Normally, I spend the 4th of July at home in Buffalo with the family. But, due to some cancellations, change of plans, change of heart, and the ability to make last minute decisions, Emma, Mum and I found ourselves hurtling through time and space (otherwise known as the QEW) last Friday night. Luckily, the traffic was all going the opposite way so we flew through Toronto and continued north. Three and half hours later we were dockside, waiting for my best friend, Annie to pick us up in her aluminum skiff. We had missed cocktail hour, but had made it in time for a late supper.
Annie has the great, good fortune of owning a lovely cottage on an island in the middle of the Canadian Shield. The kids (and sometimes Bill) and I have visited her there since she bought it in 1995. Let me tell you, that 3.5 hour journey plus the small boat ride to her island has the effect of lifting us into another dimension. Life at the cottage is slow and easy and uncomplicated. The air is fresh and smells of cedar. Every so often you can catch a whiff of the water - the way water is supposed to smell: clean and cold and a little bit earthy. The loons call at dusk and dawn, the chipmunks chatter, and the red squirrels scamper up the side of the rock face on which the cottage sits. The biggest decisions that have to be made are whether to stick with Lite beer or move on to gin and tonics.
The cottage is rustic enough to make you feel like you left the city, but fully equipped with heat, hydro, appliances, comfortable places to lounge and have dinner and with wonderful sleeping accommodations. And, although there is a superb bathroom, I still prefer to use the outhouse. This outhouse is like none you've ever seen: cleaned within an inch of its life, non-smelling and nestled in a lovely part of the woods.
Annie also has a bunkie (pictured here). It holds two single beds and has windows on all sides. Emma and I slept up there each night. One night I woke up and thought for an instant that I was at home and my mind instantly went to: what time is it? how much more time until I have to get up for work. Then I smelled the cool air and realized where I was. A feeling of such joy and peace overcame me. I thought to myself : remember this feeling. This is as close to nirvana as you are ever going to come. I nestled back under the duvet and fell back asleep immediately.
Annie, Mum and Bella
My mum was able to come with us and probably had the best time of anyone. Annie has a lovely Bernese Mountain Dog, named Bella - Mum quickly made friends with this sweet, hairy beast. Curiously, mum, at 80 is more easy going than I remember when she was younger. She accepts what comes her way and makes the most of it. She was determined to go swimming after she saw Emma and I dive off the dock. And, although it was a tad chilly, she bravely ventured in (with her bathing cap and lipstick firmly in place) and swam out past the rocky shoal. Mission accomplished.
And, in the middle of this idyll on the island .... didn't I meet a guy who works for Ferrari Ontario. Let's backtrack for a moment. A couple of months ago Bill had a wee accident at Watkins Glen with his Ferrari. He smashed it up but he was unhurt. Apparently, the car is so old that you can't get parts for it anymore. Bill has been mourning this car mishap since his auto-body guy told him the bad news about the lack of replacement parts. Bill even offered to pay Will to use his Internet research skills to find the darn parts. Apparently, there may be a part that will work ... but it is in Taipei.
Now, picture this: My legs are hanging off the dock when an island neighbor comes by to say 'hello' and to drop off some berries and peas. He casually mentions that his weekend guest is a car nut who works for Ferrari Ontario - and he does body work. I about fell in the water.
The next day, Mr. Ferrari Ontario comes by, I show him the picture of Bill's smashed up car (that was on my camera phone) and he and Bill start emailing each other! WHAT THE HECK?? How do things like that happen? My mother calls it serendipity. We talked a lot about serendipity last weekend - she prefers to think of it as God's hand.
Whatever it was, I am thankful for it. I am thankful for Annie, for her kindness and friendship over the past 30 years and for sharing her piece of heaven with us.