Friday, July 27, 2007

Sunlit Memories

Summer is my season. My favourite time of day has always been the hour or two before dusk, when sunlight is golden and shadows are long.

As a child, I spent those blissfully-warm, sunny months in the Laurentian mountains north of Montreal. For several years, my family would rent a cottage from school-closing, right up until Labour Day. Those times are among my fondest memories. It's where my mind connects when I smell freshly-cut grass, an evening barbecue or a toasted marshmallow as it catches the flame of a late-night bonfire.

The colours of the day remain vivid in my mind. Crisp blue skies and brilliant greens punctuated by the brightly painted-cottages which dotted the grounds.

The lake and narrow strip of sandy beach were just a three minute walk down the dirt road. Sand-eating flip-flops often made their seemingly-endless journey from the road to the shore. Occasionally they would dangle casually from a finger while stubborn bare feet would stumble across sticks and stones on the beach. The lake was usually active with swimmers, boats and the occasional seaplane.

Daylight hours were filled with rocks to climb, berries to pick, slide-glides to swing upon or the half hour walk into the nearby town to shop. We'd often visit the "Five and Dime" so that we could stock up on crafts or books for the next rainy day. I loved sitting in the screen-enclosed porch during bad weather, listening to the wind chimes respond to the stormy breeze. On those occasions, I would work on a mosaic craft or practice weaving the flat, plastic lace that we referred to as gimp. We were without a phone and television all summer, and I can't say that we ever really missed them.

My father instilled in me a fondness for the night hours spent outdoors. He would work weekdays in the city, then drive up on Friday evenings to be with his family. I can remember many nights, leaning back with him in a single lawn chair looking up at the sky, swollen with shimmering stars. Often, we'd watch heat lightning entertain us as it flickered in the distance. I'd feel safe in knowing that the absence of thunder meant we could continue to observe the light show without risk. Dad's calm repose and reassuring arms helped to reinforce that security.

Other nights, we'd take shelter as fierce storms rolled through, illuminating the room as if daylight had returned for one brief moment. It would be followed by a crash so forceful, I could feel the rumbling in my chest as it triggered a similar tremble of fright. I love, and am mildly fearful of thunderstorms to this day.

The allure of cottage life through the decades has remained constant. The lake still draws us near, whether we swim, boat, fish or simply observe its beauty, sipping on a tall drink. A nighttime fire still roasts the best hot dogs, and a summer rain still tends to make us dash inside to read, or play a game of cards. My mind remains saturated with the sights, sounds and smells of the country from the summers of my childhood. Decades of city life have not managed to diminish their power to endure. In my own hours of golden sunlight just before dusk, they'll be there still.

I had the pleasure of spending some time at a cottage in southern Ontario this past June, and of course I had my camera with me.

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We arrived late afternoon, greeted by a squadron of dragonflies which, we were happy to know, were feasting on mosquitoes. They hovered, landed briefly and took off again throughout the remaining daylight hours.

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To me, the ubiquitous presence of Adirondack chairs is symbolic of cottage life, just as fishing rods are to others.

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Here, a chair provides colourful contrast against the blue of the lake and the greenery of the nearby shoreline.

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The edge of the weather-worn dock which has no doubt secured family fishing boats when happy anglers return home with their catch, and has launched many care-free bodies into the cool water beyond.

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After a late-day thunderstorm, the sun reappears just long enough to offer us a lovely sight at dusk. A distant pair of loons can scarcely be seen as they swim across the golden mist.

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Moments later, the sky deepens as nighttime falls.

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Wood glistens from the recent downpour, and the last rays of sunlight illuminate a bottle and drinking glass. Cheers!


Ron Southern said...

You sure can write! Very nice.

Crabby McSlacker said...

Gorgeous photos and beautifully crafted prose, what a wonderful combination!

Frank Baron said...

There's sommat familiar about those pics...that setting....


Hilary said...


Thanks so much for your kind words. Much appreciated.

Wow, that's high praise coming from you. I've been enjoying your clever blog as well. Thanks for stopping by.

Kinda like deja vu?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the memories, Hil, very beautiful descriptions to compliment very beatiful photos.
Nice seeing you today,
Your Big Sister!

Anonymous said...

Also, maybe I will learn how to spell one of these days!!

Hilary said...


Thanks for sharing in them.. and for the lovely day.

Your MUCH younger sister. ;)