By Hailey Hirst
If all my years were pressed into an accordion fold, the summers would lean together in the sun-faded smooth lines of the cabin’s weathered walls.
Being here, where little seems to change, time gets compressed.
I feel closer to the past — like my childhood summers are still within reach, my grandma’s laughter still caught in the cobwebs above a card game on the kitchen table.
My memory stirs with those old quilted curtains in a summer breeze. I feel the warm air, the creak of the downstairs floor, and I remember the stillness.
I remember the summer when I learned to shuffle cards, building blanket forts in the bottom bunk, leafing through stacks of pink and orange bills to pay rent on St. Charles Place. I can close my eyes and smell those days that we caught grasshoppers in our dirty hands and filled jars with lupine, leaves, and blue butterflies. I still feel the way my small legs could fold so easily under the watercolor-stained table.
And before me, I remember that my mother stood on cut tree stumps as a child and sang like she was performing on stage. My aunt skinned her knee running down the dirt road. My uncle planted the firs by the driveway. My grandma made stacks of sandwiches to take to the lake. Before that, my grandpa and his father cut poles and shaved logs and lined up the floorboards.
You see, their stories, retold by the glow of a dying fire over the clattering cubes in an almost-empty whiskey glass, have turned into my own memories too.
Every year this is a place where games are made up and books are read and chores are done. Where hair can be unkempt and feet can be dirty. Where the first person awake lights the stove and boils the water in the scuffed brown pot. Where the doors are left open and people go and come.
We sleep on thin sheets from every house we’ve ever lived in. We drink from the same old mugs that have always sat on the shelf.
Then suddenly the clock ticks, the calendar flips, and we accordion fold again. Summer slips through my grasp like a handful of granite sand on the lake’s beach. I watch our footprints still evaporating from the warm dock, and I know — nothing lasts forever. Seasons change. People do too. Even the mountains are slowly flowing away to the sea.
But isn’t the fleetingness is part of the beauty? Each cabin season, every campfire burned, song sung and satellite spotted, each cycle of cicada come and gone, are all precious in their impermanence.
I watch our footprints still evaporating from the warm dock, and I know — nothing lasts forever.
Now we will draw the curtains, switch the power off, tuck the cool sheets tight to last all winter. And next spring when we unlock the green door, the next generation will be ushered in.
My daughter spent this summer swimming in the warm lake of my womb while I slept in old beds and played the last games of cards with my grandma in what may be her final year. But by June of next year, my baby will wake me in the darkness and tug me forward into the first cabin season of her life. Soon she will know the lines of these walls and the shape of those mountains as we do.
So, like every year — but with a sharper awareness of time and how it’s distilled stronger here — I’ll turn the key and feel sad to go, but grateful again for the ages spanned and the years condensed within the quiet walls of a cabin.
Hailey Hirst is the Digital Content Editor for She Explores and a multi-passionate creative who thrives on the often-overlooked details. She lives in Kelowna, British Columbia. Find her on Instagram.