Friday, June 22, 2012

Take me to the river...

Drop me in the water!

There's one place in this world where I feel completely in-tune with my surroundings. When I was a year old my parents bought an acre of land on the Clarion River in Pennsylvania. As teachers, they had their whole summers off and, while living in Brooklyn, New York, they decided to get out of the city on their vacation and enjoy some time on the river. What better place to purchase some land than near Cook Forest State Park and about 45 minutes away from my grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins.
Dad, Kodi, Mom, Me, Grandma
That first summer we camped for the WHOLE summer in a two-room tent. We had a water jug for brushing our teeth and a solar shower for rinsing off. Yes, in rain and in fair weather, my parents spent the entire summer "roughing" it with a one year old. They also had my grandparents' camper for their kitchen.
Dad, Mom, & Me on the bank

In time my dad decided to take on his first building project: the "barn." This barn never housed any typical farm animals, but that's what we've always called it. To hear him tell the story, he would read the first chapter of the book one night and then do that step the next day. That evening he would read up on the following day around the campfire and then continue on. This structure has a loft, where my parents used to stay, a bunk bed, for me and my brother, and no water, plumbing, etc. The camper was still used as the kitchen and the solar shower was the other source of cleansing.

The Barn as it looks today
Soon after my sister was born my dad built a cabin which we now call "The Pinery." The cabin does have running water and plumbing, but it has been a work-in-progress over the years. Each summer they would choose a new project: board and batten siding, playground, insulation, ceiling, pellet stove, murals in the bathrooms, screened-in back porch, an additional shed, and an earth oven.

Family Get-together
A few things still remain the same such as the fact that the only inside doors are to the bathrooms. The three kids' triple-decker bunk bed still stands in the "kids room" and my brother and sister still sleep in their beds when they visit.

Adding the board and batten
The barn turned into a storage barn for our gear, tools, and porch furniture once the cabin was built, but Jim transformed the top bunk into a "bachelor pad" the summer we got married. That's where we stay when we frequent the cabin.

Grandma and Pheebs
Throughout the years my parents moved to a few different states. We always joke that my dad only lives in a place for 5 years before he gets the itch to move again. So, they lived in Detroit for five years, Brooklyn for five years, Savannah, Georgia for five years, Philomont, Virginia for five years, and now they've lived in Paris, Virginia for going on fourteen years (I think)... he finally broke the stretch! Pretty impressive though, eh? But since we moved a fair amount, my siblings and I grew very fond of the one consistent place in our lives.

My parents' first "baby," their dog, Kodi, would desist from sleeping in the car, rise, and begin sniffing. He could smell the river from a mile or two away and when we got onto River Road my parents would open the door and let him run along the river bank and swim all of the way to our cabin. My siblings and I also grew very connected to the smells, sights, feels, tastes, and sounds. All of our senses are awakened with each visit and I think that's a pretty unique and neat experience. I'm not implying that we can smell the river from a mile or two away, but the smell of pine and the distinct river scent makes us feel at home.
Me & Willem

When I worked for Teton Science Schools in Wyoming that was one of the tennets of our/their educational goals: to connect the students/participants to the place through place-based education. With that connection will come care and stewardship for their local environment and community- I love it! I always felt a slight disconnect because I didn't get to travel back with the students to their home and work with them to assimilate all they had learned in WY into what they can do for their distint community. In Louisiana, Jim and I did get to do that with a group of three boys for a week and it was magical. They were so proud of their heritage and filled with a wealth of information about their ecologically and culturally rich surroundings and could not wait to share what they had learned with their friends. Whew... I digress!

This is a more recent picture of what it looks like during the winter months.
The Pinery has become a staple in our lives and we have many traditions. Whether it's kayaking, biking, canoeing, hiking, blueberry-picking, crafting, reading, visiting, or playing games, we always try to check everything off the list (no matter the length of the visit)!

So many memories have been made there, both good and bad. My sister fell and "lost" her tooth on the porch, we got countless bee stings and scrapes, my dad was rushed to the hospital with a blood clot in his lung, our neighbor flipped his tractor off of the bank and my dad was the first to find him, etc. But each of the three kids learned how to ride a bike on our sloping hill, we perfected our math skills through evening Yahtzee games, Mom and I took basket-making classes and made baskets on the porch, Willem went hunting for a tiger on his birthday, we played cowboys and indians with homemade bows and arrows, we climbed up into crevices in the pine trees to read, and we played king of the rock on "Dad's rock." Willem and I would be a team against Dad and Phoebe. Our tactic was to knock Phoebe off the rock and let her float down the river until Dad finally had to depart the rock and retrieve his teammate. So many more memories...
Grandma, Pheebs, & Me
There's something to having a place in your life that doesn't change. Jim and I chose to get married there almost three years ago and, fortunately, The Pinery means a lot to him, too. It's also a place where there's always something to do, which definitely keeps this active girl busy! But most importantly, it brings our immediate and extended family together, and for that I am grateful.
Dad- Grandpa was helping, but he's the one who snapped this picture!
Tomorrow Leif and I will begin the first leg of the journey up to The Pinery. Unfortunately, Jim won't be with us during the next week and a half but he does plan on getting up there for a few days later this summer. He's studying like crazy right now for the boards and won't have the two of us to distract him during his final push. 

I can't wait to play fetch in the river with Leif and visit with my family. This summer will be the least active amount of time I've EVER spent at The Pinery. Good thing I have a few good books to read :)

Yep, take me to the river... I'm ready!

I had a few pictures I still wanted to add, but I met my quota. Most of these pictures were taken by our family photographer, Grandpa (aka Waldo). Grandpa is an amazing scrapbooker and has every year documented from the birth of each of his children to each trip they ever took up until the present. Dad then scanned these pictures from the slides he created.  Sorry they are not in order, but they're still fun to see what it looks like over the years!

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