Writers present versions of Canadiana in new book
By Jenn Watt
Published July 11, 2017
Patricia Miller has cottaged in the Highlands her whole life. Her parents bought land on Lake Kashagawigamog in 1968, the same property that she and her family now visit throughout the year.
The cottage experience is the quintessential Canadian experience, she said, so when she heard the publishers of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series was doing a Spirit of Canada edition to mark the sesquicentennial, she knew exactly what story to pitch.
“We had a really bad flood up here several years ago, it was Canada Day weekend. And our property sustained a lot of damage,” she recalls. “We went in with our friends thinking it was a regular big storm ... it was evident it was not just your average rainfall.”
Her yard was filled with water and her neighbour’s driveway washed out.
Together with friends and neighbours, the group got to work pushing cars up the driveway and working to mitigate flood damage.
The story, called Many Shovels, is an homage to her father, who died six years ago. He had a huge trove of shovels stored under the cottage, Miller said, which came in particularly handy during the flood.
“We used every shovel because we had to get the cars up. I realized why we had so many shovels,” she said.
Miller and her family divide their time between Kashagawigamog and Bradford, Ont. She’s had several careers over the years and has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Western Ontario and has studied creative writing and Durham College.
While Miller’s idea of Canada is life at the cottage, Minden resident Sharon Lawrence has a different perspective, which is also featured in the Chicken Soup book.
Lawrence’s story is about how she and her late husband, Ron, rescued a chipmunk drowning in the middle of the lake. Many in the Haliburton area know Sharon and Ron Lawrence for their conservation work and Ron’s prolific writing. Over the years, Sharon has been writing short stories about the animals the couple worked with at their sanctuary near Gooderham.
In this story, which is titled Shipwreck, Ron and Sharon are coming back from a trip monitoring beaver lodges and dams for a book Ron was working on. As they paddled across the lake, Sharon noticed something up ahead splashing in the water.
“As we got closer to it I could tell it was a chipmunk in the middle of the lake. Just as we got up to it and Ron put his arm into the water to grasp it, it started to sink. I was horrified,” said Lawrence.
Her husband pulled the little creature into the canoe and started massaging its body.Water came up out of its mouth, but it wasn’t breathing. Nothing happened. So “he did his usual thing,” Lawrence said with a chuckle: mouth to mouth.
“He put it inside his shirt next to his heart and said, ‘pick up your paddle we’ve got to get back there,’” she said.
They brought the chipmunk into the house. Ron stoked the fire while Sharon found a bird cage and some rags for the little waterlogged creature. “After 20 minutes it started to move,” she said.
Once it had recovered, the chipmunk, which they named Shipwreck, took up residence in a rock wall beside the house, demanding peanuts whenever someone was near.
“The following spring we had two furry, baby chipmunks. They were just as impish and bold as their mom,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said she submitted the piece for consideration to the publisher because it represents an accessible piece of Canadian wilderness.
“A chipmunk is something that a lot of Canadians can relate to, whether they’ve visited Algonquin Park or a cottage or even a small park,” she said.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of Canada includes stories from all the provinces and territories and endeavours to represent all sorts of Canadian stories, from the wilderness and cottaging to urban tales and new Canadian perspectives.
“It’s a really nice mix,” Lawrence said.
The stories are only a few pages each, making them easy to tuck into before bed or at the cottage.
Copies are for sale at Master’s Bookstore in Haliburton and is available at the Haliburton County Public Library.