Going Home

July 27, 2011 in Canada, North America, Travelogue

On my Grandpa's Dock, with Ezra, 3 weeks old


We’ve just returned from a wonderful long weekend on Brule Lake, where I was born. There is much I could say, but nothing I’ve written captures it as well as this piece, which is about eight years old:

Going Home…

It is a strange thing to return, like a salmon, to the place of my birth, to lay eggs in the hearts of my children, the memories from which I have grown.  As soon as I stepped from the truck I could smell it; the thick scent of the forest that raised me, unmatched in any other place, I closed my eyes, breathed deep, and heard it whisper a welcome.

We sat on the dock for an hour, the children and I, waiting for Uncle Dick to arrive… there is no way to signal arrival, we merely wait, until it seems to him the right time to come and collect us.

Time is irrelevant. The bright orange life jackets bob along the edge of the water, investigating every rock, bug and plant, while I am suspended between two worlds… the one in which I wore the orange life jacket, and the one in which I zipped and fastened four.

After an hour, or a day, I can’t be sure which, I am jerked back to reality by the sound of a large dragonfly, and the shouting of children… no, not a dragonfly, Uncle Dick, and his boat, my grandpa’s old boat, rounding the point into boathouse bay.  The children are bouncing.

Hugs all around, a kiss and, “Hi Darlin’,” for me. Kids, bags, playpen and all, loaded and tied down (the bags, not the kids) for the ride across the lake.  Dick comments on how little I have packed… they pack three times that much for their one sweet daughter… and asks to know my secret.  I just smile.


The cabin my Dad built the summer I was born- we lived there until I was 5

Dick’s cabin is my grandfather’s.  It is the last in a row of four that belonged to our family, both sets of grandparents, my parents and an aunt who smelled of shortbread.  On the map, that point is now named for our family. Three generations of Sutherlands and Conovers were shaped by that lake, its fish have fed us, its sun has warmed us, we’ve skied on its waters and picnicked on its shores.  There is no one, on either side of my family, who does not have that lake running in his veins.

The children fished from my grandfather’s dock, and caught fourteen rock bass.  We walked the paths and I showed Dick where to find the fall mushrooms, which were quietly waiting there for me to fry for our dinner.


Ezra & Sam paddle boarding in Laundry Bay

We swam in laundry bay, and I could see my twin cousins, grand daughters of the aunt who smelled like shortbread, splashing in the reflection of the water.  I would walk here with them when they were teeny tiny, and help them to build castles in the sand… one is getting married next week…

I wonder if she will bring her children back as I am?

Hannah played all evening, with a lovely little boy, in the cabin where I spent my first years. We roasted marshmallows by a fire and I told them stories about our life and my childhood there.  I visited the grave of my first dog, three-legged Wolf.  I rubbed the logs that my Dad so lovingly laid, they remembered me, and rubbed back.


My Mim wrote the history of the family on the door frames of her cabin- the section recording my birth

I lay awake that whole night, watching Orion out my window, listening to my babies breathe in the darkness.  The house must have known I was there and remembered my scent, for the night passed quickly, and sweetly.  The ghosts crept out and spoke to me, we reminisced in the darkness.

  • My grandpa was there, catching me with his arm as I ran by his chair… I was four.
  • My grandma was there, with my aunts, quilting, as I ran beneath the frame, head just touching the fabric.
  • My cousins were there, laughing and hiding between the trees.
  • The ghosts and I played euchre late in the night, just as we had years before.
  • I could hear the old men, laughing and cussing and outdoing one another with fish stories.
  • I could see my Dad, chopping wood.
  • He took me partridge hunting up over the ridge… and made me sit on a stump, just like he used to, while he walked off into the forest to return in an hour with the bird.
  • I counted bugs while he was gone.


    I counted the ways this forest and lake had fed us over the years:

    • Fish
    • Turtles
    • Bear
    • Deer
    • Beaver
    • Rabbit
    • Partridge
    • Porcupine
    • Wild mushrooms
    • Wild ferns
    • Berries

    All among my first foods, many still among my favorites (maybe not the porcupine!)


    Uncle Dick & me


    I watched the sun rise through the trees and listened, eyes closed, as the first hummingbird came to the feeder.  The living awoke all around me.  Uncle Dick served tea and hot chocolate, “How’d jya sleep Darlin’?”  “Not a wink, but that’s okay, there are plenty of ghosts here to keep me company.” He cocked his head and raised his eyebrows in the way that only Dick can, letting me know that he sees them and they speak to him too.  Uncle Dick has ghosts of his own.

    It took all of my strength to cross the water again and turn my back on the lake.  My body is made from that earth, my breath was borne on that breeze, my spirit grew with those trees and my mind was carved from those rocks.

    In this place is the essence of who I am.

    No matter where life may take me, or who I become, no matter how many forests I live in and love, I will always return.  I will take my children and introduce them to the ghosts, and hopefully plant seeds in their hearts of the love, and legacy of this place, my home.