When we first started coming here I loathed it. I refused to call it a cottage. It was a wooden tent. A mouse hotel. A handyman’s special constructed as a hobby by a German aerospace engineer who wanted an authentic Canadian experience in the wilderness. I was hit by the acrid odor of mouse droppings when I first set foot inside it. There was no plumbing. No electricity. Not a single window opened with a screen. I referred to the back half of the building as the scary room with its jars of nails, tins of turpentine, piles of old lumber, and rotting floors where the mice and chipmunks entered and exited the building. I could not see past the deficiencies of this inhabitable structure to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings.
It’s been 14 years since then and much has changed. We have turned the wooden tent into an off-grid cabin that puts me at ease upon arrival. The black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies and horse flies don’t hesitate to remind me that I am a visitor in their territory as do the ants that march across my kitchen counter. I spend the majority of my time sitting in our screened in porch listening and watching the goings-on in the surrounding forest. The sound of the trees groaning and their leaves rustling in the wind and the birds–ever busy, singing songs, building nests, drinking nectar from our feeders–are soothing to hear. A welcomed change from the constant din of cars on city streets and highways.
I admit I am still fearful of nature–the rattlesnakes that I know are slithering in the shadows, the coyotes and bears foraging for their next meal in the woods, even the snapping turtles that inhabit the lake. I am aware that I am on their land, in their habitat. I feel safe inside our cabin. We have electricity, we have plumbing, we have the amenities to be comfortable. By Muskoka standards ours is a humble dwelling. There is no paved road (actually, no road at all–we must boat across the lake to reach our cabin), no landscaping, no air conditioning, no television, no dishwasher or microwave. It’s simple. It’s perfect.
Our annual pilgrimage brings us back together. Without the distraction of our devices, we reconnect with each other and with nature. A sunset paddle, an early morning swim, an evening of board games or, a group effort puzzle. We are reminded of what is important and why we come here. That the world is bigger than us; that we are stewards of the land we occupy; that it is up to us to respect and care for the flora and fauna we share this place with.
The whip-poor-will is calling…it must be time for bed.