Places of Magic and Wonder

Every year, we drive from Toronto to Toney River, Nova Scotia, where my mother-in-law has a cottage.  In fact, she, her three siblings, and six of their children all own cottages on the same beach.  It’s the family compound.  It’s a little stretch of heaven.

I love our summer weeks there, in large part because of the memories we are making for the boys: collecting sea glass and Nana’s special shells, going fishing and kayaking and tubing, wading out at low tide to watch hermit crabs do battle, picking carrots and raspberries from the neighbours’ gardens, eating epic amounts of marshmallows in front of a beach bonfire, going to bed, way, way, way past bedtime.   

One of the most unique memories my boys will have of this place, though, is the walk through Gnome Forest.  The lovely neighbours to the east own several acres of field and forest.  They have mowed a gently winding path through the meadow, which is filled with wildflowers and buzzing with busy bees.  The path winds up to a forest, and in that forest live gnomes and fairies and their friends.  More and more appear each year.  There is a trail marked by driftwood painted yellow, there are fern and frogs, light-dappled clearings and thick brush, tangled roots of trees and a tree root mural, a pine tree maze and a Christmas Tree Meadow.  And hidden in the roots of the trees, climbing tree trunks and peeping out at you from behind logs and rocks are wee gnomes.  Hundreds of them.

It takes about an hour to make our way through gnome trail, and every time I do it I am made gratefully aware of the power of place, of the fragility of the forest and of childhood, and I delight in the vicarious excitement of the kids’ discoveries.  Gnome trail reminds me of my great aunt’s garden, in the south of England, which was plentifully populated by gnomes.  Some of my most vivid memories of childhood are from that garden.  The photographs of it that I look at today tell me it is much smaller than my memory allows.  Hopefully, the hour of exploration that we spend each visit is magnified in the boys’ memories to whole days of magic and wonder.

If you are lucky enough to live near a wee wood, copse, stand of trees or wild garden, I highly recommend planting a gnome or two and seeing how they grow.  I feel enormously blessed to have been able to share in this magical place.


Catch of the Day

Oh, what a haul!  The boys went fishing on the Northumberland Strait, off our family cottage in Toney River, Nova Scotia, and I went to a farm in Lyons Brook, and we ate food as fresh as it gets.  You can’t beat the pride on a boy’s face (big or little) when you feast on what he’s caught.