Sunday, September 1, 2013

Loons & Lumber

A small one room cabin sits in the woods overlooking a small lake. It’s been there nearly 40 years. It’s two thousand miles away from me and yet if I simply close my eyes and take a deep breath I am there sitting on the dock watching the sky go from pink to purple listening to the songs of the loons signaling the end of another day. I am at peace.

There are few things in life that last. Life and people are always changing so when you have something that lasts it is a precious gift. Our cabin is a gift that came from the dream and vision of my father, the fortitude of my mother and the “child labor” efforts of my brothers, sister and me. 

We built our Nova Scotia cabin in 1974 and enjoyed it as a family each summer until we were all grown and gone from the nest of our nuclear family. Mom and Dad continued to spend summers there until 1994 when my father’s Parkinson’s disease made traveling to the remote cabin an impossibility.

Last week my sister visited the cabin and sent me a picture of the floor with a patch in it. She and I had put that floor down in 1975. I was eleven and she was nine. Tears streamed down my face as I looked at that picture and remembered sitting next to her banging away with our hammers as Dad brought us board after board to finish the floor. Dad is gone now, but the cabin, our floor and amazing memories remain.

The floor boards for the cabin were the only significant purchase made during the building of our cabin; all other materials for the cabin came from our land or were scavenged from a nearby dump.  In order to get the floor boards we had to sail across the lake and drive 20 miles to visit the lumber yard. Dad took his time selecting the kiln dried lumber for our floor and we loaded it into the back and on top of the station wagon. When we arrived back at the lake we loaded the lumber into the sailboat and our canoe and began the trip across the lake. Strangely enough, my father who was an avid and skilled sailor tipped the boat over and all the kiln dried lumber began to float away.

As a family we kicked into high gear and began swimming in all directions to gather the lumber and swim it across the lake. It was close to sunset as we dragged the last board ashore. The sounds of the loons that night sounded more like laughter than songs. Perhaps they watched us as much as we watched and listened to them. The next day we dragged the soaked boards up the hill to the cabin and began laying the boards in sunny spots outside the cabin. It took awhile but eventually we succeeded in gathering all the boards and setting them out to dry. I’m sure if there had been anyone else, other than the loons, watching us we would have been a sight to see. It’s a memory that still makes me laugh.

But today I wipe the tears from my face as I re-read my sister’s text message, “Our cabin still looks good, just a few holes in the floor that someone patched.” We don’t know who patched the holes, but we have always known that when we’re not there, the local people enjoy our cabin. They take good care of it and know that it is a cabin built with love, laughter and more than a few mishaps along the way. 

Love is like that – filled with mishaps, sometimes in need of patching but it lasts, leaves a legacy and spreads out farther than we can ever really know.
(c) 9.1.2013 Martha Reed Johnson   
Additional Nova Scotia Cabin Stories:
lake and floor photos by Ted Johnson (dad) 1975
cabin photo by Beth Adams (sis) 2013