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The Summer of Being Seated – Part Four

Homeward Bound

Friday, September 17, 2010

Eight weeks and five days!  It’s been the longest continuous stretch of time that I have ever spent at the cottage.  But, it has now come to an end – I left the lake on Tuesday (the 14th).

Originally, I had hoped to stay right through Thanksgiving, but a couple of commitments in Winnipeg struck me as having priority, so I packed up and said a fond farewell to the lake for another year.

Packing up our cottage is a serious matter.  I have already mentioned coiling up and stowing our Rube Goldberg shower system.  The chainsaw, the barbecue and the propane tanks all have to be protected from the elements and from thieves; batteries need to be removed from flashlights, and from telephones, clocks and the clock radio; the water system needs to be turned off and drained.  All such things are my normal duties as The Husband.

However, this time I also had to do the duties of The Wife, because two weeks ago Heather returned to Winnipeg and to her law practice.  A list of The Wife’s duties is huge:
  • dishes washed and put away;
  • protective dust covers put on all upholstered furniture;
  • pillows and cushions put into zippered plastic bags;
  • beds made and covered;
  • dirty laundry packed up for washing in Winnipeg;
  • precious objects laid on bed and covered;
  • food given away or thrown out, with a few select items stowed in a cooler for transit home;
  • fridge cleaned out and wiped down (making sure the door is propped open, to prevent mildew)
  • etc.
...oh yes, and pack my own clothes and clarinet and music and computer and stuff.  And... lunch materials for the road.

I had taken my boat out of the water, flipped it over and hosed it down on Saturday.  From that point, trips to the parking lot and my car had to be accomplished in what we call the “Fisher-Price Boat.”  It is a one-person plastic
a 'Fisher-Price Boat'
rowboat that is left in the bushes near the parking lot by the last person in our extended family to depart the lake (which, this year, was yours truly).  This boat is so small that I had to row the suitcases, laundry, and other things across to my car in three separate trips.

On the Day of Departure, I started the final stages of packing at about 9:00 AM but there was so much to do – and I am also by nature inefficient – that I wasn’t ready to lock up and leave until after 3:00 PM.

Mind you, I was being particularly careful.  There have been too many years that I have discovered, long after getting on the highway, that something important was forgotten, and this year I was determined to have an omission-free departure.  In those other years, my long-suffering neighbour, Ken Duff, would invariably get a call or email from us: “We forgot to take in a flag, or turn off a light or close a window; would you mind terribly doing that for us?”  He would always do it most graciously and has never complained, but still I wanted there to be nothing forgotten this year; nothing for Ken to do!  Besides, he has already rescued us once this year, on our way here;1 surely we won’t have to bug him again?

A last look... oops, the BBQ cover is still damp from all the rain!  Better make sure it won’t have any folds to mildew or rot... turn off the power, pick up my last two bags, lock the door, and row over to the landing.  Put the stuff in the car; haul the boat out of the water, and drag it into the bush.  Flip it; put the oars underneath.  Start the car.  Say a little prayer, and I’m on my way.  In 2296 kilometres I shall be home.

I hadn’t eaten any lunch, and it was almost 4:00 PM, so... after I had driven some distance, I considered stopping to make a sandwich...

Uh oh.  Where’s my prepared lunch kit?

Then I realized.  That last minute re-check of the BBQ cover distracted me enough that I didn’t put the lunch kit by the door.  It was still sitting on the counter.  It would now sit there until next spring.  The bread would be hard, and green.... I guess that wouldn’t be too bad... but the can of gingerale would, in the dead of winter, freeze, expand, and burst.  The sticky goo would soak into the bread and into the fabric of the bag and...

So I had to call upon Ken Duff after all.

Which I did – by email, from my motel that night.

Ken replied the next morning, with a cheerful “Done!”  But once again I failed to get away cleanly, and Ken has had to remedy something I have left undone.  Oh dear.

the Terry Fox monument
The Terry Fox Memorial, in Thunder Bay
seen from the bench where I had my lunch
16 September, 2010
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful.  Although I made only 400 kilometres that first afternoon, having begun so late in the day, the next day was better and, after covering 802 kilometres, I stopped for the night in White River Ontario.  By yesterday I had achieved a kind of mental and physical “zone” – the way extreme athletes do – and drove for twelve straight hours, covering 1042 kilometres and arriving home without even being tired.

September 18, 2010

The Prime Minister and Me
On that last day’s marathon drive, I stopped for lunch at the Terry Fox memorial in Thunder Bay.  It is an extraordinary monument, set high on a cliff overlooking both the city of Thunder Bay and a huge swath of Lake Superior.  You can see it as you drive by on the Trans-Canada highway: the larger-than-life bronze statue of Terry perched far above the road.  I have always thought it would be nice to stop and see the memorial up close, so this time, I did.

It turned out to be a complete park and visitors’ centre, accessible by a wide and well-surfaced road that goes up to the cliff from behind.  So after enjoying the view for a little while (and talking to Heather on my cellphone) I sat down on a bench by the statue and made myself some lunch.  While seated there, I took the photo that you can see here.

Today I read, in the Globe & Mail, that a mere twenty-four hours later the Prime Minister of Canada himself visited that very site.  The photographer who took his picture would have sat on my sandwich had he come when I was there!  I’ve included the newspaper photograph below, so you can see.
the Prime Minister at the Terry Fox monument
- The Globe & Mail Saturday, September 18, 2010
The Prime Minister – walking in my footsteps?

Regardless of what you think of him, Stephen Harper is the leader of our country, so don’t you think I might be justified in saying “Wow!  The Prime Minister was there less than twenty-four hours after me!”

Of course, it is also possible that upon reading this blog, Stephen Harper could say to himself, “Wow, and to think Tony Harwood-Jones was there less than twenty-four hours before I got there!”


And so, for me, the Summer of Being Seated came to an end with a marathon sitting session behind the wheel of my car.  Now I’m at home, and my retirement really begins.  While I was at the lake, it was just like all the other summers that I have been there: the cottage is a place of vacation, a place of down-time from my profession.  Being there – apart from the fact that I could stay for two months – felt like a vacation.

Only now – now that I am back home – I finally sense the full impact of not having daily commitments, appointments and obligations.  It’s the first day of the rest of my life.  I wonder how it will all unfold....

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