Here was a world a child could understand: the rain water collected in a barrel; the drinking water was hauled up in a bucket from a well. When we were cold we made a fire in the fireplace, and for a long time, when it was dark, we lit candles and kerosene lanterns... and carried one with us to the outhouse. We brought big chunks of ice for the icebox up from the dock in a wheelbarrow. We dug clams and picked berries and roasted hot dogs on sticks over a fire at the shore.
This was a life, it goes without saying, that was far from self-sufficiency--but one very close to self-revelation. Here was a world made tangible to the senses, one whose flesh seemed as fragile as our own. It is a small thing, maybe, to lie snug and safe, listening to the cold wet night pawing at the wall beside your ear. An experience complexly sensuous and sad, it gives substance to our understanding of safety, warmth, and comfort. Today, only the summer cottage has walls thin enough for the outside to reach us at all.
Enjoy your summer.