For 10 months of the year, I’m “urban Beth”. I hang out on Queen Street East, enjoy downtown shows and theatre, and when bored with Toronto, visit New York for additional chaos and grittiness. My clothes tend to the black and grey, and if I feel like dressing down, I leave off the nail polish.
Then summer comes, and I turn into “pioneer Beth”. I move my office (i.e. my computer and cell phone) to an old wooden desk tucked into the corner of an even older Muskoka cottage, and exchange a view of a brick wall for a sparkling lake.
The transition isn’t instant. I look pretty good when I first settle in, hair coifed, clothes ironed and feet polished. But without the aid of air conditioners, an indoor shower, blow dryer or much of a mirror, I began to unravel. Gone are the neat black pants, out come the pink capris and checkered shirts. The hair gets messier, the eyebrows fade (well, just a bit).
Within a week, all makeup is shoved to the back of a drawer. Perfume is replaced with insect repellent and foundation by sunscreen. To be honest, a lot of the credit actually goes to my neighbours, who couldn’t care at all what I look like as long as I visit with a bottle of wine and pet their dogs.
If the weather turns cool (which it does in August), we’ll be hauling in wood for the fire. When a storm shuts down the hydro, thank goodness for candlelight and a BBQ. (Last summer, a friendly neighbour made us coffee by plugging our machine into her generator, set up in the middle of a farmer’s field!) There’s some wildlife to contend with but nothing worse than a hungry deer nibbling off the heads of my geranium plants or a screaming female red fox.
Without distractions from multiple TV channels, people selling stuff at the door, and never-ending household obligations, the days open up as if each held more than 24 hours. There seems to be unlimited time to get anything done, in addition to lots of personal time to soak up the magic of summer.
Pioneer Beth doesn’t cope without any WIFI, but with limited data, I’m much better with my online use. There’s a definite lack of compulsive text messaging and posting. I check messages with discipline, not panic.
September comes quickly enough. Once back in the city, the transformation (or “cleaning up” of Beth) takes as long as the deconstruction a couple of months earlier. I don’t prefer one way of living over the other; but super grateful that both appeal to me and are able to co-exist without too much of an argument.