Why do Mom’s cookies, eaten straight up from the cookie jar, taste best when indulged as a bedtime snack? Gingersnaps, rolled in sugar. Pressed with the hand, perhaps and then baked to perfection. These sitting on this mahogany table, tempting me until I cannot resist, have crackles like tiny rivers running randomly across their golden tops, intersecting one another and then branching out to their upturned sides. The rich scent of ginger meets my nose. Tender pieces of moist, doughy goodness with each bite.
I need to find the cover and close the jar before I eat the whole lot of them.
And yes. I have eaten far too much today, but it was all so good. I can describe my encounters with food in such detail that one might think it is all I have to think about. I made a delicious carrot cake this morning topped with maple butter icing; it was for Sarah’s 8th birthday party this afternoon. It is moist and chock-full of REAL carrots. So delicious. As my father-in-law says, “Tastes like more.” Then for a bedtime snack this evening, we had fire-roasted hotdogs over a campfire made from driftwood, followed by gooey s’mores on Celebration cookies topped with milk chocolate squares, melted underneath molten white lava. Unbelievable. Can one stomach contain even the thoughts of another ingested morsel ? Alas, it is summer and that is the way of the summer. Food and fun go hand in hand.
And what a day of fun it was. We spent the majority of the day at the Gard family’s log cabin, nestled at the foot of a long, dusty clay lane in western P.E.I. A quick turn to the left and a few bumps more, and there you are: destination, Hill Billy Haven. Hill Billy Haven, or as we call it ‘the Cabin’, is a log structure built circa 1970s. It is one large room with a loft over the part of the cabin that once served as the dining area. Opposite the loft, and at the far end, is a large stone fireplace built with sandstone rocks from the beaches of surrounding areas. Many a lazy, peaceful evening has been spent playing games of Rook and cooking marshmallows at the base of that sturdy fireplace.
The beauty of the Cabin is you never have to fuss. If food falls on the floor, no one jumps to get the broom or a cloth. Everyone comes in with shoes on, the dirtier the better. We sit around a makeshift table on fold-up camp chairs, underneath the dim light of a propane lantern. And we never give a second thought to clean up or the like. To be at the Cabin is to feel relaxed. It is the inherent nature of the place. It is why we come so often and stay so long. It welcomes, doors flung open to those who grace its humble presence. It always beckons you to come again.
The view from the stone steps of the Cabin is spectacular. Second to none. Through the overhanging branches, one can view far up river to distant cottages and potatoes fields, across to wooded brush and then past that to the newer, swankier lots where people have built homes on the river for their jet skis, sailboats, Catamarans and speed boats. One can walk the length of about 10 meters and find oneself on the precipice of a cliff, created by erosion of the land. Tree roots do their level best to keep nature at bay. Down the rickety staircase and across the shell-strewn beach. And on to the bath-water warm swirling liquid of Mill River. Dirty, smelly, choked by sea grass, oyster shell-littered yet beloved Mill River. How do we love thee? Let us count the ways.
For starters, I have spent some of the most relaxing moments of my life on that river. Yesterday, we idled along in the boat until we came to our cove. Husband threw down the anchor, and the family swam in view of the Cabin. The kids had a field day jumping off the back of the boat. Our oldest tried his hand at tubing, while the girls enjoyed swimming and jumping off the stationary tube. I stayed on board and read a book. Pure, unadulterated pleasure. One of the small pleasures of my life that I shall try to keep from feeling guilty about.
Mill River is beautiful. On a sunny summer afternoons, when sitting up river on my in-laws property, we watch the boats do circle-eights up and down the river while we sip juice from rose colored tumblers. And in the winter, we bundle everyone up in their warmest gear and throw skating jamborees complete with blazing bonfire. There is always hot chocolate and cookies to keep our spirits up, whilst we skate another lap through the plowed maze shoveled by those so inclined.
I have been thinking. I often want to go away from all of this. Choosing to deliberately find rest and relaxation in other destinations far from home. But living here is really like living in the Promised Land. When those complaining Israelites asked to go back after they had entered that land flowing with milk and honey, how deluded were they? They had arrived in a place of exquisite beauty and providence, and yet. It was not enough. That is me much of the time. I want what I do not have, and choose to willingly resist that which is mine for the taking.
This land, land which stains the feet an ocher red. Land which meets water in thin places, sand bars stretching out dangerously into the water like jagged spikes. Land of ancestors and future home to children’s children. Land of promise and blessing. Land of hope and potential.
This water, muddied by clay. Cooling my children on this hot summer’s day. Water with power to lift and to pull. Water where children learn to be buoyant, tentatively striking out on their own from the shore, gaining confidence with each stroke that takes them away from me and closer to the raft.
Sky which meets land and water and creates a trio of unmatched harmony. It is the simple things in life that bring the greatest joys. As I am learning each and every day. It is joy at its basic that is most precious. And wise we are to realize this before it slips through our fingers like sand.