Monday, July 12, 2004

Pine Needles, Campfire & Clean Air

Eric and I visited his parents at their “chalet” this past weekend. We don’t get away too often with him always being on call for work so we took advantage of this weekend of freedom and headed for the hills. Literally.

The chalet is tucked away next to a small town in the Laurentians. What a beautiful area that is. Quaint towns nestled between ski resorts. Too many scenic vistas to see.

Of course once we got to the chalet the black flies were so thick that I couldn’t step outside. I walked the 20 yards from the house to the small river in the back and already I had 4 black fly bites on my neck and hairline. What is it about me that they love so much? Of course I had forgotten bug spray and my bug bite cream.

So, I spent much of my time in the house or in the car. But in the brief times that I managed to sneak outside the smells and a few sites transported me far back in time. Every once in a while I caught a brief whiff of what I call “cottage” smell. It’s a fragrance that’s hard to describe. A mix of pine needles, campfire and clean air is the best I can do.

When I caught the “cottage” smell I was instantly back at the cottage where I had spent many happy summers in my childhood. It was a dilapidated old shack on a sliver of land that was pure heaven for this little girl. Heaven is in that smell.

I go back every once in a while to visit the sacred site of such happiness. It’s not the same though. Why can’t we ever revisit the carefree spirit of our childhood? Did I know then how perfect and idyllic it was? No. We never do. And anyway, it was never as perfect as we remember it. It’s easy to forget the inconvenience of having no running water. Boiling the creek water and having to use an outhouse is only a distant memory now. The small house is no longer really habitable. It’s usable for daytime activities but you never know what’s going to crawl into bed with you if you spend the night. (yikes!) My friend and I took a tent and spent a night there a few years ago. I was more than happy to get back to the wonderful farmhouse that we now vacation in.

But back then? There was nothing better in the world than being able to spend a whole month at the cottage feeling the sunlight on my bare arms and smelling that cottage smell. Endless entertainment was found in the old trailer. It was just like playing house. There was neat old set of dishes and a proper table. Neat little nooks and crannies enough to fill my imagination with endless possibilities. I could spend mornings in the trailer and afternoons playing in the water. The creek that runs by the old place is a fairly quick moving body of water that gives way to a couple wonderful little waterfalls. There are crayfish and bull frogs and toads and clams galore. It was all fair game but we tended to stay away from the hole in the rocks where we believed a beaver or an otter or perhaps some other wonderful creature lived. I always believed that my cousin and I would find a sunken treasure wedged under some river rocks if we looked long and hard enough for it.

There were daytrips to the city and to provincial parks. There were afternoons spent at the beach. Shopping excursions to the village were always a family affair and there were usually treats to be had. Rainy afternoons when at first I’d look longingly outside but then soon get lost in whatever Nancy Drew mystery I was currently reading.

Perhaps the most magical times spent at the cottage were in the evening, particularly when there were extended family or close friends visiting. After dinner some nights we’d sit on the screened-in porch for hours. We were safe from the bugs and surrounded by warm lamp light. It must have looked like an inviting beacon to the cars driving by. We never thought about how we looked to the travellers, we just enjoyed watching the endless headlights zooming by and listening to the thundering sound of the waterfalls and smelling that cottage smell. You could curl up on an old couch with a good book or play “Old Maid” at the table or just shoot the breeze with the rest of the crew. Being just little then I didn’t “shoot the breeze” much but I would be quiet and listen and hope not to be sent to bed. It was thrilling to stay up late with my book and listen to the adults talk or play cards or if I was really lucky there might be guitars and singing. I can still hear the refrains from some of those songs. Some nights Grandpa would build a fire in the “smudge pot” outside and we’d warm ourselves and roast marshmallows. I could (and still can) watch a campfire for hours. When I finally did get sent to bed, I was lulled to sleep by rushing water and waterfalls and only dreamed good dreams.

And then the next day we’d do it all again.

The Buzz:

At 11:56 a.m., Blogger Cuppa declared...

MMMMM. I can almost smell the "cottage" too. What a wonderful, memory filled blog. I loved walking down memory lane with you as I read it.


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