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Are You Ready for Re-Entry?
Usually, the appetite with which one contemplates returning to work/ school/ grid or grind is correlated to the length and depth of the break you get. I hope you had a good one. It’s the liminal space between the two that takes getting used to (like the transitions between life phases). The re-emergence from peace to pace, from down time to FaceTime, from canoe to car that is so mind- and body-bendingly abrupt. (It helps, I found, if the transition includes shrimp ceviche at a Mexican restaurant midway.)
I’ve just spent a lovely week seriously off grid. Canadians are very serious about their cottage country. A few hours north of Toronto, a maze of small lakes begin, sprinkled like winking blue jewels across the vastness of a largely-empty country. Each is circled, more or less sparsely, by cottages which range from the simple to the pretending-to-be-simple. Not that you can see most of them, they are usually discretely hidden in the branches of the forest from which they were hewn. All you can see is the dock - each home’s little jutting claim to the lake.
The dock is like a shrine. Much of the day is spent sitting upon it watching the world unfold. Most mornings, this includes the early visit from the tiny, nuclear family of three loons trying to prepare their sole babe for its first long flight. The dance of the red squirrels who rocket around trees in a miniature Cirque du Soleil routine, defying gravity and generously sharing massive daily doses of pure, tail-fluttering, friend-feasting joy. And the jay who chose our shallows for his morning ablutions, showing off his truest, bluest colours under a crowning spray of showering drops.
All you have to do is sit - very still.
From the dock, certain things are allowed, others frowned upon. The first includes books and friends, contemplation and conversation. Daily cocktails at dusk, mojitos in my friends’ interpretation. The not-allowed second category covers noise, devices and dissension of any kind. The vibe is firmly set to ‘chill.’ Speed boats (not to mention the dreaded pontoon boat) are frowned upon, canoes and kayaks are the discerning cottagers’ vehicles of choice. Paddling is the Canadian riposte to pressure. The slice of the oar through the serenity of a tranquil August lake the most decisive move of most days.
You can, when you’ve slept your fair share of 10-hour nights, and feel your feet ready for more than a dip in the lake, go as far as Algonquin Park. There, the 2 million (sic!) acres of provincial park founded in 1893 await - or just check out the live webcam. You can camp, hike, bike or canoe to your heart’s content (and your body’s capacity). The horizon is limitless, the number of people allowed in each day limited. If you lean towards luxury you can dine at the delicious-in-every-way Arrowhon Pines. If you’re lucky, you’ll see bear, moose and beavers. In any case, you’ll see nature in its full, massive, green glory.
But there is also the first hint of fall in the occasional, brilliantly-red tree.
This vacation felt like a strange sort of goodbye tour. Not exactly Elton John-like, revisiting my greatest hits and favourite places - although I did. Nor a new take on quiet quitting, where I turn my back on the culture that shaped me. More a quiet, internal farewell. It may be my last trip to the country where I started. It seems a very visceral, physical closing of a chapter of life, embodied in a country.
My mother is gone and with her the regular pull Canada-ward. My childhood home is an empty shell of its formerly cosy, six-decade-long, unchanging self. Potential new owners wander through its down-at-heels, badly maintained walls with a critical eye I defensively ignore. My mother’s best friend has just moved into a ‘retirement home,’ and looks happy and comfortable. My old friend’s daughter is emigrating to London, so my friend will be visiting her kid as my mom visited me. I can literally feel the world, the generations and the clock of life tick and turn towards a new season.
Tonight, I’ll get on a plane to London, the city I have now called home for over a decade, and the continent I’ve spent my adult life in. I’ll fly over Canada’s lovely lakes and trees and docks and point my face, loon-like, towards the next horizon.
I’m ready, rested - and writing.
Here’s wishing you a happy re-entry, wherever you are moving from and to.
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