In 1969, the nine members of my family piled into this station wagon and pulled a boat into the great land of the north.
We were in for an adventure, a cabin in the woods. A cabin in the woods on the shores of huge lake. I was four and although I don't remember the drive, I do remember being there for the first time.
I can't believe it, but I just found the driveway on Google Maps.
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In 1969, that was a dirt road and things like power and sewer lines were but a dim memory.
Every summer after that we'd pile into the station wagon and go back. We had no plumbing and no electricity but what we had was wilderness and each other. I don't have any interior shots of the cottage, but if I did, you'd see a kitchen sink with a hand pump. The water that came out of that pump was from the lake and was for washing only. Drinking water came from another pump about a hundred yards down a path into the woods.
Even now, the region of Ontario where we'd go is remarkably isolated. And to us, living for a couple of weeks at a time without plumbing and electricity was a badge of honor. All credit goes to my Dad for that. From an early age we learned that not having modern conveniences wasn't really that big a deal and it made us appreciate them when we did get back to civilization.
Being in another country at an early age taught us a thing or two about seeing the world as more than the small part of it we knew. As we got older we'd trek out of the bush for long enough to visit places like Ottawa, Toronto and Kingston and see first-hand that not all Canadians lived like the subsistence trappers we knew from the back country.
Those early experiences embedded in me a profound respect for wilderness, for modern conveniences and above all for Canada. I can never thank my parents enough for introducing us to a world we could have never known otherwise.
I don't think anybody thought about generational legacies when we piled into the car in 1969, but that's precisely what's happened. I don't think there's been a year since then that "our" lake wasn't swum in by someone who shares my last name. I haven't been back in years but hearing my nieces' and nephews' stories about their adventures and discoveries is an absolute thrill. It reminds me too that I need to go back.
My siblings have families of their own now, and every one of my nieces and nephews has an indelible mark placed on them by that place and their marks match mine. It's good for the soul to know what it's like to pump water or to go to sleep to the sounds of the whip-poor-wills and loons or to catch and eat your own dinner.
So thank you Mom and Dad, thank you wilderness and last but not least, thank you Canada.