“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days – three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.”
― John Keats, Bright Star: Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne
This summer I spent some time in cottage country 2 hours north of Toronto, at a cottage on Lake Joseph. A good friend of mine invited me and I am always happy to accept any invitation to soak in the sun.
The cottage sits alone on a small island except for a cabin at its rear and a boat house in front. It is painted a rough green with burnt red on its roof and the words “Faith Island” imprinted on its side. Inside, you are enthralled by the smell of burning wood from the stone fireplace and cooking from the kitchen. If you get lucky, someone will be playing a song on the seventy year old organ, which was once used by a priest performing Sunday morning hymnals. The cottage has its history, its wrinkles, and blemishes of old age. It’s these natural flaws that enchant you. Behind each blemish there is a story and for every wrinkle there is wisdom.
The privacy of the island allows you to wander from one point to the next, hopping from stone to stone through the evergreen trees. You can watch the sun set from Muskoka chairs sitting at the island’s peak, with boats out for an evening cruise cutting across the light reflecting off of the lake. When you finally decide to get into bed, it is jet black, with the waves as your only lullaby and the morning sunshine as your only wake-up call.
And my pleasures didn’t end there. A short boat ride south, or a drive along highway 169, will bring you to Port Sandfield Marina. Their bakery, next to a small shop selling Ontario-grown fruits and vegetables, sells out their freshly made donuts every day. You’ve never had a blueberry donut quite like these ones: warm to the touch and fall-apart moist. Who says you can’t have dessert before noon? From there, it’s a quick trip to the infamous JW Marriott resort and spa on Lake Rosseau. With several stories of stairs to arrive at their large, open patio, this resort has one of the best views of the lake below. It’s worth stopping by for that alone, and a ‘Bala cranberry-infused cosmo’ just sweetens the deal.
From there, Cleveland’s House is right around the corner. This hotel and restaurant began its development in 1883 by a Charles Minett, who wanted to name it Cleeve Lands after his England birthplace. The printer’s error was never fixed. The food here is well worth the stop, with a large patio to enjoy it on. That mouth-watering burger pictured below? The Muskoka Fully Loaded with bacon, cheddar cheese, BBQ brisket, and caramelized onion. It tastes as good as it looks.
There is something undeniably special about Canadian summers – the deep appreciation we have for those precious, sunny afternoons and calm, starry nights. Year after year we withstand cold, obscenely long, bitter winters and wait for warmth to come. Perhaps, like the words of Anne Bradstreet, “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.“