Monday, March 31, 2014

It's Not Like The Movies

Lately I've seen a few posts by people who adore little cabins in the woods. The photos they share are of small log structures or cedar shacks with flower boxes ,a clear flowing spring nearby and pecking chickens dotting the yard.
And nearly every person says, "I could live here!"

Easy for you to say. 

What will you do without closets? Those big bulky coats and dozens of shoes won't fit under the sofa or the rocker. You can't hang them on the fireplace and snow will surely ruin them on the screened porch. Put them in bins? And where do you stack the bins? At the foot of the bed so you can trip over them every night? On the kitchen counter so you can move them 3 times a day in order to cook?

What do you do when company comes? Let them all pile on the bed, sit on the coffee table, stand at the doorway and play games on the floor?

Where do you possibly have room for luxuries like stew pots, griddles, blenders, pressure cookers and food processors? Where do you put spices, utensils, Tupperware and extra plates? How do you even begin to cook a big meal with a four foot counter space and no kitchen table?

How do you survive with only a shower? Won't you miss a long, hot bubble bath? Soaking your sore muscles from hauling firewood? Wouldn't you go crazy without the opportunity now and then to let Calgon take you away?

Where do you put all your cool stuff? Like the retro bar cart, martini glasses, giant art pieces, photographs, guitars, collections, seasonal decor and keepsakes?

Where do you store your bills and financial papers? Your favorite books? Your dogs toys? Those extra blankets, pillows, comforters and rugs?

Do you just do without extras? Do you adapt to the smallness of life? Do you sacrifice the things you love having around you for acres of woods and a log fortress? 

Would you really love to live there,  or just think you would?

The trickling spring is usually is home for bugs, snakes, salamanders and critters. Those sweet white chickens turn dirty and stinky. The flower boxes fill up with snow in the winter. The yard turns muddy. The forest turns gray. The little cabin fills up with fever so intense you think you might just break. You reek of firewood and cooked bacon and Deepwoods Off. Your skin is tattooed with bug bites and thorn pricks. And if your husband plays Stairway to Heaven on his guitar one more time, you might get out the shovel and start digging a six foot hole.

Yes, those little pristine places are so cute. Quite beautiful, in fact.
But you really don't want to live there.

Trust me, I know.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Simplicity Is Not Simple

I've learned a lot in the past few months...

I've always wondered what the cabin would be like in the winter. We spent an occasional weekend here before we moved here. It was usually a quick visit and rarely when there was snow on the ground. I anticipated the quiet woods and beautiful snow covered scenery that would be mine to enjoy on a daily basis once we lived here.

Let me tell you now. Snow is snow. It's the same everywhere. It's cold, it's depressing, it's inconvenient, it limits your activity and your choices. It may be pretty for awhile, but once you track through it in bulky coats and awkward rubber boots, it loses its appeal. Once you haul in tractor loads of firewood, feel your hand numbing while getting the mail, and have your eyes water when stepping outside, then the love is gone.

I don't think I expected this. I thought curling up with hot chocolate and a good book would be romantic and peaceful. And it is. For a day or two. Not for months! Not for what seems like FOREVER! 

My eyes scan the frosty horizon and I mourn for spring. I never thought I'd look forward to mowing the yard and weeding the garden and thinning the woods and fighting the bugs. I never thought I would feel trapped here. 

I never expected this anger.

I know that when spring finally arrives I will be ecstatic! It will be like the Wizard of Oz. I'll be dropped from the icy tornado of winter into a beautiful, flower filled world of color and music. I will dance. Sing. Shout hallelujah!

We discuss building on this year, but keep going back and forth- trying to decide on money matters and trying to predict the economy.
I am ready to spread my wings a little. Fluff my nest. 
Stretch. Stretch. Stretch.

My heart says that only now matters. That we must live in the moment. But I haven't always been the wisest one in this marriage. All I know is winter is not what I dreamed it would be ...and thinking of living though another one like this again has left me a bit downhearted. 

The biggest lesson I've learned is this: I've learned you never really simplify your life. Your baggage goes with you. You learn to need certain things. Like Internet and satellite TV, eating out, tech toys and computers, extra buildings, tractors and tools and entertainment. You can never get away from car payments and mortgages and utility bills. You need a phone, new clothes and modern appliances.

It is a true art knowing how to pare down to the essentials. 
And to actually enjoy the sparsity of such a lifestyle.

Maybe I'm spoiled. Lazy. Ill equipped. All I know is this winter has me thinking negative thoughts. And I am usually the positive voice.

I'm sure once the daffodils shoot up across the hillside and dogwoods bloom with cotton colored blossoms, I'll think differently. Once the blue birds and robins return to build nests in the treetops, I will be smiling again. Once the warm breeze blows my hair and the night stars hang heavy in the sky, I will love this place again. And I'll forget today. This blue funk. This virtual pity party.

Spring, please hurry. Please...

Thursday, February 6, 2014


I've unintentionally gone three months without posting. I'm sure how that happened. Time just got away from me. The duties of life took over and random thoughts on paper took a back seat to important responsibilities.

It's not that I haven't written all this time. I've just been writing in my head and my heart. At night while I'm lying in bed, in the morning when I watch the birds on the snow, during quiet evenings when the fireplace glows a thousand colors- I sort through words and put them together till they feel good. They just haven't found their way to paper yet...

We've had a cold winter here. Luckily the cabin is small and the fireplace big. And the fact that we don't have to venture out unless we are starving helps us accept it somewhat.
There are days I feel shackled by these walls, bound by my little counter and stove, crushed into a corner full of too many clothes, overflowing papers, and boxes of who- knows- what. 
But other days I feel exposed, open, lacking those proper walls and boundaries that secure privacy.
I've come to realize there is no happy medium. But such is the case in any home, so I roll with it.

There are days when I awaken and feel a dull sense of pain. A tiny, throbbing homesickness. A quick stab of nostalgia.
It's in those moments I look back to the big house we left. To soft carpeting underfoot, a collection of glassware displayed in a cupboard, a deep, warm bathtub filled with bubbles, the smell of fabric softener drifting from the laundry room, a shelf stacked with good books, a favorite table to play games, a place to listen to sweet music, a favorite chair....

It's also in these moments that I forget why we moved here.

We moved here because it is magic.

Once you come down that forest road and through the rusty gate it's obvious that this place is special. A big red barn, a tiny little cabin, and giant oaks that spread their arms in every season. A friendly scarecrow, an abundant garden, and flowers that sing. Secret pathways through the woods, wildlife that shows up at unexpected moments, and butterflies that dance among the dandelions. The fire pit glowing with embers, a stack of freshly cut wood, straight lines mowed across a green lawn, and a creek that bubbles from the earth. At night there are stars so thick and bright that they take your breath away. You just stare up at the night sky and say, " Ahhhhhh..." 

These are the things that matter. 
Not the little house or the fancy things. Not the extra room or extra things.

And I ask the good Lord right now to not ever let me become callous or indifferent to this beauty. Don't ever let me be looking over the fence when paradise is under my feet. Please let me breathe this fresh air, explore these wonderful woods, and enjoy these simple pleasures for all my life.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Paper Sack Full Of Happy

Back before they made plastic pumpkin heads with a handle, designer Trick-or-Treat tote bags, or gallon buckets stenciled with monster heads, there was the perfect candy holder for Halloween night. The paper sack.

Long before the sun ever thought of setting on Halloween, we were all lined up in our home made costumes, clutching our paper bags - the very most important part of a successful costume. 
When mom passed them out, they were smooth and stiff and it took a bit of talent to roll the top down into a comfortable handle. But as we watched the clock roll around to twilight, we practiced numerous times on proper bag management. 

It was the only thing that had to survive the night. 

Forget the bed pillow as a belly, Dad's house slippers on small feet, or jewelry, wigs and gloves. They were all dispensable. But the paper sack? Well, it was the symbol of success, happiness, and love.

There are Halloween nights from my childhood that I can only remember through two small slits of a cheap mask. I remember high heels flopping on broken sidewalks, itchy wool sweaters, dripping makeup and insufficient flashlights. I can remember freshly mowed grass sticking to my shoes and dew soaking through my socks. I can still see jack-o-lanterns beneath porch lights, sheet ghosts in the bushes and crowds of neighbor kids like gangs, forcing a candy handout with the quick whisk of a open paper sack.

It was worth every stumble, every leap across ditches and obstructive landscape...every long ,weary mile of the candy crusade.  Because once we were under the protective halo of our own porch light again, we knew we had made it. We were home. Our sacks had survived. We had persevered. We were as close to heaven as children dared to be.

After ripping off the costumes, washing our lip-sticked faces and mosquito bitten hands, we changed into some warm clothes and sat Indian-style on the floor. In the perfect hollow of our crossed legs, we each poured out the contents of our bag, being extra careful not to cross the boundaries of one another. One stray Bit-o-Honey or a chunk of Double Bubble was totally up for grabs, no matter who had spent two chilly hours walking door to door for it.

By this time our paper sacks were thin and wrinkled, with a soft, pliable handle like the smoothness of old leather. Ripped, torn, and previously bulging, we used it again and again in the next few weeks to harbor our candy stash.

I always ate the chocolate first. (Things never really change, do they?). Then I chose the butterscotch, starlight mints and English toffee. I traded away my Tootsie Rolls, licorice, and Mr. Rainey's traditional red-delicious apple. 

Within a week, my paper sack rolled up nicely to the size of small town newspaper, hidden away in the back of my drawer with only a few sticky bits of gum and jelly beans clinging to the inside.

It's almost sad to think how important Halloween night used to be. But in our large family, candy was a luxury - known only at Christmas. Halloween was our jackpot. Our lottery of lollipops. Our only chance to savor, hoard, and possess the sweetness of rich peoples treats.

Eventually the paper sacks were empty. Our efforts to extend the life of Halloween night soon faded into thoughts of Santa. 
But I have never forgotten how a simple paper sack gave us such immense joy. How one scary night was was one we remembered for years to come,
every time we relished a piece of candy or a stick of gum.

Thank you, mom. For letting us out into the dark with our paper sacks to bring back priceless memories.