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How I've Come To Love 'The Chalet,' Despite The Hummingbirds

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As a Brit who's lived in Montreal for 26 years, no season separates me from the herd like summer.

I first came here as a city-bred teen in January '89. When I came out of my hypothermic coma in April, the city was agog with talk of "the chalet." At first, I thought there was just one. A giant timeshare log cabin somewhere in central Canada, but it turns out that nobody knows where that is. No, seriously, that's true. And anyway, as my neurons thawed, I realized that Canadians just drop the possessive when talking about their summer homes. I still don't know why.

And so it was that I spent some 20 odd years trying to fit in during chalet, or elsewhere in Canada, cottage season; although, I would invent a script deadline or a family death whenever someone said: "there might not be enough room inside, so bring a tent just in case."

I would gamely participate in the planning; "A what? A kayak? Like a boat thing? No I don't have one sorry. Oh sure, certainly I can bring a jigsaw puzzle, that sounds fun." The meals; "Corn for 120 people? No problem. I'll just stick the jigsaw on the roof" The route; "Ok, if we leave Friday at 4 a.m. and take the 15N, we should get there by dawn Saturday. Oh yeah, we should have enough time to finish the jigsaw." The sleeping arrangements; "Of course I don't mind sharing the jigsaw table with your cousin. Yes, I'll bring sheets, pillows, a box spring and a sleeping bag." The excitement; "I know, it's gonna be great! No electricity or running water or Wi-Fi for a week! I am going to own that 1,655,000 piece puzzle!"

But to be honest, I never really got into the type of vacation spot that had the word "septic tank" and what and when I was allowed to flush down the toilet in a handwritten welcome note pinned to the fridge.

Until last year. After spending most of my adult life faking the joy, I finally understood the appeal of the chalet. The reasons were manifold I think. It was a particularly spectacular summer, I wasn't working very much (except for that time when I might have had to camp). I was desperate to get my boy off the screen as much as I could. I chalet hopped in some of the best company ever, and lastly but certainly not least, a very generous friend offered me what might be the most peaceful spot I'd set foot on since coming to Canada -- and I was desperately in need of some peace. Suddenly I got it.

And it wasn't just a one-off. We've packed up the car with bedding, bug spray, corn and UNO several times this summer too (I left the jigsaw puzzle somewhere years ago) and I'm developing what I think might be the beginnings of a love affair with The Chalet.

But while my newfound enthusiasm is as genuine as any Canadian's, there are still a few things that give me away as an amateur. Here they are in no particular order:

  • I am pretty much the only one not swimming in 24 degrees
  • I still can't find a decent marshmallow roasting stick after dark
  • The only difference I can see between a kayak and a canoe is in the spelling
  • Yes, really, honestly despite the billowing smoke from the campfire I am still getting bitten. But good for you that you're not! Yep, still biting...
  • I sometimes scare myself right out of the lake because sharks, leeches, water snakes, frogs and an episode I made on other lake monsters.
  • Hummingbirds still freak the f*&k out of me. They are bird/bug hybrids and you cannot convince me otherwise.
  • I nod sagely when discussing the difference between the Laurentians and the Eastern Townships but really, I don't f^&cking know.
  • I enjoy wandering the premises but have no heart at all for a "trail." I have never read a tragic wilderness news story where someone wasn't on a trail.
  • I don't know any of the words to Gordon Lightfoot
  • I really, really, really hate jigsaw puzzles.
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