The Retreat on Lake Kashagawigamog

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imagesNo phone. No radio. No newspaper. It’s a bit like living in a convent…Well, not quite. The grocery stores are well stocked and only a mile away. We can go there any time we want, for any treat we want. The radio in the car is only at the end of the path. The next door neighbours are hidden away in cottages behind trees on either side of us , and across the road in front of the house. They are friends of the cottage owners we have chosen to rent from again this year, and they would happily let us use their phone in an emergency. In fact the neighbour on the left of us is an ER doctor at Haliburton hospital, I am told. Our deprivation of phone, radio, and newspaper is deliberate. I have chosen to have a holiday from the many forms of immediate communication for a short while. By doing so, the stress of  being aware of every sad, disturbing or exasperating piece of information that we are all so constantly inundated with drops away. Aaah! This is what I call a holiday!

Both Rolly and I have brought plenty of books, but this time around the bulk of mine are novels. This is not my usual style at home. I tend to read very eclectically— not electrically, which sounds as if I am constantly being enlightened, but eclectically—from a whole range of topics, as a rule. Sometimes I read for recreation, sometimes for meditation and sometimes for information. It’s the last kind of reading that sometimes falls into the same category as working out hard at the gym. Some work outs feel great, some don’t, but unless you injure yourself, you definitely benefit. Heavy reading isn’t quite like heavy lifting— even War and Peace won’t give you a hernia, maybe just eyestrain.

I believe that the more you read, the better equipped you are to communicate with all sorts of people, and identify with them a little more when you’ve got some idea what they’re talking about. Some of the books I’ve read recently, off the top of my head —this requires either a mirror and acrobatic skills or a good memory— are:

Still Alice by Lisa Genova, about living with Alzheimer’s,

The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer by Joel Salatin, about farming differently

Medicine Outside The Box  by Cameron Ghent, M.D. about problems with Canada’s medical system

The Great Depression by Pierre Burton, about the Thirties in Canada

No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod, a saga of those gone before

The Appeal by John Grisham, on how to rig an election (I love the legal stuff)

How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway, about the pull of family tradition

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt about growing up poor and Irish

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, a 1906 shocker leading to the first food sanitation laws

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, a must read for science geeks and everyone else

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, a rational argument for the Christian faith

If you are stuck on only one kind of literature, I challenge you to tackle mixing up your genres. It’s good to keep you growing, kind of like eating a wide range of food for better health. You’ll be better equipped to deal with whatever comes along.And when on holidays a little stress free escapism is always a good thing. You can always read all the Uncle John’s bathroom readers, the Family Circus Treasury collections, and whatever other finds you turn up at your summer holiday spot.

One of the most memorable for me was a well-worn antique, The Best Book of Dirty Jokes from Nineteen Forty-something. that could always be found (quite appropriately) on the shelf over the toilet tank in a cottage we used to holiday at near Tobermory. The most humorous thing about it was that it didn’t have a dirty word in the entire book, just plenty of vague euphemisms that made it unclear just what you were really reading about until you got to the words “farmer’s daughter.” That seemed to be in most of them. I guess the joke writers figured they could get away with their absurd stereotypes of this particular group in society because young women didn’t have much of a voice back then, especially young women raised on farms. Having been a farmer’s daughter and young woman myself, less than two decades later than that time era, I cannot help but be exceedingly thankful that my Dad valued all of us— his five daughters and my Mom— and treated us with great respect at all times, just as much as he did my three brothers.

Though we were not wealthy enough to have many books in our home when I was growing up, Dad still modelled the value of reading for us with his hefty newspaper, poring over it daily until he had absorbed every bit of information he could glean from it. For me the love of books was life long and life changing, and I intend to make every minute of my time here like a spa day. Book in hand, lawn chair in the shade at the edge of Lake Kashagawigamog, which means “Great lake of the long and winding narrow waters”, I intend to take another kind of meandering journey. I’m in no hurry to get anywhere in particular, because I know I’ll find something new and interesting at every turn. This will be a journey into all those intriguing places that so many gifted writers of every age and epoch have already mapped out for me. Meantime, as I experience the immensely pleasing sensation of rubbing my feet through the wet sand just under the lapping water, (getting them silky smooth for some nifty new sandals) Rolly brings me out another cool tall one. “Lemonade kids, lemonade!” Aah! This is stress free living at its finest!

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