Cabin Time

We’re at the cabin. In northern Minnesota, spring is slower to emerge even when it’s early. I love writing at  the cabin, sitting at the expansive dining room table and looking out over the lagoon during the days before the dock comes in, or pecking away at the computer in the cozy home office behind the fireplace.

We mark “cabin time” by seasonal firsts and tasks more than dates. In northern Minnesota, some of these are: ice out, hatching platform in for returning loons (our Loon Pontoon), dock in, getting the boats out of winter storage, Minnesota state walleye opener, lupine bloom, baby loon hatch, first swim, first mosquito bite, you get the picture.

Daily cabin time is similarly unmarked by the clock. You get up when you are awakened. This can be by any number of things: the call of the loons,  an animal thief’s midnight disturbance at the bird feeder you forgot to bring in, the homely creaking of the floors under someone else’s feet, the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee, the sound of a hammer from the garage, the whine of a boat engine in the distance, the snapping and popping of farm-fresh eggs cooking for breakfast.

You do things when you want to do them at the cabin. You might interrupt a task to gaze out the window (“better than TV!”) at a couple deer in the yard. One time a red fox peered back in at Pete from the deck. You might decide to defer a task for the next day. Life up north in Minnesota meanders and ambles through the days and weeks. Breathing is easier. Cabin time is a great cure for the ailments of stress and obligation.

In the past two days, Pete has finished his first project: a wood duck house which is now mounted over the water a safe distance behind the loon pontoon. Wood duck chicks leap from their home (video), celebrating their maturity with joyous and awkward abandon. A water landing seems preferable. One of the marks of cabin time is we wait and see.

In this iPhone photo I quickly snapped just now in the late afternoon dusk, you can see the wooden house in the foreground, the loon pontoon just behind it and our pair of loons. This is about all the loon couple has been doing, although they have ventured onto the platform once or twice.

We’ll celebrate the egg(s) and the chick(s) if and when they arrive. The weeds you see in the photo will green up during the season and grow taller, providing more protection from marauding eagles (we’ve seen one swooping into the bay already), and other swimming varmints who would love nothing better than a tasty egg or even baby loon to munch on. Cabin time is unpredictable in that much of your entertainment is provided by nature.

For entertainment of a more worldly sort, there are old movies to watch, books to read, and “going into town” on an errand that might include happy hour at a local watering hole. We’ve been pretty lucky at meat raffles lately, so we were delighted to learn we could probably participate in one or another within a 35 mile radius on a daily basis. Last night we were lucky again; tonight we dine on ribeye steaks with morel butter made from mushrooms hunted by my husband downstate. Dinner time will be whenever they’re ready, and we’ll clear away the workspace to set things up to eat. A bowl of ice cream later, or maybe some popcorn sometime before bed. Cabin time is delineated by good eats.

At the cabin, you can stay up or not. A bedside lamp lit late casts a golden glow over the yard while the rest of the household sleeps. Stand at the window in the middle of the night and see other lamps in the distance – across the bay on the point, on the shore of the lake beyond – reassuringly reflected on the water. It’s quiet in northern Minnesota before all the summer people arrive. You can hear yourself think at the cabin.

Cabin time – similar to extended travel in which you look at your regular life from the outside in, as a spectator would a play comprised of multiple acts and scenes. These chances to be “away” can be just the nudge we need to make meaningful change, devise a plan, alter our course, revisit the possibilities, let things go.

Pete likes to say there is nothing more centering than sitting in the middle of the lake in a boat, casting a line out over and over again. The familiar, rhythmic rituals of cabin time are calming and centering, too. Things just have a way of working themselves out during cabin time.

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    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Hilary – It has been a wonderful respite from “regular life” – except now we need to get used to the fact that irregular is regular for us! Pete caught a bunch of fish yesterday and it’s on to more meat raffles this week now that we’ve depleted our stash! Thanks.