Monday, December 10, 2012

In the spring of 1971 Bill’s colleague went looking for two lake-shore properties, one for him, one for his parents. He scouted all the lakes in the area and found three desirable lots on what he deemed the best lake. He settled on the two side by side lots, and told us about the third. We drove out to see it.  The lot is on the northern end of East Grand Lake, a huge body of water, 26 miles long, 2 miles wide, on the New Brunswick/Maine border.

On a tiny spit of land seven gnarled stunted cedar trees wrap themselves around a granite boulder. While Bill and the kids explored, I climbed over the roots and sat in the cocoon of cedars, looking out onto the lake.  It was the most inspiring spot I’d ever been in, “a spot that’s known to God alone.” The Presence didn’t appear to me there, but what did envelope me was absolute natural beauty, a centre of contentment.

Bill taught summer school and we bought the lot for $1000. Soon after we first went there, I started a novel about a woman named Grace Snow, who, sitting in that cocoon of cedars, decided to go on a pilgrimage of the holy sites of New Brunswick. Later, in Flora Write This Down, the central character goes on a retreat there. I imagined this so vividly that many people asked me how long I had been on the retreat. Actually I have never spent a minute there alone. As I am writing this, I am here at the camp, Slow Loris we call it, looking out the window of the haven my son John has just built me, watching the sun come up. A bee lights on a butter-and-eggs blossom. I am looking at two tall mullein stalks, primroses, goldenrod, St. John’s-wort past its prime, jewel weed, five granite boulders, a cedar leaning into the wind. A male cricket serenaded two females—a cricket and me--until past midnight. My son and daughter are asleep in the main cabin; later on my daughter-in-law and grandson will be arriving.

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