I never met or even saw the owner of the cabin. The school kid rumours claimed that an old hermit named “Doozy” lived there. There were stories of a wife that had died at an early age, and that he was an old and lonely man who didn’t want to be disturbed. I think me, that added to the mystique of it all, and I felt rather envious of this man who could cast aside what modern amenities most of us were spoiled by to exist there as simply as he did.
For me, cabins (especially log ones) looked like forts, and it was nothing for my brother and I along with whatever friends were labeled as being “best” at the time, to be out building one fort or another in trees, along fence lines, in our backyard and even in our basements. And that doesn’t include the countless snow forts that came and went with the temperatures of the season. We had clubs with no names, and while we’d say they were for "members" only, pretty much anyone could enter, unless of course they were from a different age group. In that case we’d usually tear each other’s forts down when that gang wasn't in them only to return to our own fort and realize that while we were wrecking their hard efforts of construction, they were doing the same to us.
Growing up, my brother and I were blessed with two parents who taught us how to enjoy so much of what life can offer that doesn’t cost a lot of money. Every summer for as long as I could remember we camped by the season in a private campground on a lake not too far north from where we lived. Many lifelong friendships and relationships were formed in that campground, and we learned to love camping, first in tents right on the ground, then tents on wooden platforms, tent trailers, and finally the ultimate of the camping cabins – the house trailer.
There is nothing at all comparable to the feeling of living as close as possible with nature, and camping is about as close as you can get. The lakeshores then were dotted with small cottages and cabins, unfinished inside and certainly not winterized. These three-season structures were the place to be if you could afford them. Our Uncle had a cottage on a nice piece of land on another local lake. While a teenager, he bought the land which contained a small hunting cabin for a total of $300. He, his father, my father and another uncle built onto the cabin to create the cottage that supplied all of the members of our extended family with many great summertime memories. That cottage was heated by a pot-bellied wood stove, and had cloth curtains for interior doors. The place always smelled like wood and whatever meal was cooking in the kitchen, but wood predominated the senses. You couldn’t drink the water from the tap because it was pumped right out of the lake, and the washroom of course was an outhouse a good 25 yards out back that smelled like Pinesol, well to be honest, it smelled like shit and Pinesol. Every few years a new hole would be dug, and that outhouse, with the help of anyone around (and fuelled by a few beers) would be moved to the new location.
The beach there was very sandy, and full of bloodsuckers. There was a huge rock on the property that we would climb as children using our imagination that we were mountaineers scaling the highest of peaks. Funny how that rock seemed to get so much smaller as the years went by. You just couldn’t visit the cottage without having fun, and feeling at peace with the world. Even in the worst weather, the comfort and warmth of that place along with some board games, comic books, some potato chips and a bottle of Coca-Cola was like being in heaven. There was no phone. And although there was a TV, the rabbit ears barely brought in the single station that had enough strength to get close to that lake.
We all have our bucket lists, and the things on those lists come and go, sometimes because we realize the dreams, or because the things we once wished to do just don't seem important enough to pursue any longer. My bucket list contains one thing that has always been there, has never changed, and is not in danger of ever being removed. Ever. That is to have my own little cabin in the woods.
My cabin would be one or two rooms with a small loft accessed by a ladder. It would have a stone fireplace or a woodstove. There would be water on the property which could be a lake, but I'd prefer a river or a small stream with just enough room to paddle a canoe. The land it would sit on needn’t be any bigger than a single acre, just enough that I wouldn’t have to hang curtains unless I wanted to. It would have to be insulated to keep warm in the winter months, so that means a log structure, or one sided with wood on the inside and out. There would need to be an outdoor shed to house some of the tools I would need to tend to the property, but the property itself wouldn’t need much maintenance since I’d leave it alone as best I could. You can’t build outhouses anymore without upsetting the environment, so I’d have to figure out how a composting toilet works. I’d rather not have electricity hooked up to the cabin, but suspect that such a dream isn’t all that sensible. If I could I’d have a solar system put in place to power the few lights and appliances I’d need.
A cabin is also a place where you need to have a dog by your side. I always imagined such a place to share with my black lab Punk'n, but the dream wasn't possible in her lifetime. I also imagined her sitting in the front end of a red canoe and posing as labs do while dad paddles the boat effortlessly through the waters. Her first experience with the canoe made it clear that this would never happen since she used the craft as a catapult to dive into the water, but a cabin? Oh, she would have loved a cabin in the woods and she would have relished the access to daily swims in a river, and curling up on a coil rug by the woodstove. Who wouldn't?
My cabin wouldn’t be for long-term living, but rather a place to visit, ponder life, escape the insanity of the world, and retreat to all those things that I have appreciated since I was a child. In the quietness of a cabin you can hear the wildlife calling out across the land. You can hear a million frogs croaking along the shorelines. You can see a million stars on a clear night, and you can co-exist with all kinds of critters that would normally scatter at the sight or sounds you'd make without even knowing it.
As life continues and I grow old, that cabin would be an even more special place to visit, and look back upon on the memories I had there with the wildlife, the water, and the serenity of it all. It would be incredible to go outside some winter weekend and grab a few pieces of wood to put on the fire, and as the sun sets, look back and see smoke coming out of the chimney and the lights exuding the warmth I remember from old Doozy’s cabin those many years before.
Ultimately, the cabin would be the ideal place to spend one’s last days on earth. How wonderful it would be to just fall asleep tucked comfortably under a homemade quilt surrounded by the peacefulness that would come with such a place, and take that last living breath before heading onto the next journey of the soul, knowing that a full life had been lived, and that I truly was one who appreciated and respected this beautiful world, and became as much "one" with it as I could.