"Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the treehouse; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill." Harper Lee, author - To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman.
Harper Lee's words have just the right touch of nostalgia for the long lost summers of childhood. Who wouldn't want to revisit the innocence of youth and the ignorance of the evil lurking just beyond our own little yard? Looking back to the summers of long ago, we, like Harper Lee, might think of all the summer pleasures of a time gone by with a bit of sadness.
The heat wave we have had for the past week is prolonging the blissful feeling of summer during this last long weekend of the season. For some of us, there is still time for camping and outdoor adventures, sightseeing and visiting new places. For others, the fall routine has begun.
Many children have returned to school and I celebrated the event with friends over several nights this week. Each September marks another year I am free from worrying about grading papers, problem students, course preps, and administrative duties associated with teaching.
But as Canadians, we are not fooled. August nights quietly but surely slip into the cooler September evenings. People gather around fire pits in back yards for warmth as the days become shorter and the nights, longer.
A few Canada geese have been seen leaving for the south. Their distinctive call in the sky will only intensify as the gaggles get bigger and fly to warmer destinations in the weeks ahead. They too know that summer has come to an end and the recent heat wave is only a last gasp before fall sets in.
I shouldn’t get too far ahead of myself. The present time must be enjoyed and there are summer rituals and festivities still to be observed. One of them is the Labour Day weekend Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival.
This is the view across the Ottawa River at dawn (yes, I was there at 6:15 a.m. on a Saturday morning) from the lookout point in Rockliffe Park. It is an area where people gather with their lawn chairs to watch events on the Quebec side of the river. In this case, we were waiting for the first morning lift off of the hot air balloons. Some of us needed blankets and coffee...it was a very cool morning and my toes were frozen.
I had not dressed appropriately and a warm up walk down to the river where there is a marina and a restaurant was just the ticket. Customers had gathered at the outdoor restaurant and were being served their cup of java by the time the first balloons started to lift silently into the sky.
I was surprised at the activity on the river even at this early hour. People were canoeing, kayaking, or sculling. Ottawa is a beautiful place for all kinds of water sports.
This old abandoned boat would be a good subject for a watercolour painting at some time in the future. I am always looking for potential inspiration for my art.
The end of "Sunday Bike Days" also occurs this weekend. We have often taken advantage of the closed parkways to exercise without worrying about traffic. Our preferred route follows the Ottawa River, but we have also cycled along the Rideau Canal downtown to Carleton University, and have ridden on bike paths through wooded areas on the Quebec side all the way to the Aylmer Marina.
The final and best tradition for us this long weekend is our end of summer brunch at Mariposa Farm, a wooded 200 acre property, 45 minutes east of the city. Although by all means not our only or last visit of the year, a summer brunch is always a pleasure for the senses at Mariposa. The minute we enter the property, we know we are in for a treat.
Owners Ian Walker and Suzanne Lavoie raise ducks, geese, poultry, for restaurants in the Ottawa area and for their own restaurant as well as grow their produce and promote local food.
Each Sunday, Suzanne and Ian greet guests as they enter the restaurant and Suzanne presents the menu for the day which always features a choice of three entrees, three main courses, and two desserts and a cheese plate. Regional products such as cheese are always on the menu.
We have been going to Mariposa for the last ten years, at least three times a year, and have never been disappointed. The food is always delicious and fresh, and the owners are very friendly and often know their guests by name as so many of us keep returning time after time.
Below: Chef Matthew and Suzanne Lavoie
The Mariposa duck which the farm supplies to high end restaurants in Ottawa was cooked to perfection. Mouth watering! Everything was simply scrumptious.
Guests at this charming, rustic dining room have a view of the countryside in the distance and the vegetable gardens nearby as well as some of the farm animals. Each season offers its own beauty to patrons at Mariposa.
So, with reluctance, we say goodbye to summer, a soon to be forgotten memory, and hope that winter will be kind to us.