Lakes are moody. They can be benignly serene or exuberantly playful, happily reflecting a blue sky and scintillating with sunbeams momentarily captured by the waves. But they can also turn black and malicious. It’s at moments like this that you wish your parents had built their cottage on the mainland instead of on an island.
On brooding and windy days, when waves are belligerently frothing with white caps, docking can be virtually impossible as breakers wash over the stern of the boat and attempt to ram you into the rocks. If you can actually get to the island, it can be equally dangerous to leave, so it’s essential to be well stocked with food and refreshments. In any case, once you’ve hauled all the stuff across three kilometres of capricious water, you don’t want to have to trek back to town to pick up forgotten bread or flashlight batteries. Obviously, planning ahead is important.
So why have a cottage on an island, which is accessible for only about six months of the year? Partly because island property is significantly larger but decidedly cheaper than mainland lots. Our nearest neighbour is a ten-minute walk away through the woods. Some of the mainland cottages are packed as tightly together as suburban houses. We certainly have solitude, along with a bit more adventure.
My friend, whose family has cottaged on an island since 1879, claims that island people are different - hardier, yet more laid back. Perhaps being farther away from the distractions of modern life - the highways, cars, shopping malls - makes it easier to relax, commune with nature, pick up a book instead of the car keys. Certainly when I visit her vintage cottage, it’s like stepping back into time, and out of the frenetic present.
We’re on a 1200 acre island that was once a farm. A generation ago, the family still lived there, and the children had to go to the mainland - nearly a kilometre across the lake at the narrowest point - to attend school. So they could row over until the lake froze solid enough to walk across. But what about the transition period between open water and safe ice, I wanted to know. Seems that the children would push the rowboat and jump into it if the thin ice broke beneath them. Imagine sending your kids off to school like that every day in early winter and late spring!
So I can hardly complain about the “hardships” of island cottaging!