Two mute swans living their life on the lake.

White Feather: A Gift from the Lake by Kahlil R.

White Feather: A Gift from the Lake

By Kahlil R.

On a frosty winter day, I went out for a walk to escape depression. I found myself standing at the edge of the crystal-clear waters of Lake Ontar:io, its surface reflecting the cloudy sky above. As the clouds shifted, the sun emerged, casting its beautiful sunset shades across the scene.

I walked toward the lake as the flowing water seemed to whisper, calling my name in a voice filled with pain, pulling my heartstrings to delve into forgotten memories. It reminded me of the day I arrived in Tkarón:to in April 2019 and met the lake for the first time. I recalled our initial conversation about my dream of having a small place to call home by its waters.

After that day, the lake became a dear friend. It was my confidant, whom I turned to when feeling down or depressed. It listened without judgment, allowing me to release my burdens. Always reliable, it never complained or failed me, offering comfort even in the darkest of times, like today.

That day, things took an unexpected turn. I wasn’t hallucinating! I heard a faint, deep echo calling my name. With trembling steps, I approached the water’s edge to investigate. What I saw was beyond belief. The lake’s waters parted like huge angel wings, each side adorned with a different light. I stood in fright, rooted to the spot.

Two mute swans living their life on the lake.

Suddenly, as if in a dream, my soul seemed to leave my body, walking along the waterline that divided the lake. I was drawn toward a spot where two swans stood before a bright light. Though I couldn’t see clearly, I heard the voice greet me, reassuring me that it was a friend. Despite my urge to flee, I found myself unable to move, enveloped in a sense of calmness and familiarity.

Everything turned black, and my body surrendered to a peaceful warmth. I briefly lost consciousness before awakening to an incredible scene. It looked familiar, but I couldn’t recall it. I was in front of another clear crystal lake, surrounded by a beautiful green forest. With a confused mind, I walked along the lakeshore to the west until I reached a riverside where I found an abandoned canoe. I searched for the owner, but nobody was there, so I sat on the shore and threw some rocks into the water. Suddenly, a strange scream came from behind. A man wearing traditional indigenous clothing approached me with anger. I was scared, with nowhere to go or hide, but fortunately, he passed me and went to the water to wash his hands and face, seemingly asking for forgiveness. I couldn’t understand what had happened. When he returned, he spoke to me, but I couldn’t comprehend his words; it was a different language that I had never heard before. I tried to explain myself, but I couldn’t speak either, as if I had lost my voice. He came closer, put his hand on my shoulder, smiled, and walked away toward the canoe. He looked back and waved his hand as if inviting me to follow him.

Scared but curious, I followed him and took the canoe with me to the other bank. As we disembarked, I saw another man who looked the same, waving to us. As we approached a tranquil settlement, smiles greeted us warmly.

The man led me toward the largest home and invited me inside. It took me a moment to adjust to the dim light and see an old lady sitting in the middle. She approached me and asked me to lie down. I obeyed, my mind racing. She brought a mother-of-pearl shell and lit a small fire in it, adding some weed and smoking the house. As I smelled the burnt sage, I closed my eyes. When I woke up, I felt cold water touching my skin as the old lady wiped my body with a wet cloth and chanted an unknown song. When she reached my “third-eye” spot, I heard the echoed voice again, speaking to me.

The echoed voice, gentle yet resolute, spoke of water as our blessing and implored us to respect, protect, and love it. Scenes flashed in my mind of manufacturing pollution, the construction of more condos at the expense of parks and green spaces, the diminishing presence of animals and trees, and the depletion of fish populations to make way for fancy marinas and boats. It cried out against the destruction of life in its waters. As the old lady continued her ritual, I felt a deep connection with the spirit of the lake’s pain. With each touch of the wet cloth, I felt a sense of responsibility wash over me.

The old lady’s chant reached its crescendo, and I felt a surge of energy coursing through me. Opening my eyes, I saw my friend Fernando looking at me, scared and worried, asking if I was okay. He said, “It seems that your blood sugar went down in this cold weather; you lost consciousness.” He held my hand to help me stand up and go home. As I approached, a white feather fell from the sky and landed on the top of my winter hat. I grabbed the feather and gazed out across the lake, knowing that this was only the beginning of my journey—a journey fueled by love, compassion, and a deep reverence for the natural world.

Kahlil R. OCIC Associate Member

“As I reflect on my journey through life, I find myself growing up surrounded by mountains, which fueled my fascination with the vital energy of streams and rivers rushing down the hills toward the sea, bringing life to the forests and fields. But as I've grown older, my love for lakes has taken over my heart. Lakes offer peace, calm, and healing. I also see lakes as the heart of the land, with rivers serving as its arteries, spreading life and harmony to nature. Lakes are more than just bodies of water; they are a basin of life's wisdom. Lakes are not only filled with waters from rivers and springs; they're also filled with stories of people's lives, culture, art, religion, and more. Bathing in their waters washes away sickness and pain, healing both body and spirit. After moving to Turtle Island, I found Lake Ontar:io to be my confidant whenever I needed to escape life's chaos, find a moment of peace to recharge my soul, and connect with the universe. I also held onto the hope that one day I would be able to fulfill my dream of having a small home next to its water."

Stories of Water and Change

In honor of World Water Day 2024, this online feature is dedicated to celebrating the profound connection between individuals and water, while shedding light on pressing global water issues. This diverse collection of personal narratives and photographs serves as a testament to the multifaceted relationships we share with this vital resource. As we immerse ourselves in these accounts, we are not only inspired by the depth of individual experiences but also reminded of the urgent need for collective action to safeguard our planet’s most precious resource.