Thank you to everyone who submitted a story to the nonfiction portion of the Winter in the Bay writing contest. Today, we’re reminded by Louise Corello that feeling at home may come from a house we rent for a while or, as Helen King describes, from a boat we know we will someday sell. But the sense of joy we find there will last forever.
You can still submit your nonfiction essay of 350 words or less or your fictional short story of 2,500 words or less anytime for sharing. We will post those stories here once all contest entries have been published. Let’s keep telling our stories of the Bay!
Winter in the Bay
When we trudged up a steep driveway through deep snow in February 2006 we had no idea that we were embarking on the final chapter of small piece of local history. At the top of the wooded hill we found a tiny old farmhouse.
It was an afterthought. The rental agent had just shown us a newer house on Allen Heights with minimal storage space and a landlord ‘conveniently’ living in the basement; our tepid enthusiasm had been noted. Inside this empty farmhouse we found polished wooden floors, a walk-in pantry, a sunroom overlooking a sloping lawn, two bedrooms and a large deep cellar complete with cat entrance. But, on discovering there was only one indoor bathroom my partner said a definite ‘no’ to actually renting it.
We were brand new immigrants. Our youngest son was already here and the shipping container packed with our many possessions was on its way. We didn’t have long before our cat would arrive too.
That night the little house with its two person out-house perched above a pig-pen, its banks of woodland on three sides and view of The Bay on the fourth, found its way into my dreams. I woke with the absolute certainty that we would live there.
It was built in 1895 and was one of four farms on Masons Point. In those days there were few spruce trees so the farming families could almost wave to each other.
The pigs had long gone but, that first Canadian winter, we found the remaining wildlife enchanting. Chickadees were cheerful and welcoming, squirrels anticipating a more varied diet, had taken up residence in the pantry and mice were already comfortable in the cellar. A handsome red fox crossed the lawn everyday,eagles perched in the tall trees and we were convinced that the groundhog had been invented by Walt Disney.
We delighted in watching the water-birds: loons, grebes, eider ducks, mergansers, golden-eyes and herons. The little farmhouse stood for over a century and, with the wildlife, we celebrated every moment of its last seven years.
Louise Corello illustrated her story with Gretchen Amirault’s “Hidden Gem.” To read Gretchen’s inspiration for this work, visit the Winter in the Bay online gallery and click on the image of the painting.
The Helen Ann
I climb over her gunwale, stepping from one world to another. I long to know if she worked for a living; did she haul in great loads of fish way out on a gray sea?
The smell of gasoline has now dissipated into the foggy morning. One try at the key—a smooth chug-chug, and she soars into St. Margaret’s Bay, rising and falling to an even gentle rhythm, not even threatening to tip a steaming pot of pea soup.
I remember the day we pulled in to Luke’s Island for a winter picnic; the smells of hot dogs, a crackling bonfire and friends mingling to the background music. Gulls strung a litany of, “Ahhh… ahhh” as they clung to uplifting air pockets high above in the late-day sunlight. A fog bank looming on the horizon is always our cue to pack up.
The times I love are the evenings when the sun descends into a fiery glow over the water as we silently motor home until, finally, the red burning embers extinguish. And instantly, as if another light turned on, the sky takes on a warm glow illuminating snow on the shore and the only evidence of our existence are a huge yellow bubble moon, ripples glistening in black liquid, and lungs filtering the heavy, kelpy air.
When I am on the water, the night air carries mysticism, and I feel myself opening up to the universe. I become the music and the images, and all the laws of physics are broken.
I remember a time we went fishing for mackerel. Someone, who’d never caught a fish in her whole life felt a tug and hollered, “I got something!”
“Pull your rod up and start reeling!” With the tip of her tongue clutching the corner of her mouth like a paper clip, she caught four.
After we sell the Helen Ann, I hope I will have the courage to think only of the wonderful times she gave us. For so it goes: it is better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all.
Helen King chose Sue George’s “Winter Cove” to illustrate her story. To see Sue’s inspiration for her painting, visit the online gallery and click on the image.