There is no running water. To "flush" the toilet, one dips a pan into the pail beside it and pours water (from the public tap) down the hole. But each year there are changes we call improvements. This year's big deal was the installation of a phone ... an old hang-on-the-wall style as big as a kleenex box, but reliable. Also new: for $2 per 30 minutes, those who must may check their e-mail at the store.
But let's go back to that porch. I love to bask in the semi-privacy of the screened-in porch, and watch the human and animal traffic parade by. How unusual and welcome that two-legged passersby were in fairly short supply this particular week, and four-legged--namely, deer--much increased.
I love informal meals in the porch, and to play cards out there, but what I like best is to be alone there, and to write.
Excerpt from work-in-progress (not the beginning):
She loved the cabin, and even with the children playing loud, abrasive music and slapping each other’s thighs behind her, she felt herself relax when they pulled up, finally, and she put her foot on the ground.
“It’s a bit of a work-in-progress,” she said, as Del pulled out the imprisoning suitcase.
“I thought it had been in your family for years,” he said.
“Yes, it has.” Her favourite part was the long screened porch that culled most of the afternoon sun. No one dared add or subtract from it. At one end an old stuffed couch no one ever sat on was parked beneath a window like an abandoned car. Above this hung a rope upon which towels and wet bathing suits were hung. There were an odd assortment of hats--free for the wearing--slung on nails. A sweat-stained navy blue visor. A yellow ball cap advertising a minor boy’s football team. Her mother’s old, collapsing sun hats. A cowboy hat. Even a toque. Beside the sofa was an ancient wooden cabinet that came up to Ellen’s waist. “What’s in here?” Jodi was asking. “Any good stuff?” There were the perennial tubes of tennis balls, a lantern, a can of Muskol. Hanging above them: the requisite deer horn candlelabra, though no one in the family ever shot a gun. There was a table which was round without a leaf, and four chairs that did not match. The table was covered, usually, in a vinyl cloth: the current example had a design of Italian postcards and the word "Olives" was written in script across the images. She'd cut some wildflowers and display them here; she always did. There were odds and ends for angling--fishing rods, a net, and the red and white spoons that pike went for--and sand pails, an air mattress that may or may not hold air. There was a pail for baling water from the canoe, or putting out campfires. There were tennis racquets, and a broom, and old board games including Scrabble and Rummoli. A bare board ceiling, and pink insulation stuffed like cotton candy between the gaps. There were dead flies stuck like pieces of gum into the corners of the windows that wrapped three sides of the verandah, and on the window ledge, a heavy pair of bronze beavers whiich were not specific enough to be considered artful, and not practical as bookends. If the beavers had eyes they’d see the passersby meandereding along the sandy lane in front of the cabin, licking ice cream cones, beach towels slung around their necks. Campers and others cottagers enroute to the mini golf or the main beach, where Ellen had grown up, swimming between the buoys, suntanning and eating sunflower seeds, and, occasionally, tipping the canoe, just for fun.
And soon there would be a menagerie of shoes on the porch floor—the girls’ flip-flops and sneakers. Del’s ugly leather sandals and her own summer footwear, one pair of black flip-flops, one pair of white, and a pair of sneakers, just in case they were hiking and had to run from black bears.
Do all artists have certain special places that fire up the creative pistons? I hope so. I've been fortunate to have a few such destinations, but certainly that little table with the mismatched chairs in the porch is among my most important.
I heard today (via Kate Braid at the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival), that Glenn Gould said: "Isolation is the indispensible component of human happiness." Edmonton Poet and reviewer Bert Almon, in his review of my book The House of the Easily Amused for Canadian Book Review Annual 2009, said:
"Many of the poems are pervaded with what the Japanese haiku poets call sabi, a delight in solitude."
Years ago, while living with my family in Saskatoon, when I'd sit at the piano I'd often play popular songs in which solitude was the theme: "Sailing" (by Christopher Cross, circa 1980): "If there's one thing in my life that's missing, it's the time that I spend alone ..." and Supertramp's "Lord, Is It Mine?": "I know that there's a reason why I need to be alone ..."
I can't function without a degree of solitude in my life: this I've always known and, as often as possible, sought.
Usually my visits to the lake are far too short, and this year was no exception. Five nights? Well, I take what I can get.
This time my partner's teens, as well as his daughter's best friend, joined us at the lake. It was a frenetic time, with the aforementioned high school reunion, and family, and the kids--everyone coming and going, the cabin door with the squeaky spring swinging several hundred times a day.
I taught two dogs how to open that door via a shank of rope knotted to the door handle. The rope remains; the dog's don't.
What else remains is a sign my daughter taped on the bathroom door when she was perhaps eight or nine-years-old.
"You'd be surprised how many people forget." It's true. For some inexplicable reason, newcomers, especially, seldom remember to close that bathroom door after use, and then quasi-toxic fumes spill into the cabin proper, and it is not a pleasant thing, not at all.
I did get a few hours in the porch alone this July. Greg and his son were fishing at nearby Rusty Lake, the girls were getting some male attention on the beach. It was blissful, and magical: I came up with three ideas for new short stories.
Below are images of some of the folks who swung the cabin door this summer, while I was there, for five sweet nights in early July.
Nephew Brandon (a WHL hockey player invited to the Phoenix Coyotes training camp this year) and Heidi
Apart from the restorative qualities of the lake and forest and seeing family and old friends, I have another reason for relishing my time in and around Meadow Lake. My (former) dog, Jackson, is living with the wonderful Lajeunesse family not far from the lake. But it;s bittersweet to visit him. He's not forgotten me, and it's terribly hard (for all of us) when I drive away and he cries.
Here are some photos of the boy at his new home.