On the 15th of October, 2006, I wrote the first post of The Cottage Chronicles. Ironically, that first post was about “closing the cottage”. In hindsight, it was kind of an odd topic to choose to launch a blog about cottages and camps. I wasn’t thinking very far ahead at the time.
I should have been, because as of this posting, February 10, 2012, we are coming very close to a milestone, this is post number 996, four posts away from 1000.
Wow…not a good time for writers block to set in.
But it’s the middle of February, the dead of winter, not exactly a time of year condusive to cottage life or writing about cottage life. In fact, it is quite far away from what we generally perceive as cottage time.
Yes, I know what you are thinking. There are lot’s of folks who enjoy the cottage in winter. I am one of them, sorta… I enjoy a few days at the camp in the winter, it’s an experience, a time of solitude, clear skies and cold days and nights.
However, no matter what you and I pretend, the cottage in winter is not the same as the cottage in summer. In fact, that is probably why we often refer to our lakeside hideaways as “summer cottages”. They are after all, designed for summer.
In years past, cottagers didn’t go to the cottage in winter, except maybe to check on the place on a mild Sunday afternoon. I remember when many folks would close up their cottages on Labour Day in September, screw on the window shutters, drain the water pump, pack up their stuff and go home, not to return until the following May or June.
That has changed in the past decade as we expand our cottage time to include winter, thanks to things like four wheel drive vehicles, snowmobiles, ATV’s, cross country skiing, better house insulation and airtight woodstoves.
Our tourism folks would have us believe that a winter festival in the north is much more funner (I said funner) than a week on a tropical beach. Who needs girls in bikinis when you can see women wearing one piece snowsuits. Slip on some down-filled winter clothes with Thinsulate insulation and battery powered heated socks and we’re good to go, laughing at winter. Who needs sun drenched Jamaica when you have frozen Canada?
As Canadians we are hard wired to pretend winter, the cold, and snow are all fantastic. We love to put on long underwear, heavy socks, parkas and touques, mittens, and mukluks and go outside in winter, marvelling at ice sculptures or riding a Crazy Carpet down a hill.
As Canadians we’d like you to believe that it really doesn’t get fun outside until the temperature drops below freezing, the lower the temperature the more funner it is…(yes I said “funner”)
Looking at tourism advertisements of us in the snow you’d find it hard to believe we aren’t having the time of our lives. There we are, the whole happy family, careening down a snow covered golf course hill on a wooden toboggan, laughing all the way, even with frost bitten cheeks and two frozen toes ready to fall off inside our muckluks. Tobogganing is a much better use of a golf course, much better than wearing plaid pants and spike shoes, trying to knock a small ball into a hole in the ground with a stick.
No matter had G-D cold we are, we always smile and wave to our neighbors at 6 in the morning as we scrape and scrape and scrape and scrape ice encrusted car windshields trying to get a clear spot to see through so we can drive to work. We laugh and curse the cold at the same time, just like we are in our right minds.
When it snows, we all gripe that the municipal snowplow hasn’t plowed our street yet, sometimes going so far as to call our city councillor’s office to find out why. Then we complain to our neighbor when the snow plow finally arrives and fills the end of our driveways with snow as it plows the street.
That’s why we are able to enjoy the cottage in winter. We have short memories. We forget how nice summer at the cottage actually is, we forget about wearing shorts and sandals, boating, swimming and warm evenings beside a campfire. We come to believe that we actually enjoy shivering beside a woodstove, looking through frost coated windows at snow and freezing rain, marvelling at the joys of winter.
We compliment ourselves on being able to withstand the cold temperatures, deep snow and hypothermia to go skating. Much better than swimming, much funner.(yes I wrote funner again)
But who are we kidding?
The best winter night doesn’t compare with a summer evening, stars twinkling above the lake, warm temperatures, the boat tied to the wharf, bobbing gently up and down in the moonlight.
We forget about those warm summer evenings, sitting on the screened deck as the sun goes down, still in our swimsuits, slapping Calamine Lotion on our sunburned backs, giggling at how our sandals left us with funny looking sunburned feet and laughing as another bunch of mosquitoes hit the bug zapper and come to an inglorious end.
For some reason, watching a boat cruise up the lake in the last light of day, it’s navigation lights reflecting against the calm waters is much more relaxing than watching a four wheeler cruise by on the ice, it’s headlights showing the way, the driver watching for the dangerous opening in the ice just off Rocky Point.
A summer night beside the lake is only made better by the sound of a loon’s lonesome call reaching us from somewhere out on the lake, echoing across the calm water.
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