In 1997, I was going through some tough personal times and needed to get away. I decided to go on a week-long solo canoe trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). It seemed right to spend some time alone; to rely on myself and do some reflecting both on where I had been and where I was going in life. Being on my own both physically and emotionally would give me that time. In Australia, this is a "walkabout". Sam Keene (a philosopher) calls it a "ménage a moi".
Being alone for the week was very difficult, but turned out to be an enormously valuable learning experience for me. On the last day of the trip, I was on Horse Lake while a storm was coming in. A solo canoe is no place to be when significant weather is approaching; I was in real danger of swamping or tipping the canoe. The BWCA has designated campsites for campers, and there were 14 campsites on Horse Lake. I paddled to one site after another, only to find each one filled. The storm continued to roll in, and I was becoming nervous. I tied all of my gear to the canoe and quickened my pace to the north end of the lake and the last possible campsite. Some would say "there is no such thing as luck", but I felt lucky when I found the last campsite empty, and I could make camp before the worst of the storm hit.
The seemingly unlucky happenstance that brought me to the most remote campsite actually turned into something very special. The next afternoon was bright and clear. The air had that crystal clear quality that comes after a heavy rain. As I stood and surveyed the beauty of the lake, a dragonfly approached. It was followed by another, and another. Within a few minutes, I was standing among thousands of dragonflies! They flew all around my campsite, weaving their waist-high paths in an intricate dance around me, as I stood perfectly still, in awe. Then, slowly, the dragonflies cleared to a few, then to one, and then they were gone.
In my mind, this experience was a spiritual culmination of my week. Although I wasn't seeking it ahead of time, I believe it was a personal vision quest. The things I gained from that week are still with me, and always will be.
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