A Place Where Time Stands Still

Is there a place in your life, or maybe an experience, that is so clear to you, that the thought of it, or the memory of it, is brilliantly vivid? Did you travel someplace in childhood that’s still a part of you today, or is there a person who was – or is – important to you and has impacted your life?

These questions popped into my head as I was paddle boarding on a beautiful lake deep in the mountains in Quebec. Whether it was this lake, or another, I’ve been traveling to the Laurentian region since I was born. With maybe the odd exception, I have spent time on a lake in this area every summer of my life.   

I looked around at the magnificent vista and said to myself, “this is a place where time stands still.” Does it? Or in my mind, have I created a story of what’s around me and hold it so sacred that time seemingly stands still?

Let me explain and give some context. As I write, I’m sitting on the deck of a house that’s been around for 75 years. Back in 1949, my husband’s grandfather purchased land, with a partner, and with very limited funds, started to build a small home on one of the plots. He hand-picked the spot, with 180 degree views of the lake and mountains.

Over the next few years the house was completed, and it was enjoyed across all seasons by the family. As the children married and had children, more people benefitted from this magical place. 75 years later, multiple generations return in the summer, to be together, to suck the goodness.

Whenever I am here, no matter what is happening in my life, or the world outside, I start to feel that this house, actually, this whole region, feels like it’s a place where time stands still. As I start to really think about it, I have always felt this way around here.

My extended family also had homes in other parts of the region, which is why I was fortunate to spend parts of the summer or winter around here. As a child, I remember a special smell that always hit me when I arrived at my grandparents’ country house in the little village of St. Adolphe. I associated it with wonderful memories (I only realized later, as an adult, that the smell was really just mustiness or mold, which would have been solved with a dehumidifier!).

Maybe it’s a certain kind of design, or decoration, that I see across the homes in this area. Or maybe the décor hasn’t changed in the 75 years some of these homes have existed. I often jest that my husband’s family home is a perfectly preserved retro home from 1952! To paraphrase from a family friend who wrote an article on the home in the National Post 15 years ago – when the home turned 60 – from a dark and cramped kitchen come gourmet meals – well, besides the new shiny fridge – the original kitchen is still there.

The floors creak, the mattresses are lumpy, and unless I turn on the dehumidifier, it’s musty…. I’ll just say it – it’s not exactly the most comfortable home. And yet, and yet, I don’t think anyone would want it any other way. Time stands still here, in our little bubble.

This is a concrete example where time stands still. But what about memories or experiences that have been placed in a vault in your head? Could it be that cute hotel by the beach you stayed at 30 years ago, and in your head – even if a city has grown up around it and it’s commercialized, it’s still a tiny shack by the water? Maybe it’s the elementary school you went to until grade 4. The chairs in the classroom still seem big in your head, and wow, the teachers were tall. The slide in the playground is long and scary, and it was so many steps to get to the second floor of the building!

Time can’t really stand still. But I love that I have a place – both in my head – and in real life – that when I’m here, I look around – and I swear, I feel like nothing has changed. And that brings me comfort. My children grow up. My jobs have changed, or my career has gone in a new direction. Politics and wars have overtaken our lives, and families have moved around the world. The people who built some of these homes, 75 years ago, are physically gone. But they are here with us every day.

When our family sold my grandparents’ country home, we took my grandfather’s canoe and moved it my husband’s home nearby. We now call this canoe, the Zaidy Lou, in honour of my grandfather. Every time I see this canoe, I half expect my grandfather to appear, asking me to join him on the lake.

When someone bites into a peach, I immediately conjure the memory of when my husband’s grandmother taught me how to pick a basket of peaches at the local Provigo grocery store in the village. I remember she said to me, “Alicia, they sell the peaches by the basket. Make sure you pick the best ones, even if you have to move peaches between baskets. And when you think the basket is full, put one extra peach on top!”

These memories, of my grandfather canoeing down his lake, or my grandmother-in-law teaching me how to buy peaches, or so clear in my head. They are a moment in time that are still very alive today.

Where does time stand still for you? Is there a place, a moment, or a person? I would love to hear your story.


One Reply to “A Place Where Time Stands Still”

  1. Very, very lovely to read this piece, since, of course, this very same 75-year-old home is also my own timeless place. And I wonder, is it that these places we love really haven’t changed, or is it that, while we are there, our eyes are looking past the present and are seeing and connecting with the past? And one little change – the house used to have a wood-burning stove in the kitchen. I remember my mother starting the fire in the stove in the early morning.

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