Sadly, my journey through Ontario has come to an end.
It began humbly enough–by crossing a bridge in a cab from Detroit into Windsor. More than a month (and several thousand miles) later, I stepped off a train in Moosonee, then jumped into a small skiff and headed up for the few extra miles north that it took to reach the wide open waters of Ontario’s ocean.
Perhaps for many, going that extra distance to merely rock away on the open waves in the middle of the sea offers no great attraction. Yet for those of us out there who simply love places because they are places, then bringing oneself to certain spots on the map comes with a fulfilling sense of personal knowledge, achievement and exploration.
James Bay marked the end of the road for me–but it also marked a new zenith. The immensity of Ontario is quite incomprehensible, but James Bay framed it all for my traveling mind. Sitting in a little boat surrounded by an ocean that very few know offered me a sense of the size of this province. To get to this empty blue spot had required a parade of planes, trains, long drives and boats, so that now I at least have a vague appreciation for the true length of Ontario from bottom to top (and there’s actually a whole lot more “top” to go).
I had begun my journey just a short drive away from the town I grew up in–recreating my first foreign trip as a child, a mere drive into Windsor–the kind of Canadian trip that so many thousands of Americans take and the kind of Ontario we all take for granted.
I ended my journey in one of the province’s farthest reaches, surrounded only by waves and the eternity of melted ice. That Ontario spans all of this–the former familiarity of Windsor and the latter unknown of James Bay–well, this is precisely what I have grown to love about Ontario.
In the Iroquois language, Ontario means “beautiful water.” I need no extra convincing after this past month of swimming in lake after beautiful lake, and crossing the hundreds of clear rivers that I have encountered along my voyage.
Ontario is a land of clean, fresh water. I have drunk straight from Lake Superior as well as a half-dozen other lakes–all of the water tasting so pure and so cool. I have traveled by water, canoed the routes of the great voyageurs and followed sections of dozens and dozens of historic rivers: the Ottawa, the Michipicoten, the Mattagami, the Missinaibi, the Grand, the Kaministiquia, the Nipigon, the Montreal, the Niagara and the (other) Mississippi. I could go on, for the rivers and lakes of Ontario are endless.
Yet the ocean is singular, for it is the culmination of all water that flows in the world. I have traveled for a month in a province named for its abundant and beautiful water, and I have finished my travels in the place where all that water flows–the sea. In Ontario, some water flows into the Atlantic and some into the Arctic, but for me on one of my last days in Ontario, James Bay represented the fullness of all that beautiful water I had experienced.
By the Iroquois definition, there was “Ontario” everywhere, and on James Bay, I was in the middle of it.
I was in the middle of everywhere . . . and that is Ontario.