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Quiet, Still, and at Peace: Growing up in North Frontenac

By Spencer Baron

In 1965, my grandfather, Frank Baron, did something no one expected him to do — he bought a plot of land on the southern shore of Kashwakamak Lake, in North Frontenac, Ontario. There was nothing unique about it — one of many dagger-shaped lakes slicing through the Canadian Shield with only a few cottages on its shores — but he saw something special there.

Three years later, my Grandfather built a cottage for his family — who have been enjoying it ever since. My father and his five brothers and sisters spent their summers basking in the sun on the dock, fishing for walleye, and playing cards on the deck. Then they grew up, had families of their own, and shared the cottage with their children. One day, when I was four years old, it was my turn to travel to our home-away-from-home.

The car ride to the cottage took forever — or so it seemed to my young and impatient mind. Fortunately, there was a lot to look at along the way. Farmland and grazing cattle slowly gave way to forests and marshes, with walls of rock flanking the Trans-Canada highway as it weaved its way through the scrub-pine landscape. I was glued to the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the white tail of a deer, or the red tail of a hawk. I had dreams of roaming bears, and soaring eagles.

View from my cottage on Kashwakamak Lake

The final kilometres of the trip took place on a dirt road, winding through woods, leaving just enough room to allow for timid two-way traffic. After climbing steep hills, and diving through valleys, the cottage appeared through a break in the trees, with the blues of sky and lake bringing relief to the greens and browns surrounding us. From that very first trip, my brother and I developed a tradition — we would let our parents unpack the car, and run full tilt to the dock. We would sit there, sweaty feet submerged in the soothing water, and absorb the view. The vast lake, separated from the sky by tree-lined islands left us in awe.

Nature kept us quiet, and still, and at peace.

Those early cottage trips mean so much to me on reflection. It was there I learned to put a worm on a hook, to hold a canoe paddle, and to swim. I remember catching frogs with my cousins, turning over logs and rocks searching for salamanders, and hearing the haunting cries of a loon echo over moonlit waters. I fell in love with not just the landscape in front of me, but with Canada itself as I kayaked from bay to bay, overcome by the immense scale of all that natural beauty. As the sun set across the lake, its fire burning in the water below, I knew I was home.

I moved from my parents’ house in the country to Toronto eight years ago. These days, steel and glass tower above my head instead of cedars and spruce. As a kid, I was surrounded by the natural world, and as the years have passed, I miss it more. And as the threats to our natural world have increased, I’ve become more protective. I’m not just interested in protecting a way of life, but all life. That’s why I took full advantage of the opportunity to write for GreenPAC.

Today, I am proud to work with an organization dedicated to preserving our natural environment. GreenPAC’s mission to elect leaders who want to protect our land, water, and air, gives me faith that the next generation of young Canadians will still be able to find salamanders under cool stones, and learn to swim in the clear lakes of central Ontario.

These days, I’m only able to make the trip up to the cottage once or twice a year. It’s a quick two-and-a-half-hour drive from my parent’s house, and it’s over before I know it. With my eyes on the road, I can’t focus on the scenery as much as I used to, but I still catch the odd glimpse of a hawk riding the thermals, or a racoon poking her head out from the underbrush. At this point, unpacking the car is second nature, and as soon as I’m finished, I follow the same path I did years ago, down to the water. Feet submerged, and eyes wide open, the view leaves me speechless, as it did my father before me.

I hope one day it will find my children — quiet, and still, and at peace, too.


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