My life changed pretty drastically when I was six years old. My parents separated, my little brother, who was two at the time, was diagnosed with meningitis and literally had to live in a plastic bubble for six months (!), and I had to go live with my Grandparents way up in the country, in a small town called Haliburton.
As I remember it, my Grandparent’s house was actually pretty spectacular so I doubt it took me long to adjust. It was very cottage-like: constructed by logs, resting on the top of a hill overlooking Blue Hawk Lake and always smelling of wood stove, dried herbs, and old books.
My Grandmother, a career spinner and weaver, had looms and colourful wool draped from every surface in the house. She was always working on a new rug or shawl for someone: dying wool with Kool-Aid, mapping out patterns, then clanking away on her massive wooden loom.
Meanwhile, my Grandfather’s passion was for the lake. He would often start the day with a “refreshing” lap across the entire lake and back. Then around lunch he’d drop his fishing line off of the end of the dock and pull out a few rock bass to use as compost in his garden. After tending to his massive stalks of broccoli and vibrant red tomatoes, and perhaps a cup of tea, it wouldn’t take much convincing to get him to take you out on his small motorboat or the canoe.
My favourite place to go was the giant mossy rock at the end of the river -- it was nature’s ultimate water slide. By canoe it would take at least an hour to cross the lake and make your way over the 2 or more beaver dams built up along the river. You knew you were close when you could only hear the sounds of bullfrogs, fish jumps and the roaring falls calling you to come closer. It was so tranquil and so, so much fun! To get to the top of the 20 foot boulder that created these falls, you would have to climb up the land beside the rock, then carefully walk to the slightly flat area in the centre, at the top of the rock. Slowly sit down, cross your arms, hold your breathe, lean back and let the current and thick layer of green, grassy moss take you from there. Nature's Greatesst Waterslide! It was the feeling of pure freedom.
Just recently, someone had said to me, “That must have been hard having your parents divorce and having to go live with your Grandparents when you were a kid.” It wasn’t. I had never really thought about it before but it really wasn’t hard.
Thinking about my childhood, I can clearly remember visiting my brother in the hospital (and how weird it was that he was in a plastic bubble!) but I don’t remember much of the ugliness that tends to come with parents divorcing. I can remember swimming, and canoeing, and fishing, and tubing, and playing hockey in the winter, and snow shoeing, and kissing frogs, and the perfect stillness of the water on a calm morning and how exhilarating it was to tear into that stillness with a well-formed dive… Thanks to my Grandma, Grandpa, and Blue Hawk Lake, I guess there wasn’t much room in my childhood memories for the ugly stuff.
I am forever grateful and will always keep those people in that house on that lake on my mind and in my heart. Blue Hawk Lake is my Watermark.