Be My Escape

March 2, 2010
Where do you escape? How do you abandon the city fumes, the concrete monsters that loom over the streets? When your sanctuary has been discovered, why does life seem so different? What does this transition alter; who do you become?

I have always longed for the summer: the lust of the sun, sand, stars. The place of all possibility is situated north of the urban city in southern Ontario. Located in the heart of cottage country, the cottage was accessible by only tree lined highways and winding dirt roads. The population receded once the months of summer crept away, but pulsed in the heat of the season when tourism attracted both guests and staff from all over America. Who knew it had the potential to bring people together? Especially such ordinary people like myself.

For as long as I can recall, there have always been remarkable and incomparable memories associated with the cottage. Throughout childhood and adolescence, I have acquired knowledge from this place that I would not have gained anywhere else; the ability to water-ski, the confidence it requires to cliff jump, the patience it takes to win in cards. My blanket of security was sewn together by members of my family. The love omitted warmth, heat stronger than a crackling fire, provided by aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Guidance was provided by older cousins, adventures were sought out in the thick forests surrounding the wooden structure. Shelters were built in tree tops, masterpieces were created through watercolour and sketches. Both sunrises and sunsets imitated an artists’ pallet, a swirling flood of hues. The lake was able to caress, to comfort, to consume all worries. It allowed one to disregard the concerns of the city and simply bask in relaxation. I lived for the seasons up north.

In the summer of 2007, I got my first real job. Lumina Resort was an ideal summer past time in which I worked in a tuck shop on the resort’s expansive property. The staff was friendly and guests were social, and that summer I spent many hours staring through translucent windows across the green field and past wooden cabins, my gaze reaching as far as possible to the sanded shore introducing the lake to land. Though confined behind walls, the place’s beauty could be seen from anywhere. When caressed in the arms of the snack shop, I could either be found reading or writing. I adored the untouchable feeling I received from everywhere around me, and loved to express the emotions that enveloped me through paper. Though my times up north were uneventful when accompanied by work, there was still no place on Earth that I would rather be.

The following year, my second summer of employment, I was working during a sunny day in the ides of July. The beginning of summer holds so much possibility. There is time ahead of me and it is mine to capture, mine to use. I won’t let my hours rot away, day by day, forgettable moments creeping farther and farther from my memory.
The sky was flawless, lacking clouds and imperfections, and the warmth descending from the consistent blue was enough to darken exposed flesh after just a short period of time. I noticed him immediately as he made his way across the lush green lawn and the gravel lot in front of the main lodge. I attempted to refrain my drool as he climbed the stone steps and walked through the door of the snack shop, composed of serenity. Blonde curls framed his flawless face and long lashes bordered his eyes, a breathtaking combination of the sky and aqua. I assumed he was a guest, simply a temporary visitor who would depart along with other families on the approaching Saturday, loosen their grasp on such a tranquil environment that they attempt to claim as their own. Yet after a short introduction I was informed that he was the newest addition to the maintenance team. Conversation flowed naturally, rapid as a rain-filled river, breaking off into different areas of life. Soon I had accumulated bits of information as frequently as if I bent over to retrieve each fact from the tiled floor. He would break for refreshments and I would bask in conversation, allow his words to carry me to the places he has been.

Our first summer together was filled with conversation and humour, though we did not have much time to spend together. Brick by brick, we constructed a foundation through our words and tore down the barrier of acquaintances. We confined in each other and I found reassurance in his voice. The time was stripped away all too quickly, but then again, what else is new?

Have you ever found a source of inspiration, allowed the words to simply drain from your mind almost as fast as they are formulated there in the first place? This young man had gained a remarkable comprehension, a level of comfort and confidence that seemed untouchable. He unconsciously encouraged me to be laid-back, and to take things as they came in life. His words of wisdom remain engraved in my mind; “Life is not permanent so nothing is, really. Learn to love the bullshit life heaves at you and it will make the good times that much sweeter.” Minutes together evolved into hours, days together evolved into weeks. The end of the summer, the end of our time, was quickly approaching. The day inevitably arrived, like a dense cloud hovering over optimism. Like flames to dust, all good things must come to an end. A concluding summer meant distance, and a lot of it. University in British Columbia seemed a world away from our discreet summer location, and the distance until the next summer was overwhelming to consider. I dreaded the feared day of departure, made sure I was the last to bid him farewell. That summer was the spark to the flame, and I had no idea that this fire was about to spread.

After the harsh months of fall and winter, first the stripped branches of trembling trees and then the ivory layer of inimitable snowflakes, the anticipated weekend where we would return to Muskoka never seemed to arrive fast enough. Months passed by, I can practically envision them, reeling quickly forward like a VCR setting. Semesters came and went, seasons appeared and then faded into the past as quickly as they arrived. There was nothing I could do to slow the time, not like I would change any fast paced second even if I could. The sooner I got back to the cottage, the better.

In this particular weekend in May, our sanctuary would be shared with a number of my friends. My brother and I, after contemplating and compromising, were content with the group of people accompanying us. Personally, I couldn’t wait to return to my heaven to float along with the clouds, especially with some of the most amusing people drifting alongside me. Two packed vehicles containing four females and five males travelled through the countryside. Once we exited the highway and traced the winding roads of dirt, I allowed my eyesight to dance over the scenery, pirouette and prance through birch trees and mailboxes. I could feel anticipation pulsing through my limbs; adrenaline appeared through my anxious features.

We drove alongside a fence-divided field created for roaming horses, and I focused my gaze in anticipation to what remained waiting past the upcoming curve. The road ascended and then lowered once more, dipping into a sun-kissed valley. I saw a worn, wooden sign perched at the top of a gravel drive to my right, bolded blue letters echoed in my mind: Lumina Resort. I turned my head, examined the large, white main lodge and pristine pool to the left of it. Small wooden cabins were scattered in all places possible, many not visible from the main road.

That was when I saw him. Just like my very first encounter, time happen to grind its gears to an unnatural speed, slow the course of life just for me. I felt our gazes connect, eyes of blue reunited after a year of separation. By that point the tires of the vehicle had stopped moving, and before I could even register his unsoiled white shirt or his tan cargo pants hanging low on his hips, I was already moving swiftly, nearly gliding. Distance between us decreased until there was nothing in our way, and in that moment I would not have been shocked if he vanished right there, disappeared as an illusion. But when I stepped into his tanned arms, fell into his firm embrace, nothing else could ever feel so real. After holding on with all my might and meeting his gaze of sapphire, I knew I had returned to the place I was meant to be.

It’s the sideways glances he gives me, eyebrows arched and eyes brimming with a hopeful expression, that make it impossible to decline his offers. After briefly babbling about the months apart, he insisted that my friends and I accompany him back to his empty cottage. That night lead to a series of events that I will not forget; the sense of belonging I felt while in his passenger seat; windows ajar and music blaring. The breath-taking scene of what many would not be able to classify as a cottage, the remarkable assortment of colours contributing to an immense garden on the front lawn. Large stone steps than lead across lush green grass guided us down to the dock, into Muskoka chairs with open arms. His smile was beaming; the grin that keeps my eyes locked in place, an attraction that can’t be denied. I’m simply draw to him for he is equivalent to the warmth of a burning candle, the glowing sun. He persuaded me into his scorching sauna, the wooden box that peeled layers of sweat from our skin like onions. The temperature was constantly increasing, first when confined in the sauna, and even afterwards, the electrical force between us.

If our first summer was a hill, the second was a mountain. We soared high together and hung out practically every day. His company was warm and welcoming, a silver lining to all the storm clouds of summer. I learned so much about the person he had become, the things he learned and sights he witnessed in spectacular locations. In fact, I even learned more about myself. His explanations opened my eyes to prospects I had never even considered. It’s like he flicked on a hidden switch somewhere, illuminated a bulb that had not yet been activated. He began a thought process which holds complexity as well as understanding. I allowed myself to sink into the words of his stories, tread on the surface before being enveloped. Why would I even try to float?

When I recall summer I see plastic lawn chairs side by side; books, iPods, and towels waiting patiently on the boathouse patio. I can practically hear the hum of the dark green pickup truck; back bursting with bags of “household garbage” and a light haired driver with a wide smile and defiant thumbs up. I could get lost in the lake of stars, swim through the darkened galaxy and still find my way back. I can almost feel the vibration of notes and melodies beneath his fingertips; the music he created with chords and strings was like no other. In the dark evenings, if the sun sank low enough and we got tired enough, he would toss me a pillow and we would allow the warmth of company to carry us far past the point of consciousness, the silence of night interrupted by only our soft intervals of breath.

I savoured every single moment of that summer. The only disadvantage was the knowledge of the end, quickly approaching; like a concluding chapter, like a sunset beyond the endless horizon. It was the one concern that never left, a constant weight in my chest, a steady reminder in the back of my mind. Days passed like worn pages of a novel, fluttered by before my eyes like the graceful monarch butterfly. Before I knew it, his drive was arranged, flight was booked, bags were packed, room was emptied. Just like that.

Ever anticipate a moment for so long that it doesn’t feel real once the awaited point in time becomes part of the past? Never will I forget our final embrace. As always, he was cheerful and glowing. After all, he was never one to dwell on negativities. Just like our initial encounter, he moved across the gravel lot in front of the snack shop. I slid from the stool I perched on, wearing a sad smile. His hospitable hug welcomed me a final time as he encircled me with solid arms, held on for what was an endless moment in my mind. I vowed to remember this summer. Blue met blue. “Goodbye Ilana.” Only once he was out of sight did I allow the tears to fall.

The same evening as his departure, the weather expressed its contained emotions. Though the waves were violent and cold, their smooth darkness lapped against the shore. The sky was covered by billowing clouds of gray, their shade was reflected in the ripples of water. Though my environment could have been seen as discouraging, I found peace in the strong winds and shedding leaves. The chill did not cool me, yet held me composed. Fat drops of precipitation moistened the earth around me; the falling rain reminded me I was not alone in my sorrow.

A few days later, the conclusion of my summer had also arrived. I awoke with time to pack and prepare myself, quickly accomplished both tasks as the sunshine poured through glass windows and splattered across the floor. I shoved stuffed bags into the trunk of my aunt’s car and was deprived of my breath when I noticed the intensity of the sun’s rays. Strokes of light filtered through out leaves and branches and I took this opportunity to capture a final moment at the lake. I ran down the uneven hill, a trail I could follow like the back of my hand, and slowed my pace once I reached the wooden dock. I slipped my feet out of worn Birkenstocks and padded across the planks until reaching the end of the dock. The water made not a single movement, the glass like surface remained smooth and undisturbed. I could barely make out the opposite shoreline because of the overwhelming brightness omitted by the sun, rising higher and higher into the sky. I reflected on the remarkable knowledge I had gained, the indescribable admiration I had acquired. I bathed in the warmth for tranquil, lasting minutes until the water began to ripple and the sun began to dim, if only slightly. The moment slipped away, and I knew it was time to leave. It’s life changing to learn about the person you hope to become. Trust me. I speak from experience.

A source of guidance and a source of hope are quotes inspired by the night sky. Whether it be the burning stars that dangle from above or the vast glowing moon that is born again on the placid lake's surface; both provide the light that the darkness lacks. Without the silver lining some could so easily lose their way, fall over the edge of sanity and plummet into the abyss. Tread above the harmless surface only to be consumed by the force of the undertow. When you find yourself questioning your faith, simply join me in this place. Away from all that is artificial, no contours can take away this sanctuary. Forget your doubts to finally find the answers you have been looking for, the solution in a place where the galaxy mingles between destiny and the stars.

We can only give it time and time can only take.

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