Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Blue, Blue windows behind the stars, Yellow moon on the rise, Big birds flying across the sky, Throwing shadows on our eyes."

A continuation of Canada memories…

As you can see from the past post, Ahmic is quite routine and unchanged by time or events. I think it is that which has made me so completely in love with the Lake; the unchanging, in the midst of change and chaos. My time on the lake has always been defining. Possibly, because it is there that I reflect and think on the numerous events of life. It is there that I find solace in the past and traditions. I am a free person but I have always loved the routine of Ahmic; no surprises, because the bells will ring heck or high water. It reminds me of our relationship in Christ. His laws are not meant to bind us down but to free us of our sinful live. Ahmic is full of routines but it never feels binding.

I remember finding such comfort in all that Ahmic is the summer after my seventh grade year in high school. It was my first year off to school, because my mother had home schooled me till then. It was one of the toughest years of my life. I learned the reality that I did not look to the world like I looked to my mother. I learned that not everyone thought my laugh as cute as my Father. I learned that I did not really fit in. I wore home made bell bottoms in a school full of wranglers and loved to read while those around me loved country music. I made it through the year, but I was ready for summer. Summer that brought outings to the pool, watermelon, fresh tomatoes, and most importantly, a trip to Needle Point.

We drove the long 22hours, like we had done before, passing the time with books on tape. I always loved seeing the first few white birch trees standing out among the forest because I knew I was only hours away . Soon after the birches, we would reach the Mag (Magnetawan). The air seemes to change as Ahmic nears. It becomes more pure, permeated with the smell of earth and fir trees. I can recall Granddaddy waiting at the dock with Tug Boat Annie. Tog Boat Annie is famous on the lake for being one of the most beautiful wooden boats in the area. It is large boat with a small cabin and lovely wood work. It is like stepping into a time capsule. Granddaddy hugged us all and help load our luggage. We set off in the misty afternoon air towards Needle Point.

Every year, Granddaddy would put up flags with symbols which we would rush to decode. They flapped in the wind as we made our way to the dock. Here I was, a million miles a way from the kids who had teased me, the petty fights over best friends, and all my insecurities. I was with family, family that loved me despite my shortcomings. I was in Canada, where I could sing at the top of my lungs all the way to Edmund’s Thumb (a granite outcropping); or I could still pretend to be the Little Mermaid as I swam to the Island. It didn’t matter. On Ahmic things were the same as they had always been, so I was free to be whoever. It was a summer of bliss.

I imagine my Grandfather felt much like this the summer after the war. He was a pilot for the Marines in WWII. He had lost one of his best friends during the War, Cousin Howdy, who used to summer in Canada as well. There is an old, faded photograph of Cousin Howdy and Granddaddy, arms around each other’s shoulders, huge smiles on their faces, standing on a sail boat. I can only imagine the escape Ahmic felt like for Granddaddy. I think of him coming up, much the same way I did, in a car, and sighing as he got his first breath of Ahmic air. I imagine him unpacking at Indian Point, putting his clothes away, and setting his uniform aside. Howey was not there to fish and swim with, but I’d like to think that Ahmic was still a place of peace for Granddaddy; where he could remember Howdy as the happy and good humored friend he had been. I can see Granddaddy diving into the cold smooth waters as he still does today, laughing as a shiver ran through him. How far away the world’s troubles must have felt.

I can see my Grandmother too, dignified as always. She once told us that she had not liked Ahmic from the beginning. It amazed all of us for she loves it now. She came up, the new bride, and found she was in the middle of nowhere with tons of family and every woman wanting to be “mother Hen.” I can visualize her brushing her coiffed locks and wondering who she can play bridge with and how she will ever suffer through the summer. But Granny is not one to complain. She is one to do whatever needs doing, and being in her eighties has not slowed her down. I can see her putting to order what once was chaos; young and beautiful, helping wash dishes without a complaint. I imagine her and Granddaddy’s excitement as they built Needle Point, establishing their own camp. She would now run her own house, tend the garden, and make sure that the hummingbirds where all fed. Granny was and will forever in my mind be the Matriarch of Needle Point.

I think of my Grandparents lives and how they have been so defining to my own life. I think of how much they have done to make Needle Point the place that I remember: full of traditions, good food and laughter. My Grandparents have been an integral part of all my family’s summer trips. I did not realize their essential role on the lake until this summer. It was mentioned at lunch that this would most likely be their last trek to Ahmic. My heart lurched and tears formed in my eyes. My grandparents are now in their mid and late eighties. Although we all knew that one day the rigors of life on the rugged terrain of Canada would be too much, I had pushed it to the back of my mind.

My Grandfather has hurt his leg and is moving slower in general, and although my grandmother is still sharp as a tack, her body is starting to fail her. I want what is best for them but I cannot imagine Ahmic without Granddaddy telling funny jokes or Granny making strawberry preserves. I have always felt that it is a magical place but now, as I come to the realization that they will not be the faces that greet me, I feel they were the magic. It was Granddaddy whose happy smile made my day when I would bring him back sugar babies and black licorice from town. It was Granny who let me help with flower arranging even though I was awkward and clumsy. It was my grandparents who took me on canoe trips and taught me how to paddle. It was Granddaddy who made Henry and I cry from giggles as he snored loud enough to shake the room. It was Granny who taught us card games and helped us with puzzles on rainy afternoons. It was my grandparents who cultivate my love of this beautiful and majestic place. They were the reason that we all longed to be in Canada. It was their love that made it magical.

I hope that the fall will revive them and they will be able to spend yet another summer on the tranquil waters. I hope to one day bring my own children to Ahmic and let them feed Chippy, the pet chipmunk we train every summer. But I want to tell them about my Grandparents as well. I want them to know all that was done before them so that they could enjoy the beauty of Ahmic. I will tell them all of Granddaddy’s funny jokes and let them know that he is where I get my insatiable sweet tooth. I will show them Granny’s flower gardens and try to attempt her strawberry preserves. I will try and make Ahmic as enchanting as Granny and Granddaddy made it for me. It is a place of rest, of laughter, of feasting, of love, and a place where bells sound every day.

***the picture are from years past but I thought y'all might enjoying seeing them


LB said...

What a heritage, Esther. I love reading about Ahmic. I feel like I am reading a book that I would have loved as a child. You are such a good writer. I really think you could write fiction.

LB said...

Oh, and I also liked reading about your 7th grade year. I will most likely homeschool my children, and it is good to hear about the perspective from a 7th grader. I want my children to feel that secure at home!!