It all began in the summer of 1976. I was twenty-two years old. That was the year I got a summer job in James Bay.
James Bay is one of the largest hydroelectric projects in the world and it was then in its first phase of development. Located in a very remote area in northern Quebec, 400 kilometers (250 miles) from what I considered civilization, this environment was quite a brutal change for this young guy born and raised in the city of Montreal and used to the hustle and bustle of city life.
I was affected to the Eastman Camp which was a construction camp. This is where construction workers affected to a nearby site lived. We all stayed in trailers. We had common washrooms and a laundromat, no television, no radio, except for an occasional short-wave broadcast. The main building had a kitchen, a cafeteria and recreation rooms for movies, baby foot and ping pong tables, plus a general store that sold everything from boots to gloves, to magazines, cigarettes, chips… even binoculars.
I was responsible for the general store.
Up at 5:00 am to open up, I was busy until about 7:30 am. By then, the construction workers had dropped in to buy their stuff and were on their way to work. And that left me almost by myself with all this time on my hand. I would usually go for a run and then lie down in the sun for a while.
I spent a lot of time reading. I was a McGill University undergraduate student majoring in English literature and planning to get my teaching diploma. I had brought with me the complete works of William Shakespeare which I would read every day, especially his Love Sonnets. So much for light reading, you may say!
At that time, I was reflecting a lot about my life. I was wondering who I was, whether I was on the right course or not. At some point, I got quite confused as I started to realize that I was caught in this cycle of behaviour that was not necessarily dictated by what I wanted but was unconsciously dictated by everything and by what everyone around me expected.
This is where William Shakespeare comes in. In reading his works and beautiful Love Sonnets, I discovered what a courageous person he was, what a creative, imaginative visionary writer he was. Why? Let’s remember that his writings came to life in the seventeenth century. I’m quite certain that the way he talks about love and describes the love scenes in his Love Sonnets must have been considered quite unorthodox at the time and probably shocked or scandalized some people.
Thank God for his courage and vision, because he helped a twentieth century young adult become more conscious of his feelings and behaviour. What I came to realize in this remote area of the country would shape the rest of my life.
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