Word Wednesday – In search of the ghost of Tom Thompson

trees grow out of the Canadian Shield
The trees seem to just grow out of the bare rocks. There is so little soil that I'm constantly amazed more don't topple over into the lake.

It’s been a busy week around here. I spent most of the day Thursday and all day Friday and Saturday getting ready for Dad’s 60th birthday party at the cottage. Thursday I put in a full 8 hours of work writing for clients, packed the car for dad and the dog to leave for the cottage right after dinner, and then went into town to get some supplies for the party (and a card for dad since I’d forgotten to get one when I got part of his present). Somehow, I managed to volunteer for a couple of hours AND get the errands done but it meant I was out until 10:45 pm which was longer than planned. Friday, I got up early, loaded the van with all the last-minute things like gas cans for the boat that can’t go in the night before, packed the cooler, went to the vet to pick up Monty’s special cookies, dropped a bag at home, picked up the ice pack I’d forgotten, and drove to the cottage stopping at Costco and for Gas and other party supplies on the way. I had lists on top of lists on top of lists, with photographs of said lists on my BlackBerry in case I misplaced one. It was supposed to be a quick in and out mission at Costco. Of course, if you’ve ever been to a Costco en route to cottage country on a Friday during the summer, you’ll realize the folly of my plan.

Actually Costco itself wasn’t the problem. Their debit system wasn’t working though which made for longer than usual lineups and very frustrated people in line. This despite having multiple employees walking through the line-up area announcing that the debit was unavailable but MasterCard or cash would work. I know I heard the announcement at least 4 times while waiting in line. Whatever was messing with the debit system also made the bank machine at Costco not work. People were given the option to put their carts to the side and go out of the store, across the street to a bank (and there were multiple banks available within a 5 minute drive of this Costco) and pay cash for their purchases or they could line up at the one customer service till that managed to have debit service. I didn’t need debit so I was fine but the number of people who screamed at the Costco employees astounded me. I mean, grow up people. Sometimes things happen, and yes, it’s annoying but I highly doubt the Costco employee you’re currently berating woke up and thought “hey you know what would be fun today, pulling the plug on the debit machine to completely screw over customers”, so cut them some slack. (OK the rant portion of this post is now over – I needed to get that off my chest though!)

Having made all the stops I needed to, I proceeded up to the cottage pulling over a few times because the rain was so heavy I couldn’t see the road. (PSA – when it’s raining cats and dogs put on your headlights people –  yes your daytime running lights give you a little light but they don’t activate tail lights and those are kind of important when driving on the 400 series highways in a rainstorm!) The normally 2.5 hour drive took me a bit shy of 5 hours with the stops and the rain. I was frazzled when I got to the cottage.  My uncle arrived a couple of hours later and we had some dinner which made everyone feel better. I asked dad if it had rained at the cottage and described my drive. He said it hadn’t yet. The speed at which a storm can roll in at the lake never fails to astound me. One minute there are scattered clouds, and the next it’s a downpour. This storm was one to remember too – the wind was whipping the water and the waves on the lake were moving from north to south at high-speed. At  one point I could barely see the end of the dock because it was raining so hard. We lost power briefly but thankfully not for long. The rumbling thunder rattled the windows and the lightning lit up the evening sky. I went and sat in my bedroom with the dog, who, after years of being ambivalent about thunder and rain on the metal roof, has suddenly decided he doesn’t much care for it and would like to be petted and reassured please and thank you. I was glad I’d got all the essentials down from the van before the storm and was hoping the fierce storm would make way for a nice sunny day for the party.  It did.

Saturday dawned with high heat, humidity, and lots of sunshine. I appreciated the sunshine as I spent six straight hours putting the last touches on the cottage, trying to clean the resin patio furniture, making beds at the rental cottage next door for guests who would be staying overnight, and getting appetizers ready for the party. Dad and my uncle also helped, moving stuff out of the way, vacuuming the cottage, and stocking the beer fridge. They also did some quality testing of each of the 4 types of beer we had in stock for our guests. We all jumped in the lake to cool off, then I jumped in the shower because my hair was legitimately gross from sweating so much while trying to make the patio furniture look less dingy (I swear, I’m just going to buy that plastic spray paint next time). We still had an hour before the first guests were due to arrive – except some decided to show up early. Naturally. For the next 6 hours I ran around like a mad woman – greeting guests, introducing people, getting drinks, making sure there was enough food, meeting and helping the caterer bring down the main course, cleaning up spills, putting leftovers in the fridge, finding containers for the leftovers when the big catering trays wouldn’t fit in the fridge, bringing the cake over from next door, and generally being social.  As an introvert, that party was exhausting. Even with slightly less than 20 guests, I felt like I was always being pulled in a multitude of directions. I tried to escape for a few minutes a couple of different times but one guest in particular seemed to *desperately* need my help to find *something* the minute I closed my door (she also had no qualms about opening my closed bedroom door to ask me things – what if I’d been changing?) so I never managed to steal away for those much-needed recharging minutes alone.

All of that aside, the party was a great success. Much fun was had, the food was amazing, and the designated driver system I’d arranged worked as planned. Everyone got home safely and I fell into bed about 1:30 am exhausted. Of course I didn’t sleep well because I was over-tired. Which leads me to my Word Wednesday for this week and what I’ve been seeking since Sunday morning.

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Quietude – a favourite synonym of mine for tranquility. While this is a working holiday for me in that I have some writing to do for clients, it’s also a week for recharging my batteries by the lake. I’ve been more quiet than normal on Twitter, because I just don’t have the energy to do it right and I’d rather be quiet than simply broadcast tweets without engaging. I’ve got my colouring books and pencil crayons, a stack of books in a TBR pile on my nightstand, a kayak to explore in, a motor boat for trips further around the lake, and a Muskoka chair sitting on the deck that overlooks the lake.  I’m off in search of quietude and know I’ll find it here. I love sitting and looking at the wind move the tree branches. Several of the pines I saw on my boat ride on Monday looked like they’d leapt off of the canvas of a Tom Thompson painting. Indeed, our cottage is only about 45 minutes away from one of the southern entrances to Algonquin Park where Thompson drew his inspiration from the Canadian Shield. Whenever I see a windswept pine tree, I am reminded of the print we had hanging in the house I grew up in, and of this great Canadian artist who managed to capture the places where rocks, trees, and water meet so vividly.

The word quietude is one of my favourite words, not just because it’s what I’m often seeking, but because it has a very simple etymology. It’s derived from the Latin word quietus which means (according to my trusty Latin-English dictionary) a stillness or pause; something that quiets or represses; removal from activity; especially: death.  While death is somewhat extreme, I am enjoying the removal from activity, and the stillness of the lake. I’ve included a couple of pictures I took on our Monday boat ride up the lake that capture some of the quietude I find up here.

Quietude (qui·etude) noun

The state of being quiet or calm; tranquility.

trees grow out of the Canadian Shield
The trees seem to just grow out of the bare rocks. There is so little soil that I’m constantly amazed more don’t topple over into the lake.
Trees on the rocky shoreline
I love this group of trees, close to the cottage of a childhood friend. Whenever I go by and it’s windy, it looks like they’re waving to me.

By koalateagirl

Jenn Annis is a writer, editor, historian, special needs advocate, and tireless defender of the Oxford comma. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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