Leaning back in the rocking chair, I let the sun warm the side of my face. A spider web glints delicately between the birdhouse and one of the sturdy cedar posts supporting the porch of the cabin. I’ve come out to escape the heat inside. The wood stove has done a little too efficient a job at battling the early morning chill of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.
I am surrounded by memories here. My parents, my sister Linda, and I all live in different states and the house I grew up in was sold years ago. This cabin serves as the family home and the logs have soaked in not only our memories, but a good portion of sweat, blood, afternoon cocktails, and tears.
My parents bought this land four hours north of our house in Connecticut when I was about ten. It was nothing but woods then, and our first years coming up for vacations meant building and using an outhouse, then a small A-frame shelter. Within a couple years, a driveway led from the road 1/3 mile down to a clearing, ready to accommodate the only big machinery that would come to help with the project: a backhoe to dig out the basement of the future cabin.
This development improved matters somewhat, once the first floor was laid, forming a ceiling for the basement. We lived in the underground concrete room while we worked on the cabin. We even had a wood stove down there. My sister and I spent our time clearing brush, stripping bark from cedar logs, hauling water from the spring, collecting kindling. My parents, and especially my dad, worked their tails off actually building the cabin log by log, cut by cut, course by course.
I was so unappreciative. I love being outdoors, but I have never enjoyed roughing it. Plumbing. I love plumbing. And I’m not too keen on extensive physical labor either, to tell the truth. Black flies, grit in my shoes, an unrelenting list of jobs sucked the gratitude right out of me.
There were good moments of course. There is a small lake a couple miles down the road where Linda and I could swim for hours. We liked to go “into town” when there was a movie in the tiny theater. I distinctly remember one rainy weekend when it was too wet to work much and I read Wuthering Heights for the first time, in the A-frame by the light of a Coleman lantern.
But in general, I whined and complained. There may have been a vow to never return once I was grown up and could make my own choices.
I didn’t have the vision. Not then.
To be continued…