The History of the Pebble
by Suzanne Beard and Theresa Skinner
It begins at a waterfall,
giant cliffs, heavy water flowing, rushing over great monoliths.
Looking at them – he sees the work of God’s hands.
And so, his journey starts with a portage.
As water rolls down, over fallen boulders,
breaking them, scattering them, shaping the shoreline,
the mighty river’s force smooths their edges, even as they guide water
This natural give and take reveals what is and isn’t his to control,
and he feels God’s will, guiding him towards right
– that place to put his canoe in the water.
Rolling on a course to open water, paddle dipped to steer,
the current gentles,
and the worn and tumbled stones now fall heavily to blanket the lake bottom.
He spares a glance at the awesome sky, the woods all around,
the sun glittering on the water.
And in this quiet, he hears the sound of God’s voice.
The lapping waves have reached the far bank,
carrying the smallest stones up onto its shore.
Shelter at sunset, a glowing fire, the call of a resting place.
He steps from the canoe and feels the smoothness of the pebbles
beneath his feet
– and knows that God has been with him all along this journey,
– has created this path to lead him home.
Good afternoon everyone, for those who don’t know me, my name is Matthew Kavanagh, and I am George’s son-in-law, and I was given the honour of saying a few words about George and his passion for the outdoors and camping, a sense of which I acquired even before our Algonquin expeditions when I first visited George’s cottage, what was affectionately referred to as the Tree House. The place simultaneously inspired me, as George had built the cottage on an elevated platform surrounded by a sizeable deck that had made allowances for existing trees to grow right through it thus you were literally living in the canopy. And it also terrified me as there were no railings on this deck, nothing to get in the way of you and nature as George once told me. The thing was, that I was known to enjoy a wobbly-pop or two and wobbly was the one thing you could never afford to be there – well George was always sturdy, someone you could lean on for support, a rock. But rocks are difficult things to carry with us on our own personal journeys, and even in time, the mightiest of mountains are reduced to pebbles, and that is okay because a pebble is something we can carry with us, that essence of George which touched us most profoundly. The following is really a glimpse into the contents of my pebble, the insight, experience and wisdom I gleaned from George while in Algonquin with him. However, in your own time, I would ask you to reflect on the contents of your personal pebble as you all journey on.
You can learn a lot about a person, hanging out with them in the middle of nowhere. One thing that I learned about George was that he had a pretty good sense of humour, after all he did agree to initiate two camping klutzes, myself and my friend, Leo, to Algonquin by way of a week long paddling extravaganza. I think he kind of revelled at times watching us flailing around in camp and in the canoe. I also learned that George was a great conversationalist, if at times only with himself. For a guy that at times came across somewhat laconic,he could become quite the little chatter-box. And this was his way of imparting his world view to us, and I can definitely say that he certainly had a deep seeded belief in right and wrong, often made manifest in a right and wrong way of going about things which also came in part from his years of camping experience. That is not to say that it was all my way or the high way, you were free to innovate, and if it worked it would be incorporated – he was very practical that way. I remember George being so enamoured with the Petzle head lamps that Leo and wore at night that I gave him one for his very next birthday. However, if the innovation failed George was there to pick up the pieces, metaphorically, sometimes literally – the canoe was rental so it turned out okay in the end. In George’s world, everyone had a place, a role to fulfill, even if you yourself didn’t know what that was – he did. George also understood that age and wisdom could overcome youth and vigour, for getting separated and potentially lost was a constant worry, and to combat this George always kept the food in his canoe.
Finally, the one thing that really impressed me about George was his rope work or knots. These were the things that secured everything, the ties that bind and George understood this. Not merely the fly to the tent, or the hammock to the tree, but to one and other. This was George’s greatest gift to all of us, friends and family alike, after all he was creating memories that would last a lifetime and beyond. So, now it is your turn to hold tightly your pebbles and make use of those memories. God bless George, you, and your families and thank you for the privilege of being able to do this.