THE MUSKOKAN - The appeal of cottage life is its simplicity.
The new book by longtime Muskoka columnist James Ross aims to capture everything that makes cottage life special by giving readers a glimpse into his own, oftentimes very personal cottage experience.
It’s a return to an easier point in life that’s not dominated by Blackberrys and computers but by bonfires and lounging on the dock. It’s about connecting with family and friends, relaxing with the dogs and maybe passing on traditions to the next generation. For many, the cottage is a place that despite being around for years has changed very little.
Cottage Daze, the new book by longtime Muskoka columnist James Ross, aims to capture everything that makes cottage life special by giving readers a glimpse into his own, oftentimes very personal cottage experience.
“I hope they take away exactly what the cottage gives us,” said Ross about the book. “I want them to be able to relate to my cottage and think of it as their own but also to get the joy of the simple cottage lifestyle and have some good laughs.”
A collection of roughly 60 short stories, the book is organized like the cottage season starting with tales of the opening of the cottage in the springtime and ending during the winter months with dreams of returning to the cottage.
The book is focused on Ross and his family’s time on their Muskoka island cottage, but the writer draws on an eclectic array of experiences. Included on his resumé is time as a journalist, dogsledder, museum curator and even a movie stuntman.
For Ross, the path to the movie industry was unique. After moving out West he ended up operating a dogsled business and before long Hollywood was calling to make use of his canine expertise.
Ross and his dogs ended up working on a handful of movies including Marmaduke, Snow Dogs, Kevin of the North and, probably his biggest film, Eight Below.
Based on a true story, Eight Below is about a team of sled dogs who were abandoned in Antarctica. The movie starred Paul Walker and saw Ross filling the roll of both stunt and photo double for The Fast and the Furious star.
“It’s easy to be a photo double for a handsome fellow like Paul Walker if you’re all bundled up in parkas, hats and goggles,” jokes Ross. “My face wasn’t worth the $5 million his is.”
As a lover of dogs and someone who has spent significant time around the animals, it’s no surprise that several Cottage Daze stories involve them. Included in the book is the column that elicited the biggest reader response when it originally ran in the Muskoka Sun.
Titled Death of a Dog the column is about Macky, an old sled dog who Ross had worked with for years and is buried at the cottage.
“It’s the only dog I’ve buried at the cottage and it was a bit of a tear jerker. The one thing about pet owners is they like to tell their own tales about their own dogs,” Ross said. “I think cottages are such outdoor places that if you have a dog they’re such a big part of it.”
Another big part of Ross’s cottage experience has been watching his children grow up.
With the constant changes, the writer said the one thing that has remained consistent is the cottage, which has been in his family for 38 years now.
Over that time their getaway has changed from a place where his parents would bring him, to a place where Ross now brings his children. A father of four, the Ross family cottage has been the site for several generations to read books on the dock, play board games in the kitchen and have adventures in the surrounding wilderness.
“When the kids get out there in the trees they’re playing games that you used to play as a kid. Whether it’s manhunt, or whatever the games are, you look back and it’s sort of a sense of déjà vu. You see your kids doing the same things you were doing when you were that age and that’s one of the pleasures of having a cottage for that long,” said Ross.
The book features roughly 150 pages of stories and meditations by Ross. Other topics in the book include watching children grow up, reflections on past trips to the cottage, and musings on local wildlife.
Cottage Daze is available now at your favourite local bookstore or online at Amazon.ca.