Love letters to the cottage: The ever-present lure of the lake

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On season 4 of the Cottage Life Podcast, we revisit an essay from former editor Penny Caldwell, who knows all too well about the serenity you can find at the lake. We’ll listen to her essay about how cottaging, if done right, can offer the ultimate state of relaxation.

This article was originally published in the Early Summer 2017 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

In the middle of the class you feel like you are going to die, or, at the least, throw up. There’s a reason they call it hot yoga. It’s hot, so hot. Shiny bodies drip sweat. Deep ujjayi breath, in and out, fills the room like an ocean roar—or a respirator. Your head is about to explode. My friend Monica says the only thing hotter than hot yoga is having a hot flash during hot yoga.

It doesn’t surprise me one bit that the other name for savasana, the meditation at the end (thank God) of the yoga class, is corpse pose. We lie on our mats, hands at our sides, eyes closed. More surprising is that in corpse pose I think of the cottage.

Early on in my yoga practice, an instructor suggested that, during savasana, we think of a cool blue light entering our bodies through our feet. (At the time, this doesn’t sound weird.) Blue is the colour of healing, but all I can think of is the blue glow of a science lab. Or blue light scattering through the atmosphere, leaving behind a spectacular explosion of yellow-orange in the western sky, the sun a bright ball buzzing into the Georgian Bay horizon. In savasana, the mind wanders, seeking peace. Seeking relaxation. Seeking relief from the heat.

Likewise, we go to the cottage to escape the crushing heat of the city. But I have also been too hot at the cottage—hauling out the heavy oak logs of a tree we felled in the mosquito-laden bush in August or stretched out in a chair on the brilliantly sunny back deck. You can hear the quiet. Or, at least, it’s quiet enough that you can hear a sound long since forgo en in the city, as the trees become animated like toys in the nursery after the kids are asleep, leaves chattering in the breeze.

When you’re in corpse pose, even whispering leaves are too loud. It’s hot. Your head is going to explode. And in your imagination, you drop the heavy, scratchy logs and wander down the path to the water. You plunge into the dark, deep depths. Every cottager knows the feeling of cold water on hot skin, the blessed coolness as you descend, the sense of release.

Up above are brightness and the laughter of other swimmers, the sounds of a chainsaw or an outboard in the distance. Down here, you hold your breath and hear nothing except for the pulsing in your own ears. Down here, you feel your hot body cooling down. You open your eyes and oat in a peaceful cocoon of green water pierced by shafts of sunlight.

“Bring your attention back to the room,” the instructor says. Say what? You linger for a few seconds before kicking for the surface. “When you are ready, roll onto your side and sit up.”


Penny Caldwell is the former editor and current publisher of Cottage Life. She’s a lifelong cottager and an aspiring yogi.