This I Believe
Human passion consecrates the spirit of place. We have known this since the beginning of our collective thought, hence the continuing magic of Stonehenge, Machu picchu , Easter Island. Yet the world is filled with simpler beloved places that enhance the human spirit. Such is my aunt’s lake home.
Sometime between the world wars Aunt Aileen’s father built a small sweet cabin on a spit of land which gently jutted out into Bow Lake. It was a refuge for his family from the very successful Ice Cream shop that demanded so much time in the heart of downtown Portsmouth. Since then a second floor, porch and outbuilding have been added. Earth has been brought it to extend the lawn into the shallow waters. The home glows with communion of place. The dark brown siding of the raised cabin blends in with the forest and the same pair of loons nestle in their protected cove.
When they retired my aunt and uncle moved permanently to this spot from their city home. Despite the worry they might be isolated, my aunt’s quiet determination to create home while maintaining the rustic quality of place worked for each of New Hampshire’s erratic seasons. We began to have our Thanksgiving feast there and their children came for Christmas. In the early spring we’d watch the lake free itself of ice. Picnic baskets are dusted off each summer. During the past twenty years urbanization has reached far into the once pastoral New England. Bow Lake is now filled with year round homes lush with every modern convenience. These human spots loudly proclaim their significance. My aunt’s place, however, is still imbued with those dreamy summer-like qualities. While sitting on her closed in winter porch, light, water, earth and air interact rather than intrude.
When my uncle married her, Aunt Aileen was a petite beauty with a shy smile. Over the past fifty years she has remained the petite beauty but her smile has grown more confident as she has determined the nature of her home. She has welcomed each generation to the lake- nieces and nephews, my friends, my school children, my children and her own grandchildren. My aunt believes in every child, and that every child needs a lake. Each wildly different personality is soothed by this passion for place, and her presence there works like a lullaby.
Aunt Aileen’s father had that same deep feeling for his place. She and my uncle have endowed that feeling to their children. Their children’s children play by the waters and paddle the beautiful wooden canoe with the same respect their great grandfather had. It is possible to be in the presence of magic. Despite our nomadic nature and the rising costs of lake property, I pray Aunt Aileen’s family will hold on to the lake. Yet the greater significance has already occurred. She has blessed the place, and her spirit will always be there.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.