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The Summer of Being Seated – Part Three

Rafting, Rescue, Return, and Resumption of Play

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In two days I shall be leaving the cottage, and have begun to put things away (about which more in a minute), but I should not allow you to get the impression that this summer has been nothing but sitting (without a phone), sitting (with a phone) and sitting (with an injured digit).  We’ve had some good times, and for certain members of my family, some notable adventures.


My son, Troy, took his summer vacation in Eastern Canada, and rented a cabin on our lake for a week.  He was ferociously energetic while he was here: volunteering to help when a bunch of us had a work party, swimming several times a day, and even going white-water rafting.

Troy and Rachael being overturned in a kayak
Oops!  Over we go!
(Troy and Rachael, and a “Sportyak”)
Our lake itself is peaceful and serene.  No white-water of any kind on it.  However the Rouge River runs not too far from here, and it has some serious rapids.  In recent years a couple of businesses have sprung up along that river, offering white-water rafting to anyone foolish enough to want to try that sort of thing.

Well, Troy must have a death wish or something, because he made arrangements with one of those outfits for a day-long session on the river.  He was joined in this adventure by Rachael, who had returned to the lake for a couple of days.  I guess she, too, has a death wish.

They came back bruised but totally pleased with themselves.  Not only had they run down the rapids in a raft, they had also gone over them again – this time in a small two-person kayak!  It was on this second outing that they were actually thrown out of the kayak, acquiring their bruises as the water hurled them against various rocks.  Professional photographers record all this self-destruction, and Troy happily presented me with a CD showing him and his sister in various extreme white-water moments.  The inset picture on this page was taken just before they were dumped out of the kayak.  They insist that they had a wonderful time!  Harrumph.  Some people’s children.  (He says, in an elderly sort of voice, from his seated position.)

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This, as you may know, is something of a family lake.  My sister Dawn, my brother Tim, Heather’s brother Ross, and my nephew Allister all have cottages here, and when other family members visit, we can be numerous indeed.  In one particular week this year, Tim’s son, Todd, with wife and two children, plus his daughter Tawny, with husband and little boy, were all piled on top of one another at Tim’s place along with Tim and Diana.  It made for some interesting times.

One day the young families all got into Todd’s minivan to go on a nostalgia tour.  The countryside around here is always beautiful, and the rushing Rouge River provides some spectacular scenery (in addition to the white-water craziness mentioned above).  Many of us, as youngsters, would go on day hikes down to the river just to sit and watch the rapids, or go to a place called “Bell’s Falls,” where there was a small shop that served up ice cream and other treats.

So, the young adults decided to take their children in the minivan on an exploration of these and other wonders.  The day was bright and sunny, perfect for an outing.

They had gone about twenty kilometers when there was an awful screeching noise from the van’s front wheel, and the vehicle stopped – disabled.

In an era of cellphones one need not stay stranded for long.  By good fortune they were within range of a cellular signal (not often the case around here! – certainly not on this lake).  A garage was called, and a call for a rescue was put in to the lake.  Tawny’s mother, Diana, got the call.

Moments later, Heather, who was visiting Diana (they are sisters), telephoned over to our place: “Tony, can you go and rescue Todd and Tawny and their families?  They’re on the Kilmar road – the part where the pavement begins.  And you’d better go by Ross’ cottage and ask him to go in his car as well, because there are too many people for just our one little Corolla.”  (Ross, by the way, doesn’t have a telephone, so that is why I was delegated to enlist his help.)

I had spent the previous three hours assembling a console table that we had just acquired – a complex of legs and drawers and innumerable screws and bolts – and had just sat down with a cup of coffee, when this call came.  So up I got, found my car keys, got into my boat, and went over to Ross’ cottage.

As I headed out, the sunny day changed.  A large black cloud appeared out of nowhere.  And, it looked like it contained a lot of rain.  By the time I got to Ross’ dock, I felt the first raindrops.  Ross agreed to go – but his car is parked on the opposite side of the lake from mine, so I didn’t wait for him and just set out in my boat toward the landing where my own car stays.  Across a quarter-mile of water.  With it starting to rain.  Without rain gear of any kind (heck, when I left my place the sun was shining!).

Sometimes in these parts you can hear heavy rain coming.  It’s a whispered hiss on the trees across the lake, then as it approaches across the water there is a line of splashing froth where the big raindrops hit.  I heard and saw this and I knew that I was in for a serious drenching.  However, an electric motor on a boat will not be hurried, no matter how much I willed it to hurry me over to my car.  I had to just sit there serenely gliding along as the downpour hit.  In seconds I was soaked to the skin, while the boat moved patiently through the rain to our landing.

Alongside the dock.  Out of the boat.  Tie it up.  Sprint soggily to the car.  Get in, start it, and turn the heater up to “hot” in a vain hope of getting dry.

Now where are those poor stranded people?  This rain is going to hit them any time now, and I’m not even sure where they are!  At least they can sit in the van...

Twenty kilometers of small twisty gravel roads, and then poorly paved roads, with me peering through the windshield wipers, hoping at every turn to see a disabled van.

My niece, Tawny, is married to a very big man.  Alex is well built and fit, but is certainly bigger and taller than most men.  And he is a career soldier.  The kind you can imagine standing guard, unflinching, no matter what the weather.  As I rounded yet another curve in the road, that is precisely what I saw in the pouring rain: Alex... big, tall, and standing like a sentry, soaking wet, at the side of the road.

As I pulled over and rolled down my window to shout, “Where is the van, and where is everybody else?” out of the bushes behind him came two women lugging infant car seats, and three little children.

It seems that a tow truck had come quite quickly.  As it was hauling the van away, leaving them at the side of the road, that is when the downpour began!  The women took shelter under the trees, putting the children under the upturned carseats... leaving poor Alex to stand out in the full deluge to watch for me.  Todd had gone with the tow truck to the garage.

Moments later, Ross pulled up behind us, so everyone now had a seat inside a heated car.

But we were all hungry, as well as wet, so on our way back to the lake we stopped for lunch at a casse croûte (one of Québec’s ubiquitous roadside burger stands).  Finally, when we got back to the lake, fires were lit in all cottages, and I finally got to resume my interrupted sit... and dry out.

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Return, and a Resumption of Play

My daughter Ariel loves the cottage, but has been unable to come here for two or three years.  Finally, in early September, she managed to make some time, and drove up from Toronto for a few days.

It was so good to see her, and to catch up on her life.  There was much visiting to be done, but she also managed to spend considerable time outdoors, just immersing herself in this wonderful world of forests and sparkling water.

Even better, because it was the tail end of a major heat wave there was also lots of swimming.

People on a large granite rock
The Rock
...all the functions of a sandy beach, except that you can’t dig holes
All our family members on this lake like to go to an enormous granite rock to do our swimming.  Time out of mind the Harwood-Jones family would sit on this rock (my mom said, “Like a bunch of Barbary apes.”) and from it would tumble into the water, then get out, climb back up the rock and dry off – perhaps with a beverage and snack-food.  The Rock (it requires capital letters) is an enormous, lumpy and solid thing that performs all the functions of a sandy beach, except that you can’t dig holes in it or build little castles.  It is a place of socializing, or getting a tan, or just sitting and contemplating the universe.

So on a very hot Friday afternoon Ariel and a number of us from several cottages were all sitting around on The Rock, when it was decided that a family sing-along would be the perfect way to end the day.

There is a piano in my sister Dawn’s cottage, brought over many years ago on two rowboats lashed together.  With my brother Tim being a professional piano tuner this piano is in reasonably good shape – despite having spent the past thirty-five years in a forest shack.

The primary cause of this particular sing-along was Ariel, because she is a consummate singer and an capable pianist, and, having very positive memories of such sing-alongs in her childhood she had even brought with her a book of popular song standards suitable to the occasion.

With us all sitting there on The Rock, Dawn said, “Okay, it’s agreed: a sing-along at 8:00 PM tonight.  And Tony... You Are Coming.  No excuses.”

I don’t often attend family occasions.  Some members of our family are highly sociable, some other family members are more reclusive, and hermit-like.  I am decidedly one of the latter, and seldom attend either sing-alongs or card games or any other gathering of multitudes.  My cottage is a sanctuary of quiet (except when I’m playing the clarinet, of course).  Raucous family gatherings happen in other places, and I rarely attend.

Add to that, I’m not terribly fond of singing.  I can sing, and indeed many years ago I put myself through university by singing in a semi-professional church choir, but I don’t really enjoy it.  Instead my heart finds expression through playing the clarinet.

But now I was being instructed to attend a sing-along by my sister, who knows full well my preferences.  And how could I refuse?  With my beloved daughter – whom I so seldom see – at the centre of things, I really had to put aside my hermit-like nature and take part.

“Maybe I’ll bring my clarinet...” I muttered.

To which everyone else on The Rock instantly replied, “Oh yes!  Please do!  That would be so cool!”

You will, of course, recall that my hand – having been attacked by a boat – has been in recovery, and I have not been playing the clarinet, to my great sorrow.  But the finger has been mending nicely, and I thought to myself, “These occasions are noisy, and the clamour of singing and laughter is so great that if my finger misses a note or two, who’s going to know?  No one will even be able to hear it!”

So I agreed to go, and that is the Resumption of Play mentioned in the title to this section.  I did play the clarinet that evening.  My finger didn’t always respond well, but my playing was passable, and there was no pain or other indication that I had impeded the healing process.  And that, O faithful reader, was a great relief and joy – for me.

We actually had good fun at the sing-along too – the clarinettist contributing some occasionally inspired jazz riffs behind the pop standards (I also made plenty of bloopers, but in the context of a Harwood-Jones sing-along it probably added to the happy chaos).  Ariel also sight-read a couple of pieces from my classical repertoire (a Tchaikovsky and a Bach), to everyone’s great admiration, and I very much enjoyed playing them with her.

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garden hoses on a roof
Solar Heating
hundreds of feet of garden hose

Running hot water

I confess that I misled you a little bit, when earlier I said that I take a “brisk outdoor shower” after doing some sort of strenuous work.  You might think that, as an elderly but exceedingly macho male, I take cold showers as a matter of course, but this isn’t quite so.  Yes, sometimes my outdoor showers are rather bracing, but on bright and sunny days, they can actually be quite hot outdoor showers!

A shower at an outhouse door
The Shower
You see, one of the amenities of this place is solar heating.  Solar heating for the garden hose, that is – the garden hose that serves the outdoor shower.  Close to two hundred feet of garden hose snake hither and thither across our nice dark green roof (inset picture, left), getting really heated up in the sunlight, and then up the hill it all goes to the shower itself – a contraption that sits on a sort of sundeck to our outhouse (inset picture, right).  I suspect there is only one such system in the universe – but it serves us well, and is a good thing to have.

That is, until it all has to be taken down at the end of the season.  There is a lot of hose to uncouple and coil up and stow away.  The shower device itself must be drained, disassembled, and stowed.  And the shower curtains must also be taken down (and dried out if they are wet) then folded up and put away.

That’s the sort of thing in which I am presently engaged... in preparation for my departure on Tuesday.  Which is why, of course, I have needed to sit down.

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Continued.... click here for next segment.

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