Well, we’ve just had two delightful weeks vacationing up at my in-law’s cottage. Their cottage is located on beautiful Lake Winnipeg about 40 minutes north of the city. Rather than attempt a road trip this year, as is our usual goal for the summer, we instead opted for a stationary holiday. Some of the time we spent with friends, some of it was just my wife and daughter and me, and the rest of the time was spent with the in-laws in attendance. I wasn’t sure how I would like two solid weeks of doing basically nothing. Usually, I get the itch to get on the road to somewhere, anywhere in the spirit of Jack Kerouac or Paul Theroux, but this year Kerouac’s “Big Sur” and Theroux’s “Tao of Travel” had to be travel surrogates for me. As it turned out, this type of holiday was the perfect tonic for me, and as I return to work tomorrow, I feel refreshed, rested, and better than I have in months.
Even though I’ve been up there for two weeks, and I’ve been going to this cottage for over a decade, there are a few lingering things about the place that I don’t quite get:
I think I’ve finally figured out the local political structure of this particular cottage country. Their cottage is in the Village of Dunnottar. They even have a website. But there is actually no place called Dunnottar. It’s actually made up of three smaller communities. What’s smaller than a village? A hamlet? A macbeth? Anyway, there are three smaller communities called Matlock, Whytewold, and Ponemah and I believe that all three together make up the Village of Dunnottar.
But I’m not entirely sure.
I’m even not entirely sure which of the communities my in-law’s cottage is in. I’m pretty sure its not Ponemah, and I’m quite sure it’s not Whytewold, but I’m not convinced its actually in Matlock either. If there’s such a thing as a no-man’s land between Matlock and Whytewold, then I suppose that’s where the cottage is.
One other bit of uncertainty is how you pronounce the damn place. Is it “Done Otter”, like the sea creature, or Done ‘OTar, like the stuff you put on roofs and roads? My in-laws don’t seem to know and will argue about this for quite some time.
One thing I do like is that every garbage can in the area is labeled V.O.D. for Village of Dunnottar, I suppose. Two things strike me about this. First, who’s going to steal a garbage can? and Secondly, I always misread this as V.F.D. and I imagine that we are inside Lemony Snicket’s world at the cottage. Part of me likes the possibility of bumping into the Beaudelaire orphans on the beach or maybe spotting Count Olaf or Esme Squalor hiding in the bushes.
Another thing that is unique to this part of the lake is the number of piers that jut out into the water at regular intervals. I suppose the idea is that the shore can be quite rocky, so if you walk out over the water a bit, then you’ll hit lovely sand for your daily splash. There are private piers and public piers, but no one I’ve talked to really understands where they come from, who assembles them in the spring, and who takes them away in the fall. Our friend, Karl, who happens to be a civil engineer was appalled at their shoddy construction and had his wife convinced that they could collapse at any moment, effectively keeping her shore-bound for the afternoon they spent with us. I’m no engineer, but they seem pretty sturdy to me. I may not be able to handle 3D movies, but when it comes to Lake Winnipeg piers, I’m no cupcake.