Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lake life

Nik and Uncle Darryl

Every summer, as far back as I can remember, I have gone camping. I have childhood memories of walking on gravel roads and beaches with my cousins, visiting the small camp store to buy 5 cent candy. In later years, it was just my family, down in the States, camping on the edge of a small town near Grand Forks. We would play for hours at the park, and in the nearby outdoor swimming pool. As a teen, I remember sitting around the fire in the dark, talking late into the night, looking at the stars. And then, as a newlywed, our first weekend away at the lake, in the May long weekend drizzly cold, trying to keep warm with my new husband. That was the first year that we camped at Falcon Lake, and we have been back every summer since.

We are no purist campers. We have only camped once without the benefits of electricity, and, to be honest, that was a result of our own reservation error. Neither do we camp with extreme style. We have no air conditioned trailer, or fancy speed boat. Our tent trailer is borrowed, and older than me. I think the same could be said of the humble fishing boat we use. But I have learned that no matter what you stay in, the moon is just as bright. And however humble your boat, the view from the middle of the lake is the same.

There are islands in the lake we visit. Last year, we took our boat farther along the lake than we had before, and discovered a larger island with picnic tables and fire pits, covered in blueberry bushes. Of course, our trip this year had to include a visit. It was Alexa's first time in the boat, and I was so fortunate to have gotten an infant life jacket from a friend just the week before we left.

We packed a lunch, took our fishing stuff and cameras, loaded up the boat and set off to rediscover 'our' island. Being in the boat fills the senses. The smell of the lake, the wind in your hair. The roar of the outboard motor is so loud, you have to shout to be heard, and if you face the wrong way, the wind carries your voice away anyways. You see cottages all along the lakeshore, many of them grander than my own home. There are seagulls in the air, and loons on the water that dart away as you approach. And in very Canadian fashion, lots of rocks and trees and water.

We near an island, and peer closely at it. Nope, this is not the one. Not the next one, either. Finally, we find it. Covered in evergreen trees, the surface of the island is blanketed in needles, keeping the undergrowth sparse and leaving lots of room to walk and explore. We slowly bring the boat up to the rocky shore, and tie it to a tree. It is so quiet here.

We tumble out of the boat, and I free Alexa from her life jacket and tie her onto my back in a carrier. My brother Darryl goes off in one direction with his camera, and Andrew and Nik set off along another path, exploring. The wind off of the water is cool and refreshing as I unpack our picnic onto a nearby table.

The air smells like pine needles. Here and there you hear birds, and the scuffle of little ground squirrels.

We walk around for a while, and then sit for our lunch. Afterwards, Andrew gets Nik up to try fishing for the first time. I sit down nearby, resting my feet in a little rock pool, and am struck by the simple richness of our day.

As a child, my parents brought me to the lake. Now, I bring my children. I hope they can look back on their own happy memories of lake life.

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