The Old Canoe Series

The Old Canoe Series is based upon “The Old Canoe”, a poem written by George Marsh (circa 1890)

A series very dear to my heart. It reads to me as a beautiful story. A story that has been put to life through the lives of many young people, including my children, over the years. Camp Wanapitei is a canoe tripping camp in Temagami, Ontario. The camp adopted the song as a camp tradition – their staff sing it on the final night of each session, recognizing and reflecting on their canoe trips with their campers. It truly warms the heart.

My Interpretation of the Song/Poem
The Old Canoe tells the story of a canoe that travels many waters across Canada. I love the symbolic message that it has lived its life, a full one, a beautiful one; and is now tired resting on a shore. This connects with all the young people who have started their journeys across Canada on canoe trips. Life is about living, and it evolves in full circle. As with the young canoe, the young campers start their journeys with such energy and excitement. They see the beauty in our vast Canadian land and waters, they endure, and push themselves to their limits. They tire, but they have their memories. I feel this poem reminds us to accept the natural evolution of our lives and bask in the beauty of the life we have lived. It’s about a beautiful life, and a beautiful death.


The Old Canoe is a poem written by George Marsh (circa 1890)

The Old Canoe

My seams gape wide as I’m tossed aside to rot on the lonely shore,
And the leaves and mould like a shroud enfold, for the last of my days are o’er,
But I float in my dreams on northern streams that never again I’ll see,
As I lie on the marge of the old portage with grief for company.
When the sunset gilds the timbered hills that guard Temagami
And the moonbeams play on far James Bay by the brink of the frozen sea,
In phantom guise my spirit flies as the dream blades dip and swing,
Where waters flow from the long ago in the spell of the beckoning spring

Do the cow-moose call on the Montreal when the first frost bites the air.
And the mists unfold from the red and gold that the autumn ridges wear?
Do the white falls roar as they did of yore on the Lady Evelyn,
And the square-tail leap from the black pool deep where the pictured rocks begin?

Yes, the fur fleet stings on Temiscaming as the ashen paddles bend
And the crews carouse at Rupert’s House at the sullen winters’ end.
But my days are done where the lean wolves run, I’ll ripple no more their path,
Where the grey geese race ‘cross the red moon’s face from the white wind’s Arctic wrath.

Tho’ the death-fraught way from the Saguenay to the storied Nipigon
Once knew me well, now a crumbling shell I watch as the years roll on,
And in memory’s haze I live the days forever gone from me,
As I lie on the marge of the old portage with grief for company.

George Marsh (circa 1890)