Ever since I started dating Sonya over a decade and a half ago, we, with her family have taken the summer holidays to leave the chaos, frenzy, and monotonous cacophony of angry voices to retreat to the peace and quiet of their cottage in Canada on Lake Erie. Her family has had this cottage for roughly 60 years, with little change to it in that time. Same books, same toys, same furniture - maybe a couple new appliances, but still no microwave.
I have never been a huge fan of it. Not the timing and "deserting" my homeland durring it's most important celebrations of its supposed virtues, mind you. As I've gotten older and more jaded as to this country's direction, making a hasty retreat to what is basically a Disneyvision utopia of what America tries to present itself as is a welcome chance to clear the ideological palette. The trouble is that I just get...well...BORED there!
Set-up of the cottage is a 2-day effort, minimum. This isn't exactly "Swiss Family Ferris" without a single lux-u-ry, but it's more rustic than my McD's-drive-thru-hittin', DVD-watchin', chattin'-on-the-internet-addcited, creature-comfort-lovin' self can handle for long stretches. There's the process of priming the pump for the well water, lifting the shudders, cleaning the place, searching fer critters, vacating of spiders, patching of screens, sweeping out of the dust and sand, and cleaning of - well - everything. And this is assuming the power, plumbing, and phone actually work and haven't somehow been damaged over the winter months. I get too few days off as it is, and most of those I often spend doing chores at home. I don't want to go and clean ANOTHER house in another counrty on my day off! To be fair, Sonya's brother and/or parents usually do most of the work, leaving just a few minor chores, if any, for us - most of the time. Such was the case this past Memorial Day.
I just spent the past 15 minutes writing about the details of the day at the cottage, but no one wants the minute-by-minute. That's not what I planned on writing about anyway. My point is to be the slight and subtle shift in my opinion of the cottage over the years.
I have never been a "outdoorsey" person. I sunburn easily, am a magnet for biting insects of all kinds, and MUST have a hot shower first thing in the morning or I'm a grouch all day. I relax by watching TV, playing video games, or playing on the internet. When we started going to the cottage, there were none of these amenities. The only things there were to do were swimming (Lake Erie ain't exactly the crystal blue waters of a chlorinated pool), play on the beach (sand getting into every single crevice - yay), and drink (which wasn't technically an option for the first 3 years I went). Hence, I went so Sonya could have fun with those things, hang with her family, and indulge in all of her childhood nostalgia.
As time has gone by, there has been a compromise between the cabin and myself. I have taken to reading for pleasure much more, and the cabin is a wonderful place to read. Sonya's parents have often brought along a small TV/VCR combo and a CD player, breaking the boredom for some Rocky & Bullwinkle, Woody Allen flick, or some classical music for Sonya's father and I to start analyzing and exchanging trivia about.
Now with the ability to bring my laptop, I can write, arrange music, play some video games, watch a DVD, all the stuff I enjoy relaxing with. Funny part is, I don't spend nearly as much time with those "creature comforts" as I though I would. I find myself on the shore of Lake Erie teaching my son to skip stones, walking with my daughter and inspecting the stones and shells at the water's edge, sitting on a picnic table on the beach chatting with the in-laws and neighbors about the kids, politics, and life, and reading a good book on the porch.
The cottage and I have reached an accord. I am allowed my creature comforts, as long as I take the time to appreciate my family and relax the old fashioned way at least a little while I am there. An amicable compromise, and it's leading me to an appreciation of the peace and solitude of the cottage.
If only it were as easy for world leaders to reach such a compromise...