I stood outside late last night and took in long breaths of frost-rimed air. It is in the 30s-40s here at night now and the air quality is amazing. Maybe because I spend a considerable amount of time each year stuffed up due to allergies, but when both nostrils are clear at the same time…whee! I get a little giddy. Probably from the extra oxygen. The air tasted pure and sweet like water from a mountain stream. With each breath it felt like I was cleansing my lungs…my mind, my heart. Clearing out all the crap that creeps in throughout the day and starts gathering in dark corners.

photo by amjwriter

The air reminds me of my childhood when I spent some time in the Adirondacks. I stayed at what was called ‘Camp’ by my relatives. It was an older wood house without electricity, water or plumbing set back from the banks of a river. Camp had been shared by my extended family for a long time. My grandparents especially adored the time they spent there and I love looking at their old photos from that time. It was an idyllic place it seemed, both a refuge and a playground. Images of swimming, fishing, reading, talking, playing cards, and  laughter, especially the laughter, are all captured in these now fading photographs.

I came in on the tail end of this time period when my grandparents were much older and there had been some losses already among the group who had gathered there so joyfully in the 30s, 40s and 50s. I spent relatively little time at Camp yet it left an indelible impression. My  love of nature and the outdoors most likely had its genesis there. My childhood was primarily  in a suburban environment, yet the few visits I made up to the Adirondacks remain vibrant memories. Not whole memories, just glimpses. Almost like when you look through a frosted window. A few swipes with a sweatered elbow and you clear a circle barely large enough for a glimpse of the other side. That’s my memory of childhood, a blinkered look into the past. I am not sure if I envy those with more fully realized memories or not. The really good, happy memories I carry close to my heart are sometimes bittersweet in retrospect, carrying with them after images of change, loss and broken promises.

But those times in the Adirondacks had a magical quality predating a lot of that. I remember the amazing air, the night sky dazzling with stars, the smell of the sandy path through scrubby pine down to the river. That scent in particular is linked to a wealth of memories. They sweep over me if I smell something similar. It happens rarely but when it does I am transported back for a few sweet moments. I can feel myself wanting to linger, to sit down with my grandparents just one more time. But then the memory just wisps away like mist in the rising dawn.

There were some fearsome aspects to my time at Camp. The outhouse comes vividly to mind. There were spiders in there that were monstrous, especially in the dark. I seem to recall rustling and glittering eyes as I tried to rush through the process and return to the safety of the kerosene-lanterned house.

Cougar / Puma / Mountain Lion / Panther (Puma ...

One morning we found bloodied paw prints of a mountain lion tracking across the porch. A scary thing, yet thrilling too

in its wildness.

I also remember going down to the river for water, the sound of the old metal pails as we walked   through the woods.  The shock of how cold  the water was. It came straight off the mountain and I’ve never tasted anything as good.  The quiet was remarkable, broken only by one of my favorite sounds to this day, wind moving through the trees, brushing branches aside, rustling leaves.

It is not as quiet where I live now but not too bad. As I stand breathing in the night air I hear an owl hooting softly in the distance. After a moment, another owl answers. I listen and wonder what they are saying to one another. Perhaps it is as simple as ‘I am here.’