I hear it again. To an ear unaccustomed to this sound, it is so haunting. It is the call of the loon, reverberating on the clear, cerulean waters of Lake Rosseau, part of the District of Muskoka, about two or three hour drive north of Toronto, Ontario. I remember hearing this sound years before, on a lake of my childhood, and once its haunting timbre is heard, it is impossible to forget: very like the wistful sounds of the Hardanger fiddle, played only by a few old men, along the fjords of southern Norway. The loon sound, like the unique Norwegian string instrument, has pensive resonance, creating a landscape of memory that only sounds of the past exude. You can listen here:
Both a high-end residence and an elegant sanctuary, the Lake Cottage is an eight bedroom, waterfront estate spanning over a mile of shoreline of Lake Rosseau. On the 40 acres of lakefront property, there is the main house, the Bunkie; a restored bunkhouse, the Cliff House; a guest residence across the lake; and the boathouse with an upper level residence. On the lower level of the boathouse, is the BG Collection of antique speedboats and other pleasure craft, complete with water skis and all varieties of water gear. All are meant to be used by Demeure’s and BG Signature Properties’ clients. In addition, many other unique details add to the property’s active ambiance: a 55-foot high rock climbing wall, a 50-foot high waterfall, and a 200-foot long waterslide that careens from the waterfall down into the water.
As I watched the sun rise and set over a body of water from the bedroom where I slept, my awareness of past and present, or rather my husband’s memory and my own experience co-mingled and became one.
This particular Canadian landscape had already been created in my mind by my husband’s memories, 60 years old, but still sharp, of Muskoka and Lake Rosseau. To him, it was a magical childhood place due to its solitary wildness. And it was through that perceptual filter that I recently traveled to Muskoka and Lake Rosseau, residing in what is called the Lake Cottage, but is in reality a dazzling high end estate. It is part of the enclave of eleven (thus far) significant properties called BG Signature Properties, owned by Canadian developer and entrepreneur, Bobby Genovese. Also, most recently, it is part of the Masterpiece Collection of Demeure, an online travel network provider that operates its own travel marketplace, comprised of over 2,400 properties that include vacation residences, villas, and hotels, with thousands of users.
Muskoka itself has not changed much from the late 1800s; even back then, the magnet was summer refuge from the rattle and hum of urban life, whether it was from Toronto, Pittsburgh, Albany or anyplace else. Then, Canadian and American multi-millionaires — the Labatts, the Eatons, Bronfmans, the Mellons and Carnegies — were among the first to build mansions in this area. Now, Hollywood stars and Canadian hockey players have homes there as well.
But still, looking at the lake in the early morning, and with all those who have built on or near it, it still looked undisturbed, and somewhat uninhabited. I looked further down and saw a small sailboat which held a boy and an older man with fishing rods. While the cottage is a masterwork of exceptional design, the dominating presence is the lake itself. Unimpeded views can seen from almost anywhere in the home, from the living areas to the many bedrooms, in the main house, and certainly from the boat house residence. All the outdoor connecting patios, and many paths leading down to the water, speak of the continuity of peace this entity brings to all who experience it. On its waters, in one of the speedboats, the Zen is all about you, the lake, and the horizon; all else is left on shore.
Upon being given a land tour of the property, I well remembered my husband’s stories. Sixty years ago, most of the people who lived in Muskoka, or on the shoreline were private people — with public personas. They built cottages, homes and estates there because they wanted to escape the rush of urban life, even back then in the 1940s and ‘50s.
Muskoka encompasses an area about the size of Rhode Island, and is clustered around three large lakes: Muskoka, Joseph and Rosseau. With many private islands, and thousands of miles of shoreline, the town’s appeal lies in its seclusion. My accommodations, as well as so many other lodgings, sequester themselves in maple, birch, beech, oak, hemlock and pine. Even when driving on the forested back roads, the houses can rarely be viewed.
Most of what is seen is water, not residence. The lake topography doesn't change much, though the texture and colors change daily. I observed these subtle changes through touring the area, arranged by BG Properties, and from a helicopter arranged by Demeure. Both modes were particularly meaningful, especially in autumn.
The joy of being on Lake Rosseau, in Muskoka, experiencing the significant home of BG Signature Properties/Demeure — a home that combined peaceful sanctuary with high energy play activity — allowed me to realize how little changes in the both the topography of a natural lake and in human memory. The call of the loon, like the call of the past, moves over the water and changes for no one. It was my privilege to stay in this residence, and to experience the autumnal flow of nature and recollection; if only every residence and vacation could offer this much.