In Sha Allah
As an aside, its definitely an interesting and profound saying and totally applicable as a title. A universal truth that no matter your intentions things may or may not work out. In this case they worked out even better than imagined and I believe we were placed in each others paths. Even my arthritic re-built elbow didn’t act up at all. Last year I barely made it out after spending my summer making my van into a camper and it wasn’t looking good for this year due to finances. The price of groceries barely let me save and gasoline under Trudeau… A few hundred dollars and some hopes and prayers and I was off. Almost broke and contemplating turning around my mother sent me a hundred and fifty dollars. Enough for a tank of gas and some groceries, and away I went. If not for that lifeline, the rest of my trip would never have happened. I drove to Thessalon and yanked a right turn up the 129 heading for the Aubinadong River camp site when I came to Cummings Lake. I wrote about it and gave it a place on my map if you’re curious. I’d sit and often talk to most of the boaters who launch from here. So anyways, when these two gentlemen pull up with a canoe and some fishing rods I have a brief chat with them too. We exchange pleasantries and that shallow babbling strangers do, and off they went. They’re out there a while I guess and as they paddle in one says to the other ‘What’s he doing, just sitting by the water?’ The water is still enough the voice carries over to me. As they pull in, I say, “yes that’s exactly what I’m doing, being in a place like this makes you feel closer to God, god or your creator, no matter how you believe” to paraphrase myself. We get to shooting the breeze, and it comes out that I have experience in construction and the gentleman, Mohammad, needs a deck built. We go look over his property and I tell him I will do my best for him if he hires me. He does. Man, I used to think working for Italians was the best when it came to feeding their workers… until I met them. Mohammad is a hunter and so he goes off and buys a rabbit and a rooster which he proceeds to slaughter and cook himself for our lunches. If you didn’t know making your food Halal involves killing your food with enough compassion so as to cause the least suffering. Honestly, I do wish I’d watched him skin them for knowledge sake, but I was busy building. Anyway, the food was delicious. My dog Kenobi even stole a piece of my rooster, and he’s usually a way better dog than that. It was good enough he risked my wrath. The deck is going up and like any job there are times when you need a second set of hands. This is the introduction for the second gentleman from that canoe, Jalil. We get to talking, and anyone who knows me knows I have no filters so we have these deep discussions because as it turns out he’s an Imam. Apparently, so I’m informed that’s a westernized term, who knew? He’s up as a guest of Mohammad, trying to get some calming head space for personal issues. I’d have to say he made a great choice of spots to escape to. We talked a ton about everything you shouldn’t with strangers about, but I loved discussing religion with someone who knew what he was talking about. Even more than that how open he was, humored I guess by my curiosity and bluntness. He expressed that he was used to people showing more deference. It was probably meant as a hint to dial it back, but I took it as he found it refreshing. I can be an optimist. The conversations were deep, and after all, we do talk to the same God. Don’t get it wrong, we talked about other things too. Apparently, he trains at the gym and does stunt motorcycling as asides from educating peons like me. Not really what you’d expect from a ‘priest’ but he was quite the interesting character and I enjoyed the companionship and conversation. He told me about Jesus in the Koran, and I recommended he try magic mushrooms and Star Trek. We discussed music and dance and when they’re considered haram. Drugs and gun laws came up… boundless conversation so rare these days. We didn’t have to agree on everything to get along, and that in itself is truly refreshing. One of my lines in life, when discussing why bad things happen, is ‘sometimes God puts his foot in your ass to make you change your path.’ I have a chuckle remembering him saying ‘I can’t believe you used God and ass in the same sentence.’ I’m laughing now as I write this. The deck turned out pretty good and as I’m leaving I go to shake his hand. In spite of the sweat and filth all over me, he pulls me in for a hug and tells me we’re friends. I had to agree, we were. How could we not be after that commiserating and laughing? I now had enough money to continue on my journey, and they were on the way back to Toronto.
I get up in the morning to a text message from Mohammad. He’s coming up again in four days with family and friends. Can I come and rip out the bathroom shower floor and cut as much grass as I can for the day? It’s also Eid, and he’s inviting me to the place for dinner as well. I only know what I know, but I do love to learn, so I look it up. Apparently it’s a big deal to Muslims and feeling flattered is the only word I have for it. I show up in the morning, and he’s already gone off to make his sacrifice and butcher the cow. His male friend is also there. Unfortunately, for him, he’s in bed feeling a little off. So for now it’s me, the women and the kids. Let’s start by saying while I am aware of cultural differences in how the sexes interact, I could never specify what they were. I tried to be respectful, though, and I like to think his wife and the others found my fumbling around endearing as opposed to offensive. I could only ever guess how I came across. The kids were cute and a handful. Not bad, just busy and talkative. Very respectful and curious but the cutest was when a little one gives me a scolding saying I was mean to my dog. Apparently for 'leaving him tied up while I worked.' I said I was sorry she thought that but he was my best friend and I would never be mean on purpose. They had a huge trampoline and some electric bug zappers going on and I got to be entertained while working. His poor friend eventually had to summon the energy to get up to help me move the generator, and yet again I meet another seemingly nice man. An aura of calm, with a sincere smile would be my best description of him. I finish the day, head back to Cummings Lake. A quick refreshing swim, soap to remove the funk and a change of clothes. A quick turn round, and I drive back over to the house. Mohammad has returned, and we sit out on the back deck looking at the sky and talking the casual bullshit that people do. I forget the context but somehow the Hijab comes up and he quotes his wife, ‘I cover my head, not my brain.’ ‘She scares me,’ he says, and I bust a gut laughing. He fires up the barbecue and cooks me some of the beef he’s just killed that day. Nothing fancy, just meat wrapped in a pita… And again it’s delicious like the rabbit and the rooster before. It’s time for him to be with his family, and I’m completely exhausted from the hard work, so we embrace as brothers and call it a night. I slept like a baby that night and headed out to Thessalon to get cleaned up the next morning. Another great and positive experience. I truly believe we were put in each others paths with a purpose…I got what I needed to go on, and he got the work without a contractor marking up the costs.
I guess by now it’s been a couple of weeks and again I find myself running out of money. Gasoline and supplies have eaten it away, and I have enough money to get home and still have a load of groceries in my van. I’m debating parking outside a home depot with a sign that says ‘skilled labour, no tools’ because I’m still not ready to return to the city. But then I figure I’ll message Mohammad first. He had mentioned an expansive vision and the need for a lot of work to be done on the property and I’d thoroughly enjoyed meeting all of them prior. Obviously. I am writing about it. A few days later I’m building a smaller deck on the front of the same building and repurposing an old disassembled shed into a firewood shed. I show up in the area the night before and camp out at tunnel lake. It winds up being a rough start to a workday and if you want, go to my tunnel lake page for a recounting of the story, but it ends up with Mohammad’s pimped out black CAA card. This time it’s just Mohammad and me. Interestingly I find out he’s a rocket scientist. Okay, that’s artistic liberty and an exaggeration. Previously I thought he was in construction since he raised issues like shearing weight for screws and stuff. But it turns out he’s actually an aircraft engineer. Pretty cool shit. As with Jalil, I discuss religion with him. He teaches me the steps in a prayer and some of the gestures, supplications and their meaning. Other interesting facts like a prayer before entering a bathroom, angels and dogs, and Djinn. We also discuss pilgrimages since he’s leaving for one as soon as he gets back to Toronto. He’s also working on memorizing the entire Koran. I’ve read the bible front to back so many times and am nowhere near having it memorized so I recognize the ambition to strive and the immensity of it. I love to learn, and the two of them were just a plethora of information about something I only had peripheral knowledge of. Because of my late start the first day, I still have a few hours work to do on the firewood shed when he has to leave. He tells me how to lock up and says he hates to see food go to waste and to help myself since he won’t be back for weeks and it’ll go bad. It’s just the dog and me now as he returns to Toronto and the start of his journey. We say good bye. I finish up the work a few hours later and start packing up to leave. As I am tidying up on my way out, I start packing the perishables to go too. A pretty fair collection of food and a replenished pocket full, I head of on the final leg of my 2023 summer camping. I also have some great memories of two men who were strangers to me that first day and a new abundance of thoughts to pore over in my mind.
Scene fades to black as the credits roll.