Recently it came to my attention that Faye thought Cape Cod was the name of a prolific sweatshirt company and not a popular vacation destination. In the past few weeks we have been in and out of our share of balsam-scented souvenir shops. We’ve been tried and tempted by embroidered Adirondack patches bearing bald eagles and bear prints. We’ve very nearly been responsible for the crash of an entire display case of ADK-printed water bottles. We’ve seen more chiseled black bears bearing signs that say Go Away in a jaunty script than I could count. Buffalo plaid? Check. Adirondack chairs by the hundreds? Of course. Bonus if they’re over-sized and made for picture taking.
Having encountered compasses in one too many junior naturalist guides, we did our part to support the Adirondack tourist industry and bought our small campers tiny compasses on carabiners from the local camp store. They were most assuredly not used for orienteering and everyone in the family had a slightly different and incorrect take on how they’re supposed to function. On one hike, Silas hooked all three carabiners together and hung them off the strap of his backwards baseball cap so that he looked like some kind of terrestrial anglerfish prowling through the woods. We bought a small bottle of Adirondack-made maple syrup and a small bottle of honey and enjoyed both daily at breakfast while camping. We’ll polish off the rest here in Brooklyn.
But my favorite kind of souvenir, no surprise, is the one that doesn’t get put on a shelf or forgotten about immediately upon its homecoming. The best souvenirs settle themselves right into the way of things—souvenir objects that transition themselves into everyday objects. On this trip, we bought a yellow birch bowl. It’s wide and a little tall and it fits solidly in between the palms of two hands. We found it a local craft fair where my kids regaled the bowl maker with their recently stockpiled fish factoids and the bowl maker regaled my kids with videos of his lathe shooting curls of wood around his North Country studio. The bowl doesn’t say ADK on it or boast the silhouette of a moose. Indeed, to anyone else’s eye, the bowl is just a bowl. But at dinner on nights when it holds our family’s salad or at breakfast when it cradles fresh peaches, we’ll remember—or at least not forget—our two weeks in the woods and the friendly bowl maker who left his mark on the bowl’s bottom. Gary Pierce, Yellow Birch, 2022.