In my lifetime, I have been privileged to travel to some of the most beautiful places in the world. I have seen the rich fire of sunset over the Rocky Mountains and the brilliance of coral reefs in crystal blue Caribbean waters. No spot on earth, however, has yet surpassed the beauty of my childhood paradise, a place my family called Tamarack.
Tamarack was a family camp and hunting lodge set deep in the heart of the Mountains. My earliest memories of it are fractured images of sights and sounds and smells--golden bars of sunlight through majestic oaks and elms, the ever-present smell of wood smoke and haunting echoes. I suspect that the setting was the reason for the eerie echoes which resounded about the site. The house, itself, was built on the side of a steep hill leading down to a small private lake at the bottom. This fact, combined with the height of the ancient trees, caused a cavern-like effect. Regardless of the reasons for this phenomenon, it was a well known fact to all of us that no one could say a word without the rest of us in camp hearing at least a part of the conversation. My sister and I, when we were very young, could never figure out why all of our secret plans for mischief were foiled before we could carry them out. Hiding things from our mother was one of our favorite things to do. We would sometimes laugh ourselves breathless, watching her scratch her head in confusion. Once we caught on to the tell-tale echo, we were careful to make all of our plans while the adults were busy elsewhere.
The house at Tamarack was a rough-hewn structure, built by my great-grandfather, of logs which he had cleared from the spot on which it stood. It could have been considered a log cabin if not for its two-story design. To get to the house it was necessary, first, to navigate a set of 20 to 25 steps down a steep embankment. For me, as a child, this descent was easier said than done. The steps were actually nothing more than a series of notches cut into the hillside and reinforced with rough-cut 2x4s. Stairs were never my forte, and I can recall more than a few slips and tumbles on those particular steps. Any bumps and bruises I sustained, however, were quickly forgotten in my excitement at being there.
At the foot of this first, and steepest slope sat the house. The main entrance was across a small, covered porch, through a heavy green door, which led into a small kitchen area. As far as kitchens go, this was a fairly unimpressive room. Barely big enough for two adults, it was furnished with an old-fashioned porcelain sink which, although it had a drain, had no running water, and a tiny electric refrigerator which had replaced the original icebox. The dishes were all stored in a large china cabinet in the corner, and a small work table on the opposite side of the door held the cutlery. The drawer in this table, we found later, became an excellent place for the deer mice to curl up for the winter and have their babies. The old...