… A Cottage Girl’s Fairytale in the Forest
Little girls dream of this day. Their wedding day, and how it will be. I imagined my wedding in many different ways through time, and it changed as I got older. When I was between the ages of 6 and 13, I imagined my special day being shared with “Winnie” – our family’s Labrador mixed breed dog. I knew she’d be there, probably because when I was a little girl I thought “Winnie” would live forever. I also knew that weddings were very special and that only family and very special friends came to your wedding. So … OF COURSE “Winnie” would be there!
When I was 17, I imagined myself walking up the aisle with “Molson”. This handsome Collie X Golden Retriever was the reason I got into dog training. I always thought that girls got married in their early 20’s so I thought “Molson” was a ‘sure thing’. I had his tux all picked out for our big day.
When I was “30 something” I thought I had finally met the dog that would walk with me down the aisle. However, as it turned out, it would NOT be “Duke” – the 170lb Boston Great Dane. Would my dream EVER come true? (I would often wonder)
It wasn’t until 2005 that I would meet the dashing young boy of my dreams, who would share the day that I had always dreamt of. His name? “Smiley”. And … two years after that, I met my husband–to-be Darrin. He said “I do” in agreement to having “Smiley” the little Golden Retriever with no eyes accompany us in reciting our vows to each other. He was marrying us both anyways!
Most girl’s dream of wearing a princess-style, white, poofy dress walking down a long aisle in a church as big as a castle. The reception hall is filled with roses, the finest champagne, and 300 guests waiting to be served a 4 course dinner. There are bridesmaids, flowergirls, ushers, a best man, a matron of honour and … oh yah, a groom too! Sounds like every girl’s fairytale right? Nope. Cottage girls are different. We see elegance in a different way than most.
My wedding was planned around my most favourite place in the world – our family cottage on Kennisis Lake in Haliburton, On. This would be a ‘cottage wedding’. A long weekend of bon fires, flip flops, friends & the outdoors.
The glamour and elegance would come from the trails and tall trees of the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve. The ceremony would take place in a clearing in the 70,000 acres of forest and lakes that make up this privately owned piece of heaven. Guests from out of town would get the full cottage weekend experience staying in the quaint, rustic cabins onsite in the forest.
We prayed for sunshine on that day, but by noon that day the rain was still coming down. I was busy at the cottage putting my bouquet together with the flowers that grew along the Kennisis Lake road in June – daisies and what I used to call ‘buttercups’.
“Smiley” was getting ready too – although he didn’t have the jitters as I did as I continued to watch more dark clouds come across Big Kennisis. Maybe he knew that the skies over the Highlands of Haliburton would open up just enough to let the sun shine through at exactly 2:30 on June 28th 2008. Smiley had practiced carrying that little pillow with the soft rope and had visited that ‘special spot’ in the forest so many times, he could sense the importance of this day.
Our families and friends portaged their way to the clearing to find unique wedding bombonieres tied up in tiny white organza bags on their chairs. Bug spray! You cottagers know what it would have been like in June!
So my dream had come true … I wedded the man of my dreams in front of my family and friends and had a childhood daydream fulfilled. In the forest that I had once explored with my dog “Winnie”, who I thought would live forever, and be there forever, WAS there. She was there with “Molson” and “Duke”, spiritually guiding “Smiley” down the aisle of wood shavings to the altar made of large rocks and driftwood. “Smiley” took on the George name as I did that day. Darrin loves that little blind dog as his very own. And like a child, I find myself praying that “Smiley” too will live forever & ever.
By Joanne Whiteley George