I first started working at Clevelands House after my first year at University. I went back to school the next year and was forever changed. For a course paper, I was asked to write about my favourite place, and it was fairly obvious to me what I had to write about. Here is that piece, written in September 2009, after my first summer of working at Clevelands House.
Clevelands House, Muskoka
For one week every summer since the age of three, I have experienced a great vacation at a humble Muskoka Resort called Clevelands house, or Cleves as many call it. Over the course of 16 years, I have come to have a special love for this place. This past summer I had the opportunity to work there. I went to Cleves thinking I’d know what to expect, but really having no idea of how great my summer was going to be. I had little awareness of the fact that through good times and bad, the steadiness of the nature around me, and calm or the storm, would constantly be there to offer comfort and share its secrets throughout a summer of new experiences and familiar ways. There are various aspects of Muskoka that draw me back year after year, including the lush forests, the never-ending deep lakes, and finally the lifestyle.
It’s a Thursday, mid-July in the early evening, and all I can hear is my feet hitting the pavement, my heart racing, and my steady breaths as I take in the fresh cottage air. Today is a special day, I feel the need to veer off my usual jogging course, and instead of following the road, I take the steep trail that leads to lookout point. This is a tough hike, but for some reason, today, I can do it. I listen now to my feet crushing the leaves and debris the surrounding trees have left on the ground. All I can do is take it in. As I pass through this beautiful forest, I can hear squirrels scurry away from me, and I feel completely at ease with nature. The trees move with me, I push myself harder, and harder up this steep incline, and am finally there. I stand on a rock at the top of this forest, standing tall, out of breath, and in awe. The sun is still shining, hitting the water beautifully. The islands dot the lake, and the trees create a masterpiece of such greenery that one cannot help but stare. I begin to imagine the stories these trees hold, and think about the animals that roam around these lush forests. Bears, deer, moose, to name a few. I decided to walk down the trail and instead admire all that surrounded me as I caught my breath, this time not from the jog, but from the view.
The end of July, my parents come to stay at Cleves for the week, they bring the boat. It’s my day off, and I’m laying on the dock, itching to get into the water. I grab my 3 best friends, hop in the boat, and take off into the middle of Lake Rosseau. I kill the engine, and we all take in every aspect of our lives, each of us totally submerged in our own thoughts, surrounded by water, islands, and little else. There are few boats on the lake this day, and I take the lead by diving off the bow of this old 1978 Grew. Carley, Brittany, and Kelsey follow suit and soon after we are mermaids. Laughing, splashing, leaping into the warm summer lake water. We remain in the water for what feels like hours, it’s our day off, we don’t need to keep track of time. Someone hits the radio, I start the engine, and we’re off again, zooming through the water, letting our hair dry in the warm summer breeze. No need for towels on this day. We head back to the beautiful Muskoka resort we call home, go sit on the veranda that overlooks Lake Rosseau, order a cold beer, and reflect. Mermaids for the day, not bad.
Day? Everyday. I wake up with my 5 roommates at 7:40 am. We rush around the room in a daze, robot like, finding each piece of our uniform, quickly brushing our teeth and washing our faces, and then sprinting to the punch clock for 7:45 am. We then serve breakfast. Yes, we are waitresses in a fine dining room. The shift passes, and we head back to bed, only to wake up an hour and a half later to do the same thing all over again. After lunch all the staff head down to the dock, or beach. We swim, play volleyball, listen to music, talk about the insanity that happened the night before, and just enjoy the time that we all have left together. The staff members are made up of people from all over the world. Jamaica, Sweden, Pakistan, Australia, Ireland, England, just to name a few. After this magic summer, we all part ways and this exact group will never again be. It’s a heart-wrenching reality that never sits well. We dismiss these thoughts and go back to enjoying our days. Five o’clock strikes, we all make our way towards the staff dining room to eat dinner together, we are each others family for these two months. We are soon off to work again, only to meet up again after hours when the resort shuts down, and we just are just beginning. We head down to the dock with towels and pillows to star gaze and go for a midnight dip. Our shifts may have gone horribly that day, we may have gotten in trouble for making mistakes at work, or we could have been feeling homesick, but whatever had happened to us that day was left in those moments. We took advantage of our favourite place and the people who made this place what it was. Magic.
The never ending trees, the islands left unexplored, the animals, the lake, the people. Clevelands House would not be my favourite place if even just one of these elements were missing. I have made connections with the forests, explored those islands, watched deer graze, experienced the lake and all it’s wonder, and formed lifelong bonds with the people. There are books (The History of Clevelands House – Magic Summers), and movies on Cleves (a documentary that was released this past summer), just proving that it is other peoples favourite place as well. C.H. has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, and spending this past summer there just made me appreciate it even more. I will never forget the memories I have created while in Muskoka. It is so much more than just a Muskoka resort, it’s my favourite place.