Before we’d even flown the kids over to Canada, we were growing familiar with the concept of “the Cottage”. Canadians LOVE their cottages! Give them a long weekend and above freezing temperatures and they’ll be off, up north, chillin’ by the lake or hiking in the forest.
When our realtor (or estate agent for those of you who speak English) left for her cottage, we knew she would be unreachable until she returned.
Coming from the UK, my understanding of a cottage was a quaint, small house, possibly with a thatched roof, thumb-latches on the doors, low ceilings, leaded windows and draughts in odd places, like the one in Oxfordshire I had lived in. I soon found out in Canada a cottage can mean anything from a bare-bones shack on the shores of a primeval glacial lake to a Torontonian’s million dollar playpad equipped with floor to ceiling mod cons, private beach and tennis courts. Here “cottage” is not so much a description of a structure as a conceptual term for the innate Canadian appreciation of the natural world.
I’ve mentioned before how Canadians enjoy the outdoors. I’ve spoken of the trails and woodland parks, conservation areas and lakeshores thronging with people walking, jogging or just sitting – enjoying the moment. Here you don’t feel out of place walking nowhere without a dog. That need to connect with the planet that sustains us is understood and shared. That’s what “The Cottage” is all about.
Canadians understand that this concrete, convenience-driven, electronically connected life is a construct, our own creation. Like a writer that tires of re-reading their own draft, they understand the need to go back to the source to refresh their soul.
The drive to the cottage can last a few hours, depending on how far into Cottage Country it is (yes, that’s really what it’s called!). Driving at night is dangerous, the long arm of the law loosens it’s grip a little as the population thins and the big clusters of civilisation recede, so drunk drivers are a hazard, as are kamikaze deer. But once you make it, in one piece, with your trunk-full of groceries, the pace of life slows to a circadian rhythm. Out here there’s no WiFi, no signal on your phone (unless you hang upside down off the east side of the balcony) no nearby convenience store and no pressure from anyone or anything but yourself. The decor may not be the latest in Ikea-catalogue style, but this place isn’t about impressing, it’s about letting go and remembering what’s important. Taking the time to listen and see the things that so often go unnoticed – birdsong, the clear dewy smell of early morning, mist on the lake and that small voice inside that says what you REALLY think.
People do whatever they like to chill out, whether that’s water sports, swimming, hiking, sitting on the dock reading – you leave your worries behind when you come out here. Some people own their property, others rent. Some have a time-share where you have a few weeks allocated and you negotiate with the other stakeholders about who visits when.
I used to wonder why people went to all the time and expense of travelling to, and maintaining, a cottage when we live so close to the water anyway. But now I understand… it’s about getting away from the hectic pace of everyday life, and you can’t do that where people can find you!
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