Country Roads

Jackie Ashton

© Copyright 1999 by Jackie Ashton
Photo of a dirt road going through a woods.

This essay is a reflection on my youth. I grew up on Christie Lake in Perth, Ontario. The water was my playground. My parents owned a lodge and four cottages. The ebb and flow of people from week to week left me feeling lonely sometimes. You'd meet someone, make friends, then they'd leave to go back home. Vacation over. I explored many things at the lake.

The Road that led to Norvic Lodge twisted and curved its meandering body from my house on the North Shore of Christie Lake. I'd walk the three miles to the small general store/bait shop about once a week, after I'd earned some money. I was anxious to spend a few coins, but also anxious for the adventure. Sometimes, life on the lake was actually stagnant.

The dirt road wove its way along overgrown forest area, cottages nestled deep down long curving laneways, the dump and the swamp. Sometimes, me and a bunch of kids would go together, a kind of quest; a measure of endurance, especially on hot days. Most often though, I'd trek the road myself, alone with my thoughts.

Walking down the wash-boarded hills, I would make believe that the hill wasn't a hill at all, but the rib cage of a giant laying down to rest. I'd tiptoe very lightly along the bones, careful not to step on one, lest I wake him. Sometimes I scared myself silly, but that was easy to do. The road was at least one hundred years old and I knew it had many ghosts which followed me, watching me from their perch on the tree limbs that hung so low, at times they pulled my hair. Teasing me, scaring me even more

If the road had been geometrically planned from point A to point B, it would have only stretched a mile or so, but his road followed the bays and inlets of the lake and so the one mile easily became three. It didn't matter much to me, twelve then. My legs were long and strong, my lungs clear and breath bold. For me, the reward lay at the end of the road, after the last left-hand turn past the swamp.

The Norvic Lodge sign stood out like a cactus in a snowstorm. Brightly painted white with crisp green lettering and a red arrow pointing the obvious way, because the marina, lodge and several cottages were in plain view. At this point, my mind would mentally pour through my choices. What would be the bounty I would carry home today? It was always warm, so it was always a coke. Not diet Coke; no plastic bottle - a real coke from a glass bottle. Then probably some giant Sweetarts, a Hershy bar with almonds and a Popsicle. Sometimes, if I were in a fishing mood, I'd even buy a dozen worms; all in all an unlikely combination. Then I would walk the carefully wound road, back home; sucking on a Popsicle, sipping on a Coke.

I can't drink Coke anymore, bothers my stomach. Seems like the older I get; the more things do, but that's okay. The road I am travelling is long and my body has taken it's share of abuse. I think sometimes, if I could have just lived my life geometrically, from point A to B, I'd have more accomplished. I'd have lived more, laughed more, loved more. I'd be more educated, have a better job and a lasting relationship, and I'd be able to drink Coke.

But like the road to Norvic Lodge, my life's path has taken its share of twists and turns, following the bays and inlets of my soul. Even if I had gotten here quicker, I would not have been as wise, because sometimes it's not the road you take, but knowing which road not to take. And sometimes, you have to go down a few wrong ones to be able to tell the difference.

Jackie Ashton is the author of short stories, poetry and songs. She is currently working on a novel. She lives with her family in Calgary Alberta. She is published and has won awards for her short story fiction.

Contact Jackie

(Messages are forwarded by The Preservation Foundation.
So, when you write to an author, please type his/her name
in the subject line of the message.)

Book Case

Home Page