I think of visits to the cottage as training camps.
For the past decade, I have been coming here mostly on my own. Sometimes for only a few days, but in recent years, for more extended stays. A month. Maybe two or three. And every time I visit, I bring one of the road bikes.
I think of this time as my time. My time to relax, and do exactly as I please. Ironically, I always do the same things. I go down, and get up, with the sun. I cycle 35-50 kilometres most mornings, and on the weekends do a longer 75-100 km ride. I prepare simple, low-fat, low calorie meals. Cereal with Almond milk, and a black, filtered coffee for breakfast. A recovery smoothie following most rides. A sandwich, wrap, or salad for lunch. And an Italian Frittata, a tofu wrap, a vegetable salad, or a soy burger for dinner. No dessert. Little or no dairy. Little or no bread. And, when it is hot, like it is now, a local lager.
In the afternoons after my ride, there is always a chore that needs attention. Grass to cut. Docks to be repair. A workbench to be built. Floors to be washed. Laundry. Windows to be cleaned. And, fish to be caught. There is always something to do.
This place was built by my father over 60 years ago.
At first, it was a family place. A place we would visit on the weekends mostly in the summer. Then, after my father became ill, it became a “girls” place as my mother liked to refer it it. She would come up with her girl friends throughout the warmer, summer months. And then, after my mother passed, I seriously considered selling the place, but after discovering how much it was in disrepair, I began stealing long weekends to visit during business trips to Toronto. I replaced a leaky roof. Restored a water-damaged bedroom. Built a large deck by the waterfront. Raised the screened porch so that it is at the same level as the rest of the cottage. Raised the back room and entrance so it felt more like a part of the cottage. Closed in a space that can be used as a third bedroom, or in my case, a bike workshop. Painted both of the bedrooms and kitchen. Installed a new kitchen countertop. Installed a new toilet and sink. Built a floating dock for sunning and swimming. Hired an arborist to open the waterfront views and provide an unobstructed entrance from the back of the property. Over the past decade, I have done a lot to this place.
I have visitors, but they are few. Mostly, it is my place, and my time. It’s simple, clean, dry, and comfortable. The furniture is not elaborate. Some old. Some new. I have kept a rattan sectional couch, two small upholstered chairs, and a parsons table that belonged to my mother, and am currently in the process of having the cushions and chairs reupholstered with contemporary, patterned fabrics. This is the last step in the process of tailoring the cottage to my tastes.
The cottage means a lot of things to me, but mostly, it is a training camp. Time to cycle the quiet, scenic, rural roads. Time to get stronger, and lighter. Time to cleanse the body, spirit, and mind. It is a minimalist experience. Spartan. Monastic. Simple. Cycle. Rest. Work. No TV. Only CBC radio and books.