MY SUGAR POINT HEART
By Lisa Lysen
Gentle sounds of gulls and rhythmic waves echo in the heavens above,
returning hauntingly to my ears, resounding in my heart.
Enchanted, I watch as nature’s magnificence paints itself around me;
Glorious imperfections perfected with every brushstroke.
Awakening, I see I too am but a brushstroke in life’s portrait,
My soul relaxes.
By Lisa LysenAn edited version of this story, called “The Lundar Open” can be found in The Cottager magazine -March/April 2018 edition
Now that’s not typically a word you associate with snow and ice, but then part of the charm of cottage living is that things here are seldom typical.
Although technically it’s spring, a frosty layer of white still covers a barren, frozen lake, spreading seemingly forever toward the distant horizon. Loose powdery snow gusts and swirls everywhere, powered by biting, cold winds.
And at first glance, Lundar Beach looks as deserted as you’d expect on a blustery day such as this.
But a little closer look reveals movement; colorful, unusual movement, parkas topped with scarves and toques, gloved hands clutching bright yellow tennis balls and golf clubs, even a boat paddle or two.
Since the 1980’s when the Danielson family hosted their first game of Snow Golf, getting out onto the lake to play a round and welcome spring to the beach has been an annual event for this upbeat and fun cottage community.
Part of the challenge each year is that springtime in Manitoba is famously unpredictable. The last Saturday in March has sometimes been as friendly and welcoming as the cottagers who make Lundar Beach/Sugar Point their haven, other times as frigid and cold as, well, springtime in Manitoba.
But whatever the weather may be, it doesn’t stop the fun! Snow Golf is a tradition everyone looks forward. It’s a great way to get together after a long winter and “break the ice” so to speak.
Hosts Renee and Barry Danielson, with the help of neighbour Scott Ward are careful to take precautions and make sure no actual dangerous ice is ever really broken.
And whether its creativity or plain old cabin fever, a big huge part of the fun is planning the “golf course” each year. Imaginative homemade obstacles and improvised hazards are always being added to the venue, keeping things entertaining and interesting.
Snow Golf can look a lot like Snow Mini Golf, which captures the attention of players of all ages and makes it a great family event.
Some years donations of discarded Christmas trees have provided “forests” to maneuver, another year a toilet seat appeared! Did someone say that was the “turd” hole? Yikes!
Names are drawn from a hat, mixing up teams and making it easy for everyone to mingle and chat after winter’s hibernation. Most years that works very well but occasionally the wind has joined the party, grabbed the hat full of papers and scattered golfers everywhere!
A “concession stand” is set up where players meet to warm up over snacks and beverages and brag a little or laugh a lot as they compare games and scorecards.
And of course, a day of playing outside on the ice is always better with a big pot of chili waiting inside a warm and welcoming cottage!
An after-party where everyone can kick back, relax, and enjoy chatting about some of the great putts and drives of the day is as much fun as golfing on the ice.
It all paves the way for warmer days to come, setting the mood for summertime sunshine!
Because His Blue Jays are Bluer!
A home anywhere is made special by the people it entertains. Today I’m posting this for George and Kathy who have always made our home more special be being our neighbours and by becoming our friends. We’ve laughed lots over the years! They’ve encouraged us and given us opportunities to share and enjoy the experience of our book. They make great pizza! And who doesn’t love a neighbour who makes great pizza 🙂 Even better, they’ve shared their beautiful family with our beautiful family.
Sadly, George has not always been as willing to share his birds with us … which has led to even more laughing! (Because they like us better … but don’t tell George … lol)
Thanks to Wayne Dent for the beautiful Blue Jay photo, Pixabay free images for the Bittern and to Pat Dunlop for the amazing close-up of Pelicans!
By Lisa Lysen
Thank you InterLake Pulse magazine for publishing this article.
“Hey! You’re stealing my birds!” a voice bounces playfully across the deck, as a little hummingbird floats between yards. Good neighbours and humour always livens things up at the cottage.
But with all the birds in the Interlake, we’re in no hurry to send our visitor back, even with that cute comment.
An hour’s drive from Winnipeg, Sugar Point on Lake Manitoba offers the beauty and solitude of lake living within arm’s reach of the city. And a big part of what keeps things interesting is the birds coming and going as the months roll by.
There’s beautiful plumage and colour all year long with constant seasonal change-ups of purple martins, robins, finches, flycatchers, barn swallow and grosbeaks, to name only a few of our treasured guests.
Each year in a quick, fiery blaze of orange and black Orioles make our home theirs for a short time, enjoying citrus fruits we put out.
Sugar Point is on a migration route, giving this piece of Lake Manitoba an extra dose of charm. As much as possible,the landscape is left intact. There are bulrushes and rocky patches all along the beach, the rugged beauty often adorned with birds fishing, swimming or simply sunning themselves, enjoying the day!
The natural splendor of the shallow shoreline is a draw for swans as ice comes off the lake in early spring. They stop only briefly on their way north but enjoying their company for the time they share with us is pure magic.
And seeing them lets us know better weather is just around the corner!
Taking a walk along the same bewitching shoreline in summer can suddenly take a very scary horror movie twist when a booming “Baah-RONK” echoes from surrounding reeds. Especially when frogs and all those gentle marshy sounds go deafeningly quiet!
As much as it may sound like a swamp monster, the bittern actually looks more like a harmless reed from a distance. A dull brownish color, it stands with long neck stretched upward, beak pointed toward the sky. Bitterns eat small aquatic creatures hence the sudden quiet when one starts talking.
Sugar Point Trail mid-summer is an enchanting sight. Bulrushes sway rhythmically beneath yellow-headed blackbirds. The bright yellow, dark black contrast against wheat-colored reeds and greenery spreading out over fields paints a spectacular prairie scene.
Red-winged blackbirds join in, adding a cheerful pop of color to the mix. Blue herons fish in ditches and sand hill cranes feast on crops in bordering fields. Many varieties of woodpeckers can be seen climbing trees everywhere.
Over the summer we watch families of ducks and geese grow up. We also host pelicans and eagles. Sandpipers and plovers bounce along the beach and there’s certainly no shortage of seagulls.
Killdeers practice their broken wing routines leading real and imaginary predators away from nests and hawks frequent telephone poles watching for movement that might become prey, as do ravens, magpies, even owls.
Starlings chase crows across the sky, a reminder that there’s a constant battle going on within the bird world.
As fall becomes winter the bird scene changes drastically but stays colourful and entertaining just the same.
Chickadees, blue jays,cedar waxwings, wrens and nuthatches take turns at the feeders with juncos and finches. Sparrows join in, hopping up and down, chattering. Before long the snow is covered with tiny footprints and scattered shells.
Whatever the season, it’s great laughing with neighbours and enjoying the bird escapades at Sugar Point.
Of Biblical Proportion
By Lisa Lysen
The picture in my mind’s eye never fades. It haunts me as I sleep. It appears before me at random almost every day, sending a shiver through me as I’m suddenly sent plummeting back to relive that ugly, terrifying morning.
The lake is angry; angry and fierce, alive with a power hidden from view on calm summer days.
It’s June 13th, 2011 and it’s anything but a calm summer day at Sugar Point.
The air around us is cold, the sky dark and threatening, as though the early morning light will never be able to cast off the darkness of the terrible night. No wonder ancients believed they had enraged the gods when storms like this one struck.
My forearms are raw, covered with scratches and bruises and my whole body aches. I’m exhausted with physical exhaustion that robs all strength and yet driven by anxiety that defies a restful nights’ sleep.
The wind is howling, the rain beating down mercilessly and despite our weeks of back-breaking hard, hard labor, the lake has finally taken total control.
It’s all too clear now that it had really only been playing with us all along, letting us build our little sandbag castles around our homes and our lives.
But now it’s obvious; the lake’s authority is absolute.
Once it decided to finally end all our games, we didn’t stand a chance against the incredible force and power.
The destruction that occurs within mere seconds is ferocious and yet it’s difficult to not be awestruck by the supremacy at play as well. We are completely at nature’s mercy.
The sandbags we’ve piled relentlessly for weeks on end to protect our futures, our homes, our cottages, our dreams are being flipped and tossed with a speed and force unimaginable unless witnessed.
Devastation surrounds us.
A musty smell hangs in the dampness that envelops us, as grit fills the air, intensifying with each slam of one lifeless sandbag after another against the saturated ground.
Amid tears and panic, we try desperately to change the obvious course fate has chosen. We can’t allow ourselves to admit defeat although to a more rational eye it would be clear we are losing the battle.
In the grey of the morning and the pouring rain, amidst raging winds and monstrous waves, we frantically try to restore our dike as it is being torn apart before us.
Our bodies and now our spirits, too, ache. Our denial is almost as powerful as the dominance the lake is displaying.
But we know the fight is truly lost when the call comes for us to evacuate.
We had been living under the threat of a 24-hour evacuation notice for a month, maybe more. When the time finally hits we have less than twenty minutes to toss our valuables into the backs of our vehicles and flee.
And flee we do, suddenly fighting against a fierce current flowing across what less than half an hour before had been a gently winding gravel road. Huge carp appear, swimming before us as we drive. We struggle not to float into flooded ditches we can no longer see.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
We’d been living on the shore of Lake Manitoba for five years, almost to the day when it happened. In June of 2006, we sold our Winnipeg home to retire at the lake.
Sugar Point was, for us, a dream come true, a perfect balance, offering the beauty and solitude of lake life within arm’s reach of family and friends in the city.
Many times we had witnessed the strength and force of Lake Manitoba, but always from a safe, well-planned distance. Until the fateful spring of 2011, each of the homes in our small lakefront community had been a third of a football field or more away from the lake’s naturally shallow basin. We could wander down and sit on the beach to toast glorious sunsets or enjoy them from a hundred and twenty feet away on our decks.
Never did we suspect a decision would someday be made to bring the lake waters crashing almost into our living rooms.
But, in the spring of 2011, after a series of unusually rainy summers, a merciless winter of unrelenting snowfalls and one final blow delivered in the form of a blizzard May 1st, a decision was made to offer us up as a sacrifice.
A flood of enormous magnitude was threatening to crash hard upon the province’s capital. The city of Winnipeg was at risk. And, so with one quick decision, our quiet world was changed as the water was instead re-routed toward us.
The natural course the Assiniboine River takes flows through Winnipeg, which lies lower than the lake and in a flood plain. In order to redirect the water to higher land, a dam was opened at a diversion on the south basin of Lake Manitoba, enabling huge amounts of water to be dumped into an already swollen lake with no real plan for removing it.
In retrospect, perhaps it becomes obvious the decision would never have been made any other way. Permitting such devastation to occur in a densely populated area, allowing the flooding of a city of 684,000 people certainly had to be avoided at all costs.
When it’s your home and your dreams used to pay the price, however, the decision seems cruelly personal.
Thankfully our government took responsibility for their actions and offered assistance; although for many there can be no proper compensation for what was lost.
A number of years have now passed and the dikes have long since been removed. The beauty and peacefulness of the lake have returned. Trees are slowly beginning to grow, birds and wildlife are returning and the shoreline is looking more natural again, although huge chunks of driftwood and uprooted trees remain as a powerful reminder.
After much debate, it has been decided the money needed to create a channel at the north end of Lake Manitoba is worth spending. The lake will be able to be drained properly should water need to be dumped in again, thus preventing such devastation from ever re-occurring.
It’s comforting to know the channel is underway and will one day be finished.
Beautiful Sugar Point and our futures here are safe!
Storms can rage and we can watch them in all their magnificence and splendor from the safety of our homes, knowing deliberate flooding will never again be an option.
For a little less drama-queen version of the flood, please visit my “Non-Fiction” page & check out
“Losing Home – The Flood of 2011”
Anatomy of the Flood
By Lisa Lysen
Published in “Cottage” magazine – April/2013
Sugar Point, with its modest population of fewer than 100 homes and cottages, is only one of many developments on the shores of Lake Manitoba.
Similar lakeshore communities, along with small towns, First Nations Reserves, resorts, businesses, century-old farms, and pasturelands are scattered around its shores and roadways.
To the south and approximately 60 feet lower, is Manitoba’s capital, Winnipeg.
A city of 684,000, Winnipeg lies at the junction of two rivers, the Red and the Assiniboine. Because the city was built on a flood plain, steps have been taken over the years to protect it.
The Red River Floodway effectively drains water away when the Red River rises. A diversion at Portage la Prairie redirects the flow of the Assiniboine into Lake Manitoba, which the Fairford Dam at the north end of the lake regulates.
It has long been suggested that in the event of extreme situations, a channel should also be created to assist the dam in draining excess water from the lake.
In spring 2011, weather conditions came together that saw the Assiniboine River flowing furiously through the Portage Diversion, which was already running at full capacity, into a swollen Lake Manitoba. Fairford Dam to the north was having difficulty removing water fast enough.
Cruelly, on May 1, a severe winter storm struck, depositing another 20 inches of snow onto a lake already struggling. Almost simultaneously it was discovered that faulty gauges in Saskatchewan had underestimated the amount of water about to inundate Manitoba by way of the Assiniboine River.
Without intervention, Winnipeg appeared in danger of flooding. A decision was quickly made and the Portage Diversion was altered to increase flow. Water rapidly began pouring into Lake Manitoba at a rate Fairford Dam could not handle.
And a deliberate flood struck Lake Manitoba.
One by one, homes and cottages were forced to evacuate. Communities and farmland were destroyed.
M.A.S.C. (Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation) and T.A.P. (Temporary Accommodations Program)—the government agencies upon which the task of dealing with flood victims has fallen—have an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 households registered as damaged or destroyed as a result of the 2011 flood.
Of those households, approximately three hundred are full-time residents, with the remainder being cottagers. Counted separately and in addition to these numbers, about seven hundred First Nations homes have been affected.
Taking into account the fact that the price tag attached to flood recovery has been astronomical and is still climbing, it’s hard to imagine that every Manitoban isn’t affected in one way or another.
Sugar Point on Lake Manitoba – 2018 – Post-flood with life returning to normal!
Welcome to Winnipeg
By Lisa Lysen
Looking for a deliciously fun little adventure? Come enjoy Winnipeg!
Nestled between 2 rivers, famous for friendliness and prairie sunsets, Winnipeg is alive with entertainment and diverse cuisine.
If culture is your thing, Winnipeg definitely has culture, and plenty of it, too … boasting the “Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra”, “Royal Winnipeg Ballet’, “Museum of Man and Nature”, “Manitoba’s Conservatory of Music and Art”, “Manitoba Theatre Centre” along with “Pantages” and “Playhouse” theatres and “Rainbow Stage” … the list simply goes on and on!
The “WAG” or the “Winnipeg Art Gallery” offers “Jazz on the Rooftop” during summer months in addition to hosting numerous varied and beautiful exhibits all year round. The largest display of its kind featuring Inuit art is soon to be unveiled and will no doubt be stunning.
The most recent addition to Winnipeg’s intellectual scene and winner of 23 prestigious awards is “The Canadian Museum of Human Rights”. The experience of touring this magnificent example of architecture is awesome in itself. The many stories exposed are heartbreaking yet at the same time, incredibly enlightening and monumentally memorable.
Make a day of touring Winnipeg.
Perhaps begin with The Human Rights museum. Explore the controversy. Then reflect over the secrets hidden in our history as you choose from an interesting menu at delightful “Era Bistro” or stroll over to “Smith’s”, a deliciously upscale restaurant in beautiful “Inn on the Forks”.
If casual is more your style, there’s plenty of that close by, too. Both educational and breathtaking, “The Canadian Museum of Human Rights” is situated very fittingly at the edge of “The Forks”.
A trendy and always lively marketplace, rich with shopping, performers, and delightful taste sensations, “The Forks” is an historic site where fur traders and First Nations people saw the capital of Canada’s keystone province born. Wander through “Johnston Terminal” and “The Forks Market”. You’ll discover any number of little boutiques and eateries dotting your path.
Pause inside and have your fortune told. Then venture outside again. You’ll find a quaint little boxcar, the “Old Spaghetti Factory” where you can enjoy Italian fare.
Next on your day planner might be time exploring Winnipeg’s “Exchange District”. It will see you simply falling in love with Winnipeg’s charisma. Walking tours throughout the summer months reveal the city’s exciting and very interesting past.
And because we love our food here, you’ll find all sorts of varied cuisine, including Indian, Thai, and Vietnamese. “Peasant Cookery” offers French countryside flair. And around the corner, the “News Café” will see you fed, watered and informed by Winnipeg’s finest. “Cibo’s” a charming restaurant in a converted pump house overlooks the river and is a very tasty heart-stealer, too.
Antique shops, art galleries, book stores, and so many interesting discoveries are everywhere, just waiting to be stumbled upon.
And if you’re looking for sports events or concerts “Investor’s Group Stadium” and “MTS Centre” provide plenty of both year-round. Visit “Elephant and Castle” for a pub experience afterward. Or if you’re a baseball fan have dinner on Main Street and take in a Goldeye’s game at The Forks.
If you’re more interested in shopping, you may decide to wander “Osborne Village’s” tempting strip of boutiques and restaurants. You’ll find all sorts of unique trinkets and trendy patios, music, karaoke and just plain good times.
A tour of the Legislative Building will give an intriguing insight into early Canadian political history. And the Mason secrets hidden within its design and construction are fascinating. The Hotel Fort Garry just around the corner holds it’s own spooky stories!
Experience an interesting twist to Winnipeg’s personality by taking a walk down Corydon and Academy. Again, so much great food and so many interesting little shops!
Assiniboine Park features open-air concerts all summer long. Enjoy a prairie sunset as you take in free outdoor performances by The Royal Winnipeg Ballet or Shakespeare in the Park.
But before you do that you may want to check out Assiniboine Park’s English Garden, Leo Mol sculptures and a zoo where you’ll meet Hudson the polar bear, visit a Butterfly Garden and go on a walkabout with kangaroos and emus.
Definitely, be brave! Come play in winter. Don’t let stories of Winnipeg being colder than Mars scare you because “Winterpegger’s” simply know how to enjoy life whatever the weather.
“Festival Du Voyageur” will entertain and take you back in time for a glimpse into Canadian history, giving you a taste of maple syrup candy along the way.
Sleigh rides, tobogganing, eco-tours or Nordic walking at Fort Whyte are fantastic fun. Strap on snowshoes, skates, cross-country skis, whatever your preference and do a little exploring.
Or skate to music at the “Duck Pond” for some winter wonderland romance. Then easily find a pretty little place for hot chocolate and marshmallows, a Spanish coffee or mulled wine and you’ve had a perfect adventure!
There’s almost always a festival somewhere with no shortage of good times and great food! And you’ll have no trouble finding junior hockey games or curling to cheer on at any one of the many community clubs and arenas you’ll come across.
There’s really just so much to experience in this friendly, fun-packed prairie city.
So, come to Winnipeg and ENJOY!