Green cottager prizes, Spring Cottage Life Show survey

April 13th, 2008

Green Cottager Awards

On March 29, Cottage Life announced the recipients of our second annual Green Cottager Awards - meet the recipients. Do you know a worthy green cottager? Nominate them for next year’s awards. Recipients are granted a $2,500 donation to any cottaging- related charity.

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Enough of Silence

September 4th, 2006

My mother recently got the courage (her phrase) to write in my father’s daily cottage journal. The first thing she wrote was, “Enough of silence.” After a month-long hiatus of the South Channel blog, Enough of Silence! My apologies to the blog readers who have faithfully been checking the blog over the past month for a new post, only to find silence.

We are all working through our own ways of coping with my father’s recent death, and I guess taking the break from the blog was one of mine. It’s hard to describe some of the feelings one deals with when confronted with the loss of someone you hold so dear. In the first few weeks after Pop’s passing, many of us who loved him were finding our way day-to-day immersed in the acts of necessity such as planning his funeral, writing obituaries, dealing with financial issues, and generally doing what else had to be done. We were all in a state of shock. Losing someone you love is never easy. However, unexpectedly losing someone like a father, or a mother, or a sibling, or a spouse is especially hard and something that was completely foreign to me. I have read about the various stages of grieving that people go through, but now I have firsthand experience as to just what that means. All in all our family is doing remarkably well in adjusting to the absence of The Channel Man. There has been someone at the cottage several times in August, beginning on the Canadian Civic Holiday early in the month when all of our family was here to scatter Pop’s ashes in the place he so loved. We have continued with the ongoing tasks of maintaining the place, performed water testing, and followed through with other obligations of daily life on the island. We all seem to be ok, or at least as ok as anyone can be expected to be under the circumstances.

My mother arrived back at the cottage solo for the Labour Day weekend on Thursday, and I followed her on Friday afternoon. We have been busy organizing things around the place, attending to some of the projects Pop had underway, and starting the preliminary steps to prepare for closing up the cottage in mid-October. The weather has been comfortable, but “iffy” in terms of the same sporadic precipitation that much of Eastern North America has experiencing, reportedly as a result of disturbances from Tropical Storm Ernesto. Today was overcast with periods of cloudy sun, but overall not too bad. Mom and I went water testing this morning and did some minor tasks in town, one of which was preparing their boat to be put up at the marina for the winter. There has been moderate activity on the bay, but far less than usual for the “last hurrah” weekend of the summer, undoubtedly due to the forecasted unpredictable weather. Results from the water tests will be available on the South Channel website in a couple of days, joining the results from tests done earlier this season including those from August 7th and 21st. Results can be viewed by following this link South Channel Water Quality Results.

I will be heading back to Rochester late tomorrow afternoon, but will be replaced by longtime family friends Donna and Doug Carroll who plan to stay for another week with my mother before returning with her to the Hornell area. Over the years Donna and Doug have spent many weeks at our cottage and this will be their first visit here without Pop. I hope that they will find the spectacular beauty of the Georgian Bay experience and the fond memories of times spent here with Pop as comforting as I do. I know my mother was pleasantly surprised at how good she felt about getting back to the cottage on the trip to spread Pop’s ashes here in early August. This is truly God’s country.

South Channel during the storm

August 3rd, 2006

Yesterday’s weather on the South Channel was the polar opposite from Monday’s. It was overcast all day, with rumblings of thunder that finally let loose in impressive fashion as we were treated to a classic full-blown Georgian Bay electrical storm. There was lots of thunder and lightning, which I fully enjoyed, but Ian and Courage the dog weren’t too sure of. It all culminated with a torrential downpour that more than thoroughly soaked the place and cooled things right down. During the storm we had several flickers of our lights, but this time Ontario Hydro won out and the power stayed on.

Today the weather was iffy, with the sun working to poke through overcast skies. The temperature was pleasant and there was a slight breeze, which is a far cry from the torrid weather back in New York. Kiera, Ian, Courage, and I went in to town around noon to do errands and pick up the rest of the Topping Crew; my mom, wife, sister, and nephew, and Mom’s two dogs Sounder and Parker. We timed things perfectly and met up in Sobey’s parking lot, where I pulled in right next to Mom who was waiting with the dogs at the car. She was more than happy to see us.

Mom has been a bit apprehensive about returning to the cottage. However, soon after we arrived at the island she found herself relieved at how quickly she got caught up in the beauty of the area and rediscovering the joy of just being here. This is still a very difficult time for our family, with each of trying to find our way through process of coping with our loss. This trip promises to be especially emotional, because Mom brought half of Pop’s ashes with her and we are planning on scattering them tomorrow if the weather cooperates. We will be taking a shore lunch to enjoy on Mineral Island, and Mom has a special tree in mind that Pop used to sit on where we will spread some of the ashes. We will also scatter some in the channel off our dock and inter some on our property. Although we are all grieving over our loss, we are upbeat about honoring Pop’s wishes and moving closer to some kind of closure. Pop would be proud.

Fox snake in South Channel

August 1st, 2006

The weather was spectacular here today in Parry Sound. We enjoyed lots of sunshine, a mild breeze, and temperatures in the mid 30s °C (90+ °F). However, this was cool beans compared to the heat wave hitting the US right now. New York City registered 37.2 C ° (99°F) today with a heat index of 111°F, and power outages were widespread.

Ian and I went water testing yesterday, and Ian was of much assistance. We incubated the samples overnight and read the results together tonight. All sites showed slight increases in recorded total coliforms and the only perfect samples were those of my control blank sample and another sample I took directly from the water tap in our cottage sink. The full results should be available on the South Channel website in the next day or two.

Today we relaxed and mostly stayed out of the direct sun, and in the afternoon we went for a little swim. Ian fished off our dock and caught a nice smallmouth bass, which we released. A group of 12 or 15 geese were playing hide-n-seek in the reeds in our cove, and eventually they came out and waddled around on the beach, stopping every now and then for a snack. Courage the dog was very interested, but wisely kept his distance. He had been following and intently watching a duck family paddle around the cove yesterday, but he seemed to know that the Canada Geese were in a different league in terms of size and attitude.

Yesterday afternoon, Ian and I spotted a large fox snake near our pump house where we conduct and record water tests. It was strikingly patterned in brown and a beautiful shade of yellowish-green, and was about four feet in length. I have seen larger specimens in the past, most notably a six footer that was swimming smack in the middle of the bay near Sans Souci not closer than a quarter mile from the nearest land, but a four foot snake is still a pretty good sized snake.

Fox Snake

Ian was very impressed with the defensive tactic employed by the fox snake when we startled it. Fox snakes will vibrate their tails producing a rattling or buzzing sound, especially when rubbing against dry leaves. This behavior often causes them to be misidentified as Rattlesnakes, Bullsnakes, and because of their copper-colored head, Copperheads. Unfortunately, they are often killed because of this. Fox snakes are terrific swimmers and can grow to about 7 feet in length, and they are common here on the South Channel. In fact, I saw another approximately 18” long example as I walked on the cottage path tonight.

The white water rafting trip at Ohiopyle State Park in Pennsylvania was fantastic!

July 28th, 2006

The white water rafting trip at Ohiopyle State Park in Pennsylvania was fantastic! The Topping Clan was treated to the excitement of some pretty good rafting, the closeness of kin, and absolutely beautiful weather. Ohiopyle is about a 6 hour trip from Rochester and is located about ten miles north of the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border, and was well worth the trip. Here are some photos of us all running the rapids at Dimple Rock on our rafting trip with Laurel Highlands River Tours.


From left to right; Lance, Ian, Ryan, and Suzanne.


Johanna, Karen, Kyle, Kiera, and Gary.


Lance and Ryan. Ian and Suzanne have “hit the deck.”


Cap’n Gary and crew in heavy whitewater, fighting to stay in the raft.

The kids and I (and of course Courage the dog) will be heading north this weekend to Parry Sound to attend to some unfinished business. We will be catching up on water testing this trip, and plan on performing tests this coming weekend and again early in the week after next just after the Canadian long-weekend holiday. The exact name of the holiday (officially known as “The Canadian Civic Holiday”) varies from family to family, with such tags as “The Two-Four Weekend” (for 24 beers in a case) and the “Goddamn Long Weekend” common in the vernacular.

Suzanne, my mother, my sister, and my nephew Elijah will joining us at the cottage mid-week. Our mission is to continue on with the water testing that was so important to our father, and to spread some of his ashes in the place he loved. We plan on scattering some of his cremains in three Georgian Bay places revered by Pop; so called Mineral Island, a small uninhabited island near Sans Souci which Pop named for its wide array of diverse rock and mineral deposits; the South Channel in front of our cottage; and in the special gravesite Pop made for his faithful and beloved dog Shadrach, which Pop mourned over for quite some time after he died. We will then raise the flags at our cottage back to full mast.

Here are some photos from Kiera’s “I’m Eighteen and Spreading My Wings” birthday flight

July 25th, 2006

Here are some photos from Kiera’s “I’m Eighteen and Spreading My Wings” birthday flight, taken with Kiera’s digital camera.


Here are Kiera and her friend Erika in front of the float plane just after enjoying the flight.


This is a photo of the Parry Sound inner harbor at the mouth of the Sequin River. You can see the “Big Sound” in the background behind the large dark-roofed building in the upper left side of the picture, which is the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts and home to the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame.


Here is a shot of Craganmor Point on McLaren Island in the South Channel near Seven Mile Narrows. Our cottage can be seen in the lower center of the photo, just above a small island in the channel. You can clearly see the bright blue tarp covering my work boat, which is in storage on a marine railway build by Brent Warga on our beach.

Here are photos of the bagpipers outside Trinity Church in Canaseraga playing for Pop’s funeral

July 24th, 2006

Here are photos of the bagpipers outside Trinity Church in Canaseraga playing for Pop’s funeral, courtesy of Peggy Ann Glaister. Pop always liked the sound of the pipes and they were the perfect punctuation to a celebration of his life.

The Topping cousins are heading out of town for a three day white-water rafting trip in Ohiopyle State Park in Pennsylvania

July 23rd, 2006

The Topping cousins are heading out of town for a three day white-water rafting trip in Ohiopyle State Park in Pennsylvania, about an hour southeast of Pittsburgh. Going on the adventure are my wife Suzanne, daughter Kiera, and son Ian; my sister Johanna and her son Elijah; cousin Gary from Maryland, his wife Eileen, and sons Kyle and Ryan; and my other cousin Karen from Connecticut (Gary’s sister), her husband Alan, and their daughter Leah.

The park’s website describes it as follows:

“A crown jewel of the Pennsylvania park system, Ohiopyle is situated where the slopes of Laurel Ridge clash with the Youghiogheny River. This clash has resulted in waterfalls, whitewater rapids, scenic overlooks, rock outcroppings, and a steep mountainous landscape. Combine that with a maturing forest and wildlife, and you’ve got a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds, for all seasons.” More information can be found on the website by clicking on this link Ohiopyle State Park.

Below is a panaoramic photo of the beautiful Thirty Thousand Island area in the heart of Georgian Bay on Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada. The shot was taken by my daughter Kiera while on her birthday float plane ride.

As a follow-on to the announcement of my mother assuming the role of warden at Trinity Church in Canaseraga

July 22nd, 2006

As a follow-on to the announcement of my mother assuming the role of Warden at Trinity Church in Canaseraga, here is a photo of Trinity taken by Peggy Ann Glaister on the morning of of Pop’s funeral. I had looked online for pictures to include with my earlier posts about Trinity, but could find none. Thank you Peggy for sharing them with us.

Trinity Episcopal Church was organized July 22, 1857. The corner-stone of the church building was placed Sept. 26, 1864, and the edifice, built at a cost of $8,000, was dedicated Dec. 14, 1865. A rectory was built later at a cost of $1,500.

It’s time to tell the story of Saint Andrew’s Cross

July 21st, 2006

It’s time to tell the story of the Saint Andrew’s cross.

Saint Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland, and St. Andrew’s Day is celebrated by Scots around the world on the 30th November. The flag of Scotland is the Cross of St. Andrew, and this is widely displayed as a symbol of national identity. The “Order of Saint Andrew” or the “Most Ancient Order of the Thistle” is an order of Knighthood which is restricted to the King or Queen and sixteen others. It was established by James VII of Scotland in 1687.

Very little is really known about St. Andrew himself. He was thought to have been a fisherman in Galilee, along with his elder brother Simon Peter (Saint Peter), and both of them became apostles of Jesus Christ. St. Andrew is said to have been responsible for spreading the tenets of the Christian religion though Asia Minor and Greece. Tradition suggests that St. Andrew was put to death by the Romans in Patras, Southern Greece by being crucified cross in the shape of an ‘X’. The diagonal shape of this cross is said to be the basis for the Cross of St. Andrew which appears on the Scottish Flag.

Many years ago my mom tipped me off that my father had admired a cross and chain he had seen in the bookstore of Diocesan House on East Avenue in Rochester, the headquarters of the Rochester Episcopal Diocese and not far from our present home on Ericsson Street. Pop visited the bookstore when he was serving on the Standing Committee (sort of like the Board of Directors for the Diocese) under the leadership of The Rt. Rev. Robert R. Spears, Jr. in the 1970s. I acted on my mother’s tip and purchased the cross, which was in the style of Saint Andrew’s, and I gave the silver cross and chain to my father as a Christmas gift. Pop was thrilled, and started wearing the cross full-time immediately. This all happened over 25 years ago, and my father had rarely if ever removed the cross since then. In fact you can see the cross in the photo below, which was the one used for Pop’s obituary and was taken a few years ago.

After Pop was rushed via ambulance to the emergency room at St. James Mercy Hospital in Hornell and was there on a BiPAP ventilator, the attending nurse, who was merely following hospital protocol, started the motions to remove the cross from his neck. However, Pop had other ideas and steadfastly refused to surrender it, shaking his head vehemently from side-to-side indicating that he wasn’t going to give it up without a fight. The nurse acquiesced, as many other nurses did that followed her during the period of his hospitalization, and the cross stayed on him.

When Pop was in the ICU at Highland Hospital I would always straighten the cross on his neck and chest, untangling it from the knot of monitor wires and various types of tubes for medication and sustenance, and the connections for his ventilator. Finally one afternoon, just prior to him getting a tracheotomy, the staff had to adjust his intubation tube and the cross was in the way, so they snipped the continuous chain with surgical shears. When my mother and I went back in to visit him, I spotted the cross and chain on the table in his ICU room. We quickly grabbed the cross for safekeeping so it wouldn’t be lost or misplaced in the in the hospital.

The weekend before Pop’s funeral, we went to visit Mom in Hornell to plan the specifics of the service and interment. While there, my mother gave me the cross and chain and said she wanted me to have them. Later that week just before Pop’s funeral, Suzanne and I went to Krikorian & Co. Jewelers in Rochester where three weeks prior we had purchased a ring for our daughter Kiera’s High School graduation. I showed the cross and chain to Harry Krikorian, a very friendly and talented Master Jeweler which I have been a customer of for some time now, and explained the circumstances. Harry quickly swept the cross and chain away and disappeared into the back room. Amazingly, he returned in less than five minutes with the cross in hand gleaming like new, and the chain fully repaired. I asked him how much I owed him, and he just smiled and said, “No charge.” I put the chain and cross over my neck as we left the store and haven’t taken it off since, wearing it silently, but proudly, under my shirt and tie at the funeral. I intend to continue to wear it always.