Ginette’s Columbines

7iXzXlbXRgSMoTqoyFoz9g.jpgIt was the early seventies and we found ourselves with little money and few skills living in an old house at a fish hatchery. What we didn’t have in skills we made up for in enthusiasm. There was nothing more exciting to us at the time than growing our own food, heating with wood, and embracing a simpler life more connected to nature. We  weren’t alone. There were a whole slew of  like-minded people  looking for the same thing who found their way to this mountain valley at about the same time. Many built rustic homes or bought cheaper run down farm houses, raised bees or became carpenters. Some enterprising individuals learned to bake bread commercially and apprenticed on farms.  One couple even opened a health food store. Potters, bakers and fledgling farmers all became part of the country lifestyle revival.

Our unpaved, winding road was a scant mile from the US border. It was the rare car that passed during the week but it became busy on Friday nights and again on Sunday  when Montrealers made their weekly trek to their country homes in the mountains to the south of us. When our daughter was born, I pushed her pram on this road many days. My walk took us past the two established old farmsteads on our road that were lived in by people who were probably around the age I am now. Their own children were grown and gone by then and they had stopped raising animals but were still growing their own vegetables and cutting their own wood.

This was the first house I would pass on my way up the road.


This house belonged to Ginette and her husband Malcolm. The house had been abandoned for a number of years when this photo was taken.

We became friends the way you do when living a quieter life in the country. We would stop to chat on our walks if they were outside and would share news of the comings and goings.  They gave us tips, shared seeds, and told us stories of living here in the winter when money was scarce and times were hard. There was something very comforting to me about driving by their lit homes on a winter evening.

Fast forward forty years and my husband, now a real estate broker, had Ginette’s house for sale. I went with him one day to visit the property and noticed columbines growing under the old maples. I carefully dug up a few and relocated them to my garden about two kilometres away on another dirt road. They’re blooming now. These flowers have become the holders of the stories.  They talk of time passing, of people passing, of rural life then and now. They’ve become  the witness bearers and the time keepers…and they’re still blossoming.