It is a cottage morning ritual. I come downstairs and push the button on the coffee maker. Then I reach up into the cupboard and pull out my favourite clear glass coffee mug. Something is different. My sleep fogged mind ponders what is different as I run the hot water faucet to get
the chill out of the cup. Coffee is supposed to be hot so there is no use putting it into a cold cup, unless you are my wife, who puts an ice cube in her coffee.
My mind clears and the realization dawns. Cold cup from the cupboard. That means despite walls that are fifteen-plus centimeters thick and stuffed with heavy insulation, cold air is seeping into the building.
Cold cups and the recent arrival of the Little Spirit Moon tell me that winter is here. Little bits of autumn warmth clinging to life have been chased away. The trees outside the kitchen window are stark naked, cold grey in colour and devoid of any warmth. There is snow but the rocks
are still showing, however they are cold to the touch, even in the late morning sun.
I shudder unexpectedly and remember that everything changes with the arrival of December's Little Spirit Moon. There is no turning back. Life must be adjusted to cold that will deepen with each passing week until mid-March, and to snow that cannot disappear completely until the
warmth of spring returns. . . .
Once you develop some methods to push back at the cold and snow, winter cottage living is spectacularly restful. In the mornings you can sip coffee and watch the blue jays, chickadees, and nuthatches at the feeders, and below them, the daily troupe of wild turkeys. At night you can sit reading, or lie in bed, listening to the lake ice expanding and cracking, the thunderous booms radiating up the hill through the bedrock and into the cottage foundations. At other times you hear the roar and screeching of ice packs loosening and sliding off the roof.
Canada’s roots are deep into the bedrock. Winter in cottage country is a reminder of what this country is and what its people had to do to develop into a modern society. It is a reminder that although Canada has become an urban society, there are still tens of thousands of its citizens
who live on the fringes in harsh conditions. They haul wood and they haul water, and they don’t have high-speed Internet, Wi-Fi or cell phones.
It’s easy to forget that when you sit in a winter cottage supported by modern technologies and conveniences. It’s even easier when you sit in taxpayer-supplied surroundings at Toronto’s Queen’s Park. None of us ever should lose track of how people live in the forested fringes. Nor should we forget the importance of independence and individualism in building this country. In cottage country and beyond, no one needs government to tell them how to tack a piece of inner tube over a shed padlock to keep out the freezing wet snow in winter.
(Excerpted from Bears in the Bird Feeders 2013)