Sea of Centre

They were as tall as I was at about five years old, but they had been here since the dinosaurs. The fractals blocked the sun and revealed a brighter green. The soil was dark, and the stems grew straight from the ground like a miniature forest. The fragrance was earthy and sweet and green. I felt I was under a sea of ferns, quiet and comforting. We had asked for it to part a path, and there it was. We walked through the sea often, daily even, to get to the other side.

An image of a sea of ferns.

We spent our summers on an island where the sea of ferns was. The island was in the middle of Lake Apsey. It was named Island B. The Ministry of Ontario mapped out the second island on a geological survey, maybe in the late 60s. The island was 7.5 acres, and felt like it had different biomes. There was the cottage, a shack really, but we called this Camp, with a wood stove, icebox, and wash basin in the kitchen, a long and wide dining room with an adjacent screened-in porch, and a living area with bay windows and stone fireplace, and then a few bedrooms at the back.

Outside we had a picnic table where we ate most of our meals. Below was a boardwalk from the eating area extending down to the water. The dock was two lengths. My dad might have built it. He raked up most of the stones, water weeds and slimy bits to create a spot for swimming.

There was a boat house directly across the lake where we stored our… boat, a few fishing rods, life jackets, and a few families of barn swallows.

When you crossed the 1.5 km of water to the off-grid island and walked the dock up to the Camp and over Cambrian Shield rock, past a few Majestic Pine trees, past the “garden,” you would come to the Sea of Ferns. 

The ferns were the centre. 

After the ferns, you entered the largest biomes, the forest. But you know where you are once you start seeing the blueberries nestled on the white smooth rocks, a few more meters to the right, and you’ll come to an opening: a cliff at the other edge of the island. My siblings would jump off the cliff to swim. I thought they were brave!

Once, on the island with my brother and father, I got lost. With my father being engrossed in some make-work-project and my brother wanting to get as much attention from him as possible, I had wandered off. I recall I was frightened because I was alone and lost, but I talked myself out of the panic because I knew I was on an island, that it wasn’t large, and that I would eventually recognize where I was and be found or return to Camp.

As I walked around, I came across the edge of the island. It was lovely! The water was shallow, and I could see a sandy bottom and plenty of big clams and crayfish! I thought, why don’t we spend more time here? As an adult, I can say that was the island's Southside, and it would require plenty of landscaping! But it was a lovely spot. 

I recall somehow ending on the opposite side of the shallow, seeing something familiar. I saw an angle of the Camp I’d never encountered. I knew there weren’t other buildings on the island, so when I saw one, I felt comforted, knowing I was close to being found. Once I got there, the Camp was empty. My father and brother were not there. Perhaps, not knowing I was missing. Perhaps, still engrossed in their guy time.

Today, there are stragglers of ferns trying to push up on my unkept lawn. I will cultivate these interlopers and welcome them to grow a new sea in the centre of my backyard.

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