If I could be anywhere, it would be at my summer cottage on Stag Island, near Sarnia, Ont. It’s still on of the few places on Earth that truly gives me the contentment of home. It’s a tiny, simple house that was built in 1896, and it’s a place I’ve been going since I was two years old. It’s a refuge, where I’m treated completely normally and where I’m very close to the simplicity of life and nature. I think a lot of Canada is just like that.
My favourite memory of the place isn’t really specific, but more of a feeling. Each day begins as an unplanned, unfettered, simple opportunity. There’s no structure, just a list of things that you might get done and a list of things that you don’t have to do; you could spend the whole day reading a book, or canoeing the back canals, or walking to see how the fledgling oak trees are doing in the south end. The place has a lifetime of gentleness at its core.
It’s not a holiday destination: it’s more of a way of life. I spend half the year there. At least I did before I became an astronaut 26 years ago. In fact, it’s where I saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. As I mention in my book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, it was very late on the evening of July 20, 1969, when we traipsed across the clearing to our neighbours’ cottage and jammed ourselves into their living room, along with just about everybody else on the island. Later, walking back to our cottage and looking at the moon, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
– As told to Sabrina Doyle