Maitland and Maitland Rivers. Nearby are the towns of Mono Centre, Mono Mills, and Mono Road, all, no doubt, sleepy little towns.
But the white spot on the map catches my eye, a good sized chunk located north of Route 26 between Owen Sound and the lakeside hamlet of Meaford. No blue map roads cross this land, none, and at the top I see the name in tiny letters, 'Cape Rich.' It draws me like a magnet.
East on 26 toward Meaford I drive, slowly, until I see a paved possibility, and turn north. There are houses at first, then farms, lovely, wide, green in the short glow of Ontario's summer. North I meander through the dwindling farmland, past wonderful old brick homes once magnificent in their compact utility now destitute and falling, victims of northness and economies of scale. The road turns to gravel, adequate and able to carry cars in both directions, at least for a bit.
The farms and fields end, the gravel road narrows to a one lane dirt affair crawling still further north into the vacant, deep beech and birch wooded white spot peninsula. On I travel, slowly, observing the rotting, collapsing split rail fence bordering the road on its eastern side. Deeper, deeper into these beautiful woods I go, miles further, miles past where others would have turned back, until I come to a cement bridge over a trickling, rock-strewn creek, and a man.
It is too remote and small and slow to pass him by without acknowledging him. I slow to a stop and say Hello, and in one of those awkward moments, not expecting to see anyone else, I say something cutely unfunny, and the man asks me to repeat myself. I'm embarrassed and don't want to repeat my inane remark, I sense a trespass and prepare to turn around when the man smiles at my hesitation and raises a finger, and says the point is just ahead.
I pull on and soon enter an old shanty town, perhaps ten or fifteen tiny, rickety shacks weathered grey, some with outhouses standing sentinel behind. Through them I crawl, past Canadian flags and cracked flowerless pots until I see the opening of the water, and then the long horizon of Lake Huron. On I drive, slowly until the road ends on a spit of lovely, lonely land jutting into the enormous lake. To my left and in the rear and far distance are the long, wide arms of land reaching north into the lake; to my front is the last shanty, peeling paint and cradling the remains of a rowboat whose time has long past, its edges already returned to dust.
And to my right: my reward. I stand now on the shale-sliced shoreline, alone with a canvass of great and grand beauty, the sky cloud-crowded in various colors and forms over the vast water world, a picture perfect as though an artist had spent weeks in a chair on this very spot, preparing the scene for me. Such an imposing landscape/seascape, with jutting shorelines to the west, the long blue horizon ahead, the grey cap above it all, a wonderful, exhilarating moment and place.
I drink a beer, I introduce the Grateful Dead and Leo Kottke to a place they've probably never been heard before. I dawdle, I don't want to leave this perfect sound and solitude. But eventually I do. I always do. It's just a Box of Rain...