We’ve been back for a bit over a week. The clothes are washed and put away–no smells of camp fire remaining. The suntans are still there, and to some extent so is the deep sense of rhythm and calm that set in somewhere during the middle of the second week. While I was there I had this realization: simplicity! Simplicity is a beautiful thing.
Here are a few aspects of simple cottage living I decided to take home with me:
Lesson One: We don’t need a lot to have a good time. We packed for the long weekend and stayed for a month. We had six books, a box of crayons and some paper and a small bag of toys. We had about 3 to 4 outfits each (though some of us spent more time naked than creating dirty laundry). What we did have were sticks, pine cones, sand and water. Plus some wonderful family members who spent a lot of time with the kids!
Bringing it home: Knowing how few clothes we got away with removes any pressure to amass a large wardrobe for myself or the kids for the fall. It also gives me courage to further limit the amount of toys that are accessible at any given time. The kids do just fine with a limited supply, and the fewer there are out, the easier it is to tidy.
Lesson Two: We don’t need screens. One month, no videos, very limited email and web access. Even limited phone access. We really thrived in this low tech bubble!
Bringing it home: Knowing how well we did without videos or internet access helps with reducing our screen time at home–both mine and the kids’!
Lesson Three: Mother Nature has it all. Trees were castles and fairy houses. Sand was cakes and pies. Sticks were people and crutches. We even found a piece of drift wood that looked very much like a circa-1980s car phone.
Bringing it home: While I have read and believed that unstructured natural play areas are the best for kids, this experience really proved it for me. So we’ll be seeking out the corners of nature that are available to us in the city, at least as long as it’s not too cold to ride the bike! I’m also making sure we have lots of sticks, pine cones and sand around at home.
Lesson Four: We don’t need to do a lot to have a good time. We had a rich environment at our home base to explore, so we didn’t push ourselves to go out and do a bunch of stuff while we were on Manitoulin Island. We had a handful of outings scattered over the whole month. It never felt boring, it just felt relaxed and calm.
Bringing it home: With the beginning of homeschooling this fall, I am going to keep our routine here simple. There will be a hole created by friends going /going back to school, and other friends leaving town, but we don’t need to rush to fill in that hole with a lot of activities and playdates. We can hang out and explore our own back yard–both literal and figurative.
So, while we can’t live at the cottage all year round (darn!), we can try to bring the essence of the place back with us. And when it gets all stressful, as I know it will, I will try to remember breathing the forest air, and somehow come back to this feeling of peace.