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Digital Subscriptions > Cottage Life > Early Summer 2017 > Our National Pastime

Our National Pastime

As the country turns 150, we’re celebrating the greatest national pastime: going to the cottage, the place where we feel most Canadian
DANIEL EHRENWORTH

photo by DANIEL EHRENWORTH

This photo (of my cousin James, on Duncan Island, Ont.) encompasses the entire Canadian cottage experience. One of the best parts of the cottage is waking up at the cottage. It’s a different kind of waking up.

ON THE PLEASURES OF NOT CHANGING A THING

The first idea we gave up on was painting. After buying our cabin in northern B.C. (a shack, really, valued at zero dollars by tax assessors and more rustic than your average ice-fishing hut), my partner, Alisa, and I had gotten all peppy about painting it yellow. Oh, butter yellow would be lovely. With sage-green trim. Then we thought, Why bother? Everyone agreed the thing was a teardown, if it didn’t fall down first. I’m not exaggerating here. Whenever we went to the cabin, we brought a tent in case we found it lying on the ground. It was not so much a cottage as a giant game of Jenga.

We turned our attention to what I grandly called “the grounds.” The shack sat at the edge of a clearing, which had evolved into an enormous woven mat of tall grass and thorns and prehistoric-looking cow parsnips that filled the air with a scent like medicated foot powder. A team of us waded in with scythes, machetes, and axes. We had hardly liberated the cabin from its straightjacket of green when an angry bird rose up to let us know that we were about to destroy her hidden nest. But of course— the briar patch that threatened our home was itself a home to many a critter. The bird was serving notice that she had prior rights. We chose not to dispute her claim.

And so it has gone, all through the years. We have not, as planned and planned again, repaired the roof. Careful sketches exist of our new foundation, but the new foundation does not exist. We did not put in a well or make improvements to the perilous outhouse. We have not installed a charming gate or a deck or solar panels or a sauna or a smoker or a firepit or one of those great outdoor showers that I really love when I use them at other people’s places. Even at the height of the pergola craze, we did not build a pergola. The inside of the cabin, meanwhile, looks as much like a rural crime scene as it did on the day that we bought it.

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About Cottage Life

Going North! Cottage Life toasts Canada’s 150th birthday, with an exclusive interview with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on what the cottage means to him, Canuck-inspired party recipes (beer and back bacon poutine, anyone?), and essential flag etiquette. The issue also includes workshop intel every Canadian should have, renowned Canadian writers and photographers sharing their views on our country from the cottage, a peek into our national official cottage, Harrington Lake, and why now is the time to plant a tree at the lake. PLUS, meet an American who, after a lifetime cottaging in Canada, has a thing or two to teach us about summers at the lake. Don’t miss this one-stop guide to celebrating Canada at the cottage.
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