Seeking Sanctuary

My hand soap is giving me PTSD.

Okay, that may be a bit dramatic but the smell of it is giving me some serious flashbacks. Recollections that have left me in a mixed state of euphoria and sadness. Or, quite possibly, I’ve just finally crossed the threshold into crazy, who knows.

Perhaps I should elaborate.

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Breathing space…

The first thing you need to know about me is that I’m extremely smell sensitive. Not like my mom’s smell sensitivity, which rivals that of a bloodhound; I’m more of “this smell reminds me of this or that” sensitive. For example, the smell of oranges prompts floods of Christmastime memories. When I was little my parents would clean the house using orange Pledge – and usually the most thorough cleaning occurred before the holidays, pre-company. To this day the instant I smell orange my go to response is “it smells like Christmas”.

Now back to the hand soap.

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To date, my most favourite place on earth.

For whatever reason, the hand soap in my bathroom reminds me of our family cottage. It doesn’t emulate pine needles or wildflowers but rather is reminiscent of the soap that was in our cottage bathroom just prior to us having to sell it. I have literally spent the past few days just sitting and smelling my hands, each deep breath taking me back to some of my most cherished memories, and making me incredibly sad at the same time. Couple this with the fact that it’s springtime, the time of year when I miss the cottage the most. I won’t go into details as to why we had to sell it, all you need to know is that it was not an easy decision for my family to make and that I hate the fact that money doesn’t grow on trees. It pisses me off to no end that there is such a high price put on nature, that only the truly well off seem get to have the “luxury” of experiencing it – from cottage rentals to chartered tours. But that’s a rant for another time.

Our cottage was built by my grandfather in the mid 1940’s, when my dad was just a whipper snapper of a young boy. When I came along in the late 70’s I spent every summer at our cottage, including the dreaded teenage years when the place seemed more like a prison then a place of solace. Fast forward to my twenties when I started to appreciate the amazing escape that our cottage had become. It was a place to mentally regroup and reconnect with myself. I made major life decisions while blankly staring out onto the lake, daydreaming of endless possibitles. It was the one place on earth where I felt completely free to be myself.

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Nothing brings two species together like the sharing of peanuts.

As much as I try to hide it, I am still heartbroken that we had to let it go. I feel like I lost a part of myself, that I lost my one true sanctuary – a place I could escape each year to heal my heart, mind, and soul. They are so many things to miss – beautiful sunsets, star drenched night skies, haunting calls of the loons, rain hitting the roof, summer thunderstorms, crackling of the bonfire, daily forest walks – the list can go on and on. However, what I miss most are the mornings, where each day began with utter peace and tranquility. Each morning I would wake up from yet another fresh air induced coma and proceed to open my bedside window. Dora would perch herself up on the windowsill to take in the sights, smells, and sounds that was the forest saying good morning. There we would lie, cuddling for an hour or so, me reading, Dora taking chipmunk inventory, both breathing in the sweet smell of morning dew while listening to the wind in the trees. To experience it was the purest form of serenity – the ultimate feeling of how life was meant to be lived. I miss that place almost every day, especially now that the warmer weather is just around the corner.

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A perfect sunset as witnessed from our deck.

We sold our cottage three and half years ago and since then I feel like I’ve been left floating; as if I don’t know where I belong. My oasis, my hideaway is gone, and I have yet to find another one. Each spring the grief of having lost something special gets stronger; as the bird’s song, froggy mating chants, and the faint buzz of waking insects gets louder I am instantly taken back to life at the cottage.  I’ll close my eyes and imagine myself standing on the dock or along the road near the woods and will myself to experience it again, but the distant noise of traffic and sirens and general city life always snaps me back into my high-strung reality.

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My former thinking spot.

The thing with life at the cottage is that time seems to stop. If you are relying on a cottager to pick you up from somewhere, expect to be kept waiting, because they WILL be late. You have no designated time to be anywhere and only complete tasks as you feel like doing them. There are no expectations, no agendas. You are gifted with the freedom to just be. I don’t know if I’m nature starved or heartbroken for a loss I can’t get over, but either way, I do know that until I find another sanctuary I can call my own I will remain in a perpetual state of yearning – holding onto an overwhelming desire for fresh air and a place to simply slip away for awhile.

In the meantime, if you find me sitting on the floor smelling my hands, please don’t be alarmed. I’m just reliving some of the best times of my life –  consider it a form of personal meditation. Thank you Bath & Body Works.

Erica 🙂


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