© Geoff Brookes
Chapter 1 – Back Again
Spence let the car roll gently up onto the grass beside the gravel road, avoiding the rocks that stood guard around this magical place. The rocks seemed like old friends to him. He had rolled down the car windows even as he had approached the main entrance to the cottage area. With anticipation, he removed the keys from the ignition, and let the car door swing open wildly, from the car’s angle on the uneven ground. He wanted to leap out of the car, as he did when he inhabited this place each summer of his childhood, but now he climbed out gingerly after the long drive.
His sandalled feet led him down the gravel road for a few feet, in the direction of the lake. Pausing, he stretched, and breathed deeply. The air was like an intoxicating perfume, with an exhilarating pine fragrance.
It must be the air, he thought. The air that lead to adventure; that woke you from the sleepy, everyman existence; that made you feel like you could walk like a gentle giant in the midst of a harmonious jungle.
The beach always came first. The downward slope of the gravel road was enticing, leading you toward the lakefront. After the three way intersection with First Street, the road became a series of paths down to the top of a metal and concrete staircase. He loped downhill to the panoramic view from the bluffs, at the top of the stairs.
Birch and poplar trees lined the sandy cliffs, with a few pine trees adding their dazzling scent. The cliffs weren’t tall on this bay. Their sandy skirts flowed out into a mixture of rocks and fine sand, along with a few bushes that made their way down to the spectacular beach.
The beach would extend out for a hundred yards or so into the bay, when the water was low, or only get as far as a great granite rock slab, 30 yards from the bluffs, when the water was high. But on this Victoria day weekend, with a late spring even by Canadian standards, it was ice – great chunks of ice crowded together like Penguins – that encroached inward from the lake toward the bluffs, around the big rock.
Spence raced down the stairs, flipping off his sandals as his feet hit the sand, which was warm from the mid-day sun. He rolled up his blue jeans to his knees, in a haphazard twist that threatened to unravel in alarm at the prospect of what lay ahead.
As he had done many times before on the May long weekend, he hesitantly lowered his feet into the water, just 10 feet from the buckled ice slivers. Yes, he could walk in the shallow water. He could even wade in a little, which brought a smile to his face, as always. But the combination of time and depth of icy water soon resulted in that familiar pain in his ankles, and he knew it was time to wade right back out again. Still, he had done it again. It was a rite of springtime at the beach.
From the big rock, he walked contentedly down the beach to his left, toward the next point. After a satisfying, slow tour, he wandered back up the beach and the stairs, and then with shorter strides up the path, to meet his hosts for the day.