Taking the Leap

By Josey Vogels

Diving at North Bay, Paudash Lake, by Chris Gualtieri

It’s one of those childhood memories that you’re not sure you remember because you actually remember or because there's photo evidence. I’m 11, and standing on the deck of a cottage on Paudash Lake. I’m wearing a red polyester sleeveless top with gold buttons on the pockets and matching navy blue shorts (I definitely remember the outfit. Loved it. It came with another set of identical red shorts and matching navy top so you could create several “matching” outfits — yes, it was the 70s!). 

Two of my brothers and I were spending a couple weeks with our cousins at their rented cottage on Paudash Lake. It was the height of summer. Long, hot days spent swimming, reading comic books in the A-frame cottage loft. Those first, failed attempts at water skiing, (hey, you try to hear the cries of 'let go of the rope!' when you’re gagging on gallons of lake water), blueberry-picking on Blueberry Hill, and, of course, the diving rocks. 

I can still vividly picture my trying-to-be-brave 11-year old self standing on the ledge of that big rock face shaking like a leaf as my older cousin Rick stood below and egged me on. Well... more like goaded me into…okay, taunted me into jumping. I stood there for what felt like hours contemplating, assessing the drop. I finally mustered all the courage my awkward pre-teen body would muster and took the plunge, gangly legs flailing. I still joke that I believe that may have been the day I lost my virginity.

Fast-forward to 2005. My husband Daniel and I got married in August that year. The honeymoon plan was to take our restored, vintage fibreglass Beachcomber trailer on the road to Mexico for two months. Instead, for reasons I still don’t quite remember, we found ourselves that September driving up from Toronto to look at a vacant lot on the Irondale River, with loose plans to park our trailer there instead. Invest in some real estate, you know? Even though we had no money to invest. Next thing you know, we're making an offer on a cottage on Paudash Lake. It’s all a bit of a blur. But we saw it and fell in love. We hadn’t even talked to the bank, and as we were both self-employed, there were some major hoops to jump through to get a mortgage approval. But we were determined, and we made it work.

The first summer we spent up here, I was determined to tackle that damn diving rock again. And so I found myself standing on that ledge, immediately re-inhabiting my 11-year old self. Though, if possible, I was even more terrified. I hate heights. But I leaped. As I clambered back into the boat, I vowed to conquer this stupid fear of heights and decided this diving rock was going to be my therapy. I would jump every year until I won.

Fast forward ten years. Ten years!! Buying our cottage was the best impulse purchase we’ve ever made. As freelancers renting an apartment in Toronto, the loose plan was to maybe semi retire up here in a decade or so. Three years later, in 2008, we moved up full time and haven’t looked back. I switched careers from freelance writing to real estate and love it. Daniel works with me as my photographer. We’re a great team.

As for my pledge to conquer the diving rock every summer...well, the second summer we spent here, I found myself once again quivering on that ledge, heart pounding, full of fear. I almost climbed back down. But that way was even worse. There was only one way to go. I jumped, screaming at the top of my lungs the whole way down. And then, as I climbed back into the boat, I made myself a new promise.

'Screw it,' I said to myself. I don’t need to prove anything. I’m never jumping off that stupid ledge ever, ever again.

As for getting over my fear of heights. I decided that fear is what makes you leap when you least want to. And that’s not something I need to get over.