Aug 2017 22

Some thoughts on getting away from it all. Is it even possible in today’s world? 

As I sit here ‘on vacation’ in Tobermory, wind gusting so hard that the trees out the window look like a tilted Group of Seven painting, I realize that even after two days I’m still trying to get into ‘cottage mode’.

You know ‘cottage mode’, don’t you?

It’s more than adhering to the unwritten code that you must wave to any other motorist once you get north of Barrie – even if it’s just because they gave you the right of way at the stop sign. Which you already had.

And it’s more than saying ‘hello’ to anyone you encounter on the road. This morning I said ‘hello’ to two separate guys on bikes riding by, and a man with two dogs. ‘Good morning’, ‘hello’, ‘lovely day, huh?’. I think only us city people do it because we think it fools them into thinking we’re locals when in truth, we might as well have a neon sign above our heads that says ‘renting cottage’. They probably know it as soon as they see us and think – ‘Great, here’s another fucking squatter that I need to say hello to. Ya, we get it, you’re not an axe murderer. Can’t you just let me walk in peace?’.

Those are just the superficial things of ‘cottage mode’.

So what is it? I dunno. I just know it felt different in years, decades, past.

Maybe it’s because I look around this cottage and we’re not really ‘getting away’ from anything anymore. The cottages my family rented when I was a kid, and the ones I went to with friends and girlfriends of summers past, were more isolated for sure. Maybe not geographically, but certainly in terms of technology.

Reaching ‘cottage mode’ was easier without modern tech. In the past, on days like today, unsuitable for outdoorsy activities, we’d play cards or a board game, or read, all to the soundtrack of cottage radio with catchnames like The Moose, The Dock, The Bear, or other ways of saying ‘Stuff White People in Northern Ontario Listen To Reminding Them Of Their Glory Days in High School’ FM. Twenty years ago, a group of friends and I didn’t know about Princess Diana’s death until I went into town to pick up firewood and beef jerky (I’m always looking for jerky), and I saw the paper with the still shocking ‘Di Dead’ headline – I’m no fan of the monarchy but this seemed horribly insensitive.

Anyhow, now, I’m typing this on my laptop, which I will tether to my mobile later to post on the internet. And I don’t have to hear Bryan Adams for the 5th time today cause I can stream music from anywhere in the world. And there’s satellite TV here – we watched the eclipse live yesterday afternoon on multiple channels. And I brought my Apple TV just in case there was no VHS player (a rare cottage find these days) and we want to watch cottage classic ‘What About Bob?’.

It seems the on demand world can be demanded upon from anywhere I am in said world.

We’re not really ‘away’ from anything. I will have to find a new way to reach ‘cottage mode’. Perhaps not showering for 3 days will help, but there’s such a great shower head here.

I realize in the future that camping might be more my thing for ‘getting away from it all’, but that takes serious planning. And the older you get, the more you want to just get in the car and go. Besides, the cellphone mobile network is formidable across Ontario now – Facebook can be accessed anywhere. There are few places left to hide.

Maybe I have to consider what ‘cottage mode’ (or ‘camping mode’) might really be all about. It’s about being away from your job, your day-to-day life, and the patterns you’ve either gone back to or established since the last time you went on holiday. I recently realized that for my partner Christine and I, it’s been two-and-a-half years since we’ve been away together like this, just the two of us (and the dog). That’s a long time. We live together and so the idea of needing a holiday with each other is kind of laughable – I mean, really, shouldn’t we need a holiday away from each other? It’s still me first thing in the morning, snoring away in her ear regardless of the longitude and latitude we find ourselves in.

Maybe ‘cottage mode’ is about checking in. Checking in with each other to see if we even still like each other after ten years (we do). But just as important, checking in to see if we still even like ourselves. We’ve seen too many funerals this summer and we’ve been rethinking our lives as a Gen X couple without kids, our careers, and how we can maybe impact a world that seems to need all the help it can get. For me personally, it’s time to dust off that dream of being a ‘real’ writer. Suddenly though, all around us, time seems to be a finite resource. Maybe, like at this cottage, it is about identifying and tuning out the unnecessary. Reset. Recalibrate. Reload.


Right now the satellite TV is off. The radio is silent. There is only the sound of my typing, and the wind barreling through the trees outside. I can see Christine napping on the couch, dog on the floor nearby. And I am thinking about what we’ll make for dinner, and what goofy ways we might continue to make each other laugh this evening.

Hoping ‘cottage mode’ is almost unlocked.

If you have not unlocked yours this summer, you still have time.





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