tannis toohey/torstar news service


Relaxing at the cottage is the soul of Canadiana, our columnist writes.


I love thunderstorms. Especially up north, in the country, by the lake. The sound of the rolling thunder that goes on forever, hindered by nothing but open sky, somehow comforts me. As does the rhythm of the rain falling in big, heavy drops, creating a rippling effect on the water.

What is it about cottage country that has us Canadians so mesmerized? Whether it’s the Muskoka region in Ontario, Squamash or Port Renfrew in British Columbia, or Big Rideau Lake near Ottawa, cottage time is the soul of Canadiana. You don’t have to be wealthy and own your own to appreciate what I’m talking about. Cottage rentals have become the biggest summer commodity since ice cream. And camping is still a mainstay of getting back to nature.

Over the long weekend, I saw the faces of our multicultural country enjoying cottage country: Sikh families, a large extended Japanese family picnic, a convoy of Filipino families — everyone was outdoors enjoying the fresh country air.

I know I’m lucky. I’ve been coming up north since I was a little girl, camping and cottaging. And once my parents found their dream locale, we staked our claim on some property, and here we sit. For years, I’ve enjoyed the clean air, the outdoor activities, and relaxing atmosphere the cottage has to offer.

My memories are so embedded here, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. My first real physical trauma happened here, when I accidentally stepped on a metal tab from a beer can that cut deeply into the sole of my foot. We rushed to the hospital, where I was cared for and learned the hard lesson of treating the outdoors with respect, and resenting the carelessness of some people.

I remember my little puppy bounding through the snow one winter weekend, only to disappear into a deep hole from which we needed three people to help get him out. Now, both he and my other dog are buried up here, where we know they’re resting in peace.

Both my brother and I learned how to snow ski and water ski up here. I thought, then, that the gentle Muskoka hills were really daunting, especially the black diamond runs, of which there were two. And I still get that creepy childhood fear,

when I’m floating in the water, unable to see past my feet after taking a tumble, waiting for the boat to turn around and get me up on the water again. What lurks in the deep, green lake?, I still sometimes wonder.

And whenever I take a walk in the woods, no matter how old I am, or who I’m with, I’m always on the lookout for that bright green frog to catch.

Whatever you did this long weekend, I hope it was fun. And if you get the chance this summer, go to the country — even for a day. Smell the fresh, sweet air, eat corn on the BBQ, and soak up the summer.