Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Heads and Other Mouse Tales From "The Cottage"

I am very much the city girl. I like the energy, I deal with the crowds and I tolerate the smog. I have often remarked that small-town living, while certainly less stressful and most assuredly sleepier, would drive me postal within a week. There simply isn't enough to do to keep my mind and body occupied. That said, it is always nice to get away from the mania of my life for a few days when Twin Son and his Better Half open the doors of "The Cottage" for our annual Big Chill-like weekend. While the reasons for our yearly get-together are far from funereal, I consciously curb my inner Glenn Close while clearing the dinner dishes. Eight urbanites who seem to collectively twitch nervously when losing cell service, joined together for an extended weekend of eating, drinking, eating, drinking, eating, drinking and a trek into the wilds of Mother Nature.

The prelude for the weekend started a week before, when the entire group seemed to be universally fixated on the long range weather forecasts. You see, every single time that I have been to "The Cottage" the weather gods seem to laugh, point their fingers and playfully suggest that "Hey Dawn is coming this weekend. Why don't we have some fun and purposefully wreak shitiness on her head in the guise of rain and cold?" Anybody who is a regular visitor to this site knows full well how I feel about being cold. The Husband, whose mood this miserable summer has alternately shifted from surly to downright pissy, (nothing says summer for a pool owner like 6 straight rainy and cold weekends! ) was glued to Environment Canada's site for days. I was receiving emails and messages from Twin Son's mother no less, to inform me that if the climate at "The Cottage" was crappy, she was more than willing to share her electric blanket and heating pad! Needless to say I packed with all of the summer essentials in mind--foot duvets, mittens, sweatshirts and nice warm socks. Imagine my stunned but grateful surprise as we headed out on Friday in warm sunshine that for the most part, continued for the next four days. Yes, it is true that I required a sweatshirt at times and yes, it is also true that I wore my foot duvets on several occasions, but in all of my journeys to the cottage, this was the first time that I didn't stay huddled on the couch wrapped in a dual blanket cocoon pleading for heat. Cold and rain are certainly some of the byproducts of cottage life.

The Twin Son and his Better Half, along with his sister and her Mr. Fixit husband have created their own version of Shangrai La. "The Cottage" is located on a very small and secluded lake in the Kawarthas. There is no television, no computer or Internet access, the radio is for emergencies only, (iPods are of course an imperative but only if you are willing to share with the group!) the land line is operational but the cell service is hit and miss and that is a charitable description. (Imagine the sight of the eight of us with our Blackberries wandering around the house and dock, holding our handhelds to the sky in a vain attempt to locate bars!) If one really and truly requires a newspaper to ascertain that the mayor of Toronto is still a moronic a-hole, or perhaps a crossword puzzle to entertain, then a small town beckons only 11 kilometres away. It was a joy to be off of the information highway for a few days and frankly, everybody should go on a 100 hour Facebook/Twitter/Blog/Internet fast. It was extremely cleansing and liberating. There are few rules at "The Cottage"; remove your watches, sleep as late as you wish, calories are ambiguous and no imbibing until noon. (Ok-maybe 11:30. No-make that 11:15!) Food is never an issue. Each visiting couple was expected to provide one lunch, while Twin Son and his Better Half dealt with the dinners. The problem that we all seem to struggle against is our ethnic upbringing. We are Jews. Why should one buy only a dozen bagels when 18 is a much nicer number? Chai and all! (There were actually 2 1/2 dozen bagels!) You would have thought that we would have checked with one another as to what we were bringing, but that would have required planning, organization and logic. As a result we had more bread then would fit into two separate freezers, enough blueberries to feed an entire summer camp pancakes, enough chocolate, cookies, cakes and pies to induce a diabetic coma, and enough leftovers to feed the neighbours for many weekends to come. Gluttony is certainly one of the byproducts of cottage life.

Having lived through this eat-a-thon before, I was determined to at least keep active. I mentioned to the girls that I was planning to embark upon long and vigorous walk around the lake so as not to let all of that food settle into a newly formed muffin-top. My friends, being the good sports that they are, decided to join me. I was thrilled to have the company, but to be honest the insects could have stayed behind. I was instantly swarmed by horse flies and mosquitoes, while my two compadres sauntered blissfully along unencumbered by the pests. I was gnawed on, sucked on and irritated beyond an inch of my sanity. I must have been quite the sight power walking the quiet roads, all the while flailing my arms about me like a girl guide sending semaphore. Insects are certainly one of the byproducts of cottage life.

The days are spent sitting on the dock, an occasional swim if you are of strong constitution and are inclined to enter water of 15 degrees Celsius, a boat ride or two, enjoying the magnificence of the ambiance, and of course eating and drinking heavily. (Being the only teetotaler in the group, it always amuses me to watch my friends slowly descend into inebriation.) Conversation is inappropriately adult and disgusting-there are only so many euphemisms that can be found for the word head-and definitely not for the Victorian amongst us. Evenings are spent watching the stars, reading, conversing and dodging critters. In our short time at "The Cottage" we managed to come up close and personal with loons, a crafty otter, a few dead frogs and more than a few live ones, a lengthy garter snake that was lunching on said frogs, bats and one small field mouse who decided that he wanted to join our party inside rather than wait for our crumbs outside. Witnessing eight grown people attempt to outwit a rodent with more balls than brains was hysterical at best. At one point Twin Son's Better Half actually laid out small peanut butter sandwiches for the little bugger. He boldly stuck his face out and tentatively inched forward towards his impending feast, totally oblivious to the empty yogurt container balanced over his head, intending to trap him. (I need to digress for a minute to explain that the Better Half is at one with nature, and adamantly refuses to kill anything at all from a spider to a mouse, so a killer trap was entirely out of the question. She has very good karma and will be ascending to Valhalla while the rest of us descend to the lowest depths of hell!) Mickey Junior had the last laugh and was certainly fleeter of foot than a group of middle-aged, overfed and slightly tipsy city folk. He grabbed the sandwiches and made for the walls. Sated, he didn't need to re-emerge, but we became overly concerned with his whereabouts for the rest of the evening. We laid out humane traps, but this is his environment and we are but visitors. He knows the terrain far better than do we. At least we were consoled in the knowledge that the creature ate well that evening. Critters are absolutely one of the byproducts of cottage life.

I am always grateful for the yearly invitation to "The Cottage". It is vitally important that we all get away to spend time with good friends and to recharge our batteries in a low-wattage setting. That said, another bathroom would be nice. Waiting in line doing the pee-pee dance does not have to be a byproduct of cottage life.

1 comment:

  1. The Mouse (and other creature) Lover!4 August 2009 at 18:07

    I loved this! And yes - I can promise a perpetual yearly invitation to 'the cottage' - if even on a more frequent basis. As for the additional washroom... well... we'll work on it!