Monday, December 20, 2010


Oil on canvas, 12x12, $350

This summer, while Heather and I were in Canada, we came upon something called an auberge festive.

"Auberge," I knew, meant "inn." And "festive," well, that's pretty self-explanatory. A festive inn? It sounded great.

We drove down a steep driveway and found what looked for all the world like a hippie encampment, right on the edge of the St. Lawrence Seaway. There was a yurt. There was a tiki bar. There was a hot tub. There were treehouse-like cabins built practically into the hillside. There were tied-dyed, tattooed, dredlocked kids by the dozen. And there was music.

Turns out this was a hostel, and it was celebrating its anniversary that very night with a "Woodstock night." All the cabins and beds were filled, but there were places to pitch a tent on the beach, and we were welcome to stay there for a minimal fee, use the communal facilities, join in the celebration.

Honestly, at first, I just thought: No, oh, no.

I didn't feel like staying in a tent, I didn't feel like staying with hippies, I didn't feel like staying with a bunch of 20-year-olds. In fact, the only thing I did feel like was an old, crabby woman who had no sense of adventure. And then I felt terrible about feeling that way.

My knee-jerk reaction could not have been more wrong or more small-minded. The hippie kids drank a lot and smoked a lot of pot, but they were fun and pleasant and happy. The other visitors at the hostel were fascinating and friendly. We cooked a nice dinner, sat on the deck and watched the sun go down on the St. Lawrence, and managed to sleep through the celebration and the bonfire and what, the next morning, looked like it must have been a wild night.

We talked to a group of students traveling from western Canada to work on Habitat-like projects in lieu of working summer jobs. We talked to a woman who had moved from to the hostel from France. We talked to a woman who taught art somewhere, and was staying at the hostel with her boyfriend and another couple - and their dog, Pencil.

In the morning, we thought about spending another night, but in the end, we decided to keep moving, and keep the memory intact. And I decided that no matter how many risks I take, no matter how free I feel or act, I will always have to guard against having a closed mind.

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