We opened the cottage on a crisp day in April and closed it on a warm one in October. Six months up north ain't bad for these parts, and we certainly lucked-out with the weather: one of the hottest summers on record topped-off with that special kind of Thanksgiving Weekend where the days are bright and warm and nights are calm, manageable with the buzz of an electric heater and an extra blanket at-the-ready.
And so, with family, food, and more pumpkin pie than any human should ever ingest, we spent our final weekend in our favourite place.
I missed the change of the seasons last year, so didn't get to marvel at how the cottage changes from Spring, through Summer, and into glorious Fall. From that ripe, wet stench of the thaw to the balmy lakeside heat of July to the crisp shock of Autumn. From rubber boots to suntans and back to boots again.
And the colours. Los Angeles might have perpetual summer, but we've got magical, shape-shifting trees. Though much of the forest around our lake is pine and ever green, the new hits of yellow and red dot the landscape like flickering candlelight. With just the light crunch of half-dry leaves underfoot, there's a quiet that settles when all the little critters retreat to a warm place beneath the ground, only a few birds left calling in the treetops. The occasional sound of a chainsaw in the distance is welcomed, the image of cutting and piling wood for winter a comfort as the sun starts to sink at four in the afternoon.
I took thousands of photos, most boring and pointless, but couldn't resist poking about in the woods. And sure not to miss an opportunity to photograph the babes, I schlepped them out into the mottled light in their photo-ready fall attire. In unseasonable 18° weather, they lived it up and hammed it up among the leaves and pine needles, burnt orange and endless, coating everything in sight. It's a wonder there are any left on the trees at all.
With surprising despondency and smelling of woodstove smoke, we packed up the lawn furniture, stowed the canoe and bid farewell to cottage life for another season. Traffic was a long-weekend-nightmare, so we got off the beaten path and meandered through the countryside. The forest I wrote about in the summer has ditched its monochromatic greens, replacing them with goldenrod, maintaining its majesty in a new ensemble, but with an earthy scent and the sun decidedly low in the sky. Choosing which you like better is like deciding between the freedom of a t-shirt and shorts or a cozy winter cardigan: impossible and agonizing. While Canadians like to complain about Winter, the joys of Spring and Fall require us to bear its misery.
Growing up in a town of 500 I saw my share of farm animals. And, like all the other details of my young life, the older I get, the more I wish I could go back and relive them without the impatience of childhood. Every time we drive through the country, I ogle the livestock, wanting nothing more than to pull over and spend the day with the cows. Only recently have I discovered a strange fascination with them, stately and gentle, though bigger than you imagine, quite startling up-close. They seem easy-going and kind-hearted, the animal equivalent of a kindergarten teacher. Several of them moseyed over to get a look at me, hunkered there in the ditch, and we shared a few special moments.
I'm not sure what's happening to me, but if you're looking for me in 10 years, there's a good chance I've set myself up well outside the city limits. Beautiful and quiet, it's an awfully tempting scenario.
In closing, a little video I put together. Come for the wanky artschool tendencies, but stay for the song. And download it (Gonzales' beautiful and quirky "DOT") here. You're welcome. Happy Autumn: get it while it's hot.