“Around the next turn they came in sight, not indeed of a palace, but of a little house almost as surprising as a palace would have been in this province of conventional wooden farmhouses, all as much alike in general characteristics as if they had grown from the same seed.
The house was a low-eaved structure built of undressed block of red Island sandstone, with a little peaked roof out of which two dormer windows, with quaint wooden hoods over them, and two great chimneys. The whole house was covered with a luxuriant growth of ivy, finding easy foothold on the rough stonework and turned by autumn frosts to most beautiful bronze and wine-red tints.
Before the house was an oblong garden into which the lane gate where the girls were standing opened. The house bounded it on one side; on the three others it was enclosed by an old stone dyke, so overgrown with moss and grass and ferns that it looked like a high, green bank. On the right and left the tall, dark spruces spread their palm-like branches over it; but below it was a little meadow meadow, green with clover aftermath, sloping down to the blue loop of the Grafton River. No other house or clearing was in sight…nothing but hills and valleys covered with feathery young firs.”
– L.M Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea.
The images of this little house, this cottage, have stayed with me for many years, since I first read Anne of Avonlea when I was only nine or ten. I daydreamed about it for years as the perfect cottage, and it is still romantic ideal I love to come back to. It has the element of escape and fantasy that I craved as a child, and do even to this day sometimes.
The quaint country cottage is an image that appeals to many people, I think, be it for weekend and holiday getaways from the city, or for full-time rural life. I was thinking on this when creating the idea of Hawthorne Cottage: why does the country cottage hold such a mystical allure for so many of us? Is it escapism, as it is for me? The idea of shedding the weekday “me”, the city “me”, the office “me”, even the wife or mother “me” certainly does appeal. Is it the change of lifestyle? One is often forced (or by choice) to slow the pace of everyday routine. Clocks can be ignored, schedules tossed out, and the hours can blur. Here, at the cottage, the body can take over – rising with the sun, eating when hungry, walking in order to explore, not just to rush to get somewhere. Hands can kneed bread, knit socks, throw a baseball with a child, or row long, lazy strokes across the misty morning lake. Feet can meander, or kick up and dance. The mind, too, can slow, can contemplate, can daydream, can float into the abstract, and create.
And why do some people choose to make cottage life a constant affair? Perhaps they no longer identify with their urban selves. Maybe they are the ghosts of vibrant beings longing to break out. Does this mean that I call all city-dwellers “ghosts”, or “un-vibrant”? Not at all. It’s just that some of us become much more of our true selves when we are knee-deep in a salmon stream, under a cool September sun with the cedars to our right and a timber homestead to our left. Woodsmoke mingles with running water, with damp earth, from the night’s rain, and we can feel it in the Solar Plexus of our belly that this is where we belong.
And this is what Hawthorne Cottage is about: the perfect cottage. This is a place of refuge and restoration, of contemplation and creativity, of exploration and endless cups of tea.