Wednesday, 7 September 2011

A Labour of Love

This past weekend was Labour Day weekend for us Canadians which is kind of an oxymoron because many people try to do exactly the opposite of labour. It's all about the 'chillaxing' on Labour Day. Taking a break from all the other days of week of labour whether it be managing a household, an office cubicle, or a construction site.

My 'getaway from the everyday' resulted in a trip up north to the family cottage on Georgian Bay. The anti-labour/chillaxation movement sets in once you get north of The Big Cities, which smell like a moldy, sweaty sock lost in a guy's unwashed jock strap. It's amazing how you forget what fresh air ACTUALLY smells like! Usually once we get north of Barrie I find myself taking a deep breath, filling up every square inch of my lungs. ahhhhhhhhhh. Fresh air! Pines, firs, wood stoves and the smell of fresh, clean water.  Car fresheners have tried to put the smell of the outdoors in a small little tree that hangs on your rearview mirror, but that pales in comparison to the TRUE smell of fresh air. That in itself takes the tension away from my neck and takes my shoulders out of my ears.

The other recipe for true 'chillaxation' on Labour Day weekend is getting on 'island time'. After a 4.5 hour drive of back-roading (no big highways for this gal. Small highways are the way to go. Where else am I going to get free-range eggs from a Mennonite family? Or fresh maple syrup poured just for me at a farm where they keep a goat tied to a tree as the family 'pet'??), it's time to park the car and load things into the boat. Goodbye civilization, hello island life!! The clocks tick slower on the island, if you choose to look at one. The clock in our kitchen at the cottage is good for one thing: determining how close we're getting to Cocktail Hour(s). Leaving the marina and getting on the water is like a form of brainwashing. Work? What work? Day job? I don't know what you're talking about! Stressful thoughts are washed away with the wake of the boat.

By the time we get to the cottage my body is feeling loose and limber, my mind has forgotten all about the stressful day job, and my spirit is ready to soar.

There's a lot of fun and fascinating people at our cottage and that's the way I like it. It's like coming home to family. But instead of the family that shares your DNA, it's the family you actually get along with! haHA! Visiting, cocktail hours, dinners, karaoke while the guys wash dishes (rather poorly, but what can you expect when they're busy singing Love Potion #9?).

This manifestation of chillaxation is pretty typical for any trip up to the cottage. But what makes Labour Day so special is: The Labour Day Weekend Cottage Come As You Are All Request All The Time Outdoor Church Sing Along Hymn Sing.

The what, you ask?

I'll wait a moment while you go back to read it.

Got it?


Near the cottage is an outdoor church. There is an organ and a lectern which are under a shelter. The granite pulpit is not used to serve Holy Communion, it's used to serve lemonade and water after the service.

Every Sunday from the start of summer until Labour Day any minister, priest, lay minister of any Christian faith can come up and deliver a service. Labour Day Sunday is reserved for a hymn sing. No sermon, just folks yelling our hymn numbers to an woman who writes down the hymn numbers on a chalk board and her husband who announces the hymn numbers into a microphone.

"Number 247!!", one person in the crowd yells.
"Number 28!", another person hollers at the same time. This prompts the first person to yell their request even louder one number at a time, thus confusing the woman writing down the hymn numbers and prompts further loud requests. It's fantastic. People are engaged, are laughing, and are advocating for others' hymn suggestions. Pure joy.

There's an organist, a guitarist, and just on Labour Day - a percussion section. Plastic tambourines and maracas are distributed to the crowd to shake and rattle as they see fit.

This is not your grandmother's church service.

I get such a kick out of it all. It's rare when I can laugh and feel inspired all at the same time. Of course the icing on the cake are the actual hymn selections - all cottage/outdoor/nature related. My favourite, "Will Your Anchor Hold in the Storms of Life" is always reserved as the last hymn and we sing all the verses. All the other songs we just sing the first and last serves with corresponding choruses - so there's more time for more hymns!

I look forward to this event all year. It's a great way to commune with nature, to sing with unabashed glory (because between the tamborines, the sound of the breeze through the soft-needled spruce trees, boats passing by the nearby channel, people singing harmonies and sometimes off-key singing, my 'most-times' off key singing goes unnoticed), engage in stimulating discussions of bear-sightings and cottage DIY projects, and feel completely and utterly away from the daily grind. No off-key singing about anchors and storms allowed in the office! No way!

A 'labour-free' weekend at the cottage is a bit impossible. Between the cocktails and church-singing is cutting down trees and other cottage duties, so there's lots of work to do. But the joy and simplicity in all of these tasks make it feel like play, not work.

For me, Labour Day weekend at the cottage is truly a labour of love.

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