Sink or swim

You never know when your last cottage lake swim is your last cottage lake swim. I don’t mean the “swims” that can happen any time (whether ill-advised or not) when exiting the sauna. I mean the swims that are self-initiated and un-sauna assisted (whether ill-advised or not), starting with the May gasp of “It feels good once you’re in” and ending with the “it still feels good once you’re in” that happens on a random day sometime between Labour Day and Thanksgiving. That random day happened on September 14th this year. Not that I am not less than miserable at the lake when the sleet starts sleeting, the dark starts creeping, and the water lines start freezing. But there is no denying the load-out time is fast approaching.

So now we begin our forced march towards winter. There is no choice but to put one foot in front of the other and soldier on into certain peril. November’s gloom looms on the horizon and March won’t enter the frame until six months from now. It’s almost time to pack up the cans and condiments, put away the deck chairs, and clean the fridge before sealing up the cottage time capsule for yet another year. Everything takes on a particular gravitas when you know it will be the last time you will do it, or maybe it’s not really the last time it will be done but the last time before winter and the last time before clement weather rolls around again.

For those of you without seasonal residences, one of the most bizarre things is that the way you leave everything when you leave is (hopefully) the way it will be when you arrive to greet the new habitable season. That means if you leave an unwashed glass on the counter it will still be an unwashed glass mocking your lack of housekeeping skills six months from now. If you leave a book halfway read it will still be waiting for you in the spring, although at that point it will need to be all-the-way-from-the-beginning-read, which is not necessarily a bad thing. And if you leave a bag of onions under the sink you are on your own.

Although I aspire to be like a jetsetter who simply keeps a wardrobe’s worth of clothes in each of their various houses, I have not perfected that yet. This might have to do with the fact I have not mastered the art of owning several iterations of outfits that can live independently and magically suit any occasion that might arise when I am unexpectedly in Cannes or Mustique. In reality, I am only marginally capable of having enough clothes that can get me through a week without calling attention to the similarity of my ‘look’. So that’s why it is necessary to remember to repatriate the bathing suits and other summer wear that gets more wear at the cottage: to be able FedEx it to Mustique and back.

When the leaves fall they reveal a lot of stuff that you would rather not see. Most of this involves the yard work you wish you had done, or more correctly, you wish you had someone else to do. Although at the cottage it isn’t so much yard work as staving off the encroaching forest. In my own defence I must say I am a big fan of minimal staving, but I think I have discovered at least three new invasive species of plant life this year. Anything that is still thriving and green this late in the season must be up to no good. At this point, I think I will let winter sort it out. If it shows up again in the spring, I’ll be looking for some DDT on Craigslist.

There is a set of Siamese twin Muskoka chairs (the kind joined in the middle by a shared table) that has languished in a state of partial assembly for about seven years. Last year I was going to drag them out of the overgrowth that has sprung up around them, power wash them, repaint them, drill holes where holes are required, and be done with it. And I did drag them out of the underbrush so they could rest for the winter near the cottage. I had very firm intentions of proceeding with the remainder of the task this year. Your Honour, I submit the weather records that state it rained every single day for the past month, and I rest my case. (Note how I conveniently forgot to mention the months between April and August.) See you next Spring.

Now the seats are all empty – let the roadies take the stage. The only time that seems too short is the time we get to play.”

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