Category: cottage

Left and Leaving IV

The next in my series of farewells is not to person, but a place.

I have been to dozens of cities, states, provinces and countries, but my favourite place in the world isn’t Paris, Galway, London, New York or Montreal. My favourite place in the whole world isn’t very big or very far. Our family cottage is about 25 minutes from my parent’s house. I’ve been going there my whole life, and even before I was born. My mom’s been going up for her entire life, and my grandpa too.

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This chair in the living room of my cottage is my favourite place in the whole world. From that chair I’ve watched spring turn to summer and summer to fall. I’ve cuddled in blankets in the winter, I’ve covered it with water and sand in the summer. I’ve sat and watched storms move across the lake through the window and listened to the steady rhythm of rain on the deck. I’ve watched birds fly from tree to tree, I’ve listened to woodpeckers and grasshopers.

I’ve celebrated almost every birthday and even a few Thanksgivings. I’m told that once, when we were little, we were there for Easter, but I doubt I was allowed to sit in the chair.

In that chair I’ve read some of my favourite books. Ever since I learned to drive, I would escape up to the cottage at the smallest oppurtunity. For the day, for the week, for just a few hours. And I would curl up in the chair and read. All day. I would forget to eat or move at all. I love spending time with family and friends at the cottage, but my best memories are from the times I spent there alone.

It was pouring rain on Saturday, but I opened the sliding doors so I could hear the rain and smell the water. It was cold, I needed two blankets just to keep from shivering. I had a new book to read, and several hours alone. It was the perfect farewell to my favourite place in the world. Not forever. There’s no way I could stay away forever. But for a while, because I won’t be back next summer.

Someday, I’ll take a summer off and live up there, while I write my first novel. Or maybe my second, because that’s probably the only way I’d be able to afford four months of not working. I would love to live up there - it’s perfect, so beautiful and a Starbucks less than ten minutes away.

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Learning how to fall

cottage sunset

I’ve been standing here for almost 22 years, on the edge of this dock staring at the water. When I was little, someone would be standing at the end to catch me. With little floatie wings I’d jump, arms and legs flailing, trustingly towards outstretched arms. When I was a little older, I would run the length. Panels of wood would disappear under my bare feet. Careful not to trip, I would jump in with a determined, triumphant splash.

As I grew older I spent more time on the dock and less in the water. Now I stand on the edge. The setting sun paints the water a golden pink. The still, hot day makes the water calm and inviting. I want to be in the water, I’ve already decided to swim. I don’t want to be standing on the dock in my ridiculous bargain polka dot bathing suit, my hair hastily pulled from a French braid, frizzy and shapeless. And yet every time I take a step forward I find myself hesitating. I try to think of the cool water against my hot skin, or the freedom from the bugs swarming around my head, and yet I still stand. Waiting.





“Aren’t you afraid to fall?” I ask my sister. Terrified of heights and prone to falling from my short 5′3″, I’ve never quite understood her desire to be several feet taller, on stilts, and then proceed to do tricks.

“Why should I be? I stilt as if I can’t fall,” she answers.

I wish I could live life that way, I thought. Unafraid to fall or to jump.

In which I burn…

I am very pale. Translucently so, actually. I know that I don’t have the complexion for tanning. But, I love the sun. I’m like a kitten in a sun spot, I practically purr and roll around.

This weekend, I went up to The Chris‘ cottage. It was beyond gorgeous. I’m used to cottages like mine, where there are lots of trees, a dock and a smallish lake. The Chris’ cottage is on Lake Erie, and it is definitely Canada’s equivalent of Florida. Vast, sandy beaches and blue blue water as far as the eye can see.

Saturday was fairly cool - I spent most of it curled under a blanket on the hammock, reading my book. Sunday rolled around and it was very sunny. It was fantastic. We went for a few walks, even braved a swim. When I got out of the lake, I was freezing. I decided to lie down on my towel in the sun.

“Did you put sunscreen on?!” The Chris would ask every fifteen minutes or so.

“Yessss,” we would all answer with varying tones of exasperation.

Kristen lied down beside me. “You put sunscreen on again after swimming, right?”

“Yeah,” I said, “Except on my legs. For some reason they never burn.”

Correction - my legs do burn. They just don’t normally burn because normally when I get a sunburn it’s from walking around too much in the sun or sitting on the dock. I very seldom lie down to soak in sun. And when I do, I even more seldomly wear ridiculously short shorts and roll up my bathing suit.

I am now a lobster from the waist down. My legs are so burnt that I had a fever Sunday night. I can’t walk very well because I can’t bend my knees without it hurting. I can’t sit down comfortably because all but a very little bit of my ass is burnt. And yesterday I drove 7 hours home from the cottage.

I was hobbling around and wincing from pain every few minutes. The Chris looked down at my legs and shook her head.

“I told you so,” she said.

just breathe

I love my cottage.

I’m just trying to get enough in these short hours. Enough sun. Enough fresh air, to breath enough of that heavy earthy smell and that airy water smell. To feel enough water and grass and sand under my toes. To see enough bright purple, count enough waves.

I want this forever.