A curious thing

Living through a pandemic is like living with a brain injury. Both require slowing down, doing without and shifting priorities.

But isn’t life like that? Ups and downs, learning and unlearning.

Maybe someday I’ll enjoy crowds, loud music and a busy schedule. And it’s highly likely our post-Covid world will end up just as crazy as it was before.

But for now, my post-traumatic-brain-injury/pandemic self prefers the sounds and silence of nature.


For several months, the February 2021 issue of Toronto Life magazine, featuring the cover line “Covid Killed My Business. Now I’m a Farmer. (And I love it),” sat on a little table at the top of the stairs at our cottage.

There’s some of that life-changing, urban-to-rural shift in me, too.

I arrived at the cottage last June, the sun high in the sky. We started clearing the land and pushing back the forest. It was the first Covid summer, remember? I ended up spending more time at the cottage than ever. I had the opportunity to really look after it, and it’s true: caring for the land gives a sense of ownership.

Autumn came and we stayed. Wild apples dropped to the ground, but if they didn’t, my dad shook the branches while my aunt scrambled around holding an outstretched bed sheet. I spent hours mushroom hunting and many late nights preparing the shrooms for freezing. The days got shorter, and at dinner we’d shine a flashlight on my dad’s plate so he knew what he was eating.

We returned to the cottage in winter. First a longer stay at Christmas. Then, when my eldest daughter proposed a month off-grid in February, I said, “Why not?” Actually, we’d been preparing since summer. The water system, the generator, firewood: they’re all a little tricky when you have no electricity and have to park the car on the main road. Our biggest surprise was the comfort of winter isolation.

Now, here I am – spring! The world is unfurling. Every morning, we wake up to new sprouts, birdsong and the sun rising higher and higher, earlier and earlier. In the past, work, school, end-of-year activities and a fear of blackflies kept me from spending extended time up here at this time of year. Now I have a May bug hack: get outside around sunrise while the mosquitoes are still sleeping.


Coltsfoot, fiddleheads, rhubarb: spring.

Strawberries, blueberries, lake trout: summer.

Mushrooms, blackberries, apples: fall.

Icy buckets of water from the stream, firewood for extra heat, drinking wine in a snow squall: winter.


Covid has meant no travel, so like many people I’ve travelled more in places that I thought I knew.

Up at the cottage, I’ve been discovering the creek trail, the swamp by the big hill and the circuitous hike to Burnt Lake. I’ve also blazed new paths because in the past I tended to stick to the road. The woods just didn’t draw me in like this. May’s an incredible time to explore the forest.

With every season, I’ve pulled in closer to the details. Amanita muscaria, Matteuccia struthiopteris, glacial erratic. Who knew I’d be so into scientific names or photography? I draw what I observe. And, curiously, the more I draw, the more I see, the more I photograph, the more I see …

What happens when you become aware?

Things shift. The light shines in. I’m pretty sure there’s opportunity.


“I liked that job, but I was always under a huge amount of stress,” says the former pub owner gracing the cover of Toronto Life.

Isn’t it like that for so many of us, now?

The pandemic’s made us rethink how we live. Where we live. Who do we want to be?

I like living in the woods. I like the squishy sound my boots make as I tread through the muck foraging for fiddleheads. I like the breeze that allows me to run out and get some work done while the blackflies are thrown off course.

I like watching spring arrive, bit by bit. Learning things I never knew, had forgotten, need.




[Thanks to my Covid bubble (you know who you are!) for this beautiful time together.]

11 thoughts on “A curious thing

  1. Love your Blog…isnt nature healing in so many ways…even if it is forced at first…Let Go and Let Nature…or something like that…😉👏💐

  2. Such a wonderful glimpse of your country experiences, Mara! You made me nod and agree and smile so often while reading. Love it.

  3. Yup! Man tapat jutas kad pavadiju menesi Tervete pagajusa vasara. Katru dienu jutos ka 10 g.v. meitene Saulaine. Daba dziede, sports vieno (urra Latvija!).
    Tu briniskigi raksti.

  4. Amen, Mara! We all need to stop and smell the glacial droppings. Doubly so after the pandemic passes. Drosmi Tev turpmākam ceļam!

  5. Loved this… you really do write well Mara. It sounds as if this has been the best therapy for your TBI. And it stands to reason, getting off the grid for all of us would be therapeutic. I love your little cottage! I recall when you invited us there, 1995 or 96? Your family, your dog. Clearing out the view to the lake. It’s such a peaceful beautiful place up there. You are fortunate to have this gift. Enjoy. ❤️🥰

    • It was an unseasonably warm Thanksgiving, I recall. And we were clearing out the view, weren’t we? Funny, it always seems like the first time!
      And then it grows back again, Sleeping-Beauty-forest-like.

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