Cottage on the Bay

What’s up with the weather gods in TO?

Seriously.

Tuesday and Wednesday we were dealing with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees (that’s about 100 degrees Fahrenheit if you’re still using that quaint means of measuring) when the humidity was factored in.

Today?  Chilly north wind.  Tomorrow?  CHILLIER north wind.

And I’m going to be on a rock in the middle of the Bay.  About 2 degrees Celsius overnight.  TWO DEGREES.

I’m not ready for summer to end, so, despite the less-than-ideal temperature, I will do the true Canadian thing and head north this afternoon for an annual pilgrimage with some of my best peeps.

We try to do this every year.  A couple of nights away, sans spouses/significant others, to just hang out and catch up a little.

We have known each other for decades (as I both date myself and make myself feel old) and have been hanging out through thick and thin- camp, school, higher education, marriages, divorces, kids, houses, jobs, great gains and huge losses and, generally, life.  As friends, roommates, brothers, sisters, confidant(e)s…

We’re family.

We are privileged to have access to a family cottage/compound on Georgian Bay that SCREAMS Canada.

A September Gale by Arthur Lismer
We will likely experience a gale or two over the next couple of days

Georgian Bay is filled with landscapes that are quintessentially Canadian.  It was a popular subject of the Group of Seven, and such images are, internationally and here at home, as Canadian as toques and two-fours, poutine and politesse.  There will be certainly be two-fours this weekend, and toques might be advisable- given the forecast.  Poutine isn’t as likely, but the politesse is ingrained and therefore a given.

Of a sort, anyway.  Good manners and polite discourse are relative when you’re on an island and there is beer and barbeque involved.

And then there’s the Bay Cup.  That annual Risk Tournament that I mentioned here.  As I said, I will not participate due to a past traumatic Risk-related occurrence- except to occasionally pop my head in to goad or slander or critique the strategy of one of the combatants.  Unfortunately the defender of the Championship Title (and current Keeper of the Cup) is not able to join us this year, so it remains to be seen whether or not the battle can legitimately be waged.  It will be up to the Rules Committee.

Whatever.

I have my cottage book lined up (sadly, not Ray Davies’ new one- but only because it isn’t yet available).  Jian Ghomeshi’s 1982 is solid CanCon and highly appropriate for a real Canadian cottage weekend.  Plus I passed him on the street the other day as he was on his way into the CBC studio.  Reminded me that I’ve been meaning to read the book.

There will be food and games and talking and general shenanigans.

And there will be music.

The cottage weekend has to be finely mediated in the musical department.  No one person gets to control the selection for more than 5 songs at a time (this is veryvery necessary.  No one needs to hear 48 straight hours of Phish.  No one).  This keeps the peace- which is certainly required after the full contact Risk Tourney.

Early on there is all kinds of variety as we all offer up some of the newer stuff we’ve been listening to recently.  A lot of attempting to persuade those of, shall we say, established tastes to just listen to this song- give it a chance.  We start off with choices that are generally chill and part of the background to whatever else is going on.

As the stars come out (and there is NOTHING like a clear night under the stars at the Bay) music is the focus, and the selections become more nostalgic- and predictable.  The comfort in the predictability is palpable.  Years fall away as the selections are chosen.

The fire will be stoked (‘Stoke the fire again’, a quote from Commander Worf, will be heard ad nauseum) and the singalong will begin.

These are some of the songs of the Bay.

Donovan.  I have only ever met a handful of people who have actually heard this song.  Everyone knows Mellow Yellow and Hurdy Gurdy Man, but you can really tell a lot about a person by what they think about Atlantis.  If you don’t like it, I’m really not sure we can be friends anymore.

Harsh, but there it is.

(I’ve actually used this song in classes in which we were discussing myths of Atlantis.  The reactions of undergraduate students to hearing it for the first time is always illuminating- and pretty accurate in gauging how ultimately invested in the course they would be.  It’s a pretty solid litmus test.)

Futurama used a version of the song- sung by Donovan himself- about the sinking of Atlanta.  Hilarious episode.  I’m going to miss that show. Again.

History, life and love under the waves.

Ultimate cottage song.

Kenny.

This song is mainly included as a source of remembered silliness.  Short version of connected back story: it involved someone wearing a woven basket-like plant holder as a hat.  There might have been alcohol involved.

It IS filled with good advice though.  SO important to ‘know when to walk away and know when to run.’  Great inspiration when one is feeling like one is ‘out of aces’.

Simple Minds’ 1982 tune is connected with this year’s reading material and recalls summers past while reminding us of the wonderful things yet to come.  Like their show at Massey Hall in October.  Looking back and forward all in one song.

I’ve already referenced this song this month, so I won’t talk about it again.  But it will be heard.  More than once.

The Last Resort, also previously discussed and best played as the sun is setting, is especially resonant when appreciated in the beauty and quiet and peace of the Lake.  Its cautionary message- ‘You call someplace paradise kiss it goodbye’– makes my heart hurt thinking that THAT particular paradise could ever be lost.

This one generally ends the night(s).

Appropriate since it’s the song that never ends.  Don’t get me wrong.  I can appreciate Phish and all, but this song is sooooo very long.

(I will totally understand if you don’t actually watch that one all the way through.)

And, if we let them, there are those among us who will try to play back-to-back various live versions of the song as their 5 selections.  Not on my watch.

It will be a weekend of relaxation and shoring up of resources- something I very much need right now- with people I love and respect- and who never cease to make me laugh and think about things differently than is my day-to-day wont.

A weekend to remind myself just how fortunate we are.  How fortunate I am.  To live in Canada and to have the friends and family I have.

Hope your weekend is as restful and restorative as mine is sure to be.

‘Sailing a reach’

“When you get to the end of your rope tie a knot and hang on”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

This has been a weird week.

And it’s only Thursday so who knows what else might get thrown in my general direction before the weekend.

There’s been lots of introspection and trying to work things out/find next directions- much of which has been done through this little forum of mine here at colemining (thank you for your patience if you’re still following along).

I’m trying.  Really.  To keep it together.  To tie a knot.

Trying.

It’s a lovely, sunny, breezy day here in this burg by the Great Lake, so between all the ropes and knots and winds, this most recent bout of wishing I was anywhere but here has me out on an imaginary sailboat, enjoying the day, instead of once again way too locked up in my brain.

I love sailing.  It’s been too long since I’ve been out on a boat, feeling the tension between controlling the tiller and the sails yet knowing that no matter how closely you watch and try to read your surroundings, the wind and the water are still in charge.  It’s about being in control- to a point, and going with the breeze- or choosing to drop the sail- when control slips through your hands like a recalcitrant jib sheet.

I’ve ended up in the drink far too many times to forget that seeming to be in control and being in control in actuality are two very different things.  Sailing is full of such lessons.

A whipping knot is a whipcord binding that is tied around the end of a rope to prevent its natural tendency to fray.  The sailmaker’s whipping is one of the most durable whipping knots, threading the twine diagonally through the rope and wrapping and reef knotting the end to secure the whole shebang.

Looks pretty well-wrapped, doesn’t it?

Since I’m feeling somewhat less than well-wrapped at the moment, and given the propensity of the ends of ropes to fray, in order to keep on holding on, per FDR’s advice, I’m feeling in definite need of a secure whipping (minds out of the gutter, people.  Keep with the context) just now.

There’s this song.

(‘of course there is a song’, you’re saying to yourself if you’ve come to know me at all).

It’s about running away and facing reality, and holding on and letting go.  And the comfort to be found in sailing and the ultimate consolation of music.  All at the same time.

It’s beautiful (like all CSN(Y) creations).

From Crosby, Stills and Nash’s 1982 album, Daylight Again, ‘Southern Cross’ describes an existential struggle and the wisdom that can be found under the constellation ‘Crux’, the Southern Cross, in the seas near French Polynesia.

In addition to being the Latin word for ‘cross’, a crux can be both the central, critical point and a puzzling or seemingly insoluble matter.

The Maori name for the Southern Cross is Te Punga– the anchor.  Stephen Stills sings that his ‘love is an anchor‘- both a good thing- for its stability, and not so great in light of his inability to let go of the past and move forward.

Fitting locale to try to figure things out, no?

Stephen based the song on one by Rick and Michael Curtis that needed some tweaking and focus.  He combined their original template with the long sailing trip he took after a major change in his life and transformed it into a story about using the power of the stars, water and winds to heal wounds and grant perspective.

The Curtis Brothers’ original song was called ‘Seven League Boots’, a nod to a motif used in European folkloric traditions, including the stories of Charles Perrault, whose use of pre-existing folk tales formed the foundation of fairy tales as a literary genre, and included such stories as Cinderella (Cendrillon) and Bluebeard (La Barbe bleu).

Seven league boots allow the wearer to stride said seven leagues with each step taken, and generally were given to the heroes of the stories by a magical intermediary seeking to help ensure the completion of an important task.

Jack the Giant Killer and Goethe’s Mephistopheles (in Faust), for example, use the boots to accelerate the action to the climax of their particular goals.

To sail ‘a reach’ is to sail approximately perpendicular to the wind and ‘a following sea’ describes wave direction that matches the direction the boat is traveling.  It is used interchangeably with the points of sail below a beam reach and suggests good winds and smooth sailing.

I find myself at a true crux right now- in both senses of the word.  No supernatural intercessor has shown up to hand me a pair of seven league boots, and I am, sadly, without access to a sailboat at the moment or the ability to visit Papaeete any time soon.

But, as Stephen notes, there is always something that I can rely on when the thinking and the analyzing and the planning next tacks have become too much, and coherence and optimism have left the building.

‘I have my ship, and all her flags are a’ flying, she is all that I have left, and music is her name.’

I will spend my evening in her company (perhaps with a Corona in hand in memory of good times with my sailing peeps) and be grateful for her continuing presence as my sailmaker’s whipping, until I’m ready to once again go looking for an ideal reach and calmly following sea.

‘In the Southern Cross’.