A country mile

country fieldOne of the many things I’m thankful for is living in the country. While I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, I’m forever grateful we made the decision more than 20 years ago to get out of the city and move to rural roads where the air is fresh, the mosaic fields of fall spread before you like a harvest feast, and you can walk or drive for a country mile without seeing another car or person.

What I didn’t count on was how much the simplistic charm of the little hamlets and crossroads, and the people who inhabit them would grow on me.

For instance, I was driving to Tamworth the other night for a 4H meeting. The sign at the church in Croyden said, “Rhonda. Sunday. 6:30.”

It made me wonder who was Rhonda and what was she doing at the Croyden church on Sunday at 6:30? Was she getting married? Or was it an unhappy occasion—a memorial service for Rhonda? Was she young or old?

I did wonder if perhaps my friend Rhonda Nontell who has a cottage nearby was giving a gospel performance at 6:30 in Croyden, but then the sign would say “Rhonda. Sunday. 6:30. $5.” I mean most of us would pay at least $5 to see that performance.

These are the things that keep me up at night.

And then there is the country wave. When I first moved to this area 20 years ago, my best friend’s Mom Audrey educated me on the country wave. The country wave is different if you’re walking or driving.

When walking, the proper way to wave to people is a slight nod of the head or raise of the hand for a half-wave. No full-out wave, or Queen wave, just an acknowledgement you saw them driving by.

If driving, there are two approved country waves. There’s the two finger wave, where you just raise two fingers off the steering wheel or the four finger wave with your four index fingers extended. A slight nod of the head is acceptable.

Over the years, I’ve experienced everything from discovering a newborn fawn at the end of my driveway, to eating my breakfast cereal with an escaped cow staring at me through the kitchen window, to chickens on our hot tub. Yes, country living is definitely better by a country mile.

This week’s #HappyAct is to give thanks for where you live. Here are some pictures I took on my drive and walk on the country roads near Tamworth the other night.

horses

country sign
This is the first sign I’ve seen for turtles and snakes

barn silosunset over a field

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The signature sound of August

cicada

August. Warm days, bugless nights and gentle breezes create a beautiful languor, as you submit to summer’s halcyon days.

The signature sound of August has to be the cicada. It starts as a slow whir and rises in pitch and intensity to a high-pitched buzz that engulfs the air. To me, it’s the signature sound of summer.

Cicadas are fascinating insects. Cicada comes from a latin word meaning tree cricket. The sound you hear is their mating call. Their shrill call can be as loud as 120 decibels, which one website claims is as loud as a rock concert or chainsaw.

Cicadas will actually gravitate to high pitched sounds, like lawnmowers. Apparently  female cicadas mistake them for singing males, and male cicadas will follow in order to continue wooing the females.

They are also quite beautiful when you look at them closely. Clare found one in the house the other day and we had a good look at him before we released him gently outside.

This week’s #HappyAct is to enjoy the sound of the cicadas and summer’s final days. Here’s a video clip of the cicadas at my lake.

The cottage life

I can’t imagine anything more Canadian than heading to the cottage for the long weekend.

Life is definitely sweeter at the cottage. It’s as if the kaleidoscope of life’s daily challenges stops turning the moment you turn off the paved highway onto the cottage laneway.

You roll down the window to drink in the fresh pine air, and slow down to a normal pace (and to avoid the potholes and washboard).

The moment you step out of the car, you leave the city and its troubles behind you. All that matters is whether you have enough wine, ice cream and bug spray for the weekend, whether it’s going to rain, and who the best Rummoli or Boggle player is.

I live on a lake but the lure of the cottage has never left me. I’ve been blessed over the years to have wonderful friends who have kindly shared their cottages with my family. They are always my most favourite weekends of the year.

Time stands still at the cottage. No one cares if you sleep in til 10, eat lunch at 2, nap at 3 and declare cocktail hour at 4. There is time to actually read…books of all things.

There’s more time outdoors, kayaking, swimming, boating, and playing horseshoes. And then there’s eat and drink (and lots of it).

But the thing I love the most about cottage weekends is the precious time spent with family and friends and the warmth and camaraderie of these gatherings that have created so many wonderful memories over the years.

This week’s #HappyAct is to experience the cottage life this summer. Here are some pictures from last weekend and our annual girls’ spring get-together at my best friend’s cottage north of Minden. It was the first time we invited Grace and Clare, “the next generation” to join us for a girls weekend.

Young girl on dock

Girls and dog at cottage

Girl in boatLake at sunset

Shut up and fish

Author with fish

I remember driving home years ago listening to the CBC, when this song came on the radio. It was about a guy whose wife gave him an ultimatum, saying if he went fishing that day, she’d pack up her bags and leave him. That was the first time I heard Brad Paisley’s The Fishing Song. The lyrics go something like this.

“Well, I’m gonna miss her,
When I get home.
But right now I’m on this lake shore,
And I’m sittin’ in the sun
I’m sure it’ll hit me
When I walk through that door tonight
That I’m gonna miss her
Well lookee there, I gotta bite…”

I mean really. Can you blame the guy? I would have went fishing too.

We went fishing tonight to cap off Father’s Day. Dave always said his favourite time to fish was Sunday nights, when the lake was quiet and he knew the cottagers were stuck in traffic on their commute back to the city.

It was a beautiful evening—still blissfully warm with blue skies and feathery clouds. A deer meandered down to the shore to drink in the cool lake water on our neighbour’s property as we cast in the weed beds. Owls serenaded us with their nightly calls in the distance.

Deer at lake

 

 

 

 

 

One of the many things I love about fishing is it is a time to be still and quiet. It’s great to talk and spend family time together, but sometimes it’s even better to just shut up and fish.

Clare and I each caught a rock bass; Dave had better luck the night before. Murphy sat on the dock and howled. It was a good night.

girl with fish

This week’s #HappyAct is to shut up and fish. Here is a video clips of Maddie and Tae’s Shut Up and Fish to get you in the mood.

Leave a legacy

willow trees
Trees I planted 30 years ago

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die.”

Ray Bradbury, author of Farhenheit 451

I’ve never thought much about what my legacy to this world will be. My children, perhaps. I live a small life so I highly doubt my name will appear in any history book or there will be a statue erected somewhere in my honour. I’m just one of a billion ordinary people in the world going about their ordinary lives.

Recently, I spent the afternoon in Mississauga strolling through JC Saddington Park by the lake. Many residents of Port Credit may not be aware that JC Saddington was actually a landfill site before it was converted to parkland.

I helped plant all the trees in that park as a summer student working for the City of Mississauga forestry department. The soil was clay and the conditions were terrible, but I marvelled as I strolled through the winding paths to see that the little wispy willow whips I planted more than 30 years ago had grown into beautiful graceful trees providing much-needed shade to the park goers on an unusually hot September day.

This week’s #HappyAct is to do something that will leave a mark on this world. As Mr. Bradbury said, “It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it.”

If you’re interested in planting a tree to leave a legacy, join the legions of volunteers who will be planting trees this week (September 27 is National Tree Day). In Kingston, there’s tree planting at Lemoine’s Point next Saturday, September 30th at 9 a.m. at the south entrance.

 

Recognize and relish the moments when you are at one with the world

famous quote about remembering momentsWe do not remember days. We remember moments.
-Cesare Pavese, Italian poet and novelist

Life is a series of moments. Of all the millions of moments we experience, there are rare sublime moments when you feel pure contentment and at peace with the world.

Two Sundays ago, I had three of these moments.

The first was early in the morning. I was walking through our sunroom to take a load of laundry to our laundry room. Grace was playing this beautiful piece on the piano called Nuvole Bianche. As the gorgeous notes from the piano danced through the air like a debutante floating across a ballroom, I looked out the window to see Bella sleeping peacefully under the almond bush. I stopped with the laundry basket still in my arms and just listened and watched. It was so peaceful and I was overcome with an immense sense of gratitude to have so many blessings in my life.

The second moment happened when I was paddling into our back lake, which by itself is a very special place since there are no cottages on it. As I paddled through the channel, I saw a lone snow goose at the end of the lake gliding peacefully across the sparkling waters. She was magnificent, and I just sat and watched for a long time before we both went our separate ways.

The third moment was after my paddle. I was swimming back towards the dock. Clare was sitting on the dock with her arms extended behind her body, her bronzed face turned upwards towards the sun and sun-kissed hair shining in the sun. Once again, a feeling of overwhelming pride and joy washed over me.

This week’s #HappyAct is to recognize and relish the moments when you feel at one with the world–for they are all too rare and fleeting.

Make friends with fearsome creatures

rat snake in corner of hot tubLast weekend, I opened my hot tub lid to find this handsome fellow, a five-foot black rat snake luxuriating in the steam on the corner of the tub.

Later that morning, I was cleaning the chicken coop, and a garter snake wound its way from our barn to the back woods. After lunch, our resident water snake Sammy spent the afternoon with us curled up on the end of our dock. Clare and I avoided using the ladder so we wouldn’t disturb him and swam around him for the rest of the afternoon.

It was a three snake day.

Snakes are one of the most beautiful, misunderstood creatures on the planet. I remember years ago visiting a small zoo called Reptile World in Drumheller Alberta. The owner was from Australia. He loved snakes but was deathly afraid of cattle, which we found kind of funny since he was now living in Alberta.

It’s amazing how many people are afraid of snakes. In some cases, their fear stops them from doing the things they enjoy. And yet, nearly every species of snake in Ontario is completely harmless. We only have one poisonous variety, the Massassagua rattlesnake and it will only bite if threatened.

Most snakes are extremely timid, but will act aggressive if they are threatened. I’ve seen milk snakes in our garden raise their heads as if to strike when a dog is threatening them, but never strike. Some snakes will imitate rattlers by raising and rattling their tail, but it is almost always a defence mechanism and they don’t bite.

Snakes also are a sign of a healthy ecosystem. They eat rodents and can even help prevent lyme disease since small rodents can be carriers of the debilitating disease.

water snake on dock
Sammy our resident water snake

We are very fortunate to live in a region where there are many species of snakes but most are now endangered or threatened, such as the black rat snake.

This week’s #HappyAct is to not let foundless fears get in your way of enjoying the last vestiges of summer. Make friends with fearsome creatures.