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  • Writer's pictureThe Low Down

Pine cone, meet pine tree

In the summer of 2020, a friend in Gatineau invited me to the beach at Lac Philippe. I’d been taking care of family and needed some country. On that uncrowded beach, under the huge white pines, I gazed across the small lake at the unspoiled green hills.

I was buoyed. It was like the Laurentians where my family had a cottage for most of my life – only about 50 years back in time. I knew I could retire here, far, far from the maddening crowds of my hometown, Montreal. 


I seized a pine cone from the beach. I did something I’d never done before: I took it home as a concrete symbol of my dream. On my dresser it lay for the next three years to remind me until, after yearly visits exploring magical backroads through  “towns” like Rupert and Alcove, I was in a position to purchase. Were my by-then deceased parents somehow responsible for my good fortune in finding the excellent place in Farrellton my partner, Jimmy, and I bought last June? Not only is it a duplex, which made it affordable, it’s a whole acre! I’d never owned land before, let alone real estate of any kind. It even has fully grown pine trees. Once I shouted as loud as I could, “I have a pine tree!”


Little by little I met my new, fellow Hillsiders. I expected country people to be friendly and relaxed, but you exceeded my expectations. Often I said to Jimmy, “They’re all too nice to be real. When will they suddenly turn into zombies?” But you didn’t. Instead I made more acquaintances through neighbours, solid men who did work on my house; the marvellous crew at the hardware store; my fabulous farmer-neighbour Cassandra and her pigs; new bookkeeping clients; and the fun and too-clever-by-half gang here at the Low Down, where I proofread this rag once a week.

Already, in just half a year, I am intricately connected all over the valley through which winds this beautiful, lazy river.


That must be the source of the magic that’s cast its spell over everyone who lives here: the phenomenal beauty of the Hills – through every changing season, every changing sky, no matter how wet this winter has been, it’s almost always unbearably beautiful. Problems have come our way, but nothing has discouraged us. As I say to Bob the snowblower guy, my glass is not half full, it’s full. Always full. It really is a new life for us, here in the Valley.


I even hugged my pine tree!


John Woolfrey is a Farrellton resident and the author of “East of the Big Q: Short Stories about Queer Montreal”

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