Opening the Cabin

Opening the Cabin April 29, 2010

Yesterday, I took one of the most anticipated drives of the young year, to open our family lake cabin for the season.  Being that this has been an abnormally mild Spring, we’re opening the cabin earlier than anyone can remember.  (You can get a taste for the environment of the cabin by taking in the beautiful Courtney Perry triptych banner at the top of this blog.)

I drove up with my brother, Ted, and my new yellow lab, Albert.  And honestly, my anticipation was greatest on behalf of Albert, who will surely spend some of the greatest days of his life up here.  My dad and his dog, Max, were already here.

We got right to work opening each of the cabins, and then Dad walked Ted and me around and showed us how to turn the water on, a task we’d not yet learned.  That meant turning on and off valves, starting up the well pump, and watching for leaks.  And there was a leak, so the plumber is coming out today.

I kenneled the other two dogs and took Albert out for a short training session, then we all retired to the deck for a cocktail.  Being that there was no running water, we had no choice but to venture in to Deerwood and dine at Coach’s Corner.

It’s raining this morning, which is good news both for the dry land up here and for my dissertation writing, and it’s due to rain through most of the weekend.  Ted is out planting white pine trees — we lost hundreds in a 1973 tornado, and we’ve planted thousands in the last decade.  I’m by the fire, writing this instead of my dissertation, and Dad is reading yesterday’s paper (again).  Later, I’ll put on the chest waders and head down to the culvert under our road to unplug it — the beavers have had a busy Spring clogging the culvert and building two more dams downstream.  I’ll pull those apart, too.

Tomorrow I’ll drive back to the Cities and get the kids and my mom, and drive right back up here for the weekend.

No geographical spot anchors me spiritually like this place.  I’ve written entire books here.  I’ve buried dogs here.  And I’ve shared joyous moments with friends and family that are invaluable to my soul.

I only read Sigurd Olson here.  And I always read Sigurd Olson here.

Honestly, I even think there’s something sacred about the fact that the cabin is locked up and snowed in from mid-October till now.  It’s inaccessible and uninhabitable, not unlike the pattern of fasting and feasting that’s so integral to all religious systems.  Being without this place for half the year causes me to long for it and appreciate it in a way that I likely would not if it were available to me all the time.

Two enormous swans peacefully and slowly paddled in front of our land this morning.  That’s got to be a good omen for this year…


Trivia Question for a Free Book: Name a book, other than my own, in which my family’s cabin is memorialized.

UPDATE: Rob got the trivia question correct.  A scene in Brian McLaren’s The Last Word and the Word after That takes place at the cabin.

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  • rob

    The other book is McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christian”.

    • Carla Jo: You are so right! There’s a special spirituality to throwing the dead mice from the traps into the woods!

      Rob: Close, but not quite.

  • carla jo

    You’re dead on about the sacredness of closing down for the winter. My parents now live year-round on the same spot where we used to have a cabin. The view is the same, the lake is the same, the house is even about the same. But it’s not the same. I miss that first weekend of cleaning up after the mice and rediscovering books that live only at the cabin and taking in that smell of closed-in spaces as you let the fresh air rush in.

  • rob

    Doh! It’s “The Last Word, and the Word After That”. I knew it was part of the trilogy, had to remember which one.

    • Yes, that’s it, Rob!

  • carla jo

    it’s a fine metaphor.

  • Rick Heltne

    You have essentially captured my thoughts and feelings as I have engaged in the same tradition(s). I am not sure those without the blessings of a family cabin can relate. It is holy and sacred ground!

  • I am at peace simply reliving these photo moments!
    Cheers to our friends, the swans.
    “In Celtic lore, pulling the swan card can mean poetic inspiration from the Otherworld. It can also mean an enduring love is entering into your life. “

  • Dan

    Have very fond and happy memories of the two times I got to stay there with you.

  • There is a place like this in my life too, and you have written about what it’s like to move in and out of such a place so perfectly! We missed you at transFORM but I see now that you were basically engaged in the same experiences and encounters as us. Thanks for this post.

  • RJS


    For me – a little further up 210, other side of Aitkin, but same deal …

    Only get there a week or two a year these days.

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