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Cottage life

As you may know, I am an atheist, or at least an agnostic. But there was a moment, yesterday morning, when I felt the presence of god. I woke at six at Ruth’s cottage and by 6.15 was outside with coffee, bundled up, everyone else asleep. And it was heaven. The air: pine, lake, leaves. Vast chunks of Canadian Shield granite, apparently some of the oldest rocks on earth. An endless expanse of water and trees, a million mature trees – spruce, white pine, red oak, maple. The welcome sound of birdsong – pine warblers, vireos, a song sparrow who never stopped repeating his refrain my entire time there. Ruth says there are many fewer birds than before, but they’re still there. Best of all, every so often, the plaintive warble of a loon, the most Canadian sound ever. And then the buzzing of wings – the hummingbirds who love Ruth’s feeder that’s suspended in the window so we can watch them dine as we do. The pileated woodpecker. The big blue-grey heron who soars back and forth, barely moving his wings.

The other creatures were busy – the chipmunk who lives under the cottage scurrying about, the ants big and small with their ceaseless activity, the bees and butterflies, the dragonflies, one of which landed on me as I swam later, and we chatted. And, yes, the mosquitoes. A lone kayaker paddled by. The sun gradually appeared over the tops of the trees. I sat and breathed and marvelled at how magnificent, how incredibly diverse and complex and beautiful it all is, miraculous. How is it possible we don’t cherish the glory around us and instead are doing our best to destroy it?

The morning view.

I do envy people who can slow down in a cottage, especially one like Ruth’s, many decades old, with piles of books and magazines, old boxes of games, and, because it’s built on a point of land, a vista on all sides; we can watch both dawn and sunset.

Anne-Marie arrived on Saturday, and that night made a suggestion for our viewing pleasure – the British series Slow Horses. We watched 3 episodes and loved it – fantastic acting, writing, direction, and the superb, hilarious Gary Oldman to boot. A brave actor, not afraid to look and be about as unpleasant as possible. Sunday was cold and rainy, so we did the unthinkable and watched more episodes in the afternoon. Much cooking, much talk. We are all distraught about the U.S. – the disastrous debate, the corrupt Supreme Court – France, the rise of fascism worldwide, the wars we know about and the ones we don’t. For all of us, guilt at our incredible good fortune in being where we are.

“Till human voices wake us,” I kept thinking, “and we drown.”

Monday, Canada Day, the sun came out full force. Thanks to Annie and my blog friend Theresa, I’ve discovered cold water swimming. Not TOO cold, but I’ve learned to plunge in quickly and that after maybe 15 seconds, it’s not so bad, and then it feels great. Swimming in an Ontario lake – one of the treats life can offer. Annie and I kayaked around the island too, although on Canada Day the lake was polluted with jet skis and wake boats, noise and speed. But most of our time there, it was pretty quiet.

Annie on our walkabout in the chilly rain Sunday; sunset Sunday night; the ladies by the water with Rhoda, Ruth’s grand-dog, who arrived with her son and his partner on Monday afternoon.

Tuesday, one last swim and walk around the island, and then off from paradise into the snarl of Toronto traffic. Annie had to stop in Aurora, so we went to Sheridan Nurseries there and I was able to buy something I’ve wanted for a long time, a big milkweed plant for the monarchs. And then home. Alanna had kept Tiggy happy and healthy. I got caught up with the papers – nothing good. A great editorial by Thomas Friedman in the NYT today desperately urging Biden to imitate wise, heroic leaders who’ve known when it’s time to step down gracefully. Something young Justin should also take to heart.

The veg are growing, the roses are nearly over, there’s a handful of raspberries every day. No lake out there, but there’s wildlife and beauty nonetheless. I have no summer plans except my garden workshop in a few weeks, which is now full, various visitors, spending time with the boys, tending the garden, reading, work. Overwhelmingly grateful for this planet on which we live.

May my fellow citizens feel it too.

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2 Responses to “Cottage life”

  1. Trevor says:

    Hi Beth – I second ‘Swimming in an Ontario lake – one of the treats life can offer’ – it’s also true for Quebec lakes – both of them something I miss here in Denmark – but, cold water swimming – we’ve got it here as well! Lovely to read your account of being nearer to God – from one agnostic to another.

  2. Beth Kaplan says:

    It’s hard not to feel some great power is at work when surrounded by natural beauty. Science! That must be it. Or as my father once said, Matter and energy, my dear, that’s all it is; matter and energy. But still – a bit of god, why not?

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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