I have long thought of my time on rivers as “cathedral moments”. Rivers are sacred places where I find connection to the natural world and particularly the beauty of our country. I was thinking about my life of adventure in these sacred places and some of the symbols of those places, like pictographs and other rock paintings that were/are sacred to the native people.
My culture has no sacred places or paintings, but rather the ubiquitous markings of entry to them like the portage man. Done in a red, ochre-like wood inlay, the portage man is elevated to the level of the sacred rock painting. He is framed within the sides of the paddle blade much like cathedral windows; he is walking through sacred space.
The solo carry then takes on several possible meanings from the obvious one of a journey on one’s own with resultant feelings of self sufficiency and connection to place, to a more symbolic one of having a burden to bear and the necessity of working through it alone and in nature.
Two of these paddles were commissioned by the Ottawa Riverkeeper for their gala fundraiser. They were awarded to the 2015 Honourary Riverkeeper Kevin Vickers, former Sargent at Arms for the House of Commons and to Gord Nixon, former CEO of RBC.