A Stand of Conifers

Imagine my surprise! I arrived at the lake to find a brand new road crosscut against our property, running practically straight up to the new structure above. A strip laid bare, right on the property line next to our building. Razed earth. It was ugly but, moreover, it occurred to me that there could be noise coming from the cottage above, that the new road would ferry in comings and goings of untold proportion. And so, I looked for a solution.

I found one in the forest itself. By planting tiny evergreen seedlings alongside the old gravel road, I could eventually block sound and view. Today, more than seventeen years later, the pine and spruce seedlings are thirty-foot trees. They form a rustling canopy, sheltering the cottage from any noise that might escape the occasional passing vehicle.

It wasn’t a matter of conflict with the neighbours – we get along well. No, it was a practical matter. Of noise. Of privacy. The modest stand of conifers has graciously played its role well in the intervening years. 

Inside the cottage we are cozy, poised for rest and work. Taking meals with the view of lake and forest we feast on local ingredients, enjoying nature’s bounty. The rustic pine table is big enough to sit eight comfortably. It sprawls in the area once a screened-in porch, now rebuilt into a room with windows that open onto the lake and forest. The table is covered with blue and green woven placemats that set off its honey-golden hue. Sometimes it’s just me, while often we’re two or three and, on occasion, several more gathering around. There is something in its sturdiness that encourages the sharing of pleasure, of friendship. The cast of characters changes with each passing week; the table, in its constancy, endures as witness.

In these Covidian times, I am reminded how special those shared meals were. Easy melding of friends, family, enjoying good food and fellowship. I wonder what this cottage season will bring? I recall that as a young woman, many years before a shelter graced the property, I sat and watched by the sunlit rock, astride a still-watered lake. Covered with soft green moss, the rock anchors cedar trees with their majestic crowns. A fresh, almost citrus odor wafts from the cedar fronds, reaching me below. 

Sitting on the rock, in the indented space I claim as my own, I am sunbaked and naked. I chase away the odd fisherman in my brazen nudity. As I feel the mossy texture beneath me, the water now churns amid the fishing boat’s wake. In the distance, a small island beckons. It sports one lone, spindly pine. The island is always named for the youngest visitor to the lake. To give the power of place to the children and gather hope in their outstretched hands.

As always, this place offers up the quiet for reflective practice, for writing. Two decades ago, I charged my laptop on a marine battery, red and black cables spilling akimbo, to create a memoir about my son’s short and difficult life. Now, having harnessed solar energy, I am able to write night and day. Power and light now accompany even the most blustery, sodden days of late autumn.  

It’s a treasured existence.  Quiet yet connected. My writing thrives in this stillness, it nurtures my soul. I don’t want to lose these days of contemplation. Surrounded by the   towering stand of conifers, I am grateful for peace it brings.

Published by medelson64

Miriam Edelson is a neurodivergent social activist, writer and mother living in Toronto, Canada. Her literary non-fiction, personal essays and commentaries have appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, various literary journals including Dreamers Magazine, Collective Unrest, Writing Disorder, Palabras, Wilderness House Literary Review and on CBC Radio. She was a finalist in the Pen 2 Paper nonfiction contest. Her first book, “My Journey with Jake: A Memoir of Parenting and Disability” was published in April 2000. “Battle Cries: Justice for Kids with Special Needs” appeared in late 2005. She completed a doctorate in 2016 at University of Toronto focused upon Mental Health in the Workplace and is currently at work on a collection of essays. She lives with and manages the mental health challenges related to bipolar disorder.

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