Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

A Summer Place

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The late poet Dorothy Livesay once lamented to me that the era of the cottage was dying. At the time—1980—Dorothy had a cottage on Lake Winnipeg and was saddened to see her neighbours trying to turn their cottages into city places. In contrast, her charming little cottage had neither electricity nor running water. As she hauled a bucket of water up from a nearby well, she said that she was trying to preserve a little bit of the past to keep memories of her parents alive.

I was reminded of Dorothy’s words recently when a busy professional colleague described contemporary cottage life. This summer, she went up north with her husband and two children for a week of R&R. Although the hot weather and lake swims were just what the doctor ordered, her husband was in the midst of a major contract and discovered to his horror that there was no Internet connection where they were staying. Consequently, he had to spend the following three days at a local McDonalds, the only place for miles that had connectivity. More ironic, the McDonalds was not filled with kids as one might suspect but lawyers doing exactly the same thing as my colleague’s husband. The thought of all those solicitors being supersized is mindboggling.

This reminded me of another cottage story concerning a different colleague who I used to see whenever he flew into Toronto on business. A wealthy New Yorker, he was the quintessential urbane urbanite, perpetually dressed in a bespoke three-piece pinstripe, polished brogues and Italian silk tie. Away from work, he was rarely seen outside of a theatre, a piano bar or a clubby streak house. With aesthetic sensibilities not unlike Woody Allen’s, he rarely, if ever, ventured beyond a major downtown intersection. However, on one occasion, a wealthy Forest Hill companion convinced him to visit her up at her cottage. Having absolutely no concept of cottage life, he hailed a taxi (no, I’m not making this up) and drove the three-hour journey northward, unconcerned with the cab fare. He then had to hire a boat to get him across to his companion’s island. True to form, he arrived in his trademark blue serge at her dock, removing only his brogues and socks before rolling up his crisply ironed pants to navigate the final “leg” of his journey into the dark recesses of cottage country.

Last summer, I experienced my own taste of Dorothy’s world when I visited the daughter of an old family friend. She had recently inherited her parent’s 1949 cottage, a place I had visited innumerable times as a young boy. I hadn’t been up there in many years and had not actually stayed over since I was a teenager. Although my friend had done a little gentrification, the basic bones where still carefully preserved, especially in the sitting areas and bedrooms which seemed virtually unaltered. Best of all, the lake view was virtually unchanged, still featuring a familiar red-roofed cottage nestled on a nearby rocky island. During my overnight visit, I relived the water lapping gently on the rocks, the crickets humming and strange animals rustling in the surrounding woods. Then, in the morning, the loons called, as they always had, while the mist lifted slowly to reveal the sparkling blue lake. In those nostalgic moments, I was that young boy again. What Dorothy had told me all those years ago now resonated, for I saw my own life and that of my parents’ played out across that serene landscape.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

David Tucker

David Tucker is an award-winning television writer, producer and director. His short story collection, One Way Ticket, is published by BookLand Press.

Go to David Tucker’s Author Page