Friday, December 12, 2008

Cabin in the woods

Reading Lou Ureneck's story in Thursday's NYTimes made me revisit a dream that I had about building a cabin in the woods. It will probably be constructed shortly after I finish the shed in the backyard, another structure that exists only in my mind.

My mother has a house on an island in Maine. Ooooh, an island you say! Well, it's just far enough from the mainland to be a pain in the ass. It was a farmhouse until the land was flooded and it was made into an island in the 1920's. There's an outhouse which makes you size up invited guests on a totally different level than you'd ever done before. My brother invited a friend up last year and when I saw them crossing the lake, my skinny brother straining to row the 200 pounds-plus guest across, I seriously considered leaving early. My entire family shared a stricken look when he reached for another ear of corn.

The island was part of a boys camp that closed in the 1950's. And there are two sunken boat houses that I dream of resurrecting into simple cabins. I sketched the one above on the way home to Pennsylvania one year. It would be different from the main house that my mother occupies in that it wouldn't have satellite television (it's hard to break an addiction to Turner Classic Movies) and all the stuff that arrives weekly from her forays to yard sales and auctions.

I know, I am a wholly ungrateful wretch. There are two sides to every story. And the better side to this one is that my 77-year-old mother is able to cross that lake daily, sometimes twice a day from late June to late September. This past summer she was bound and determined to make the journey even though her 86-year-old partner is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. She's happiest there, her voice is light when we talk on the phone. Very different than the calls in winter when she tells me she was up at 4 a.m. wondering if she should sell the place.

Hold on Mom, help is coming. My daughters will be finished college in a few years and if I can hold onto my job I'll join my brothers and we'll take turns rowing you across.

Which is why I imagine building my own cabin. It's crowded in that main house. We all have families and when we're together my brothers and I turn into people who are emotionally 12, 11 and 9 years of age. Throw in some children who actually are 11 and 9, spouses, and college students and their friends and it all goes south pretty quickly.

So my cabin would be a stone's throw away from the throbbing noise of the main house. It would be simple and small, a dock for two kayaks, and an outside shower.

It would most definitely have a fire burning toilet. Make that two.

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