“Never write about a place until you’re away from it, because it gives you perspective…”—Ernest Hemingway
It might seem strange to start a blog about life in our cabin on Flathead Lake the very months of the year we are not at the cabin. But it’s a simple story, not unlike that of other retirees no longer bound to one place by work or school schedules. We are living this winter in our “city house,” as one of my sisters christened it. It’s actually in a suburban neighborhood with big trees and open skies, fenced back yards, wide streets and tree-lined sidewalks out front. It’s tight and warm, as opposed to our primitive log cabin in northwest Montana, and close to our kids and grandkids—reason enough to “winter” in Idaho. Children with backpacks pass by my big office window walking or skateboarding to and from school, as do joggers, walkers with dogs, two white-haired women arm in arm chatting—tiny puffs of steam drifting above their heads, clumps of boys jostling—all bundled against the dry cold. And the winter-fluffy gray and white cat who has a regular morning route up our front sidewalk, under my window, and around the house. I think she’s Neighborhood Watch.
I’m still entertained by this activity out the window since this is the first winter in quite a while that we have been here for more than a month at the holidays. After living in the cabin all these years, it often feels as if we are just visiting here. We wonder about the weather in Montana, is the furnace coming on in the cabin as it should, so the water lines don’t freeze? Is the bay frozen yet? How much snow are we getting? Will a mouse get into my baking utensil drawer and chew a rubber spatula into pellets again—since absolutely everything else edible is sealed tight in cannisters? I smell smoke from a chimney on my evening walks and always think of home. Besides the lake, it is our woodstove that we miss most. It seems wherever we are, a part of our heart stays there.
While I’d talked every now and then with two of my older granddaughters about starting a blog, I got the big boost to do it this year from my “Secret Santa,” granddaughter Logan. My package held a gently-folded print fabric square embroidered with of one of my favorite verses, to be framed—
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust myself.” Psalm 143:8
—and the name and address of my new blog.
Christmas has come and gone. And now January too and I have yet to write that first post. This morning a fog hangs between the rooftops and frost whitens the lawn. I’ve slept in again, with no schedule or project that needs my attention. Coffee beans have been ground, carafe warmed from the tea kettle, and coffee is brewing. I settle in to still before Him with the Psalms.
I’m spending this winter re-structuring my “cabin book.” I’ve brought my journals with me, spread it all out, and asked myself some hard questions. “Do I still need to write this book? Is everything I wrote that first year we lived in the log cabin twelve years ago still true?” Last spring, when we were just beginning to become aware of how our world was about to change, I happened upon an Instagram post by Ann Voskamp relating how her daughter had accompanied her to a conference in Australia at which she was speaking. She wrote how this daughter had held up her mother’s arms as she ministered there. And as I pictured this beautiful image I thought, “Where is my voice?” Yes, where is my voice ringing strong in praise of the God who has so blessed my life? My voice sharing what I know to be true and beautiful, worth living for in this one short, complicated life? Isn’t it odd how the circumstances and details fade (Was Ann speaking? Praying? Was it Shalom?), but certain words or images speak deep to us? Where is my voice?
So, the answers to the cabin book questions are “Yes.” Yes, I need to write this book. Yes, it’s all still true, despite all that has happened in the years since. I can’t tell everything, so what am I responsible to say in my generation as memory-keeper, granddaughter, daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, Becky?
I’ve stilled. Listening for the words . . .
So I begin:
I didn’t know back then as my bare feet thudded on the dirt path through the pines to the lake, that this place would be part of me still forty years later. It was my grandparents’ log home, yet just as the others running down that path ahead of and behind me, we thought it was ours. In the years since then, we have all returned time and again, drawn back by the memories of wild beauty, freedom, and the simple, yet remarkable, people who inhabited it. Looking back, I realize it was all a gift of time and place that could not last forever. Yet somehow it has—in our memories. It remains an indelible part of who we are. Now I am the Gramma in the very same unchanged kitchen, sharing this cabin with the others, and two generations after us—along the way trying to capture and preserve the mystery of it all...