The day is hot. I listen to the water lapping against the dock and watch a spider work in the corner of the boathouse window. She drips down, hanging by a thread. A slight breeze lands her perfectly against the window frame. The distance seems so great compared to her tiny body, but she scurries up an invisible cord and begins again. She doesn’t seem to notice the heat.

The wind is starting to pick up and small puffy clouds drift high above. What is it about the sky that makes me feel so small — like that tiny spider, but lacking her certainty of purpose, the drive that pushes her to repeat the same tasks over and over again.

I just finished reading Latitudes of Melt, a beautiful novel by Joan Clark about Newfoundland. Once again, I’m in awe of the author’s ability to weave description and intimate thought together, bringing life to the words on the page. I can almost feel the coolness coming off the icebergs she describes. The novel left me thinking about every relationship in my life and how important each one is.

I wanted to stay in the Canadian North and decided to read Elizabeth Hay’s Giller- winning novel, Late Nights on Air. It was a little like drinking a glass of Kool-Aid after a fine wine. I kept tripping over words and phrases that a good editor should have fixed. I can tell that Hay is an excellent writer. She knows how to catch a moment in time, but the flow seems choppy — as if rushed. The story drags a bit until a contrived attempt to entice the reader by referring to something “mysterious” in the future comes in about midway through.

The book was obviously rushed. My guess is that the editor was more anxious to get a good seat at the award banquet than produce a serious literary achievement. Most editors know when an author needs to do more work; they also know what it takes to produce a truly great, lasting book (which is often more time consuming, with less immediate payoff than one that will simply appeal to a mass audience).

I’ve had writers ready to kill me, only to turn around and thank me later for forcing them to re-write their copy. Writing gets treated by some in the book industry as a simple commodity, especially those that have been in the industry too long and have lost their passion for the art. Writing is an art, and the role of art is to enlighten. Writing must have a sense of purity; it needs to be free from the pull of politics, status, and the bottom line. Writing takes time. I’ll finish this tomorrow.

It’s another day at the cottage. I sit on our small beach and watch my two boys dig in the sand. The water laps gently against the shore until a speedboat goes past; its waves reach us with a flurry of activity until the gentle rhythm of the lake returns once more. I dream about life here 100 years ago. There wouldn’t have been as many cottages on Lake Rosseau then. It would have taken much longer to get places. I wonder whether time would have felt slower?

My dream is interrupted by a yellow speedboat that has come into our small bay and is circling, making huge waves in order to bounce the tube it is pulling. They don’t seem to notice or care that their waves are crashing against our dock, disturbing the peacefulness. In the city I would just tune them out, but here at the cottage I want to listen, to hear the sounds of the otters playing, the cicadas buzzing, and the wind as it whispers overhead in the pines.

I watch my husband dive into the lake. The water reflects the sky and trees around him. I love to watch him swim; he looks strong and powerful in the water as the sun glistens on his back. A crow calls and the lake becomes quiet once more.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at


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