Black Bears Well, we’re past the Labour Day weekend, with the new and resumed routines looming with the freshness of the fall season. Labour Day, for those who didn’t know, was invented in Canada, where its origins go back to 1872. So you’re welcome. But please, start spelling “labour” correctly. “Labour Day Weekend” always marks that milestone of passing from one season into another. We had a good one, starting ours on Thursday with a trip to the lake where we spent time with good friends and their extended family, with comings and goings that saw the population on the grounds fluctuating between about 12 and 17 people and two dogs.

The trip up was marked by our spotting of a mother black bear with three cubs just a few miles from our destination. I backed the car up to get a better look — the mother bear and one of the cubs stood up on their hind legs to investigate us. We snapped a couple of photos (none of them very good) and continued making our way to camp when they disappeared into the forest.

Wild Blueberries On Friday we went picking wild blueberries… the four of us (contributing varying degrees of assistance to the effort) gathered an ice-cream bucket full in the span of about 45 minutes. They went into a most excellent Blueberry Betty for desert that evening, as well as into the pancakes the next morning when I was on breakfast duty. I’ve still got a little more than a cup of them in the fridge that I need to consume with some pairing I’ve yet to dream up.

Late Friday afternoon, three of us went fishing. My friend’s brother-in-law told me that to get to a different lake where we would fish, we’d drive about a half-hour, then hike in, boat across a lake, then do a short portage to a spot where, in his words, “If you don’t catch anything, you might as well give up fishing, because you’ve got a fishing problem.” Now, I’m not a fisherman… never have been, and never aspired to be. But evidently I don’t have a fishing problem. Turns out that this was one of the worst days of fishing they’d ever had on that lake — the bait took the blame. I caught a Fish We released the three pike that I caught, but I did land an 18″ pickerel — which is the largest size you can keep; anything larger has to be released, as those are the breeders. Sitting out on the lake after this catch, I was eventually informed that it was considered poor form to out-fish the host. It seems there are a lot of rules of etiquette with which I am not completely familiar, but I wasn’t the one with a fishing reputation to uphold. After he caught a smaller pickerel, I caught a smaller one still. I was hoping that my hosts would catch a few more so they could save face I might still be considered a well-behaved guest, but ultimately we decided that it would be a better idea to finish our hike back to the truck before dark — a decision taken without discussing the number of times we saw bear scat along the trail on the hike in. The aforementioned brother-in-law was having equipment trouble and had to give up on his rod about halfway through the excursion, but he did manage to work out that we had known our friends for about six years before getting an invitation to the cottage… and it had then taken another ten for him to get me out fishing. I admit it was somewhat enjoyable when we were actually catching fish, which I was doing the most of. I didn’t want to rub it in, but somehow the subject managed to come up several more times before the end of the weekend.

On Saturday we began the task of cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood. I set aside a few of the discards from logs that had been milled for various projects, figuring I might do something with them rather than send them straight to the firewood pile. Worst case, I figured they’d still burn… Rustic Wooden Bookshelves but a few people admired the “rustic wooden bookshelves” that emerged as I puttered around the tool shop with the materials. Technically, you could put a wide variety of things on these shelves, but from my standpoint, I pretty much only know how to make bookshelves. At least, that’s what I’ve had the most practice at. ;^) By the time we had finished with the wood on Sunday, we’d done about 2½ cords. We did have a quintessentially Canadian moment while we were about the task… I think there were about eight or nine of us stacking wood with CBC Radio playing as we worked. We all passed and stacked the wood quietly so we would still be able to hear Stuart McLean replaying some of his best radio moments. We finished the load of wood on the truck and all stood or sat around to hear the end of the story of how he managed to reach his Christmas contest winner on the air back in 2000. Once on the line, she would exclaim, “Oh, my glory!” Among each us it was unspoken, but once the story had finished, we were free to move on… and not before. stuart-mclean_winnipeg.jpg I accept that perhaps not everyone knows who Stuart McLean is, but after we’d listened, my wife reminded me of my Open Letter to Stuart McLean, which might help fill in the blanks. You might also download last weekend’s show or poke around the Vinyl Cafe website.

I awoke early on Sunday and slipped out of our cabin and down to the waterfront. I sat on the end of the dock for a bit and then moved around the point and sat on the rocks watching the sun work its way up through the trees across the little bay. I love that time and place whenever we’re there… it’s always so quiet,
and often there will be loons or ducks on the water not far away. Usually there is steam rising from the lake, but the morning was so warm that the surreal effect was absent this time (I posted a photo last time.) There’s nothing like being outdoors with nature, especially around water and trees, looking at the stars. This time out the new outdoor shower was popular; at the end of the summer with weather like this, the more time spent outdoors, the better. But for a short bit of rain on Monday morning, the weather (particularly on Sunday) was quite warm — only the breeze gave away the fact that it was no longer July. Sunday also featured a little group hike through the woods and down along another beach; Saturday night had featured a sizable bonfire on the beach with s’mores. Although the lake was a little on the cold side, I think almost everyone was in the water at least once each, swimming out to a raft or playing around with the kids. We managed to fit in a sail, and I took the kids on a “quad” ride while my wife went kayaking. It’s not unusual to try and pack a little bit of everything into your last vacation weekend, and I imagine we got at least our share squeezed in — perhaps more. Enough that once we got home last night I was off to bed surprisingly early, and uncharacteristically slept quite deeply for a full ten hours.

The kids are back to school this week, and that feeling of settling into routines is becoming palpable… though I’m not quite ready to let go of summer yet. I’ve still got some outdoors projects to tend to, and am hoping the weather holds nicely for a long beautiful fall. And I hope the fall routines that settle in and around me will help me with my writing and reflecting over the weeks and months ahead.

What new projects or hopes do you have for the season? And if you’re from ‘down under,’ I’m curious if you have this same kind of general feeling at the start of a different month, given the opposing seasons.

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