Lucky camper here. Home yesterday from 3 days at Ruth’s cottage, and all over again, I understand why cottages are so important to Canadians. We never had one, almost never even went to one during my childhood; I never learned to sail or waterski or do cottagey things. And when my kids were small, their dad was always busy and we didn’t have much money, so summers were mostly here. I’ve always regretted we didn’t have a family escape route, a time and place where we were forced to be together and play board games and get to know each other.
Ruth’s cottage is on an island in Muskoka; they bought it in 1970, and it’s perfect – quiet, low-key, comfortable, with wonderful swimming, two kayaks and a canoe, plus, oh yes, strong internet, cable TV, and Netflix. And this time, Ruth’s son John’s ridiculous lab Rhoda to keep us occupied. I finally got to read Old Filth by Jane Gardam, which I’ve been meaning to read for years, and what a treat it was – a delicious book, I didn’t want to put it down, but did force myself to swim and kayak, cook and eat and walk through the island’s forest with Ruth. We watched the new Spielberg West Side Story over two nights, a powerful production cleverly updated by Tony Kushner, could not get the brilliant music and lyrics out of my head after. Keep your eye on Ansel Elgort, a beautiful young actor with a strange name, on his way to stardom. Be still my beating heart.
And what pleasure to watch a friendship develop between Ruth and Anne-Marie, who met through me not long ago and have a great deal in common, including a fierce commitment to social justice and a good friend known for decades to them both.
We had perfect weather that turned as Annie and I were driving home Tuesday, through sudden rainstorms and then hot sun and rain again. Alanna had used the house as a studio while I was away and left two bottles of wine and a lovely sketch as a gift. Checked the garden, changed, then out again for a huge treat: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child with Anna, Sam, and Eli. My kids and I had adored the books; we read them simultaneously and avidly discussed what we thought would happen next. I went online the moment tickets went on sale and got us good seats, two together, two separate.
Now it’s more complicated, because my woke daughter is part of the tribe that believes J.K. Rowling, in defending the rights of women, is anti-trans and has condemned her. It breaks my heart. I could not have more respect for this fine, hard-working writer with a huge social conscience, who brought the joy of reading to countless children and whose charity Lumos works to move children from orphanages into homes. Still, Anna came. Nine-year-old Eli, who’d been read the first book and seen the films, was not excited to be there. Eli does not get excited.
It was incredible. Thirty-five terrific actors, almost all if not all Canadian from various backgrounds, spectacular effects, a moving story. Underneath all the magic and wizard stuff is the tale of a man – Harry – struggling to be a good father despite never knowing his own, and his son, Albus Severus, struggling as the son of a famous, distant dad. It’s about friendship and kindness and trust. Dumbledore appears with profound words about love and pain. It’s so cleverly done, sometimes with the simplest effects, like the magical moving staircases of Hogwarts in the films, here just staircases to nowhere pushed about on wheels by cast members in black. And some effects gasp-inducing.
After, cycling home. Where there’s no lake, sadly, but there’s a garden.
Click to enlarge.
Ruth demonstrating beaver damage. Look what he did to that huge tree! We saw him several times swimming around the island, though didn’t see the lodge.
Rhoda, sleeping extravagantly, as only a happy dog can.
The cottage living room.
Not a lake, but it’ll have to do. The phlox is coming out.
From Alanna – a drawing of my British great-grandmother’s best teapot.