Mary Clare

On a spring day in 2005, Gary Ferguson and his wife were doing what they loved. The nature writers and educators were in the wilds of Northern Ontario, canoeing on the Kopka River:

The trip on the Kopka was supposed to be a float in the park. Two hours paddling through easy Class II rapids and across two lakes, broken by one long portage around an unrunnable stretch of whitewater. We were playful, picking hard routes. The sun blinked in and out of clouds heavy with rain, casting long shafts of spring light.

It was three weeks before our twenty-fifth anniversary. On the flat water of Kopka Lake, with paddles rising and falling, we told each other how good it had been.

“Another twenty-five?” I called out from the stern of the boat.

Jane twisted her head to the side so I could hear her better. “Why not!”

They didn’t get another twenty-five. Within hours, the accomplished canoeists capsized in a tricky stretch of rapids and Jane drowned.

In the months that followed, Gary Ferguson carried through on a decade-old promise to his wife: if anything happened her, she’d once said, she wanted her ashes strewn in her five favorite places. So that’s what he did. And in doing so, he found a path through his grief and forged a new relationship with nature itself.

Ferguson tells this story in his new memoir The Carry Home.