Alice's Cabin as seen from the Dam
I have always been moved by Horton Foote’s play/teleplay/screenplay The Trip to Bountiful. Its elderly heroine, Carrie Watts, longs to return to her rural childhood home. To her it represents youth, peace, joy, and love.
We all have our individual Bountifuls. Their sights, sounds, and textures speak to us of home, of happy childhood, of a close kinship with nature.
I’m lucky enough to be able to make visits from time to time to my own Bountiful. It’s located less than a mile from my home in Hawley, Massachusetts, in the summer community of Singing Brook Farm.
My family rented Alice’s Cabin every summer from the time I was four until I was 21. The cabin is set in the woods, way down a curvy dirt road.
Alice’s Cabin perches right above Singing Brook Farm’s dammed up mountain stream and tennis courts—an ideal location for children. We could always see who was available for play.
Nowadays my brother David, my sister-in-law Leigh, and my nephew Michael rent the cabin each summer with a little contribution from me. They don’t stay for the entire summer so I always get to enjoy some time there.
I used to stay at the cabin in order to be alone. My mother can no longer be left by herself. So this summer she and I have spent a couple of nights together at Alice’s Cabin.
There are a few things I DON’T like about Alice’s Cabin. Since people don’t live in it for most of the year (with no insulation, a small wood stove for heat, and an above-ground water supply, the place can’t be used except in the summer) it tends to attract other residents—bugs, mice, and often a bat. It’s also a little nippy, even in the summer.
Everything else I love. So does my mother. So do the dog and cat. The latter has unfortunately retired from mousing at the advanced age of 19; her celestial blue eyes are beautiful but blind.
Lorelei Lee adores this sofa, perhaps because the cover matches her eyes.
When my family first moved to a year-round house on the main road, in fact, I had trouble sleeping. I missed the brook’s lullaby.
Since we are regular tenants Singing Brook Farm lets us strew our stuff about. The cover art for my cookbook hangs on a wall in the kitchen, and the cow painting given to me in graduate school by an artist, Ernie from Mars, looms majestically above the mantle.
(Ernie and the cow deserve their own post one of these days. For the moment, let me just say that the cow is hard to miss.)
My own room (used by nephew Michael when he is in residence) is decorated with posters. Two of my favorites are a World War I-era announcement and a blown-up advertisement for one of my singing engagements.
Naturally, when we are at Alice’s Cabin my mother and I spend time down at the Dam. The water is cool—actually, COLD—but refreshing. Jan can’t go swimming unless she has more than one person to help her so sometimes we have to compromise.
I am able to move her chair into the water so that she can cool her feet off. And she often enjoys just sitting near the Dam with Truffle. The air there is always cooler than it is way up on the main road.
I don’t know how often we’ll be able to stay at Alice’s Cabin this summer since moving around tends to disorient my mother.
Even if I don’t go back at all, I’ll feel that my portion of the rent has been well spent. Sunday night after my mother went to bed, I sat happily reading in the living room with the animals by my side. As always, the sounds of the singing brook soothed me.
Like Carrie Watts, I felt a sense of peace and renewal. I was home.
As a bonus, I experienced a spectacular sunset—something I don’t get to see at my regular house since the Casa Weisblat faces east. (Sunrises are completely wasted on me.)
What—and where—is YOUR Bountiful, readers?
I’ll bet you almost thought I was going to forget to include a recipe in this post!
This syrup smells just like the doorway to Alice’s Cabin. Mint grows wild outside the door, and it’s almost impossible not to step on it and release its aroma. (I don’t actually try very hard to avoid it.)
The recipe appears in my Pudding Hollow Cookbook. I like it in tea or lemonade. It also makes a lovely punch combined with iced tea, fruit juice, and ginger ale.
If you store your syrup for more than a couple of months, you may have to thin it out by heating it with additional water. Make sure it is either well sealed or refrigerated, or it will mold after a couple of weeks.
8 sprigs fresh spearmint
8 sprigs fresh peppermint
(If you don’t have both, use twice as much of either.)
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 or 2 drops of green food coloring (optional)
Wash and carefully blot the mints dry. Place them in a saucepan, and pound or crush them slightly to release their flavors. Add the sugar and water, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
Turn down the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the food coloring, if desired, and remove from heat.
Let the syrup cool for a few minutes; then strain it through cheesecloth into a sterilized jar or bottle. Makes about 2 cups.
The newest feature of Alice's Cabin. One can sit on the swing and watch tennis, listen to the rain, or just take a nap.