John is fortunate to be alive today. Daruka and I heard his story. He had come up from Madison, Wisconsin, to go canoeing in the area. Just last Friday, while I was trekking highway 11, John was in the canoe on a lake when he stretched out to collect some water and the boat tipped over. John landed in the water, holding onto the capsized canoe. He struggled to stay afloat - an ordeal that went on for one hour, then two, going on three. The water was chilling his bones. Luckily, he had a whistle. He blew it. Some canoers, from quite a distance heard it. The family who heard it paddled to the scene. He was safe now, and taken to land. His clothes stripped, he was laced in a warm sleeping bag until an emergency helicopter came to his aid. He almost died. He described to us that he was very accepting that he was going to go for good. "I felt bad that I wouldn't be able to say goodbye to my family." He also mentioned that he felt it was a divine act when those canoers came.
John was telling us this in the pool room/bar at the Atakokin hotel. It was by a fluke that we met John. Daruka and I decided to take a room in the hotel, as it was cheaper than a camping spot. In these areas, camping is restricted because people are generally irresponsible with camp fires. Otherwise we would have so many choices in which to pitch a tent in this land of wilderness.
Bob Davidson was a gentleman shooting pool. When he heard I had checked into the hotel, he asked to see me. As former mayor of Atakokin, and a retired forest ranger, Bob had much experience with life skills. He sat with Daruka, John and I. He had this inquisitiveness about the walk. It was an unusual setting for me in particular. A monk in a bar? There were a few people there, they were respectful. Bob and John were keen to have the maha-mantra in their hands as we shared it with them and the meaning behind "Hare," "Krishna" and "Rama." Our discussion was a good one, over the topics of social issues, forests and philosophy.
Stephanie and (another John) were owners of the hotel. She was a darling of a lady. Daruka captured her on camera making perogies. All the people of the hotel were such fine folks, and they were so good to us.
I had been contemplating on the previous nights' experience with these beautiful and real people while on my walk today. I was so calm inside, I even napped so well on one of those massive rocks that you find on the Canadian shield on the road. There was soft moss around me and I was keeping clear of a hard wind. Physically, I was gone, but mentally I was calm.
I believe that its better to have physical strain and a relaxed mind than physical comfort and an agitated mind.
The 'Walking Monk' with John from Wisconsin and the ex-mayor of Atikokan at the Atikokan Hotel
Stepahanie, owner of the Atikokan Hotel, (and her dog Sidney) making perogies