Monday, May 28, 2012


Cottaging is a way of life for Canucks. Going to camp, hitting the cabin, swinging by the lake house/beach/what-have-you: it's in our blood. Now more than ever, Canadians are more urban than rural, and our weekends away have become of paramount importance. Getting out of town and getting into some nature, a slower-paced lifestyle, and a more casual family rhythm, can be a balm that lasts months past the initial application.

My family has a cottage on Lake Huron, on a wide, sandy swathe of the world that has somehow, miraculously, mostly escaped the high-intensity development that lakefront properties have inspired in places like, say, Toronto. Unlike some of the mega-cabins that have sprouted in that village, our summer home is tucked back from the road. We've enclosed ourselves with trees; there are nooks filled with rusty (but still valiantly rideable!) bicycles, hammocks, Muskoka chairs and derelict tree forts. The backdoor into the kitchen is usually propped open, and on mornings when the lake and the sky are the same shade of faded-denim blue, the only thing you need is a mug of hot tea and a good, fat book. Afternoon snacks are handfuls of salty nuts or quickly toasted rye bread with a slab of cheese perched on top; then it's back down to the waterfront to read, swim, and walk. After the sun goes down, we go to the drive-in, or play card games, or just sit and stare into a campfire. That place is a heaven.

Last summer, I was off work, but I never really felt like I was on vacation. Instead, I was slogging through the job ads, suffering in a stifling third-floor bedroom and coping with the PTSD from my horrible former job. By the time summer rolled around, I was still working, albeit not for pay: I was working through financial woes, helping my boyfriend work through a serious loss, and seriously reevaluating my career trajectory. While there was time for ice cream sandwiches and beach time in the city, it wasn't until Labour Day that I got to escape Toronto and spend some time in Sauble.

Sauble is so wonderful during its off-peak hours: 9 AM on a Wednesday morning, the lakeshore strip is dotted with the occasional jogger or cyclist. Come Saturday afternoon of a long weekend, that same stretch of road is jammed with top-down convertibles and groups of overtanned college students blaring top 40 and squealing along. When I was younger, I wanted the beach to be a party town, because I thought the drivers and their singalongs were glamourous and fun. These days, an evening game of bocce ball on the beach sound way more fun that cooking yourself in an un-A/C'ed car.

The best part of the summer vacation is getting away. It's amazing how much more like myself I feel once I unplug for a few days. I eat little bowls of yogurt with figs and walnuts. I swim - I sometimes feel like a whale, but I swim. I read. I talk to people. I don't spend hours focusing on a screen 18 inches from my face. I do a little writing, maybe, or see a movie, but there's no constant pressure to be mining the internet for the New! Best! Thing! EVER!

I can't wait for the cottage this summer. We have a whole week up there - last summer, we had a weekend, but in the haze of all the bad stuff that went down in the first couple weeks of July, it was easy to forget. But this year, we're hurtling towards a big move and a big trip, and a week off in the middle to enjoy each other's company and relaaaax sounds deliciously perfect.

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