A 17 year project … 😎

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My mother passed away 17 years ago, and left me the family cottage. A cottage that my father built when I was a youngster. A cottage where we spent summer weekends, and holidays.

When my mother passed, I thought I would sell the place. I live on the west coast now, and seldom visit. My kids are grown, and although they love the place, it is difficult for them to spend much time here. So, several years after her passing, I arranged to meet a realtor at the cottage. When I arrived, I was horrified to discover significant water damage in one of the bedrooms and the bathroom. The rood had been leaking for who knows how long. I couldn’t sell it like that. My parents would have never forgiven me. I can hear them now.

So began a 17 year project to restore, repair, and renovate the family cottage. I would steal long weekends when working in the area, and spend a week or two whenever I could. Over the course of the past 17 years, I have put on a new roof, restored the water-soaked bedroom, replaced the bathroom floor, built new decks, installed a floating dock for swimming and moorage, reupholstered an old sectional couch and chairs that belonged to my mother, installed double-paned, picture windows, replaced the Franklin wood burning stove with a propane one that is more convenient and easier to use, and had an arborist trim the numerous pine, red maple, silver birch, oak, and cedar trees that populate the property. There is always something to do it seems.

When my mother passed, her girl friends brought a poem my mother had written in 1988 about the cottage, and placed it on the chapel stage during the service. I copied the poem and several of the pictures, had them framed, and mounted it on one of the cottage walls. In 2008, I wrote a similar poem highlighting the changes that had been made to the cottage. Again, I had the poem and several more current photographs framed, and hung it on the wall beneath my mother’s poem.

This summer, 2017, I wrote another poem called “I have seen it all”, attached several current photographs, and will have it framed and hang it on the same wall with the other poems. These poems, and I use the term loosely, have recorded the transition of the cottage, and its meaning to us, over the span of 30 years.

When my son visits, I encourage him to pen a poem about the cottage, but he refuses. He doesn’t think he can do it. Write a poem. I tell him I didn’t think it was in me either. And I’m not suggesting that I have a talent for it, but when I am here alone, the words come more easily.

He’s visiting next week. It’s time he continues the tradition.

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I’ve been at the cottage a month today. 

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I’ve been at the cottage a month today.

Alone without TV, or the internet.

Time has passed quickly. I’m never bored or lonely. There is always something to do. Cycle. Shop. Cook. Eat. Read. Cut the grass. Vacuum the floors. Write. Text the kids.

I have accomplished a lot. I found necessary services easily. A gym nearby that I never knew existed. A hair cutter that does a better job than the one at home. A group of like minded cyclists who do a weekly group ride. A contractor to install double-paned windows. A local shop where I could purchase a light touring kayak I have wanted for years. An arborist to trim back a 50 foot blue spruce. A contractor to install a gas fireplace. And, a seamstress to make curtains for the bedroom windows.

I’ve read 5 books. eBooks that I could find, and pay for easily. Books from a summer reading list provided by a gym colleague I respect. Books that have given me insight into South African apartheid, the Haiti earthquake, cycling around the world on a “safety”, West Coast indigenous culture, and a “who-done-it” set in northern Ontario cottage country. And, I listen to CBC Radio One throughout the day. It’s commercial-free, informative, and an entertaining glimpse into Canadian culture.

I cycle everyday. Well, everyday it doesn’t rain. There is always wind. A north westerly wind ranging from 10-30 kph. A hurting wind that tests my metal. No matter which direction I head out, I always find the wind. If not on the way out, on the way back. I ride on-the-drops most of the time. There may not be hills, but there is wind.

I eat well. Homemade energy gels for cycling made with dates, raisins, lemon and lime juice, peanut butter, and a pinch of salt. Homemade post-ride smoothies made with berries, banana, more peanut butter, and almond milk. Frittata. Quinoa salads. Cold pasta and vegetable salads. Imaginative stir fry with rice. Wraps with tofu, rice, vegetables, and baby spinach. And, veggie burgers when I want a quick, easy meal.

This is the first year I have been here in the spring to witness the area awaken. The leaves form and blossom on the trees. The Canada Geese parading by with their young in tow. Mosquitos. Lots of them. This has been an unusually wet spring, perfect breeding ground for the little pests. Higher than usual water levels, the result of unusual rainfall. Farmers ploughing and sowing their fields. Weekenders arriving to open up their cottages, and launch their boats for the season. And birds. Geese, Osprey. Herons. Loons. Owls. Robins, And, a plethora of wetland birds I’m unable to name. All harmonizing to the tune that is spring.

I’ve frequently seen the hot, humid summer days. And, the cooler, more colourful fall ones. But I have seldom witness spring here.

It’s the change of seasons that I miss on the West Coast.

Cycling selfieitis… 🤔

Did you know that in 2013, Oxford Dictionaries declared the word selfie as The International Word of the Year, describing it as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”?

Of course you did.

Well, selfies have been around for a long time, long before smartphones, and I have always been fascinated with them. They tell a different, more intimate story. And, now that they can be shared more easily, they have become an indispensable part of our lives.

Selfies are an art form. If you doubt this, watch this video.

They empower the artist to chose what, when, and where to shoot. I’m not suggesting my selfies are art. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But my smartphone empowers me to shoot frequently. That’s the difference. It’s ubiquitous. Always with me. Even when I’m on the bikes. And, surprisingly, it boasts a lot of technology, comparable to my old SLRs that are collecting dust in the cupboard. Features that can result in good, even excellent, photographs.

I used to think selfies were an age thing. Something only millennials did. Narcissistic in a way.  The American Psychiatric Association even consider taking selfies is a mental disorder.

The disorder is called selfitis, and is defined as the obsessive compulsive desire to take photos of one’s self and post them on social media as a way to make up for the lack of self-esteem, and to fill a gap in intimacy.

  • Borderline selfitis : Taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day but not posting it on social media
  • Acute selfitis: Taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day and posting each of the photos on social media
  • Chronic selfitis: Uncontrollable urge to take photos of one’s self round the clock and posting the photos on social media more than six times a day.

Really?

I don’t fall into any of these categories. That’s a good thing. Right? I only take selfies when cycling, and seldom share them in any way, except perhaps on this post.

Let’s face it. Selfies, as we know them, are a recent phenomenon. People of all ages, sexes, religions, and political stripes take them. It seems, at least to me, there is a universal need to document, and as we grow older, validate our lives. We always have. The prehistoric cave drawings are no different than the digital images of today, a record of life at the time.

I take selfies when cycling. Not while moving, although I suppose I could do that as well. No, I take them when stopped, perhaps at the summit of a climb, during bathroom breaks, or when relaxing afterward. Why do I do this? And, why don’t I take them at other times? Well, I’m a cyclist. And, I suppose that’s how I think of myself, and want to be remembered.

These images picture me enjoying rides.

I have included a random collection of selfies taken over the past several years. They are always a head shot, sometimes with an interesting backdrop, always with natural lighting. I don’t take myself too seriously, and usually have a smile on my face, even during a 20 km climb up one of the local mountains in the rain.

That’s what cycling does. It puts a smile on my face 😀

Oh yeah. Did you notice that I cycle all year in the cold, rain, and hot sun 👏

Do you make selfies a part of your rides 🤔

No TV …

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View from the new floating dock (July 1015)

I haven’t watched television or listened to commercial radio for a month. No news. No sports. No movies. And, no top 10 pop countdowns. I do have wi-fi (via my Personal Hotspot), so I’m able to work. Stay in touch. And, public radio. The CBC (Canadian Broadcast Corporation). It’s informative, Canadian focused, intellectual, entertaining, and commercial free. But no TV. I missed the Stanley Cup Finals. The drama in Greece. Negotiations with Iran. The US Open. The Tour de France. Wimbledon. The Pan-Am Games. And I haven’t watched a movie in over a month.

Do I miss it? No. Not at all. I read more. Write. Work. And, cycle. Read. Write. Work. And, cycle. If I am not work-working, I am working around the cottage. Building a laundry room and a third bedroom. Gardening. There is always something to do. Something in need of repair. I am more active, eat less, and sleep more.

I have also been alone the entire month. No guests. Just me, and the boys. Chas and Lou. I have people to talk with, if I want. Neighbours. The young woman that operates the swing bridge at the end of the road. Clerks at the food store. Staff at the building supply store. And the women at the coffee shop where I sometimes stop on the return leg of a ride.

Time alone, without commercial interruption, is enlightening. Empowering. Stimulating. You focus on what is important to you without compromise. Without conflict. It is just you and your thoughts.

The cottage used to be a family place where Mom, Dad and I would spend weekends and holidays. When my father passed away, my mother continued to use it regularly with her girl friends. She said it became a girls place. When she passed away, I initially thought about selling it. I live a continent away. But I began travelling to Toronto on business regularly and would steal long weekends and shortened holidays here. Usually alone. Sometimes with family. Slowly, it became my place. My retreat. A place to relax, unwind, and refocus. A place to train and cycle. A place to momentarily escape. I like that. Momentary escape. Isn’t that what a bike ride is? A time when the when the worries of the world melt away. That’s what this place is.

This is all about to change. My son and 13-year old grandson are arriving next week for a holiday. There will be a lot of fishing, swimming, and boating going on. It won’t be so quiet. No. It won’t be quiet at all. But it will be fun.