“As a man tramps the woods to the lake he knows he will find pines and lilies, blue herons and golden shiners, shadows on the rocks and the glint of light on the wavelets, just as they were in the summer of 1354, as they will be in 2054 and beyond. He can stand on a rock by the shore and be in a past he could not have known, in a future he will never see. He can be a part of time that was and time yet to come.”
William Chapman White, Adirondack Country
It’s a day of Adirondack rain. Those who have spent any considerable time in the mountains know of which I speak. And as I sit here in my easy chair, contained in the three bedroom cabin purchased by my grandfather back in the days when life was a little simpler, a little slower (although perhaps no one would have realized it then- the early 1980’s), I’m surrounded by windows, all open to the steady beating sound of a quenching summer rain. Lamps are lit, for the sky is dark on a day like today. The baby is napping snugly, lulled to sleep by a warm bottle of goat’s milk, and a steaming mug of coffee sits on the stand beside my chair. These comforts are mine for this moment and I relish them. I write with paper and pencil, something unaccustomed to now in the age of laptops and desktops, screens, wires, wifi. This simplicity woos me- it always has, and the mountains they call to me. The narrow, tall tamaracks whose pointy tips sway above rocky forests of white and red pine, red and sugar maples, beech, and birches. The hidden mystery of undiscovered (by me) mountain lakes, hundreds of unclimbed peaks. The small mountain towns with their humble dwellings set amongst the lakeside mansions of summer dwellers. The wildlife whose abundance is sadly lacking what it had been one or two hundred years ago, is still to be found, even when not looked for. Just yesterday we came across a wild turkey hen leading a gaggle of tiny, fluffy chicks across the road, and also a large grumpy snapping turtle sitting and sunning himself atop a mound of dirt and rock next to a forest swamp.
My grandfather’s cabin was old when he purchased it thirty-five years ago, but remains perfectly adequate as a humble refuge for summer family vacations and mini weekend getaways. The only source of heat now is the woodburning stove that crackles and pops and heats up the place splendidly on cool evening. In winter, the water is turned off and must be collected from a clear mountain spring for use. It is here I learned to ride a bike, taste bushy wild blueberries, leap from my father’s strong shoulders into the crisp, clean Lake Pleasant. It is here I brought my new groom the first September we were married. I was pregnant with our first child. We played Boggle at the small kitchen table, flanked by the salt shaker my grandpa always kept rice in to keep out the moisture. That salt shaker still sits on that table. Joe carved our initials into a birch tree beside the cabin, we snuggled under the yellow comforter in the first bedroom and dreamed and laughed at the days to come. It was here, the summer after both my grandparents died, that vacation just didn’t feel the same. I could still see my grandma washing the dishes in her flowered bathrobe, standing at the sink smiling at me, my grandpa at his place at the head of the dining table tinkering with his tools and gadgets. It was here that Joe and I returned once again in the fall- sixteen years after that first visit with him- that I told him we were going to have an eighth child. He smiled a weary, but loving smile. We took a day hike to Spruce Lake and watched the loons, found moose tracks, and relished the quiet time alone together. Once again we snuggled under that yellow comforter and laughed and dreamed of the future.
The rain is done now. I cannot imagine a day that I will never again return to these mountains. Every time I’m here, it gets a little harder to leave and I wonder. What if someday we’ll return for good. Return and live up in these mountains off an old logging road in a cabin built by the strong hands that I love. Living simpler, slower.
Until then, I’ll look forward to this family cabin, and the memories of past, and the dreams of future.