They are essentially the same photos, year after year.
Same place, same people.
But I love each year’s photos in a separate way.
Sometimes I wonder why we have chosen this-
going to the same cottage for 20+ years.
Are we not depriving ourselves of new and beautiful things?
We get around in other ways at other times.
And there is a benefit to going back to the same place,
I think (speaking from the perspective of desiring a relaxing vacation).
You know what to expect.
What to look forward to.
What it will smell like.
You know that outside is never far away at the cottage.
(It’s even in your bed by the end of the week- hello, sandy sheets.)
You know generally what your daily schedule will be like-
Go to the water early-ish in the morning to sit or write,
Go to the water mid-day to swim and read in the sun,
Go to the water in the evening to walk the beach, skip stones, climb on the big rock, and watch the sun set.
You know that on Thursday,
Everyone will debate about whether or not to go to the flea market,
Even though we already know that of course we’re going. We always do.
You know what will be the same, and that is comfortable.
But you also notice the differences-
the new deck chairs,
the higher water level,
the new cottages that are being built down the road.
We and the cottage are always different versions of ourselves than we were the summer before.
The things we’ve learned and seen.
The things we’ve loved and been hurt by.
The things we’ve hoped for and the the things we’ve been afraid of.
These things shift, from year to year.
We just pack it all up, squash it into our cars and our vans,
And take it with us to the cottage,
where there aren’t really hiding places to tuck it away.
There is, however, plenty of space for airing things out
by the water
around the table
and on quirky couches.
It’s never perfect,
And sometimes things hurt,
Like walking over a few feet of rocks to get into deeper water
Or realizing that you still have the tendency to eat when you aren’t even hungry
Or that you are actually still selfish,
even though you had decided ahead of time not to be. Gah.
It’s always hard to leave,
And as we get closer to home,
there’s more traffic and concrete.
But somehow, I feel more ready for the fall- even when I don’t know what it holds for me. I feel braver, and like the possibility is beautiful, and I feel like there are many impossibly beautiful things that I might get to be a part of in this life.
What about you? Do you prefer vacationing in new places or in familiar places?
I like to see beautiful new places. I imagine that you can identify with that.
Can you also identify with the feeling of being certain that there are beautiful places all around you? Places that are within comfortable driving distance?
Can you ALSO identify with the feeling that sometimes it can feel hard or overwhelming to find these near-by beautiful places? Almost akin to searching for a needle in a haystack, even though you truly believe in your heart of hearts that there must be SO MANY beautiful places near by?
Well, my friend Meghan and I found a beautiful, relatively-close-to-us place.
Port Hope is the name of the place. It is about an hour and a half east-ish of Toronto, right along Lake Ontario.
I gathered from reviews online that people genuinely enjoyed their visits there, but when I looked at photos of the town and lists of activities to do in Port Hope I wasn’t immediately convinced that it was the perfect place for us to visit. It seemed like lots of small shops and restaurants. I’m not great at browsing “gift shop” type stores, and I confess that going to cafes that I’ve never been to before makes me feel rather anxious.
However, due to that searching-for-a-needle-in-a-haystack feeling (and the knowledge that having the absolute perfect location was not necessary for us to have a wonderful trip), we agreed upon a pleasant-looking Airbnb in Port Hope and booked it for one night.
The Airbnb turned out to be absolutely wonderful, with giant beds, many pillows, fresh flower bouquets, and juice and chocolate in the fridge. We spent most of our evening watching The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on Netflix. We both loved the book, and felt that the movie captured the spirit of the story well.
The next morning we had toaster strudels, chocolate, chips and salsa, and tea for breakfast. Our Airbnb did not have a toaster for the toaster strudels, but we had the foresight to pack one. Always pack a toaster. You will almost never regret it.
We packed up our things and headed out to explore Port Hope.
We started by taking a walk on a snowy trail right beside the lake. It was lovely, although somewhat icy. It had snowed overnight, so there was a fresh blanket of snow to brighten everything up. I carried my camera around my neck, and it was one of those situations where EVERYTHING seems like it would make a good photo.
We walked until we were very cold, and then we kept walking until we got back to the car.
We headed to the main streets, which were wonderfully empty and quiet.
Our first stop was a used bookstore called Gryphon Books, where we were greeted in a friendly way by the shop-keeper, but then left to peruse the shelves in warm, cinnamon-scented silence. There was a lovely wall that was partially covered with bookmarks.
Obviously, I bought one million books there.
As I waited for Meghan to finish paying for her purchase, a young man came in. He looked at the camera around my neck and said, “I bet you paid more for your camera than I did for my truck.”
I decided to just go with it, and told him that I think I paid around $500 for my camera and its equipment.
He nodded in a pleased way, and said, “Paid $420 for my truck.”
A few more friendly comments were exchanged before Meghan and I headed back out.
Next we went into a dollar/bargain sort of store. It was nothing spectacular, but I found the type of hat and gloves that I’ve been looking for. I went to the front of the store to pay for them, and found the elderly cashier reading what was definitely one of those “Amish novels”. Part of me wanted to rip off my winter hat and be like, “I’m a real Mennonite!” I didn’t.
She looked at me and my camera and said, “That looks like an expensive camera.”
It was a little bit of a strange conversation starter, but it turned out she just wanted to give me tips of where to take nice photos in Port Hope.
We continued on our way and found Dreamers Cafe.
The menu had many delicious-sounding options, but we both ended up getting a chicken salad sandwich with Caesar salad. This was no ordinary chicken salad either. It had cranberries and caramelized onions in it, and it was SO GOOD. I’ve been craving it ever since I finished eating it.
When the waiter brought us our food, he asked me what kind of camera I have, and then proceeded to tell me what kind it was before I myself could recall the name of it. (Canon Rebel T3i… Canon Rebel T3i… I’m memorizing it.) He told me about how he’d had the same one, but it’d been stolen, but then he’d bought a new camera for a great price… I tried to sound appropriately appreciative and understanding as he gave me the details. He was very nice.
The cafe itself was whimsical with many lovely details, including French music playing through the speakers. We sat in a lovely corner up by the window.
The place mats were clever… each one was an article about Dreamers Cafe. It was the place mats that told us about…
As we were paying, the same man who asked me about my camera asked us if we are sisters, which pretty much made our visit to the cafe perfect in every way.
We visited a thrift store (called Purpose) before heading back home, although it felt like there were more places that would have been lovely to explore.
Port Hope was an extremely pleasant experience.
I learned that I love winter beaches (always thought I would), a camera around your neck is apparently a conversation starter, and that going on a trip with a good friend is an entirely worthwhile thing to do.
What beautiful places- near or far- have you found in your travels?
I keep looking at pictures and going over the memories and smiling to myself. Ricky and I had a lovely drive home to Toronto last night, reminiscing and reflecting.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I felt much more relaxed and had a lot more time to prepare for Christmas than I have in other recent years. I loved putting a bit more thought into the gifts that I bought, buying them in a more relaxed frame of mind, and wrapping them up NOT at the last minute.
Although I confess that my heart ached a little bit to miss out on the Christmas activities at Countryside School, I did enjoy celebrating Christmas with the little kiddos who I work with now. There are many moments where I forget how very “new” to this life my current kiddos are, but I was reminded of it when I gave them their Christmas presents from me.
They did not even know what to do with those wrapped packages. (After all, they have only experienced one or two Christmases.) So I got them going and they soon caught on to what they should do. A favourite moment of mine was when one little boy had his gift partially unwrapped and realized what was really going on here.
“Hey! HEY! There’s something inside here, Auntie!” That’s what he said. I imagine that Christmas Day was pretty exciting for him.
I gave them each a book as their Christmas gift and found it amusing that they did not realize that these books were theirs to keep. They kept trying to put their books on the bookshelf in our library area. Apparently, I have ingrained in them that books belong on the bookshelf.
On Friday, Ricky and I spent the day preparing for Christmas. In the evening, we had our own lovely little Christmas dinner, opened presents from each other, drank coffee late into the night, and also watched Netflix movies late into the night. (Those last two things may have been related.) Ricky gave me a letter board and a bullet journal. I am very excited about both of these things.
I made ginormous peanut butter balls at some point. I forget when it was exactly. I made them ginormous for two reasons. 1) Because I love them and bigger seemed better. 2) Because I am not a patient person with any sort of fiddly job and rolling larger peanut butter balls meant getting done faster. I thought that they couldn’t possibly be too big. But they kind of are. Whoops. They’ll last us awhile. And if you’re ever in need of an overwhelmingly large giant peanut butter ball, you know who to come to.
On Sunday after church, we went to Ricky’s family’s house, where we started our Christmas celebration with a delicious meal. Other activities included the annual book exchange, playing games (boys against girls, often), delightful and thought-provoking conversations, watching It’s a Wonderful Life, and reading. I failed to take a single photo of these things happening, and I feel sad about that, and will do better next year, I am sure.
On Monday evening, we headed to my family’s house for the traditional Christmas Eve pizza. We also caroled for some neighbours and watched a Christmas movie. Christmas Day included aunts and uncles, a dog named Bonnie, a puzzle, lots of food, two ukuleles, and three diffusers. (Mom gave me a diffuser, Wendy gave Mom a diffuser, and Uncle Mark gave Wendy a diffuser. As far as I know, no one gave Uncle Mark a diffuser. The two ukuleles belong to Wendy and Renee.)
All in all, it was a
Sprinkled with bits of
All the way through.
And what to do with the feelings of being unfairly, undeservingly blessed?
The food, the family (not just one, but TWO), the friendships, the freedom.
I am so grateful for what I have and for what I know to be true.
So many people all over the world don’t have this.
It just doesn’t seem right, and I don’t know exactly what to do about it.
I have always liked the idea of hiking, but haven’t always liked the actual hiking.
The idea of traipsing through nature was appealing, but my legs… they’d get so tired, and it wouldn’t take long for me to just wish to be done with the hike. It always felt like, in order to hike properly, one must move briskly towards the end point. To me, taking breaks felt like a shameful thing that revealed my weakness.
I have a new hiking philosophy now.
And it is this:
For me, hiking is not about how far along the trail I make it.
It’s not about moving quickly.
It’s about stopping to sit in the places that are beautiful. It’s about sitting there for as long as I want to, without feeling guilty about not making any headway on the trail.
Come to think of it, for me, hiking is mostly about sitting.
(Now I’m just making fun of myself.)
(But it’s true.)
The following photos were taken at Rattlesnake Point on Saturday, October 20, by myself and my fellow sitter/hiker, Ricky.