Shana and I soak up the heat of the noonday sun, our naked bodies camouflaged by the rocks. I sit up and scan other tanned, baking bodies lying flat and lifeless like seashells strewn along the shore. The calm water, warm sun and drowsy conversation lure not just me but jet set celebrities and rich I.T. executives. They migrate from Los Angeles and Silicon Valley to plant their beachfront homes on Millionaires Row in Muskoka.
I migrate from Toronto to plant a kiss on the lips of my travel companion, Shana. I tilt my head back and offer up a sign of surrender to the bright blue sky, my arms outstretched messiah-style. Shana opens a multicoloured umbrella to protect my Scandinavian skin from overexposure. The cosmetic companies call it "sun management." I call it "fear of aging."
Lake Muskoka is the place to be, where pleasures never evade one's grasp, where boys boogie-board behind meteor-fast Cobalt 250 powerboats, testing their testosterone against the waves. A cacophony of music blares out of a boom box 200 yards away: "I wish they all could be California girls."
I pick up my binoculars to get a better view of the water traffic. Yuppie stockbrokers pose as seasoned sailors manoeuvring their wooden tillers, mimicking journeys to the centre of the earth to negotiate with the gods over natural resources. In reality, their goal is to go public on the Exchange in time for Christmas cheer.
Looking at this type of tableau is the price one must pay to worship at the feet of Mammon. I worship escape. I travel through life carrying a knapsack full of contradictions. Still, I welcome being led down a garden path, freed from Toronto's concrete embrace. I have temporarily traded my parish past for this yoga and pina colada present.
Canoeing against the current is like moving across time zones, to and fro, my body swinging like a pendulum through time. After 30 minutes of muscular manoeuvring, I finally reach Windermere House and treat myself to a drink at the Muskoka Pub. What a lovely hybrid of faith and folly. I am making good progress.
While I slowly nurse my pina colada, my mind is listless, riddled with the strains of an honest gospel I once followed.
Is this the Holy Land or lotus land? Why is everything for sale here on Millionaires Row? Possession is the prize of the enterprising, but never the traveller. Tattoos on my feet remind me that I, too, am decorated property, a sojourner passing through time and space. The serenity of the beach helps me remember that I can have without holding.
As I survey the vast expanse of majestic lake spread out before me, I can't help but marvel at what is mine: the sky and sun above, the fresh water and sand below. I'm stretched out on Avery Beach, mile upon mile of sand. I smell of seaweed, my skin the colour of the sun, my body hugging the earth.
Take me away from Millionaires Row, from the rich celebrities and drunken I.T. execs, the same cast of characters marching in sync with technology.
While Bay Street continues to build towers of Babylon higher and higher in the sky, I dig deeper and deeper in the sand.
Just then, Shana rolls her bikini-clad body toward me and yawns. "Ahhh, I'm tired. What time is it anyway, sweetpea?"
"Noon," I reply.
She sits up in the sand, removes her sunglasses and rubs her eyes. "You know, Muskoka really isn't the wild party place you'd expect," she says.
As I squint at the sky, she moves in closer and begins to caress my shoulder and run her tongue down the base of my neck.
"Come on", she whispers in my ear, "let's blow this popsicle stand and find us some real fun!" As I turn to face her, we exchange mischievous smiles. She motions to the beach house we've rented, where a freshly made bed awaits sex-driven sunbathers.
The spirit of reward travel: Muskoka magic!