In 1978 Bill and I built a log cabin in the woods. At that time, we were traveling on the week-ends and keeping up a schedule all week--running a publishing company, writing songs together, and doing what parents of young children do. We ran kids to music lessons, school activities, horseback riding lessons, ball games, 4-H, and church activities. Our home was filled with guests of extended family, traveling singers, and the friends of all three of our children. Like every other mother I knew, I did the grocery shopping, cooked meals, weeded and pruned the gardens, swept the porches and walks, and tried to keep up the laundry. Bill mowed our big lawn and planted trees.
We needed a place where we could get a break in this schedule, where I could write, and we could enjoy nature, play games and do crafts away from our busy house. We considered maybe getting a little cottage on one of the northern Indiana lakes, but realistically we knew that after a full concert week-end, we would not be excited about packing up supplies, food, and kids to drive three hours from home again. That would not be restful or restorative—especially for me! So instead, we decided to build a little log retreat only a bike-ride away from our house in the middle of the woods.
This sweet place has been a sanity-keeper through so many chapters of our lives. When our kids were in elementary and middle school, I would often go there after I dropped the kids off at school and spend the day reading and writing or just thinking and praying. I would take something to fix for supper, and Bill would leave the office early to pick up the children from school and come out to this quiet place. We would gather wildflowers, build a hut in the roots of the giant oaks, or find craw-dads under the rocks in the stream. Bill always built fires, in the fireplace and Franklin stove in the winter or in the firepit in the summer and fall. We would all play checkers, Rook, or dominoes or paint with water colors, make cornstarch clay ornaments, or build with Lincoln logs. If it wasn’t a school night or in the summer, we would sometimes spend the night; other times we just stayed until bedtime and went home.
As the kids got older, the cabin was party-central for birthday sleep-overs, Halloween parties, chili suppers, and cook-outs. Amy hosted after-theater production cast parties, and all three of them went to the cabin for leaf-collecting, mushroom hunting and exploring expeditions.
When our children entered young adulthood, this was where we had wedding or baby showers or going-away parties for schoolmates leaving for college. As the kids married and had children of their own, the cabin welcomed them home. Amy and Andrew and little Lee lived here the year Andrew was writing his doctoral dissertation; it was also the place where they brought home newborn Madeleine. Suzanne and Barry and their boys have used this place as a getaway, and Benjy and Melody have stayed here with their two little ones, retracing with them the steps down the hill to the creek and the trails through the woods.
Now there are just the two of us. Today when I finished working at home I came to the cabin around 2:00 and brought out tomatoes and sweet corn from the garden for supper and some bacon and eggs for breakfast. I sat on the deck swing with my coffee, praying for the grandkids, listened to the birds and critters, and inhaled the air full of oxygen straight from the maples, elms, sycamores, and oaks.
Bill joined me after his appointments were finished at the office; he walked the long trail back and forth to the county road, registering 12,000 steps on his fit-bit. As technology has gotten more sophisticated, the woods and the cabin in it has remained pretty much the same. By evening the cicadas began their symphony. The evening sun turned the trees of the forest a golden shade of green. The stream down below was a bit deeper this week and wider, too, because of the late summer rains we’ve been having.
After supper, we sat on the deck swing being so thankful that we still love each other. We breathed in the nutty smells of the woods and listened to the gentle sound of water trickling over river rocks. Bill disappeared for a while, and I knew without checking that he was building yet another fire in the firepit, and that soon the smell of wood smoke would draw me out to sit until well after dark; we would recite the stories and recount the memories we’ve made here. I knew too, that I’d pull out my cell phone and take a video of Bill’s crackling fire and record the crickets and cicadas to send all over the country to our kids and grandkids that in my memory still dash through these woods, playing “ditch-em” or “monsters”, or huddle around this fire roasting marshmallows.
The text I sent read: “We’re at the cabin. Wish you were here!” It wasn’t long before my phone began to ping with messages as those we so love and miss sent back: “We wish we were, too!” It doesn’t get better than that.