Rainbows, Moose Antlers, a Dead Body and a Dove

Published in February
By Jocelyn LeRoy

Who gets these for Christmas? Who gives these for Christmas? My family. From Armenia a striking Pashmina scarf that looks like a full-blown aurora borealis – the shimmering silky rainbow colours softly blend into each other, truly as spectacular as the Northern Lights. Then I find a huge, heavy box. What could it possibly be? No one in my family would give me lead weights, bricks or a complete encyclopedia. And it isn’t a golden retriever in a crate.

That happened once.

This box is silent. Of course! It’s a mystery gift: my friends know how to drive me crazy guessing. Turns out it’s a moose antler. The heavy rack was carved into a bald eagle by a highly skilled, renowned Cape Breton Highlands carver.

From roadkill moose, he created an eagle which, after I mounted it, looks as if it flew past my tall living room window and perched on a high branch not far from my 12-foot ceiling. Crouching with its eagle eye watching. I’m getting used to it. It’s beginning to feel like it intended to visit. And it’s always watching me.

My baker sister-in-law finds unique cookie cutters for Trillium. This year it’s a graceful dove. We’ll soon have white dove cookies among our iced snowmen, ginger moose and trilliums.

Every Christmas my brother brings me the new Algonquin Park wildlife calendar. This reminds me of how I became acquainted with the biologist/ photographer who illustrates these calendars and many books on the flora and fauna of the Park. One July day, some years ago, after a long paddle on the sapphire lake near my family cabin, I came ashore and set forth along an old lumber road and then into the bush in search of ladyslippers and Indian pipes. I had barely begun my venture into the woods when I came upon two legs of a person face-down on the forest floor. Not moving. Oh God! A murder? Here? My heart raced. I inched toward the legs – welly boots with blue jeans tucked into them.

Through the leafy alder branches I spotted black metal rods poking above where the victim’s head should be. I froze. Then I heard a soft voice, “Come close. Come and look.” Relief flooded through me. It must be a nature photographer peering through expensive-looking lenses. I dropped to my knees, then lay flat on the ground, my heart still pounding. I looked through a second set of lenses into a veritable magic kingdom: opalescent, highly magnified Indian Pipes – columns of amethyst iridescence towering over me. I am Alice in Wonderland.

Finally I backed away from the cameras. The prone body beside me sat up and offered a handshake. “Aren’t they amazing?” he whispered. Then he gathered up his equipment, and we walked back to the dirt road. “I thought you were dead,” I confessed. He laughed and introduced himself as a Park naturalist.

We were amazed to have met so far off the beaten path. We chatted for a long time and then enjoyed a serendipitous paddle across the lake, each in our own canoe. We showed off our new and old paddles. He had a rare mahogany one that should have been in my family’s 125-pound, 60-year old mahoganyply canoe that carried my parents, their woodstove and their lumber to the log cabin they were building long ago.

My new cherry paddle matched the gunwales on his canoe. Our country conversation wound up with a beer on the porch of my cabin. After he left, I noticed his pack full of camera equipment under a chair. It must have been worth tens of thousands of dollars, I thought; surely he would return. And he did. That day became “my July in every Christmas,” thanks to my brother’s present of the calendar every year. It’s even better than “Christmas in July” – that unexpected gift of entering a magical place in the forest, forever alive in my memory.

Jocelyn LeRoy is the owner/manager of Trillium Bakery in Old Ottawa South since 1980.