Having spent many a luxurious summer day at this family cottage, its simple pleasures seem even more precious on Canada Day.
This cottage is one of a small enclave of Latvian cottages hidden amongst birches and ferns only an hour north of downtown Toronto, with the sweet name of 'Saulaine', or 'Sunshine'. Lately the inexorable push of suburban sprawl surrounding Hwy 400 has meant that the gravel side roads are giving way to asphalt, and incongruous monster homes are encroaching on the edges of farmers' fields and the unmarked rural roads that have surrounded Saulaine since it was conceived in the early 1950's.
Still, Saulaine within its boundaries seems as untouched as ever, with its fiddleheads, wild strawberries, trilliums, migrating salmon, and humble cedar clad structures between the trees. Perhaps one thing that has saved it from being completely overrun is the fact that it lies on an escarpment above the wild Nottawasaga River, without a lake to attract summertime traffic.
The cottage itself is situated on a small slope, so that where the land falls down toward the trees the lower level of the cottage opens directly onto the forest floor, while the entry ground level is afforded a balcony along the length of the rear. The main room is high and airy, with partially exposed beams at a peaked ceiling that opens to wood framed glazing to the east. The plan is superbly sensible, with two bedrooms and a bathroom off of the main room, and a basement a half level below the entrance. The rooms have been perfectly frozen in the 1960's, filled with teak furniture and views that have likely remained the same since they were built. Its spirit - a charming union of Canadian and Latvian sensibilities - also bears kinship to the soul of the Finnish cottages I had visited while living in Helsinki.
What a treasure.