We rented a cottage up in the Muskokas last weekend with our friends Dave and Jackie and Chris and Amanda and we drove up on Friday afternoon. Dave and Jackie had gotten us the cottage through some family members and had booked the cottage for the entire week – Amanda and Chris left late Monday night and Tay and I made plans to leave Tuesday afternoon since he had to work the rest of the week.
I had originally debated staying the entire week with Dave and Jackie since I had it off but last week I was accepted into the United Way’s Speaker’s Bureau and they asked me if I would be free on Wednesday morning to speak to one of their million dollar donors.
How do you say no to that?
It was my very first speaking engagement so I made the drive back home Tuesday afternoon, and on Wednesday morning I dressed in business casual with stockings and high heels that made the mosquito bites on my ankles itch and I did my best not to fidget in a room filled with people while I talked for more than ten minutes, resorting only occasionally to my note cards. I was home by 10 am and by 10:30 I was once again in my car, headed over to Dave’s parents who were headed back up to the cottage to stay over night and less than an hour later we were headed up the 400, my stockings and shoes swapped instead for a sun dress and flip flops.
I was away from the cottage for less than twenty four hours before I returned.
I swam every day that we were there save the first day when we arrived just after dusk and I swam the last day despite the cloudy skies and the chilly air. Half my swims in the lake were with Dave and Jackie’s pitbull Flex at my side, and I swam with his leash in my hand and I couldn’t say who loved the water more. I spent mornings, afternoons and evenings kayaking, searching for herons perched on the shore and waited patiently as the gentle waves rocked the kayak until they eventually lifted into the air, flying across my field of vision before disappearing around a bend in the lake.
I climbed out of the water and drank tequila in margaritas to kill the amoebas in the lake and when the tequila ran out, I switched to Strongbow and Heineken and sangria that we drank from a pitcher on a brick that we wedged into the beach as a makeshift table top.
On Wednesday night I bunked in one room with Dave and Jackie while his parents slept in the other, and I stacked my airmattress on top of the bed that was much too hard to sleep on by itself and when Dave warned me to not fall off my bed that was three mattresses high, I laughed and said it couldn’t happen.
Early the next morning, everyone, Flex included, awake to the sound of a thump as I fell from the bed and onto the floor. I lay on the floor and laughed and almost cried and I giggled to Dave that I think I might have broken my toe (I didn’t). Everyone asked me if I was okay except for Flex who didn’t seem to care as long as I could still take him swimming (which I could and did).
When I wasn’t in the water I read, beginning Duma Key on the Saturday and finishing it on Thursday, all 600 pages of it and in the mornings after I kayaked and in the evenings (after I kayaked) I sat on the front porch and with my laptop in my lap and I wrote and then wrote some more and by the time we left, Dave was calling me Hemmingway and thinking out loud how wonderful it would be if I became rich and famous and bought a cottage up north as a writing retreat and they could come as my guests. If only, I agreed, looking out at the expanse of forest as the leaves rustled in the wind.
I returned home just before seven this evening, worn and battered from my days and nights in the woods – my feet covered in mosquito bites – toes and ankles included – and bruises on my thighs from wrestling a pitbull out of the lake, including a long, narrow bruise running down the front of my thigh from when Flex decided to drag me across the bottom of the lake as we improvised body surfing. We had left after one last swim in the lake and my hair had dried on its own in a tangled blond mess of curls that is making me question my inner debate to once again change the color of my hair but not my decision to grow my hair out. Tanned and freckled and weary and worn. Amoeba free and with one sore toe and a pitbull that has declared himself to be my best friend forever and proved it by falling asleep in the backseat of Dave and Jackie’s car with his head on my lap.
The sound of meat on the grill and the hum of speed boats on the lake and even the sound of the rain drumming on the roof of the cottage. Friends that you can talk and laugh with or sit quietly with on the porch while you say nothing at all.
Endless days that stretch out forever.