Cabin Tales (2)

late nights

Two rocking chairs that belonged to my great-aunt and great-uncle sit out on the wide porch in front of my cabin. They are made of walnut, dense and strong, with meandering grain. The walnut wood was felled in a grove, long-gone now, just a few miles down the road, the logs were cut at a local sawmill, and the chairs were made by a craftsman in the nearby small town. They were my aunt’s most prized possessions, and she loved their rich, dark brown colour, with just a hint of purple cast. I love their smoothness.

Although I sleep well here after a day of fresh mountain air, I don’t go to bed until it’s late. Often the best part of my day is the evening, when I sit out on a chair, rocking gently and reading, or staring out at the woods and up at the sky. The woods here are white fir, with quaking aspen in the clearings, and I look up in awe at the treetops a hundred or more feet high, and the starry midnight-blue sky above.

Even in summer, it gets cold here late at night, so I tuck an old blanket over me — not the beloved quilt; that would have been sacrilege to my aunt, and I can’t quite bear the thought of flouting her wishes, even now. But a tattered old throw, threadbare in places. And on my lap lies my aunt and uncle’s copy of Walden, on whose flyleaf the anonymous giver has written “For your consideration; look for truth and love. Believe in brotherhood.”

I like to weigh up those old-fashioned words — “for your consideration”. There is plenty of time here for consideration. And I hope that the concepts of truth and love and brotherhood are not equally old fashioned. I haven’t read Walden since I stayed here in my teens, but the parallel solitude of its author suits me now.

Just on the fringes of the woods over to my right are two sad little cairns, marking the only cots that Ellie’s barely-formed babies ever knew. Born so long before their time and never drawing breath, they were buried there by Tom. No crosses mark their graves, just the piles of stones to discourage wild animals from digging.

I imagine Tom searching for the stones he used to cover them. And I imagine Ellie rocking here in the twilight, as I am doing, and gazing out at the two tiny mounds and dreaming of what might have been. What sorrow. I am childless, but out of choice and circumstance. I don’t know if I could have borne the losses as Ellie did, or lived looking out on those stones. I am twice removed; those babies would have been my mother’s cousins if they’d lived. By the time I came to spend summers here, the jam jars of flowers that my mother remembered sitting by the cairns were no longer there. I suppose there were only so many years Ellie could live with that constant ache.

I didn’t mean to slip into melancholy. This is a happy place for me and is not haunted by ghosts of the dead or the unborn. I came seeking calm but already I’m finding joy. I shake myself and pick up the Thoreau lying in my lap, reading once again of his bean field, and potatoes and corn, and wild blackberries. The idea grips me that I, too, can grow food. I don’t eat animals or anything that comes from them, so growing my own plants and fruit would save me repeated walks down into the town. I could stock up on coffee and candles and matches, and just make the trip when I needed something particular or urgent.

Tom and Ellie used to grow their own food, or much of it — they had a cultivated plot over to the left of the small clearing. It’s too dark now to go investigate and leave the safety of my lit-up porch, but tomorrow morning I’ll take a look, and see if I can find the old growing place. I am already imagining the morning I’ll spend clearing undergrowth, hopeful that there’ll be some wild strawberries and blackberries, still thriving from earlier days. I don’t think it would take much land to support me, and maybe once I’ve cleared a little space I can go into town and buy seedlings.

My imagination has been captured by the idea of a degree of self-sufficiency. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay here, but if I lived on that basis I wouldn’t undertake anything. And there’s no harm in the project except a tiny expenditure and a bit of physical labour.

Happy, I take myself off to bed to dream of tomorrow. As I fall asleep I can hear the comforting creak of the rocking chairs out on the porch, talking to each other as they move in the breeze.

If you enjoyed this, please give it a greenand come back for more soon.

This follows on from Cabin Tales (1) — early days and the next one is Cabin Tales (3)