- by Kelly Babcock
The cottage is still, peaceful and quiet. This won't last, the hour hand is still to the right of the six and the slant of the dappled sunlight coming in through the east windows creates one of those scenes that once again makes you wish you could paint or that you had figured out how to use that damned digital camera.
The coffee maker is too loud and you hope it doesn't wake anyone and spoil their needed sleep. They had a long drive yesterday and they're here to relax. You're here to unwind and that isn't going to happen while you're asleep.
Closing the screen door gently so that it neither creeks nor bangs, thermos of fresh coffee in one hand, pole and tackle box in the other, you walk to the dock. The clean, cool air smells so good you can't seem to breath in enough of it. The little boat is bumping the dock gently, saying lets go as it plays in the ripples on its short painter. You stow your load and head back up the path to the shed for oars and gas tank. Back aboard the boat you pull the gas tank on board, hook it up and then put the oars to the locks. Untying the painter you feel the sun, about to clear the trees to the east, start to warm up the air. The wisps of fog on the water and in the hollow spots on the land are already burning away. Pulling strongly at the oars, the little engine sitting quiet so that the family can sleep, you round the tiny point at a comfortable pace and head north into the narrow inlet, the place where the little river meets the somewhat open water up ahead.
By the time the hour hand has eased past the six you're anchored halfway up the inlet, pole resting on the gunwale and a red and white plastic bobber floats in a still pool telling you where your hook and bait are hanging. There are many new materials, colours and shapes of floats but those red and white ones remind you of your father and very few people go fishing without their father being there, at least in memory.
Coffee in hand you let your mind wander but keep an eye on that float. This is the unwinding part, later when you get back and everyone is up, you'll have fun with your family and there will be good times and great memories made, but this is definitely the unwinding part. How many problems have you solved sitting here in the early morning, everyone else in your world asleep, the whole planet is yours. Suddenly, in a moment of truth, you admit to yourself that the reason you bought the cottage wasn't as an investment, although that was certainly a consideration. It also wasn't entirely to get the kids out of the cities summer influences or to have a new social circle for escaping to. Those reasons, as important as they are, are the fringe benefits. This, however, this moment just before that fish you've been after takes your hook and plays with you for the longest 45 seconds of the year and then spits it out again, this moment is what the whole cottage is about, .... at least it is for you.
The coffee maker gurgles its usual death rattle as it finishes running through. You lie quietly in bed with your eyes closed while he closes the bedroom door so that the coffee maker won't wake you. He thinks he's sneaking off to fish, he tries so hard to be quiet. You're sure the fish can hear him. You wait for the squeak of the screen door as it bangs quietly against the frame. No fear of the kids waking up, it's not quite six and they had a long drive to the cottage filled with junk food and mp3's that stoked them up for a late night.
You hear him banging around in the shed now so it's safe to get up and see if there's any coffee left. Pouring a cup and peaking out the window you see him fiddling with the gas tank. He puts it on in case he needs it but he'll row there and back no matter what the weather or what he's caught. You say a silent prayer that he doesn't catch anything, you could use a break from pretending that you're impressed.
He's usually happier if his thoughts haven't been interrupted by any inconsiderate fish anyway. As he struggles at the oars to make the little boat pull around the little point you slip quietly out onto the deck on the back of the cottage and soak up the sun. The birds are at the feeder you filled last night in anticipation of this moment and you relax and set your mind to the welcome task of planning. Plans for today, for supper tonight and for the summer, all started earlier, take a firmer shape in your mind. The sun filters through the trees and starts to burn off the wisps of mist that scatter the dappled light around so pleasingly.
Plans made and the first cup of coffee finished you head into the cottage to get the camera and your paints and a pad of canvas paper. To help you remember the scene when the sun gets higher and the light changes you take several shots with the new digital camera, it's such a simple thing to use. The birds at the feeder sing about their good luck and the sun warms up the air, chasing the mist out of the treed area.
You pause and think about how the whole world seems to be on display for you at this time of day. Kids asleep and him out on the protected waters of that little inlet and no one else to lay claim to what you see. As you set up your easel on the deck and contemplate the scene you're about to paint you suddenly realize that this is the reason you let him buy the cottage. Sure, the kids get a different perspective on life and there are the new friends you've made in the area and he gets to recharge so that he doesn't burn out in that stupid job he throws himself into and it was a good investment, but these times when you get to see the gifts of nature and try again to capture them on canvas really are the point of it all. This moment when you're surrounded by beauty and standing before the beautiful potential of a blank white sheet, this is what the cottage is all about, .... at least it is for you.