Summer days at the cottage are special. These are some of the happiest times in my retirement journey. I don’t have to do anything, be anywhere, or answer to anyone.
We spend most of the summer at our cottage at Lake Huron where sandy beaches stretch for miles. The vistas of the lake change every day.
The lake provides a backdrop of healing sounds ranging from a low, continuous swoosh to the crash of angry waves hitting the shore.
In Ontario, there are two to three months of warm summer weather. Because the season is short, every day needs to include special summer activities.
This year, the days and nights have been cooler than normal. We’ve escaped the hot humid weather that often lasts for days. A tornado touched down near our cottage on July 27 but luckily we suffered no damage. An earlier post describes the effects of the tornado.
As summer 2014 winds down, here are some of the memories I treasure.
1. Cottage house guests
A cottage provides a venue for catching up with many friends. Visits often involve sleepovers and always involve relaxed conversations, as well as eating and drinking together.
This summer we hosted bridge club friends for a weekend of cards, food and fun. We entertained friends from afar who travelled great distances for a few days of R&R at the beach. We also had great lunches with friends who visit us every summer at the cottage but find driving to the city intimidating.
2. Family time
Our 16 month old grand-daughter explored the cottage on weekend visits. We smiled as she experienced the mix of pleasure and shock when getting wet in the lake. We enjoyed seeing her play with the same wooden wagon that our son used as a toddler. Her screams of delight while running around in bare feet increased as we joined her. My husband and I went back to the city for a few days so that our son, daughter-in-law and grand-daughter could have their private family time to create memories for another generation.
Summer gives uninterrupted time to dig into books that pile up during other months. I’ve spent hours reading — on the deck, at the beach, sometimes late into the night — enjoying mysteries, memoirs, and novels. I purchased a box of cookbooks produced by various churches, service clubs, and local agricultural groups at a beach flea market. It provided hours of entertaining reading.
4. Learning new skills
The local art centre offered a variety of short courses through the summer. A photography course taught me to use functions on my camera that I had never explored. A writer’s course by a local author inspired me to spend more time on writing projects including this blog.
5. Taking walks
Our beach town is small with many delightful spots within easy walking distance including a shop for fair trade coffee beans, a bustling fish market for freshly caught lake fish, a bakery for fresh cinnamon buns, and various small restaurants. Whether for exerise or just for fun, there were beach walks in the sun, exercise walks in the early morning, walks to friends’ cottages, walks to do errands, and after dinner strolls.
6. Summer foods
Meals at the cottage are different from meals at home. The box of local cookbooks spawned new ideas for using fresh South Western Ontario veggies and fruits. A farmer’s market every Wednesday morning sells a variety local produce as well as lamb, smoked sausages, and perfectly aged steaks ready for the barbecue. We started the summer with local asparagus, tender lettuce, sweet onions, raspberries and strawberries. August brought abundant corn on the cob, vine-ripened tomatoes, new potatoes, and young beets. Yummy!
As a summer treat, ice-cream is food that deserves it’s own mention. A sweet and salty caramel variety that one of the grocery stores stocks only in the summer has big fans at our cottage. We’ve also consumed a good amount of quality vanilla ice-cream for the Dom Pedro dessert drinks I learned to make while visiting South Africa. For those who haven’t had a Dom Pedro, it’s a type of milkshake made with Irish whiskey that works as a perfect ending for any meal — no dessert required!
8. Summer drinks
Summer days usually end with gin and tonic on the deck or with a favourite Ontario craft beer. This summer we also tried various non alcoholic drinks including fruit spritzers, grapefruit sodas, lemonade, and home-made ginger beer.
9. Looking at the stars
Without light contamination, the night sky is really dark so every star is brilliant. Taking time to step outside just before bedtime allowed me to marvel at the various constellations. On these nights I gave thanks for the wonders of the universe and realized again that my life is just a blink in time and I’m just a spot in something so big.
10. Cottage clothes and summer feet
Summer means wearing favourite T-shirts and stretching out my feet in summer sandals. I have a yoga teacher who urges us to love our feet. Her meditations on feet have made me notice how many people conceal their feet. Alternately, many women love to show off fresh pedicures. Thank goodness most men no longer hide their feet in socks while wearing summer sandals!
My list could include sunsets over the lake, cool evenings in front of a fire, and summer theatre excursions.
Too bad the season is so short. It makes summer at the cottage a very special time.