I’m in a voyager canoe on the Manicouagan Reservoir with ten other people that I’m just getting to know. This is our first practice ride on the water. There is absolutely no wind. The water is calm like an Olympic pool at two o’clock in the morning. I begin to imagine this place millions of years ago, or maybe billions, when a giant meteor hit the exact spot on which we are canoeing. A meteorite big enough to create a crater of nearly 60 kilometres in diameter.
Frédéric, one of the guides, told us that before the sixties, geographers did not even know the existence of this crater. The “Astrobleme” as Fred says. When the Manic-5 dam was being built, everyone was surprised to see an almost perfectly round reservoir appear. It is then that they realized that the region has already been the scene of a titanic impact, far in the mists of time.
I feel very small in this immensity. Tiny in this eternity. I think back to my days in the chemo room. My passages in the MRI tunnel. My artificial sleep in the operating room. Then I look at all this with a new perspective, in the shadow of the Manicouagan meteorite.
In the middle of the water, Mario made us take a pose, the two voyager canoes side by side, time to close our eyes and listen, breathe, change pace. Inhale. Exhale.
The splashing waters. A bird flying over us. My breathing is calming down. My body relaxes.
The bare essential.
Just being outdoors.
Mario with his strong confidence in life. He was there 25 years ago for the Foundation’s first expeditions. It reassures me to see him sitting in the same boat as me.
I also feel a strength in awakening in me. I lifted the voyager canoe with the others to put it in the water. Each of my paddle strokes were used to move the boat forward. I organized myself, packed my things: my day bag; my night bag and the bag for the end of the expedition.
And, when I think about it, I also had the strength to go through the side effects of treatments. I had the patience necessary for the waiting rooms. I also have indulgence for professionals sometimes overwhelmed. I went ahead. I persevered.
I may be very small in the immensity, but there is in me a strength that I did not imagine. A strength that will make me cross the reservoir on more than 80 km. A strength that, multiplied by those of others around me, could make me cross Canada in voyager canoes, like those “Travellers” that Catherine presented to us in an NFB short film. These men who crossed the country at the risk of their lives at the beginning of the colonization.
Then, in the circle we formed in the late evening, a circle round like the Manicouagan Reservoir, we shared our goals for the trip. It struck me to hear others share the same anxieties, the same anxieties as mine. Beyond cancer, we have many points in common.
I may be very small in the immensity, but the group is stronger! Move over, black flies: tomorrow we take off for real. We are entering deep into nature.
And I’m going to conquer myself!