Though spring was officially here on the 20th of March, we spent the month of April waiting on it. It was dawdling along, slow and teasing; but still it came, measure by measure and blossom by blossom. So sick were many of us with the snow’s reluctance to leave, that I spied relatively sane neighbours waging a battle with the white stuff as April wound down, shovelling what was left of it out onto the warm asphalt of their roadways and drives just to speed it away – laughing hysterically as it turned slowly into puddles. Others found it more prudent and slick to take out their wife’s hairdryer, to attack the frozen stuff with heat, melting it away from their door stoops and walkways.
Spring for me has never been about a date on the calendar, but rather a time when the snow melts away, the trees and plants start to bud, and the grass turns green. It comes when the ice on the lake has magically transformed itself, first into an infinite number of tiny ice capsules, before disappearing all together almost before our eyes. It is a time when passage to our island cottage is possible once again. The geese have come back, honking their way through the skies on their journey north. The song birds return to the feeders, with their lovely morning melodies, and the loons have found their own personal lakes once again. Even my two oldest girls are back from university, adding noise and colour to the home front.
My favourite robin has returned, sourcing out the most inconvenient place in which to build her nest. I disguise myself with branches and follow her around, foiling her attempts at building a temporary home under my overturned cedar-strip canoe, atop the barbecue or on the captain’s chair of our pontoon boat. Finding such surveillance work exhausting, however, I soon find myself dozing off in a Muskoka chair with binoculars in my lap – until I’m startled awake by a bird landing on my head with sprigs of dead grass in her beak.
I must be dreaming.
Spring is a season of promise and possibility. That is, my wife gets re-energized, and starts bustling around making a “Spring To-Do” list for me in preparation for the opening up of our cottage. I promise to get to the chores very soon, and my wife remains optimistic with that possibility.
Now, we run into our first long weekend of the cottage season, when cottagers return in droves to open up their summer escapes, meandering up the busy highways hauling boats or utility trailers packed high with supplies. They arrive, set out the patio or dock furniture, fire up the barbecues, and work at emptying out their coolers. The towns of Muskoka become bustling hives of activity, lively and vibrant once again.
My middle daughter wonders why the long weekend is falling early this year. “Isn’t it called the May two-four weekend, after-all?” she asks.
To which my oldest and wisest daughter responds, “That’s not for the date, you dummy – that’s because everybody celebrates by buying 2-4’s of beer!”
Oh, what they learn in college. Bless her heart.
Goodbye winter and hello spring … with summer just on the horizon.
Cottage Daze Quiz
The May 2-4 weekend is a celebration of:
a) Beer – fire up the barbecue and break out the Two-Four.
b) Queen Victoria’s birthday.
c) The start of the cottage season.
d) The day my robin builds a nest on my pontoon boat.
e) A spike in gas prices (because of a shortage somewhere).
f) All of the Above.
Did you know …?
Its official name is Victoria Day, celebrating the birth of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). Her birthday, May 24, was declared a holiday in 1845. After Confederation, it was decided by the wise ones running our country that her birthday was to be celebrated on May 24 unless the date fell on a Sunday, in which case it was observed the following day. In 1952, the government, after an important and contentious debate (one can only assume), changed the day once more to the Monday preceding May 25. That is why the May long weekend is from May 21st to the 23rd this year. But, by all means, open up the cottage, fire up the barbecue and break out the two-four. Grab your Muskoka chair and relax on the dock – with a bevy and a copy of Cottage Daze!