Weekender: A Cottage Journal

Paperback | May 16, 2006

byRoy MacGregor

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In this delightful dockside reader, one of Canada's great writers of the outdoors celebrates the Canadian cottage experience.

Written in journal form, The Weekender takes us through a typical year -the pleasures, great and small, and the occasional pains-of cottage living. From that first, essential opening-day plunge into a still-frigid lake to the last leap in at the summer's end, and everything in between, The Weekender reprises some of MacGregor's classic writings from Cottage Life, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, and includes some new material, too. It's the perfect read for the cottage lover in all of us, a book to return to again and again, in summer and all year long.

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From the Publisher

In this delightful dockside reader, one of Canada's great writers of the outdoors celebrates the Canadian cottage experience. Written in journal form, The Weekender takes us through a typical year -the pleasures, great and small, and the occasional pains-of cottage living. From that first, essential opening-day plunge into a still-frig...

From the Jacket

In this delightful dockside reader, one of Canada’s great writers of the outdoors celebrates the Canadian cottage experience.Written in journal form, The Weekender takes us through a typical year -the pleasures, great and small, and the occasional pains-of cottage living. From that first, essential opening-day plunge into a still-frig...

Roy MacGregor has been a journalist for more than twenty years, and for the past decade, a regular contributor to Cottage Life magazine with his immensely popular "Weekender" column. He is the author of numerous bestselling and award-winning books, including Escape, Canoe Lake, A Life in the Bush, The Home Team, and the popular childre...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 7.15 × 5.49 × 0.67 inPublished:May 16, 2006Publisher:Penguin CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143052608

ISBN - 13:9780143052609

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Opening UpNow is when we begin the most important journey of the year. It will have been planned and talked about for weeks, and yet there will still be a last-minute scramble to get going. We will take the same route that this particular family has taken now for more than a quarter of a century—and yet we will still notice flowering dogwood and pin cherry as if never before having seen such marvels.We will wonder, again, why such fuss is made of fall colours—the red and rust of maple—while nothing is said of the stunning varieties of purple in a hardwood forest about to leaf. Is it simply because spring arrives without melancholy in Canada? Is bittersweet sadness such a part of the fall equation in this country that we feel compelled to stare in amazement and record in pictures, as if preserving, the one season—while we seem perfectly willing to skip this other right into summer? Or is it simply because the Canadian calendar divides no more easily into quarters than Gaul did for Caesar? Summer we would extend forever; winter already seems to stretch forever; fall, nice fall, is fleeting; but spring—spring lasts about a full afternoon in a good year, just enough time for the runoff to take place and the big coats to come off.I have grown to treasure that first spring trip in from the main highway. I will roll the window down, even if the air is still cool, and let the smells of spring race about our heads as we scream and sing our way closer and closer to whatever surprises await us.Sometimes, if we arrive late, there will be fox kittens warming themselves on the north side of the final hill on the approach to the lake. Sometimes there will be moose tracks on the soft sand where we turn in. Always, the lake will be high from the spring runoff in Algonquin Park and the docks will be floating well above the rocks we have piled for support. One year these docks had broken free from their safety ties and were blown far down the lake, where they rested, safely, in a sheltered bay until we towed them back and re-fastened them to the shore.The ancient aluminum cartopper will be tipped from the cedar it was leaned against the previous fall and the forty-year-old Johnson 6 hp and its scratched and dented gas tank hauled from the shed. One of us will yank the starter rope a dozen times or more, jam the throttle in and out, and perhaps even curse a few times before a blue flume of smoke rises and the engine roars into action. Usually there will be floating logs that have been set free by the shifting ice and we will need to lasso them and tow them to a far bay—the bone yard—where they will hopefully stay fast until the next breakup.The work at first seems endless: branches and leaves to clear, chimneys and eavestrough to check, a deck to sweep, and old chairs to set out. The docks must be tightened and supported by rocks at the shallow end and metal pipes at the deep. The canoe will be taken down and gently dropped off the end of a dock for a quick spin of the bay just to make sure the “J” stroke didn’t get forgotten over the winter. The barbecue must be carried down from the outhouse, cleaned, and fired up. There are inner tubes to blow up, pails to clean, a refrigerator to plug in, floors to sweep, and—in the sweetest ceremony of all—the first cold beer to be had on the deck, no matter the weather.At some point, after we’ve cranked up the fireplace, I will reach up onto the top of the refrigerator, take down the journal, and make note of what is, really, the joyous beginning of the year for us. It strikes me, however, that a distant archaeologist coming across these various notebooks might not quite understand what exactly we are celebrating:May 20, 1984: Blackflies unbearable!—chimney replaced, cooked a goose and it fell on the floor, two-year-old Gordon burned hand on fire box …May 16, 1987: Ten of us spread through three bedrooms—A bit chaotic and cool … power went out around 9:30. No candles.May 21, 1988: Bugs—blackflies—worst in memory.May 20, 1989: Rainy and cool—could see breath out on water!—but no one cares. We’re at the cottage, and everything is new again.Everything is new again. New in the late 1960s, when this place was built by those who are no longer here; new in the late 1970s, when the first of the grandchildren arrived; new in the 1980s, when we began taking over; new in the 1990s; new still in the 21st century. Reborn every spring—no matter how bad the bugs. It is our annual “coming out.” And the happiest moment of our fleeting spring—even if there is still a thin pane of ice forming around the shore each morning—comes when the cabin is officially opened for the year.Perhaps I have inherited this sense of “coming to life again” from my grandparents, who spent their retirement wintering in various villages and towns around the province, counting the days until they could head back to Algonquin Park and Lake of Two Rivers and the lives they found far more rewarding than a few rented rooms and central heating. Once the sun had melted enough snow for them to pull safely off the main road, they were ready to head in for “The Season,” and, even with old age stalking them, they would not be held back by any protest from their five children.Today, this little cabin has increasingly become the same place to our four children as the grandparents’ log home on Lake of Two Rivers once was to a previous generation. The roles have changed, and, if there is one wish worth having, it is that one day we become the elderly grandparents refusing to give in and give up.At some point, perhaps between the second and third beer, talk will turn, as it always does, to projects, for the Canadian summer is, in so many ways, a neverending series of best-laid plans. This will be the summer that I put a cover over the woodpile … This will be the summer that we paint the deck … This will be the summer when we finally haul that old stove oil drum off to the dump … This will be the summer when we finally put in water …Some of them, obviously, do get done. But it hardly matters. Soon, far too soon, this marvellous season that begins in sparklers will end in embers. Almost precisely the same weather that so promises in May will mysteriously threaten in October, almost as if life had somehow reversed itself. Relief will then be found inside rather than out. What months ago was the exceptional pleasure of Opening Up will become the onerous task of Closing Up—with the sole comfort coming from the fact that, in half a year or so it will again be time to Open Up.It is, simply, the life cycle of the Canadian cottager—not so different, appropriately, from the loons that arrive as soon as the ice goes out and leave, mournfully calling out to the rest of the world, just before freeze-up.This, however, is Opening Up, and Closing Up seems so far off it does not even warrant consideration. Opening Up is when The Season begins—the only one of the four that needs no qualifier. And the only one of the four we try and spread as far as possible into the spring and fall that bracket it.

Editorial Reviews

"It’s hard to even imagine anyone today who is writing more lyrically about Canada than Roy MacGregor."