Discover more from Beagle Voyage with Jane Liaw
Collingwood, old and new
Like many resort towns, Collingwood has two faces: one sleek, farm-to-table-y, Tesla-y, kombucha-y, local brewery-y, Torontonian-second-home-y; the other local and small town neighborly, where someone who’s been a hair stylist for nearly 50 years (Taz’s mom) always knows a person who does or provides the very thing you need, be it horseback riding lessons or a luggage scale to borrow.
Though Taz moved away for college decades ago, there are people all over town who still recognize and remember him. (That his family used to be a large proportion of the total Indian population in town probably has a bit to do with it.) When we came to Collingwood last time around, in 2020, we needed a car and headed over to the Toyota dealership. While waiting for a salesperson to help us, Taz saw a childhood friend’s nameplate on a door; we ended up buying our car from him.
That year, we had moved here so that Beanie could go to school in person during school shutdowns. We’d figured out that outdoor schools were still allowed to meet live, and when we discovered a promising forest school, Taz realized after research that it was founded by his sister’s childhood best friend.
Despite the many city people who have flooded the town, driving real estate prices up astronomically and zooming around in their Porsche Cayennes and Macans, there’s still this backbone of local community that holds Collingwood together, which you’ll notice when you stand in line at the post office and eavesdrop, or when you go shopping with your mother-in-law and she knows all the checkout ladies (the latter situation might be specific to me).
I guess the Collingwood Elvis Festival is part of Collingwood old. For 25 years, the town held the largest Elvis impersonator gathering on earth, with thousands descending on the main street here. It was a big deal in the Elvis world. Alas, I’ve never seen it in person, and now I've missed my chance. 2019 marked the last Collingwood Elvis Festival: the town council voted unanimously to stop sponsoring the festival, as attendance was down and they were afraid they'd eventually be on the hook to finance a money-losing venture.
Collingwood is surrounded by farms and farmland, and those have been around for generations, but recently, there’s been a trend of young people moving in to set up or take over small farms. The food from both old-fashioned and younger farms is good and fresh; one group just has sleeker packaging. We visit a number of farms regularly to buy eggs, produce, and prepared meals (I ate too many delicious pies last winter…must not make that mistake again). Apple orchards are abundant too.
I like Collingwood. It’s a very walkable and attractive town, if you don’t mind walking in snow and ice for eight months of the year. I like Collingwood new and I like Collingwood old. I’ve benefited from being Collingwood old-by-proxy, but it’s Collingwood new that brings in the quality restaurants and coffeeshops, plus ethnic aisles in the grocery stores that carry more than just Kikkoman soy sauce.
It’s Collingwood new that supports the one Taiwanese cafe downtown that serves boba tea and egg waffles. Plus—six cannabis dispensaries, which seems like a lot for a town this size. (Maybe city people need help chilling out and slowing down to small town pace?)
Short-term rental prices here are through the roof during peak tourist seasons—five months of winter ski season and three months of summer lake season. Long-term rents, though rising, aren’t nearly as high. If you’re a property owner, it’s very tempting to take your property off the local market and rent to out-of-towners who will pay top dollar for a seasonal rental. It’s a problem we’re seeing in tourist destinations everywhere, and Collingwood is no different.
For a century, until 1986, Collingwood had a major shipbuilding industry and that was its bread-and-butter. Just about everyone worked for Collingwood Shipbuilding or had a connection to it. Now, “the Shipyards” refers to a group of modern condos and houses near the water, and the bread-and-butter of Collingwood is tourism.
And, like many resort towns, Collingwood has made an uneasy deal in exchange for the shiny new things that tourism dollars have bought—not only juice bars and cafes, of course, but better infrastructure for roads and parks and schools. I do sometimes wonder what Collingwood old thinks as it watches Tesla drivers sitting at Supercharger stations, playing with their screens and idling away time, until they’ve banked enough power to drive back home to the city.
Pretty Good Things
Finished your Wordle for the day and looking for something else to play? Worldle is the geography equivalent. Guess the country from its outline.
Finding home in the little things
This week, I was reunited with all the stuff we’d stored in Taz’s family home basement. We’re staying again at one of the houses we’d rented last time. Somehow, having my old cooking sauces, clothes drying rack, and cleaning tools back in a familiar space made me feel quite at home right away. It’s been three days, and we are settled into our Collingwood rhythm already.
I love the glass bottles I bought at a local shop (an “eco-refillery”that sells home products from bulk bins; they seem to be all the rage around here) for my homemade cleaning sprays. It’s funny to realize that when your personal effects are limited—I can’t say “minimal,” since we came with four full suitcases, after all—having homemade cleaning sprays makes a difference to your sense of belonging.
Anyway, in case you’d like to make your own cleaners too, here are the recipes I use.
This is the all-purpose cleaner, not to be used on wood or marble:
1 cup water
1/2 cup 70% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
A few drops of essential oil to make the mixture smell nice (I use citrus oils)
This is the glass cleaner:
1/4 cup 70% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups water
For over two years, Ed Yong has been writing some of the best articles to help us make sense of the pandemic, for which he deservedly won the Pulitzer (his stories can be found in The Atlantic). He’s talked about the toll this deep immersion in Covid reporting has taken on his mental health.
Fortunately, he took a break to recuperate and write a completely unrelated book about animals and how they sense the world. This week, Yong has an essay in the NY Times about this subject:
In 1909, the biologist Jakob von Uexküll noted that every animal exists in its own unique perceptual world — a smorgasbord of sights, smells, sounds and textures that it can sense but that other species might not. These stimuli defined what von Uexküll called the Umwelt — an animal’s bespoke sliver of reality…The Umwelt concept is one of the most profound and beautiful in biology. It tells us that the all-encompassing nature of our subjective experience is an illusion, and that we sense just a small fraction of what there is to sense.