You can love different lakes in your lifetime. The first lake I fell in love with as a girl was Ramsey. In Ojibway, in its first language and truest origin, its name is Bitimagamasing, which means “water that lies on the side of a hill.” My hometown of Sudbury historically arranged and nestled itself around its shores, so almost everyone I know now learned how to swim in its rough, navy blue waters when they were little. Northern Ontario kids are usually keen lake swimmers and, thankfully, that gift tends to stick with you as you age into adulthood. You sometimes take drives in your car, your swimsuit under your clothes, ready to park at the edge of a lake and have a quick swim during July’s hottest days. You are always prepared to go to the water if you’re a Sudburian, and Sudbury is a city of lakes. Ramsey is its jewel.
I can look to old family albums and see photos of my maternal grandparents courting, sitting on outcrops of rock, overlooking the lake on Sunday picnics. Other images show relatives from the 1930s, fishing rods in hand, perched on the shore, hoping to catch something for supper. They’re all captured in sepia tones now, these ancestors of mine, and sometimes I wish I could figure out where exactly they were sitting as I walk along the boardwalk, try to go and find the rock ledge where they might have shared lunch back in 1934.
Ramsey speaks to me as a poet. I have always walked there in the mornings. I love the way the light comes up, and how the ‘face’ of the lake shifts with the seasons, weather, or time of day. Its sunrises are nothing short of divine, really. Early morning walkers will know this best, will want to keep it a secret. The beauty of early mornings cannot be captured at any other time of day. You want to keep your first love to yourself, sometimes, to let it sit in your heart and memory for as long as you live. You share it carefully, hold it close to protect it. You only walk on its shores with people who you know will love it as much as you do. You cherish it, fight for its health, and hope it lives for a long, long time.
Ramsey is the first lake I fell in love with, and it sits at the centre of who I am, but I know that it won’t be the last.