Who is this Ancient Islander?

Toasting Daphne, July 2015

Apparently I was conceived in the summer of 1935 in an old wood-framed cottage just up the channel from Honey Harbour. It was called Wasa-Waba, and it had been rented by my widowed grandmother who would invite her daughters to share time with her there at Georgian Bay. My mother, the eldest, and my father were visiting with their first child June, aged two, when it was my turn.

The place of my conception I’m sure has much to do with my life-long devotion to Georgian Bay. My parents were young, in love, and had already explored the innermost parts of the Bay by canoe, eventually becoming eager for a place of their own there. That chance came that very summer when Granny bought the beautiful, unoccupied Sing island (named for surveyor Cyrus R. Sing of Meaford who chose the island as payment for his work in the area), further up the channel from Wasa-Waba, and she and two of her daughters’ families built cottages there. From then on, my parents spent every available moment at their place, at all seasons, in any weather, with and without their children. And they reveled in it.

Throughout my adult life I never wanted to be anywhere else but at Georgian Bay. I too spent time there whenever I could. As a youth all my summer jobs were at the Bay. By the time I was working full time in Toronto and elsewhere my secret goal was to live there, or at least close enough to reach it with minimal fuss. It took 28 years but in 1964 I at last made it to Midland.

So I was living on the shores of the Bay, only an hour or so by boat from the family island. I was still young, fit and active, albeit quite poor and doing demanding work. Eventually I met my wife there and after a couple of years our son was born at St. Andrews Hospital. Life was good.

Times and circumstances change, of course, and much has happened since those Wasa-Waba days. The family island which Granny had named Wahnuhke (a place of peace) is now owned by different families. Granny, her daughters, and even some of her grandchildren have gone, and some sadly never see Georgian Bay any more because getting there is a challenge for the elderly. It has been decades since I last puttered up the channel in a small boat and looked fondly at Wasa-Waba, grateful that we both were still standing. I hope it continues to do so.

The Ancient Islander (Ritchie With)

A swimming lesson from Kenneth With at Wahnuhkelong before I became “ancient”.
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