Marie-Hélène Beaudry

At daybreak on Thursday morning, a ribbon of light fog created a magical atmosphere in our tent village. Howling at the moon on Wednesday evening has piqued the sun’s curiosity and she is knocking on our radiant doors this morning. We have to crack the frost on our bags in order to pack all our equipment. We break camp today – only eight kilometres separate us from a hot shower!

The day begins with a sporting challenge: climbing the famous secret mountain of Nicolas, owner of the Triton, to admire the lake. On the bluff we share a first moment of silence as a group. It’s lovely … until we get interrupted by Jo on the staff radio. Whoops! More widespread laughter. On every occasion: laughter, smiles, puckered cheeks, visible teeth, throats deployed, guffaws, laughs, laughs; find a dictionary of synonyms and add them. We have a “happy-to-be-happy” group: it’s energizing, it’s true, it’s pure.

(Parenthesis) Later in the evening, Nads made me laugh, again (!), when she shared that she had never laughed so much in her life, in such a short period of time. I pretty much echo her words: “I laughed so much I got myself a ‘six-pack’ of laughter… well you can’t see it yet, because at the moment it’s stacked one on top of the other (thanks to the chefs, wink!), but it’s coming, I tell you!”. Hahaha, of course!

After the summit, we walked for a few hours as though we were living in an impossible 1000-piece winter landscape puzzle; too many snow white pieces, sky blue pieces and forest green pieces. It was way more beautiful than disorganized pieces on a living room table. We have lunch, on the shores of Lake Espérance (ha! the theme of hope keeps coming back…), where several gourmets manage to double or even triple their portion of dessert. We must take advantage of it, the end is approaching too quickly. In addition, it makes the jays who hang around us jealous. “Gna-gna-gnaaaaann” taunts my childish heart!

Two km from the end, we all stop once again: “hey, do you realize that the expedition is almost over?”. Right in the middle of a lake, we take a second moment of silence. Hands open, some of us seem to have transformed into human solar panels as my hood catches the wind like a windmill; during meditation, we recharge ourselves one last time with the living energy of the elements. The snow at the end of the afternoon has turned into coarse salt which seasons our steps and we arrive in a flock at the camp. Nicolas, as a proper Seigneur, wishes us a safe return “home”; it is not an understatement to say that he knows how to be a host! The smiles are big, my palettes are drying in the sun, we clap our hands, we embrace, we hug each other very tightly.

It’s over! We did it, we succeeded. More than 25 km, two nights on the lake, one in a log cabin: what a great trip!

Of course, the celebration quickly gives way to post-expedition tasks; we must separate our personal material from that of the foundation, return borrowed items, WASH! I saw some folks help in the kitchen, it smells like a four-course dinner; Welcome back to the Club! There is even room for creation, my taste buds have fallen in love with Lana’s salad. Well done dear!

The atmosphere is relaxed, intimate, we feel that we know each other well now. In the living room, some show their operation scars like their tattoos. Knowing that quite a few of them have, at some point, had major problems with their body image altered by illness or treatment and reclaiming their new body, I know that these exchanges are important. Moreover, this session of exposing body marks gives birth to the idea of getting a collective tattoo to mark this expedition on their skin. We hesitate between a tent with a small chimney and stars or… a bowl of soup! According to Nikky, we ate about 250 of them; all delicious and comforting.

After finishing the best dessert of my life (many, including me, even licked their platesin public; you know, when a young cancer survivor sitting next to you says, “go girl! You’ve got nothing else to do, so enjoy life”, you no longer mess with conventions and you lick your plate!) … As I said, after having eaten the best dessert of my life AND having licked my plate clean without embarrassment, Catherine , Marie-Michèle and Julien invite us all to the living room for a great final discussion. We are a nice big gang piled up there! I counted 27 people: the 3 facilitators of the foundation, the 3 volunteers of the medical team, the 6 employees of the Triton, the 14 participants and myself.

At the end of the afternoon, we were asked to think of a word to describe our adventure. The time had come to share them, so here they are: Grateful (2 times), Friendship, Family, Wild, Time, Meaningful, Connection, Star, Fulfillment, Laughter, Grounding, Warm, Vulnerability, Revelation, Nature, Generosity, Companionship, Congratulation, Calm, Overwhelming, Cycle, Honesty, Sun ( 3 times…hence the title of this post), Unprocessed.

Not bad, eh?

I’ll let that simmer. After the laughter (yes… again!) and the late-night discussions or a last moment stargazing around the fire, again a great calm settles at camp. I too must say goodbye to you, Morpheus is calling me just now; I’m very happy to have “swiped right” (in reference to a certain popular application).

Good night – see you tomorrow!


Marie-Helene Beaudry

Blogger and photographer for the On the Tip of the Toes Foundation__