Saturday, May 16, 2015
Yesterday was a special day for Michael because of his meeting with Chief Sayers who had not forgotten about him. Today his journey continues:
"I slept very well but it was a short night. I was listening to music on YouTube last night and before I knew it, it was 1 o'clock in the morning. After I get dressed I went to have breakfast at a restaurant beside the motel . It was a good breakfast in an Italian restaurant of all places.
The weather is gray and different than what was forecast. You never know in Canada, but I don't expect that it is going to be sunny today. I bike to the address that I looked up last night to get extra business cards printed. It is in the old center of Sault Ste. Marie. When I get to the destination I am in a rundown neighbourhood and can't find anything that looks like a printing business. Very strange! I am so close to the bridge to the United States that I can see the customs port. It’s cool to know that I'm so close to the USA.
I follow my instincts to find a place where someone can help me. After a few minutes I see some kind of print store and I go inside. The young man there can't help me himself but he makes a phone call to see who can. That appears to be Staples, which is a little further on top of the hill. Just as I want to leave a man enters and the owner tells him that I am cycling across Canada. I try to downplay that a little bit, because I did not bike everything so far. But that makes no difference to them and we have a nice conversation. Suddenly and other man comes inside. He looks very interesting. “Hey, are you the guy who belongs to the bike outside?” he asks.
The man looks older, he is wearing tight purple pants and talks very fast. We have a very special conversation. This man who is 72 years old has struggled with schizophrenia. He has been to many places all over the world. He is very direct with his words. Nevertheless there is something special about him since he seems extremely intelligent. As he says himself that genius and crazy are almost the same. He tells us parts of his interesting and exciting life story with such humour that the owner (who knows him well) and I feel like we're listening to a comedy routine. I literally laugh for almost an hour but at the same time also understand the more traumatic experiences of his life. His first love was a Dutch woman; he has been in prison in Mexico; his family deserted him. Once I was rich, he says, but now I am rich on the inside. And he is right: such wisdom. He is very direct toward me and tells me that I just have to let things happen in my life. Trying to control your life is not about things or circumstances you try to hold on to, it’s about being open from your heart. “But it looks like you were already doing thta,” he says. Before I leave we take some photographs and laugh about the last few jokes.
As I want to get on my bike he comes outside and says: “It doesn't happen very often that I meet people who are not afraid to accept me for who I am. I want to thank you that you were here for me. You are a very special person.” I feel a bit uneasy hearing these words. “My pleasure”, I say. We shake hands and I continue on. The weather is really good in the meantime and the sun is shining.
Thinking about all that was said and what we laughed about, I follow the directions to Staples for my business cards. This appears to be quite close to the motel where I stayed with Melvin in 2012. I order the cards which will be ready on Sunday at 4 o'clock. I decided to have some lunch at A&W, a favorite restaurant of my brother’s (and he knows why). When I walk inside I have to chuckle when I think back to 2012.
After a quick lunch I go back to my motel to Skype with Ellen. This morning I talked to my sons and my cousin Wilko. It's really nice to see Ellen again because I miss them. Meeting so many people every day, I am able to avoid thoughts of home but they do remain a part of my journey.
I decide to go to Whitefish Island to see how much the Chief and the First Nations have accomplished of the things we talked about in 2012. My first impressions of the island are very good. Much work has been done and it looks a lot better. The old fire pit and the huts have returned to the island. I get goosebumps when I see it because it is exactly what the Chief and had talked about earlier; pretty amazing!
As I walk to the south end of the island to spend some peaceful time, I meet Ron and Darrell who are First Nations, and engage in a conversation with them. After a while the older man says: “You belong here don't you?” Surprised I look at him and say: “Yes, my heart is in this area.” He says he can see that. He pauses for a minute and then says: “Whenever you meet a native friend, the friendship is for life.” It is a beautiful conversation and we talk about many different things. The stone in my necklace (which I've been wearing for years) is a very special stone for the Ojibwe, he tells me. We talk about the sacred number four of the four directions of the Medicine Wheel and the four seasons. “And foreskin”, Ron jokes. I am puzzled for a second: four skins? Then I realize what he means and we have a laugh. I talk with both men for about half an hour. When we say goodbye, Darrell asks for my name. “Michael,” I say. “Michael? My brother's name is Michael my uncle's name is Michael and my father's name is Michael. He died just three years ago. I miss him a lot,” he responds. There is a moment of silence. “This (our meeting) was destined to be,” he says. “When you get to Vancouver, go and see my brother Michael who lives there and if you tell him that you met me here he will show you and your family some beautiful natural areas. It's good that you spoke to Chief Dean, give him our regards when you see him again.” After we say goodbye, I find myself a rock to sit on to enjoy the peaceful view of the water.
After I've been there for about an hour and a half, I feel it is time to go. I continue my way across the island to the hut where I put my bike. I happen to see some young guys going inside the hut. I startle them and they apologize when I enter. I don't think they were doing anything wrong but their reaction is little strange. They seemed scared of me. Maybe I should have a good look in the mirror tonight...
I leave the island and end up having a conversation with a 50-year-old man who is out on his inline skates. We chat for a bit and he invites me to have something to eat with him by the river. We get some food at Wendy's and enjoy our meal in the sunshine. It is another special meeting. This man has been living in Europe for a long time notably in Greece and is back in The Soo (as they call Sault Ste. Marie here) because of his parents.
We have a really nice chat and we seem to click, and so after we eat we go to his house to watch my GoPro videos of his in-line skating. He lives in a decent apartment and we try to watch the video on his computer but we can’t get it to work and I can't explain why...
In the meantime it has gotten dark outside and I need to get back to my motel. Because he is worried that he may have damaged my film and also because he would like to watch it, he comes back with me. At the motel we have more success. He is touched by the pictures I took in Bruce Mines where he spends his childhood but hasn't been back for 35 years. He wants to know everything about my tour, the website and the media reports. We're enjoying ourselves and he leaves at around midnight.
“If you would like to drop by tomorrow that is fine, if it suits you,” he says. “I'll give you my phone number and my email address. If there's something I can help you with just let me know.” Tired after a busy day I go to bed and forget to write my blog..."
Han Schomakers, editor
Translation by Sytske van der Veen