I took the familiar left hand turn onto Limberlost Road and punched the trip button on the odometer. Twelve kilometers to the next turn – Alix’s directions were always exact.
The cottage road twisted through the forest like a racetrack, bringing us closer to the lake with every turn. The first signs of fall had started to paint the otherwise green tapestry dull orange, brown and the occasional red. Usually I came during the warmer months of Ontario’s short, sweet summer, but this year had not been like the rest.
The weather kept the four of us who had made the journey inside by the wood fire all weekend, cozied up to either a coffee or a glass of wine depending on the time of day, as if Mother Nature knew we had much to catch up on. We talked about a summer full of events that had defined this particular season of our lives – a brave battle with cancer, a beautiful wedding, a concussion and a trip to Asia. On a weekend that marked our ten-year anniversary since meeting at University almost to the day (had it really been that long ago?), we reminisced about old apartments, old acquaintances, and old loves. We laughed about nights out, bad decisions and the gift of hindsight. We missed (and subsequently messaged) friends who had since scattered across the country but were with us in spirit.
The only activity that disrupted the grey quiet of the lake enough to provoke us from our place in front of the fire was a loon. From the window we watched as he bobbed up and down into the lake looking for fish. After a few minutes a second, followed by a third and fourth loon joined the party as if they too had gathered for a much-needed reunion. Their usual lonely, haunting calls were replaced with frenzied splashing and dancing around where the shallow shoreline dropped off into the depths of Bella Lake. We ran out to the dock hoping to capture the scene, hopping barefoot along the stone pathway leading down to the water. I zipped my fleece up to my chin, secretly happy in a way I think only Canadians are when the change in season gives us a reason to pull on our fall sweaters.
Standing on the edge of the beach watching the loons swim off into the horizon, I flirted with the idea of wading in. The sandy bottom rippled under the surface, gently shaped into tiny underwater dunes by the constant lapping of the water towards the shore. I tested one foot and then the other. The cold burned up into my ankles and numbed my toes. Summer had come and gone.
Winding back through the cottage roads towards the city the next day, I could have sworn that more leaves had turned crimson overnight. And wasn’t that fitting? Thinking back on ten years of friendship felt a bit like we had blinked and turned over an entire chapter of our lives. Still, a weekend spent doing nothing more than sitting by the fire with three old friends at the lake had made me thankful for those who have come into my life and, more importantly, the ones who have remained through the many changing seasons.