The last moments of vacations are to be savored, like the last bites of the most delicious desserts. You want to make them last and experience the perfect flavors and tastes as you are almost sated, yet know perhaps one more bite might make it less fantastic with that too full feeling. Tomorrow, my FHB and I head back home from the North Country of New Hampshire. This area, about 13 miles from the Canadian border, is still a frontier where folks are friendly enough, but no one’s inviting you to stay past your time. It is pristine and beautiful with lakes and pine covered mountains, that clouds cast all shades of midnight blues and deepest greens on them. It is quiet and dotted with small towns that have seen better days, with lots of businesses shuttered,and houses for sale that are in desperate need of paint and some loving care. You see few people out and about and there is a lack of bustle and vibrancy. We stay in a small rustic cabin with lots of decorations of giant bass and moose. It is comfortable and has a porch with a million dollar view. It is nothing fancy but it offers comfort and we quickly made it feel like our home for a few days. We spent our time driving around, including a two and a half hour trip into and back out of Quebec. We drove through tiny hamlets with no businesses to speak of, and not much activity. There was something eerie about not seeing many inhabitants. We did stop in a grocery store along the way, as one of my favorite things when traveling, is to go into the local store to see what is on the shelves that are both familiar and may include some products that I have never seen in my supermarkets. We purchased Biscuits Creme a l’erable (Maple Creme Cookies) that were made with pure maple syrup. Absolutely decadent. We also bought some local honey to take back home. When we crossed back into the U.S. we made sure to “declare” our finds and the border officer seemed less than interested in our purchases, but kindly told us that signing our passports might be a good idea.
One of my FHB’s hopes was to catch a lake trout or a salmon from the glacial lakes we were surrounded by. He bought a license and some live bait ,and set up his chair and rod and reel, and cast his line out with decided optimism. In the years we have been together, he has always had the hope of the catch. I sat a distance away, since he is always worried that he is going to catch me with the hook so I just play along knowing that I am too far away to be at any risk. I grew up being my father’s sidekick when he would go fishing early in the weekend morning hours. I would be shaken awake and he would stand over my bed and whisper “the fish are waiting for us” and I dressed quietly and we would drive in the darkness to some lake north of New York City. I had the “honor” of rowing him from the shore, past the most fragrant lily pads into the middle of the lake. I knew that this was a quiet time and I learned to sit and wait, and wait, and wait some more. My father never met my FHB but there definitely would have been a simpatico between them, in how they each approached the joy of the pursuit, even if the fish never made it in our boat and bucket. Both took this time, away from the rigors of work and the Monday to Friday routine, to de-stress and contemplate. This trip up north was no different. No fish but a lot of sitting and gazing between casts. We spoke tonight, over a dinner of rainbow trout, that someone else had caught, and talked about the lack of fish caught, but the possibility of the catch. He laughingly said that the most pressure he felt these days was the one he felt in disappointing me at not catching a fish. I, of course, wanted him to catch a fish to feel as though he had been rewarded for his patience. It was a “Gift of the Magi” moment as I realized that he was having a great time with, or without a fish to show for it.
I did a lot of walking around the lakes (not literally, as they are enormous), but along the shorelines, looking for treasures, a.k.a. (according to my FHB) stuff for your box of junk. I have collected over the past several trips to places filled with nature, things that others have discarded, a few shells, interesting rocks, pine cones and other items that pull at my senses. We have a box that was used for Maine’s blueberry harvests, that is a display of my favorite finds. It is clearly a case of “one woman’s junk is another….and so on”.
After dinner tonight, we saw a intensely beautiful sunset with dramatic oranges and plumes of pink and purple. Dusk comes quickly and this is the time of the day when 1000 lb. moose walk across the roadways. We have traveled roads in other northern states and have heeded the warnings to drive slowly and cautiously as an interaction with a moose could result in fatalities. As we headed back toward the cabin, we also headed back toward what is known locally as Moose Alley. We continued on, past our turn, to see whether tonight might be the night we get to see a moose, our first moose. We drove slowly, and the tension and anxiety in the car was thick. I was the lookout. The high beams went on and off as we passed oncoming vehicles, several of which were “Moose Mobiles” containing tourists (not like us, of course) who were paying for the possibility. We didn’t speak much and our eyes gazed over the road and into the woods. Every shadow looked like a moose. Not every shadow was a moose. It’s amazing how many houses, in the moonlight, look like moose, so says I. We continued moving slowly along the road, in the direction of Canada. The suspense was so captivating. The car moved slower and slower as though it desperately wanted to be part of this adventure. I imagined being on a safari with the hope of seeing a lion, and a fear that I might see a lion. This was stressful. We stopped and looked ahead as the sign for the border appeared. It was time to turn around and retrace our steps back, once again, hoping that we would find our prize. That psychological experience of the return trip being shorter came into play as we could see more signs of civilization, as we were nearly back to our cabin. No moose today.
Caught in the pursuit of fish and moose was the excitement of the moments when we were a dynamic duo of big “hunters”. We were in this together, filled with anticipation of the possibility. It was the best part, it was the icing.