This summer marks 34 years of cottaging at Lake Huron in the small town of Grand Bend. During these 34 years, we’ve developed many cottage rituals and habits. There are rituals for every season of the year, but the summer cottage rituals have special meaning. Summer is the season when we spend most of our time ‘living’ at the cottage rather than coming for a weekend.
Most people have rituals in their lives. Usually, rituals occur around pivotal life events such as marriage, or the birth of a child, or death. Rituals are often associated with some form of religious or ceremonial action that is performed in an established order. A ritual can also be a form of behaviour that is accepted by a group or family.
Our Summer Cottage Rituals
Cottage rituals provide a different kind of meaning than religious or ceremonial events. Cottage rituals are the informal traditions that give continuity, predictability, and comfort to our family.
I like to think of cottage rituals as things we anticipate as part of our summer routine — Canada Day fireworks over the lake, barbeques, beach time, casual entertaining, lazy summer afternoons, and evenings watching constellations when the sky is dark and stars are out.
There is no formality nor order to our cottage rituals but there are familiar behaviours that are part of every cottage season. It’s a time for family weekends and a time to re-connect with friends who we don’t see in the city. Special people get the best beds. Worries drop away with a glass of red in hand. Conversations about what’s important in life happen effortlessly.
Shared connections with family and cottage neighbours bring comfort and a sense of belonging. Over the years traditions develop. Some of my favourites include:
- Sitting on the deck outside our bedroom with a cup of morning coffee and chatting with my husband while listening to bird songs in the woods.
- Practising yoga outdoors with fresh air filling my lungs with every breath.
- Attending summer theatre performances at the nearby Huron Country Playhouse or the Stratford Festival Theatre. There’s always music, dancing, comedy, and drama to delight the senses.
- Wearing cottage clothes. After so many years of cottaging, I’ve learned to keep a supply of casual t-shirts, shorts, sandals, and warm sweaters at the cottage. I look forward to wearing them; cottage clothes are like old friends.
- Eating outdoors. Summer foods like watermelon, corn on the cob, ice cream have a better flavour when consumed al fresco. The same can be said for summer drinks. Craft beer, gin &tonic, and wine spritzers have a special taste on a shady deck.
- Enjoying sand and water when it’s a beach day. I love jumping the waves, running up and down the dunes with my grand-daughter, and reading in my beach chair.
- Weekly trips to the farmer’s market for seasonal fruits and veggies. There is simply no comparison between produce from the farmer’s market and imported produce at the local grocery store.
- Ditto for fresh fish. My favourite is yellow perch from the lakeside fish market seasoned only with salt and pepper and fried in butter.
- To end a perfect day at the cottage, there’s usually an incredible sunset. The photo below was taken from my favourite spot on the dune.
Not all of the summer cottage rituals are fun and games. There are the usual household tasks of cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Seasonal jobs such as cleaning the decks, washing windows, taking outdoor furniture out of winter storage, pumping bicycle tires, and spraying for spiders take time away from leisure. Thankfully yard is treed and has no grass to cut. But there are wood chips to spread and perennials that need mulching, fertilizing, and watering when the weather is hot and dry.
To many readers, these summer cottage rituals may sound quite ordinary. For me, they deepen the summer experience because of the associated feelings and emotions that add richness and meaning to life. When we purchased our cottage we never imagined that the end result would be a strong relationship with a ‘place’. Our intent was merely to own a vacation home. Yet we developed new habits, had new adventures and created pivotal memories with every passing summer. Summer cottage rituals have added a new dimension to family traditions that mean more than simply a vacation home at the lake.
Thanks for reading my post. I’m interested to hear your reflections about summer rituals. For many readers, summer means vacation travel or visits to favourite city museums and galleries. Please send a comment with your best summer memories and rituals.