a couple of bathing suits
a pair of flip flops
a stack of novels
That's all that I need for two weeks away at the cottage.
I didn't grow up cottaging. I didn't know what it meant until I moved east to Toronto for ten years. I just didn't get it at first. I didn't understand it.
Of course I understood the act of "going to a lake and staying in a cottage". I imagined that I'd swim and I imagined that there'd be campfires and s'mores. And maybe a nap or two on a dock. Some board games.
But it wasn't until we started going to cottage country a few hours north of the city that I REALLY got it. I got it right here, in my heart and in my gut and in.my.soul. Hyperbole, much? But it's great, it's fabulous, it's amazing. The freedom, the simplicity, the back-to-basics-ness.
And now that I've been back out west for three years, I don't want to stop. I can't stop. It's our family tradition.
It's my favorite time of year. Better than NYC. Better than TIFF.
The girl's been cottaging since she was three. Weekly swimming lessons are good but days on end spent swimming in a lake? Priceless. Diving, cannonballs, chasing each other, making up games. Waterskiing and wake boarding. Learning to drive the powerboat.
Just hanging out together.
I know it probably sounds crazy or maybe even a little grandiose but I imagine her children and her children's children growing up cottaging every summer like she has. That's the legacy that I want to leave.
The cottage that we rent is over a 100 years old and on a tiny island in the middle of a huge lake. No running water or electricity til the 1950's. Some other island cottages still operate without electricity. Many have been in the same family for generations.
Some still have their original ice houses. In the winter the cottagers would cut blocks of ice and store them in straw in the ice house to be used the following summer.
I love hearing the squeak of the hinges and the slam of the screen door all day long.
It's rustic. Very rustic. Indoor plumbing of course but an outdoor shower. And tiny. Two bedrooms. The walls are really partitions that don't reach the ceiling.
And a screened-in porch of course.
It's a small island - only two cottages. We have to boat over with our gear from the mainland. Forget something? Thunderstorm? You make do til you can get off the island.
I bring my favorite recipes. Simple but yummy ones that don't take a lot of preparation. One that's on repeat is Brooklyn Supper's Tomato and Cherry Panzanella. In the summer heat you don't want to spend a lot of time in the tiny kitchen.
And of course there are s'mores. Every night.
People have been cottaging here since the 1860's. They'd take the train for two hours or so from Toronto northeast to Lakefield or Peterborough and then a steamship to Juniper Island. From there they'd canoe to their own cottage.
Social life centered around Juniper Island. It still does. Friday night family movies in the Victorian era pavilion. Wednesday night square dances. Daily swimming, tennis, canoeing and sailing lessons for the kids. And of course the reward of penny candy or a freezie from the Juniper Island Store.
It's a slow life. It's an outdoor life. It's an active life. It's a simple life. It's a social life. And I can't be without it.