The Camp was located on a small parcel of land on the Ostrea Lake Road in Musquodoboit Harbour, a half hour’s drive from Dartmouth. It was owned by the parents of my closest friend and was their weekend cottage. From the time the first of us had a vehicle it become a regular summertime retreat.

The property was only large enough for a short dock, a small house and a garage. The driveway cut through the trees and gave a first time visitor the fleeting impression of impending solitude. Once through the trees and onto the patch of lawn I could see that the property was bordered on two sides by water and not very secluded from passing eyes. Fortunately, the road was not busy in those days and the place felt quiet and serene.

Like the property, the house was small. Single story and clad in white clapboard and green asphalt shingles, it had a short covered porch under the picture window that overlooked the water. Inside, the kitchen was dominated by an old free standing oil burning stove whose oven door would more than once serve as a foot rest while drying damp socks. There were two tiny bedrooms and a living room with walls faced in pine or something like it. The window faced west and during the day provided all the light one needed. The furniture was as old as the stove, welcoming and comfortable.

The Camp seemed like different places to me depending on the times of day. At dawn in summer the air was cool and fresh off the water which, if the tide was still, could be like glass. Birds would call from the trees behind the cottage. No buildings broke the treeline across the water and it seemed to me as if no one else was within a hundred miles.

Later in the day, if the tide was not too low, the water would lap against the dock, a gentle metronome measuring the passing of the day. On the water, small fishing boats and smaller pleasure craft would occasionally pass. Behind us, a few cars would run up the road. The place felt like a summer vacation spot, unhurried and peaceful.

Sometimes at dusk, if the harbour was still and the night quiet, you could hear the barely discernible pop of feeding fish breaking the surface of the water. My friend would stand on the dock and taking a piece of broad leaf grass would blow a low, hoarse cry across the water. (I could never master this trick). In a moment an answer would float back over the water and then, remarkably, a second loon would respond farther down the harbour. For a few moments they would converse, the calls haunting and forlorn.

Nights at The Camp were when I enjoyed it the most. Up until the wee hours playing chess or nickel poker depending on the numbers present. Laughing together and talking about everything and anything, opining and pontificating. Quoting little known or understood facts out of Time magazine or some such authority and calling each other out when opinion was replaced by bullshit.

I think that The Camp was special to all of us but for me, it was a welcoming and safe haven at a time when I had none other. Forty years later, it still claims a spot on my short lists of favourite places and best memories. ©


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