The Island Farewell Tour

In my family, when we refer to The Island, it means only one thing – the place of our childhood summers. It’s a small island on a remote northern Ontario lake surrounded only by trees for miles and miles.

It’s been in our family for about 80 years – passing from my father, to his oldest son, and eventually to the youngest daughter – a place where five generations of our family have built memories.

But now The Island is passing to outsiders.

Although “The Island Life” was not something I ever aspired to, the sale of this property triggered a need in me to make the 8-hour journey north for a final farewell.

The original tiny cabin from my childhood is long gone, replaced with a 3 bedroom house. A generator provides both power in the evenings, and running water, pulled from the lake.

My visits over the years have been very infrequent … quite frankly, I could count them on one hand. However, knowing that after next week, there will be no further opportunities to visit this place of many memories, I felt compelled to return one last time.

So Gilles and I made the trek north to spend 3 days with my sister, Tina, and her husband.

We told stories, played games, ate, drank, and laughed at ourselves and each other. Even the heavy rains on the first day, or invading mosquitoes, couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm.

The setting sun lights up the southeast end of the lake.

The highlight of my weekend though was doing something I’ve never done before – paddling the lake.

With my sister, Tina.

As kids, we NEVER ventured to the far end of The Island which is shallow and reedy, but it made perfect sense on this visit to plow our way through there in kayaks. At water level, it was an adventure that had us giggling like children.

Ok – I was doing most of the giggling. Tina is considerably more refined than I am.

Tina emerging at the end.
Gilles enjoying a long open-water swim after months of lockdown. The orange buoy floating behind him is to increase his visibility to boaters … of which we were the only ones on this lake.

With the ubiquitous city sirens blaring in the background as I write this, I already miss the tranquility and quiet of The Island, but I especially miss the loons and their haunting calls throughout both the day and night.

Do they ever sleep?!!

So this is my final farewell.

May its new owners derive as many pleasures and precious memories as we have from this special place.

105 comments

  1. Joanne, it is hard to close an era and move on, especially when it involves saying goodbye to a place with so many childhood memories. Looking at those stairs, it is easy to see what you mean about having to carry *everything* uphill to the cabin, after ferrying it across the lake by boat. And I agree with you about making nighttime visits to the outhouse; every time we go camping with our truck and camper, I’m grateful for my little toilet on wheels. Beautiful photos, and I don’t see a single mosquito in them.

    Jude

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    • Your comment about the stairs gets to the heart of the problem which resulted in the sale of the property. We’re all older now. Lugging everything uphill – from food and water, to fuel, equipment, repair materials, etc – it takes its toll.

      But the island and surrounding lake were lovely, and knowing that it’s no longer an option to visit makes me kind of sad. It is hard to close an era … but I’m always optimistic that it makes space for a new one.

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  2. Yay – so great to see you back here. Although it’s a nostalgic sad(ish) piece on saaying goodbye to a beloved place. On the other hand, a sweet post about enjoying a special place with a sister and spouses. But I understand. Sometimes we just need to let go and allow the memories to be sweet and long-lasting. Beautiful photos. Stay tuned – I have a surprise for you in my post tomorrow…. ;-0 xo

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      • You are a winner in many many ways. 💚🔮 Here’s my email address. Why don’t you email me so I can send you the e-book. I am assuming that you use a Kindle is that correct? Otherwise I’ll mail you the soft back but I think it takes a long time to get to you. But whichever you prefer!pam.wight@colettawight.net

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  3. Hey you’re back to blogging! Yay! On a whim I checked in here and look at what I found a lovely post with photos. I’m glad you had the chance to say a proper good bye to what looks to be a tranquil fun place. We all move on, don’t we?

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  4. I read with a lump in my throat – thank you for taking us along on this intimate farewell. It is all so scenic, but also wrought with the bittersweet memories of growing up. Goodbyes are challenging – but closing the chapter is restorative. Thank you for allowing us into your memories and closure.

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    • Thank you Ju-Lyn. It’s so thrilling for me to have my writing touch people emotionally. It means I did a good job 🥰

      I like your comment that good-byes are challenging, but closing the chapter is restorative. You’re so right. Closing a chapter isn’t necessarily easy, but it remarkably does bring closure so one can move on. I feel I’ve done that 🙂

      Like

      • It does take a certain amount of courage though to bring closure – I think very often we avoid it for fear of having to deal with the past, emotions and things which we may not think we are ready for. So I am glad you had the chance to do so! Plus, we got to share in lovely scenery.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds like the kind of place for kids to have adventures – like the Famous Five (Enid Blyton) just need some corned beef sandwiches, packs of crisps and bottles of ginger beer. How absolutely wonderful to have owned an island! Though reading through the comments I see it is not all as perfect as it seems! A lovely post Jo, hopefully the first of many.
    Jude xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This Island sounds idyllic and the special memories, priceless, Joanne. Tears brimming reading “final farewell.” The best kind of visit….told stories, played games, ate, drank and laughed…Your photos are exceptionally stunning! Do I see a hint of Fall? Kayaks are perfect for this lake and the shallow areas.

    The photo of your sister in the reeds is extra special……..the hairs on my arms are standing up. I haven’t heard a loon in many years.

    This is an exceptionally beautiful post, Joanne. A friend of mine wrote a post with a similar theme and feel that was published in “Canadian Living.” If you are in the mood, you may want to submit it somewhere.

    The story……..the photos…….a Canadian flair……❤️

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    • Thank you so much, Erica. It’s always such a thrill to know that my writing &/or photos touched someone ❤️

      Thankfully, there is no touch of fall yet, but it’s been such a cool damp summer so far. The glow of the setting sun shining on the trees turned them golden. It was absolutely stunning.
      And the photo of my sister in the reeds is by far my favourite photo of the weekend.

      I’ve never thought about trying to submit my writing for publication anywhere. I have rejection issues 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. How special that you had an opportunity to explore the lake one last time…especially now that you’ve developed a passion for paddling! Life never stands still and sad as it is to have such a memory filled place move on there are many more lakes for you to explore. Thanks for sharing.

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    • You got it exactly right! That night after our paddle, I was thinking that I wanted to return the following weekend with my youngest son to share this place with a paddle together (we have an outing every weekend to either hike, cycle, or paddle).
      Then I remembered … oh yeah, 8-hour drive. Maybe not 😏

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Marty. Today is THE day of the transfer to new owners. I’m feeling a little sad and nostalgic today … but I imagine it is even worse for my sister and her husband who have loved the island for the past 8 years.

      But on to new adventures!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a perfectly gorgeous place! How fortunate you were to have all those childhood memories and to have the opportunity to go one last time before letting go! Interesting how sometimes we take things like that for granted – just knowing it’s there – we think they will be there for infinity but often the reality of that changes.

    I love the photo of the kayak coming through the reeds in particular but they are all beautiful!

    Thanks for sharing it’s good to read you again.

    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peta – you picked my favourite photo 🙂 I admit I was rather shocked at how high the reeds felt paddling through them. At a normal boat level, they wouldn’t have registered nearly so tall. I’m so glad we did this paddle. It was like the icing on the cake.

      You’re so right about taking things for granted until they aren’t there anymore. I guess it’s human nature.

      Liked by 1 person

    • shhh – I’d rather not have Tina hear the part about her being more refined 😉

      Unfortunately I tend to overreact to bug bites so I’m still dealing with the itchiness, and large swollen red spots. Ahhh – the souvenirs of time outdoors in the wilds!

      Like

    • Islands are definitely special private places, but they also have their challenges. Like, EVERYTHING needs to be brought over by boat and hauled up the hill. I’m not tough enough for that kind of challenge, and I’m in awe of the women in my family who have done it!

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  9. It looks like a timeless place! I grew up going to a cabin at Lake Tahoe – a real log cabin! Now I won’t go up there – way too many people and the cabins are houses. I’m delighted to see there are still some relatively untouched places!

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    • I agree. There are a lot of cottage country areas that are just a variation of suburbia … except on a waterfront. One leaves the background noise of the city for the high-pitched whine of motor boats and jet skis. It’s a nice place to visit for a day or two, but not my cup of tea.

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  10. I’m glad you went back, Joanne, and that you have good memories. It sounds as if it was time to move on but it was good that you enjoyed it until that time. Eight hours is a haul, although our cabin in Wyoming is a two-day trip, so 8 hours sounds pretty good to me. 🙂 At least we don’t have mosquitoes and leeches there but I’m always wary of ticks because there are lots of deer. I hope that we never get to the point of selling, but if that time comes, I’ll want one last trip as well.

    janet

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    • Yeah, your 2-day trip would be a showstopper for me, although if I remember correctly, you normally go for an extended period of time. It’s not the kind of place where you run up for a long weekend.

      Liked by 2 people

      • No, it would (and will) take the weekend to get there, never mind back. The shortest time I’ve stayed is a week when I brought a friend who had to get back. I’ve been there as long as a month which is ideal.

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  11. So beautiful, Joanne. The post made me a little sad, as I too had to say goodbye to an island cabin that was in my family for three generations. I’m glad you got to head there and spend some lovely time with family on the lake. A wonderful farewell.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. What a magical island this must have been in your childhood. I’m so glad you made the decision to visit one last time, and you were able to do that with your sister and brother-in-law. I just love the contrast in your photo of Tina almost swallowed up in the reeds and the one of Gilles swimming free and clear…..in the same lake!

    Although you won’t be visiting this island physically any more, it will be in your memory and memorialized in your photos for all time. Thank you for sharing such a personal and tender journey with us.

    I think your family’s island must be enchanted, and now it will work its magic on a new family. No outhouse now I imagine, but the mosquitos are likely there to stay! All part of the adventure.
    Ginger

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    • Oh Ginger, yes, the outhouse is still there! I was SOOO happy to use a real washroom again after we left. As a child I didn’t have to make middle-of-the-night visits to the outhouse. It’s one of the joys of growing older that no one ever tells you about 🙄

      I hadn’t thought of the contrast between the two photographs. Thanks for pointing that out! I guess this lake is so much a part of my history, I don’t even think about its peculiarities. When we were teenagers, we would waterski on the lake … but never around the reedy end of the island. That would have been one nasty place to take a spill!!! 😱

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Great post and super photos. I’m sure there are a ton of stories in that place! It must be very sad to see the end of an era like that. I had a similar experience – we rented a cabin on a small lake in Ontario every year since the early 70s. Starting in the 1990s, we were almost family and so the only ones who were still able to rent (they shut most of the cabins down, but left two open for my family). in about 2010 they tore the cabins down. That last year we had a reunion there – bitter sweet, but great.

    Liked by 2 people

    • All things do eventually come to an end. It is bittersweet, but I’m a believer in that it just makes room for something new to come along.

      The memories we carry are the most important part ❤️

      Liked by 3 people

  14. What an amazing place, Joanne. A writer’s dream, to work, relax, and paddle. So quiet. Being one with nature. I would miss it too; a bittersweet experience. It made me smile that you got to kayak too and that Gilles felt the need to be extra careful to not get run over by the sisters. 🙂

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    • omg Liesbet! I laughed out loud at your comment about not being run over by us. I hadn’t looked at it from that perspective 🤣

      It would be wonderful to spend an extended period of time in a place like this as a creative retreat. It’s huge disadvantage is the lack of internet and very spotty cell service. If being off the grid fuels the creative process, then YES! I brought some watercolour pencils and a small sketch book with me, and managed to get a few small paintings done. Such an inspiring location!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I imagine selling someplace that has been in your family for so long is bittersweet, but I enjoyed this post about your last visit. And I had to Google loons. We have pelicans, herons, geese and ducks here….but no loons. I will take your word for it that my world is quieter for the lack of them.

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  16. What a magical place (in spite of the mosquitoes)! I’m glad you got to enjoy it one more time and now can pass it on to new owners without regret. You took some lovely pictures (I really like the one of your sister through the reeds, and, of course, the sunset – or, was it a sunrise?) that you can keep as a reminder of the fabulous memories that special place holds.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Janis. I’m really happy with this final batch of photos, and yes, that was a sunset 🙂 … and the photo in the reeds is my favourite!

      I was comparing the photos I took 5 years ago with my expensive mirrorless camera (the one I lost in Portugal) with this batch taken with my old iPhone. I like these so much more. Clearly the expensive camera was wasted on me 🙂

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  17. I’ve never been a big fan of lake retreats because my experience always included mosquitoes, gypsy moths and horse flies. I would end up staying inside except when we were on the water (that part was wonderful). It has been decades since I did a trip like that but I have memories of the good parts.

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    • That’s exactly it, Kate. We have to focus on the good parts. Even as I’m writing this, the numerous mosquito bites on my legs are competing for attention. But these will pass and only the good parts will remain.

      Happily, there were no encounters with leeches. If there had been, this would have been a very different post!!

      Liked by 2 people

        • I wish!! I’ve been forever traumatized by them from my childhood!!

          A few years ago – through blogging – I discovered that the southern part of the world has land-based leeches. O! M! G! I thought the water-based ones were bad enough. I would NEVER set foot into a forested area ever again!!!

          Mind you, now that I think of it, their reaction to our water-based leeches was equally horrified.

          Liked by 2 people

  18. Oh boy…beautiful place and photos! Brings back many fond memories of summers I spent in northern Ontario (still southern by Cochrane standards, I am sure…LOL!) in cottages or camping. Thanks for sharing, Joanne!

    Deb

    Liked by 2 people

    • We’ve been so lucky, Deb, to have had the childhoods we did. I love the term you’ve used so often as ‘free range’ children. That was us! … and now we are “free range seniors” 🤣

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Dear Joanne,
    we love those places on islands. When we were children we lived in such places in Sweden and Norway during the summer. And they are sold now as well. On one hand it’s a pity, we know your felings, on the other hand, it’s too far away or better too complicated to reach from where we live now.
    Thanks for sharing
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was a special place – if one can overlook mosquitoes, black flies, leeches, and an endless list of other small vicious carnivores 😉 Needless to say, I was never much of an outdoor person in my youth … which is kind of ironic now that I think about it 😆

      Liked by 4 people

      • Isn’t it funny how our time spent as youths doing the outdoor things with our parents seemed at times like a never ending chore, and yet here we are both doing just that. Spending time outdoors, and pushing the envelope and trying more outdoorsy things!

        My parents are thrilled that something stuck, and I do love the outdoors and nature. I’m sure yours would be too.

        Now, you’re passing it on to your son’s! 🥰

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s all learned behaviour, but sometimes it just takes a while for it to stick 😏 I am very grateful for my childhood. As an adult, I realize how precious it really was.

          … and you are so right. It doesn’t get much better than to pass on a love and respect for nature, as I’m sure you are doing with your grandchildren!

          Liked by 2 people

  20. How beautiful and how special that must have been to have taken the opportunity to go for one last visit. I could sense the tranquility from your pictures and writing. ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think loons are fascinating. I had never seen them so close up before. I think they got used to people being out there for many days at a time. They were particularly interested in Gilles out there swimming around. They kind of followed him around. I think they were trying to determine if he was friend or foe.

      Liked by 3 people

    • I do feel kind of sad, but I’m glad I went. If I hadn’t, I would have eventually regretted it. It gave me one last chance to build some precious memories 🙂

      … and the itchy mosquito bites will keep the memory alive for a few more days 😆

      Liked by 4 people

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