My love of storytelling comes from my family. Visiting when I was a kid meant traipsing around to all our family members homes each weekend, sitting around the table eating & talking. Not just gossip but also recounting of finely honed tales, that usually involved comedic mishaps. The unstated goal seemed to be to make people laugh so hard they cried. This extended to letter writing, especially when I joined the military and moved away. Dad’s best friend from high school, Almost-Uncle Neil, would write me these hilarious stories about his adventures in suburban Halifax that made me feel closer to home. It became tradition for me to read them aloud to my roommates, sometimes the whole floor would sit to listen about Neil & Bird’s adventures with his poppy firewood burning her beloved carpet or deflating Halloween decorations that defied the laws of physics. My favourite story is of Stormin Norman, the rabbit on a dancing beer can, that played an integral role in many failed coyote hunting trips.
I had learned to write mostly from helping keep the Silas Cove camp log book. We had a bit of an informal competition about keeping the log at camp. I understood the rules to be: keep it short, keep it funny and if you can craft a running joke or tie in a longstanding joke, all the better. Dad insisted we have a log book from the very first day we took possession of the camp from Uncle Russell. (I think it was 1985 or 86 but it is in the log book!). We documented changes to the camp’s structure, the work we did to make the space ours and the many challenges of VERY large wharf spiders (the size of the palm of my hand) and numerous mice that seemed to insist on cohabitating with us.
While you can bet the weather was acutely captured (as well as the attendance and dates) I wouldn’t put too much stock in the accuracy of the tales written in the log. We valued the quality of the story telling more so than the factual statements, something I blame my penchant for hyperbole and drama on to this day. This was what Dad calls “adding colour to the story”, fancy people call it “artistic license” . The writer of the log entry got to select the facts and weave a narrative around the stay that would make it memorable & unique. That way no 2 long weekends in August were ever captured the same way, even if we just swam, fished, BBQ’d and drank like every other year.
On rainy days at camp, when the fishing was crap, we’d dust off the log books and read through them, laughing, noting the unfinished projects or new boats and the great visits that happened. Company was always a highlight as the camp was truly accessible only by boat or very committed hikers in the summer and sleds in winter. We worked hard to make a great beach to swim from, a warm place to hang out and a wild refuge from our city lives.
Time has a way of fading memories, one year blends into the next but the camp log, while maybe not totally factual, tells no lies and brings back all the warm memories. That’s a pretty good reason to write.