|Posted by donnadawson on August 22, 2009 at 5:31 PM|
A cottage is a refuge from the the realities of life. It is a place to hide from the bite of rejection; the insecurities that come from travelling through each day in one's own skin. And that is where we go from time to time. That is where we went this past week. To a cottage on a lake in northern Ontario where rocks split through seams of sod and pines and birch cling with tenacity to the Canadian Shield.
There is a ritual to cottage living and it begins with packing. We stuff twice as much food and clothing as is needed into the back of our pickup truck and begin the trek that devours most of a day. One of our adult daughters sleeps in the extended cab amid a pile of debris which includes a full cooler and whatever we felt we missed in the first loading. Our other children follow in their own cars. We refer to it as the convoy.
Cell phones jangle out their tunes every once in awhile as we touch base between vehicles but for the most part the ride is accompanied by soft radio noise. We watch in silence out the windows at the passing scenery and weather. Scudding clouds make way for a warming sun and the flat pasturelands buckle more and more as we zig-zag north. I gaze at giant windmills as they slap at the sky with lazy arms and I marvel at how quickly the canvas changes with each mile.
We hunger for the peace and quiet that comes with a more primitive lifestyle and we long for the easy friendships we have developed with those born and raised on the surrounding tracts of land. We arrive late in the night to the distant call of a loon and the great canopy of a star spattered sky.
Our cottage isn't exactly a cottage so we can't really say we are roughing it. It is an ancient church that was moved to the property half a decade ago and turned into a house. We all pile into the place and unload our bounty into refrigerator and freezer and then collapse in our bedrooms. I am awakened in the faint darkness just before dawn by the deep, throaty growl. It is a cougar on the prowl; determined to find a mate. I marvel at the similarities in the call with its distant cousins, barn cats, of which we have many back home in the south. The call fades off into that deep silence which announces the coming of morning and I settle back to pick up my slumber from where I left it.
A week. That is the time we have allotted for this change of pace. Seven adults and four toddlers all piled into a refurbished sanctuary for some--sanctuary. The weather has been massaged by our Creator into a mix of night rains and daytime sun. Perfect for our cause. I garden while my sons-in-law fish or target shoot. The girls sunbathe and watch the toddlers splash in the kiddie pool nearby. My husband catches up on badly needed relaxation. We drink coffee and eat far too much good food. We swim and boat and laugh. Hubby shares the wisdom of cottage decor with our children. "It is supposed to look tacky. That's what a cottage is all about."
We share a Sunday morning with our cottage church family and again in the evening at a parishoner's home. We sing and praise and marvel at God's artistic handiwork. We watch the lightning dance across the lake in audacious balets and we huddle close with the children as the thunder barks and growls at the lightning's heels. We know we have escaped something enormous and frightening but we are unaware of its name until the 11:00 news chirps it out from one of three channels received on the old TV. We are humbled by the mighty power of the storms that sweep through Ontario--some as tornadoes, some as high winds and driving rain.
The week goes. Scattered over the waves of the lake like the life jacket that is whisked off the dock. Unlike the life jacket however, I cannot pursue the spent time and retrieve it. I must be satisfied that we have lived each moment of this week to its best.
And so we abandon the log shack. We bid adieu to the peace of the lake and the beauty of the woods that surrounds this little pocket beyond the reach of cell phone and high speed internet. We pile our emptied coolers and our well-used garments back into our chariots and turn our noses south. Past the jagged, crystaline rocks that would make a wonderful medium for a fairy tale castle. Past the slapping windmills and the buckled fields. As we approach the town limits we feel the call of the washing machine, the computer console and the overgrown corn crop. We are home but a part of us is still north, still feeling the wind whip across our faces as the boat skips across the lake, still seeing the milky way as it must have looked before the nation was dotted with incandescent lightbulbs, still breathing air untainted by auto exhaust, still marvelling in the beauty of Creation unmarred by man.