Let me begin this post by saying that I’ve noticed my blog posts seem to skew towards the topic of food more often than not. It just goes to show how much I love food! However, now that it’s the summer and I’ve been spending so much time at my husband’s family’s cottage, I thought it was about time to share that experience on my blog.
Before I met my husband, I had never been to a cottage before. The whole concept of zipping north toward “cottage country” and fighting the reportedly crazily busy traffic heading in that direction every Friday evening and south every Sunday evening during the summer was an abstraction to me back then. While listening to the local news station on the radio, I’d tune out every time the “cottage country traffic report” came on. It’s not really all that surprising. After all, based on my personal experiences and those of my Chinese friends and relatives, going to a cottage is not that common among those in the Chinese community. I also never had any friends in general who had cottages. Add that to the fact that I have never been much of an outdoorsy person.
While I’ve always enjoyed fresh air and spending time outdoors, I’ve still never gone camping (assuming sleeping in a tent for one night in my uncle’s backyard doesn’t count), never attended summer camp as a kid, and had never participated in such activities as canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, or water skiing. I’ve also always had an intense phobia of insects, spiders, worms, and other creepy crawly critters. As a kid, I’d freak out every time I saw a spider or other bug in the house and call for my parents or brother to catch it for me. Many years ago I nearly had a heart attack on one of the extremely rare occasions when I went fishing with my dad, uncle, brother, and cousins when my uncle insisted that I spear a worm on the fishing hook by myself. I will never get the image of that poor worm squirming around and releasing it’s stomach contents as I tried desperately to speak a hook through it without having to touch it with my bare hands. Of all the creepy crawly critters out there, however, I have always detested mosquitoes the most (which is part of the reason I never felt a burning desire to go camping). Every time I get a mosquito bite, I am plagued by incessant itchiness that lasts for two weeks and huge swollen welts. If anything, you would think that all of these factors should have resulted in me never setting foot near a cottage.
However, you never know what life will send your way. When I first met my husband, I never imagined how much my life was about to change. I always tell people now that I believe one of the reasons our relationship works so well is because we each bring such different things to it. We’ve had such different life experiences and grew up in such different environments. The result is that we’ve learned so much from each other and have continued to explore and experience new adventures together. We continue to do so each and every day. For me, one of the biggest adventures was embarking into the unknown realm of cottage life.
First off, I will admit that it would be difficult for me to ever love the cottage as much as my husband does. One only has to observe the pure joy on his face as he cannonballs off the boat into the middle of the lake or observe the disappointment he expresses when something forces him to miss out on a cottage weekend to see how much he loves it. As well, there are so many things I enjoy about city life in the summer and too many mosquitoes at the cottage for me to want to be there all summer. Still, I’ve learned to take great joy in my time up there. While I still have the occasional creepy crawly critter-related freak out, especially when I hear a mosquito buzzing around my head while I’m trying to sleep at night, I’ve grown to really appreciate life at the cottage.
I’ve learned that there’s nothing quite like the peacefulness of relaxing in a Muskoka chair (aka Adirondack chair) while gazing out at the lake and listening to the gentle sound of water lapping against the pebbly shore or taking a refreshing dip in the lake on a steamy summer day. Away from the city lights, the night sky is so alive – dotted endlessly with twinkling stars. My husband and I have laid flat on our backs on the dock to watch the annual August Perseid meteor shower, catching our breaths each time a meteor streaks across the sky – blink and you miss it. There’s also just something so nice about waking up to the cheerful sound of birds singing in the morning and inhaling the fresh outdoor air. I’ve now water skiied (for about half a second before majorly wiping out), gone tubing, canoed, paddle boarded, and kayaked across the lake. I’ve also learned to enjoy grilling our dinner each and every day while up at the cottage – tender steaks, tasty fish, succulent vegetables, crispy potatoes, flavourful pork chops, savoury chicken wings, and more.
I’ve learned to seek out the beauty in these natural surroundings – something that is generally pretty easy to do. I’ve even learned to find the beauty in many of the creepy crawly critters that I’ve taken to photographing (which I only do when I’m fairly confident they won’t end up crawling on me somehow) as a mechanism for overcoming my phobia. I’m also constantly taking pictures of birds (including the elusive blue herons that visit us once in awhile), red squirrels, mink, snakes, fish, flowers, trees, and whatever other flora and fauna crosses my path while I’m at the cottage.
I feel so fortunate that my husband has given me the opportunity to experience cottage life – something so new and wonderful. I’ve since also had the opportunity to invite friends and family up, some of whom had also never been to a cottage before, to enjoy it with us. I always love playing host! The cottage has become such a special place to my husband and myself as a couple that we even had our engagement photos taken there by a good friend of mine (an amazingly talented musician and photographer). In fact, a couple of the photos I’ve posted were taken by her during that photo shoot.
Below you’ll find a variety of photos that illustrate some of the things I’ve experienced or observed during my time up at the cottage and what cottage life means to me.