Absence

Here was the hum of blossom and
milk weed, run together by wind.
Wind the perfumer
decanting the scent of stem songs

There was the hum of highway
and home stretch, divided by the dimming light.

A few years ago I wrote the lines above, hoping to preserve something of my summer evenings as a young girl in rural southern Ontario. The memory of how it felt to leave the noise of our house behind and sit alone with my thoughts was becoming harder to summon, edged out by responsibilities and a steady stream of information and diversion. I missed finding quiet places where I could disconnect and see the world from a different angle. This blend of nostalgia and loss prompted the beginning of Absent Hour, an online space that hopefully inspires the creation of quiet, offline spaces in our homes and routines - hideaways where we can experience absence.

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What once only required walking out the back door and hopping over a narrow stream now takes discipline and the intentional rerouting of daily habits. For many of us, definitely for me, the thought of regaining control over the rhythm of our days and crafting a life that reflects our values is appealing. The difficulty seems to be in finding the time to reflect on where our time is spent, and to identify those values in the first place. It seems obvious to say, but routinely taking time away - an evening walk, retreating to a bedroom or escaping to the cottage, is one of the few ways we can see our lives clearly enough to make intentional decisions about them. The paradox of being too busy for absence is, of course, that we’ll never find the time for it unless we go away.

WIld Flowers
Reverie is not a mind vacuum. It is rather the gift of an hour which knows the plenitude of the soul.
— Gaston Bechelard

Making a Kitchen

Once we bought an old house with a mid-century extension and a deep yard in a small village. We had lived in this village before and it was very dear to us, but we decided to leave for one of the reasons that can be found on the list of reasons for which people who love a place might still need to leave it. We didn’t think we’d ever be back here to live, but here we were with our boxes and young children. I made a garden and marveled at the silvery green of the Lamb’s Ears. Tall trees made a ring in the back of the yard and at night I would stand at the window and listen to the sound of wind rushing through their circle.

We moved away again, first halfway across the country and then to Nova Scotia. Our old house had been rented while were gone but shortly after we moved back to the east coast our tenants gave their notice. We were driving away from the house, trying to decide what to do with it when the idea came to divide it, making the extension, including the kitchen, into a separate apartment. The remaining space became our cottage.

For 5 years, we’ve made do without a cottage kitchen, carrying down water from the upstairs washroom for cooking and washing. It was fine actually, like camping indoors. The decision to put in a kitchen came slowly - a plan for a sink, then researching the cost of a propane stove and now here we are, one shelf left to hang. We call this place our cottage but the word doesn’t quite fit. It’s our second home but at a distance from our daily life, a hideaway.

Our new kitchen is a mishmash of eras and styles, but it’s warm and simple. Ikea cabinetry mixes with antique furniture, old wood with new butcher block. My collection of thrifted stoneware is stacked on a shelf and the fridge is tucked into a pantry closet. We tried to make a space that works naturally with the rest of the house, without feeling like a period reproduction; a kitchen that could’ve evolved comfortably over time.

After 3 months of packing, driving and working every weekend we’re tired, but we have the summer in front of us, long evenings with friends and family gathered around the kitchen table, a new sink for washing up and always the Atlantic wind moving through the trees.

Figurative drawing by   Kayla Gale   ,  Oil painting of a dog, vintage unsigned

Figurative drawing by Kayla Gale, Oil painting of a dog, vintage unsigned

Havsta Cabinet, Ikea

Havsta Cabinet, Ikea

Vintage dresser re-purposed as an island, topped with a Hammarp oak counter top by Ikea.

Vintage dresser re-purposed as an island, topped with a Hammarp oak counter top by Ikea.

Absent Hour Cottage Kitchen
Absent Hour Cottage Kitchen
Absent Hour Cottage Kitchen
Bluenose 2 photograph, vintage

Bluenose 2 photograph, vintage

Paint Colours & Sources

Floors, shelves and dresser - Carazzo Paint in Chalk White by Pure and Original.

Woodwork and plank wall - Estate emulsion in Drop Cloth by Farrow and Ball.

Walls - Diamond Interior Acrylic in Delicate White by Dulux.

Early Spring

The wind is sharp, but even here, next to the ice cold Atlantic sea, the air is warming. Spiders dart through the rocks and we only have to look down at any one spot for a few seconds before seeing another. I check my ankles. Fog hangs over the water, the sand an unrolled length of velvet in the muted light. Lauren pockets a small collection of stones. We leave with a film of salt on our lips, lungs washed. At home the stones are reexamined and shifted into patterns, hands moving like the tide to push them into place.

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