We took two canoes. My uncle and me in one
and my cousins in the other. My uncle sat in front.
We brought along buckets to fill with water.
Some of them were ice-cream pails and some weren’t.
Every time he lifted his oar from the surface
I would watch the water drip off of it.
When the canoe finally reached the other side of Turtle Bay,
the grey rock face that reached halfway up to the trees,
he tied the yellow rope from the hook at the bow,
to an arbutus tree beside the granite.
We followed a path through the trees taking
a bucket each with us,
chatting under the green canopy,
swinging the buckets with our wrists,
wondering how much farther it would be until
we heard running water.
When we walked back to the canoe afterwards
the pail I carried was heavy.
I struggled to lift it as I stepped into the boat
trying to steady myself and pass the handle to my uncle.
I lost my grip and the rim
of the bucket nudged the rock face
and a gathering of dried pine needles
spilled onto the surface.
My uncle let out a breath and I held mine.
He took the handle from my hand,
poured out the contents into the lake
and I stepped out of his way
for him to start back to the stream.
While I waited out the silence,
my cousin reached down into the warm
shallows and picked up a turtle that lay in the sunny water,
and turned him over belly side up so I could see
the natural design on his stomach
like a tattoo from some ancient god,
put there when nobody else was looking.