Monday, July 20, 2009

Gaspe, the old house, memories from my childhood...

Isn't it strange how small sounds, sights, smells can trigger a memory, just like that? A flash of something in the past, so strong it almost feels like, for a moment, you're actually there again.

I was just sitting by my computer, window open wide, warm air blowing and sunlight streaming in, when I heard a crow caw, and a memory flashed. In that memory, I'm looking out of the window of my Great Grandmother, Nan's, house in Gaspe. Crows wheel in the air, cawing. They also cluster on the ground, talking and squabbling while they hurry to grab the best bits of food. Nan would always keep a large, once white, bucket in the kitchen for table scraps. The evidence of thousands of meals was forever immortalized on that bucket in a variety of colors, mostly those of rotting food! Then, periodically, she'd toss the scraps out onto the wide expanse of mowed grass that stretched out from the side door. And I'd watch the crows. I've always loved crows!

It's been many years since I'm been to Gaspe now, but I still remember it as one of the most beautiful places on earth. It's right near where the great St. Laurent river meets the Atlantic ocean, and as it's too far North for it to be fashionable as anything but a tourist destination, it's not overly populated. Vast tracts of forest lie virtually untouched, except for where the ski slopes cut abruptly through the mountainsides, scarring a place that I wish I could have seen several hundred years ago... You can pick cranberries in the meadows, or buckets full of wild blueberries, sweet and sun warmed, right off the plants, clustered in the edges of the forest where grass turns to trees... You see both deer and moose tracks regularly, and the area is also home to a host of other wildlife.

By the seashore, you can play in the waves, as long as you're careful of the occasionally deadly undertows, and I've watched seals playing in the water a mere few dozen feet from the shore. As you walk along certain beaches, on one side is the water, and on the other side, cliffs, crumbling slowly and surely down onto the beach, old Summer houses sitting precariously close to the ever retreating edge. I've sat in an unoccupied life guards chair, and looked out onto a glittery, ever moving expanse of water that stretches on forever... I've walked the beach at night, when the cool white/gray/blue light of the moon stretches out from the shore to a perfectly full disk, a pathway to the moon...

Some places you go, you can watch the whales lifting themselves out of the water for a perfect photographic moment, or, more likely, simply see the flash of fin, and feel a thrill of excitement at getting even a glimpse of one of the most amazing creatures on earth... In the harsh rocks near the waters edge, you can go searching for fossils, imprints of old sea life on broken rocks, creatures that have been dead for millions of years, and trace their spiral shells with your fingertips, cool and hard to the touch...

I love that place so much, even though I haven't been there since I was 11, and I haven't been there for more than two days since I was 10! Nan, my Great Grandmother, is still alive, and turning 99 (I can hardly believe it!) next month. However, she's not really up to taking care of herself anymore, and lives with her son, although he brings her back to Gaspe every single Summer... The house where they stay, the house I remember so well, is right next to the very same house that my Nan grew up in, almost a century ago, a house that was built by her father in the late 1800's. In the old cemetery, now hidden behind someones house and almost inaccessible, you can find the names of my family carved in stone, or so I've been told. So much of my ancestral history lives on there, and so, so many memories from my childhood... So much beauty and life, far away from the city lights, and far enough north that you can watch the northern lights flicker, ethereal and unearthly, across the night sky... I have to go back there. Soon. Because I miss it...



  1. Reading this post, I miss Gaspe too, and want to go back and experience all that I loved about the place, both as an adult, and as a child.

  2. Wow. Amazingly written, I feel like I've been there. And yes, I have that happen frequently myself, where I am suddenly transported to another place, another time, another memory. It's wonderful and heart-wrenching at the same time, because you can never go back to that exact moment.