Tending

My inlaws have a summer cottage on a wooded lake lot. We gather here on (Canadian) May long weekend to open it for the season. We push the pier and boat hoist into the ice cold water, rake the beach, knock cobwebs from the cabin’s rafters and old leaves from the deck.  

My husband and I live a day’s drive south on the prairies where trees only grow if they’re planted and pampered. We are always amazed here of the forest’s abundance. Every spring it’s a flurry of cutting and clearing and stacking and splitting and burning because there are TOO MANY trees. Not too many as far as nature is concerned, of course. But as good stewards of our land, we have to stay ahead of trees that are a danger to fall in a storm and damage the cottage or cars. 


The whole family pitched in today. Some were cutting, some were hauling. I was on bonfire duty. I burned a dozen trees and both of my shoulders. 


As I snapped branches and fed the fire continuously, I reflected on how this process is so like life. We keep at it continuously, and nature keeps coming back at us. We can let things grow wildly and unfold as they will, or we can do our best to tend and clear and shape our corner of the world. 

Right now in my life, I am working to change my habits of judgement and criticism. I’m trying hard to replace them with compassion, kindness or, in a pinch,  detachment. I’m continuously burning broken branches of self-doubt, body image, comparison, and other old habits. 

Now that the first jobs of the season are done, our remaining visits here this summer will be more relaxation than work. There’s always some enjoyable puttering available for those inclined to relax via broom, rake or saw, but of course it’s interspersed with fishing, golf, and naps on the beach. At least until September,  when we repeat the errands of May in reverse – removing the boat and pier, putting away, shutting down. 

All of it is poetry in motion. Year after year, it’s the same and yet different. We flip back through the photo albums and marvel how the babies appeared and grew and even themseves become parents. How our clothes and hairstyles have changed through the decades, but still here we are. The pups that became dogs and then memories, the new pups replaced them who are now old themselves. 

Top: my husband and I bathing our son on the deck in 1992

Bottom: our son and his wife bathing our grandson on the deck in 2015

Still we rake the beach and cut the grass and sweep the leaves and chop the trees and burn the logs. Nature keeps going and growing, our work just shapes it for a season. The trick is to learn to enjoy it and to appreciate the purpose, otherwise the work seems unending and meaningless. 

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13 comments

  1. “I’m continuously burning broken branches of self-doubt, body image, comparison, and other old habits.”
    Great words, full of wisdom. Carl Jung used to say: “Knowing and accepting your own darkness is the best way to deal with the darkness of others.” We use to feel shame of our own weaknesses, avoiding them, hiding them, but as there wouldn’t be a shadow without a light that cast it we should be accepting of those weaknesses as a natural part of us. As a garden we must take care of and something that makes our light brighter, teaching us to appreciate it more.

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  2. “Right now in my life, I am working to change my habits of judgement and criticism. I’m trying hard to replace them with compassion, kindness or, in a pinch, detachment.”
    Day 368 – me too, me too…detachment still is my go-to more times than I wish…but I’m growing…I will get there.
    Nothing more wonderful than family memories 🙂

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  3. Beautiful post Jean and I love the picture comparison too. I’m also working on compassion at the moment as my current way of being with certain people is not serving me or them. Hope you have lovely times in this place over the summer.

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  4. I love that one! The seasons change every year and so do we. Life for us humans is a never ending quest to be better. I still feel like the young pup I used to be; that is my antidote to growing old.

    I wish I had a history like yearly family trips to a beautiful place. Revisiting a special location every year with family must be soothing and keep you grounded to what is important. Damn my gypsy life! Lol!

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  5. So true! The photos especially made me smile. I’ve done exactly the same thing with my boys: photos by a picket fence at age 5 and 2, then again at 14 and 11. I have them both in my kitchen. The final one, 18 and 15, will see them as men, with Luke heading overseas to uni. ❤️ Poignant and poetic, yes! The same genes run through us as Mamas….isn’t it remarkable that we both think the same way? Sending love.

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