I open the windows as we pass the railroad tracks on the last leg of the 4 hour car ride. The dog quickly finds a spot with his head out the window in the cool evening air and his tail immediately begins wagging. There are only a few more miles left until we reach our destination. My family has taken this trip too many times to count. As we reach the gravel road we close the window only to hear the dog crying with excitement. He knows exactly where he is and wants out after the long drive. One more bend in the road and we are there. Cabin season had officially started.
As the front door is unlocked, the anticipation grows. The walls are built out of 4×4 cedar and the swelling of the wood in the spring months is evident as the door needs a little persuasion by a shoulder before it would open. As soon as it does, the stale cabin air which has been trapped for months fills my lungs. The smell brings a certain familiarity and comfort as memories start running through my mind. The uninhabited place is just the same as when it was left many months ago. The relentless Minnesota winter made the moment that much sweeter. It is during the winter months when I long to be at the cabin the most. While my dad goes around checking on things and picking up mouse diversions, my brother and I unload our gear and collect kindling and wood that has been drying for years in order to build a fire. Somewhere in the distance I hear the jingling of Dalton’s collar as he takes advantage of his freedom by reacquainting himself with the trees. With the weather still dropping in the 40’s the wood burning stove is a necessity to be comfortable. The fire gets going but the heat takes a while to fill the small space. Soon enough the fire is roaring and an old quote comes to mind, “Twice warmed is he who cuts his own wood”. This is something that not everyone can understand but those who do, know it well. All winter I had been waiting for that moment, and it did not disappoint.
Going to the cabin is something that we always did growing up. I have been going up there since I was in diapers. While it is only open for a brief period of time throughout the year, it has to be taken advantage of. Weekends, summer holidays and spring breaks meant going to the cabin. It’s just what we did. Tolerating the painful traffic involved with getting there was necessary but just a reminder of the world that was left behind when you made it. The clocks can be ignored, schedules don’t exist and cell phones can be shut off; rarely is there an event when timing matters. As long as the necessary work gets done you can do as you please. Even then, the cabin is a place where doing nothing, is doing something.
A constant at the cabin is family and friends. Half mile down the road is two more cabins, each frequented by a set of aunts and uncles, and their growing families. That makes each trip to the cabin a casual family event, with something always going on. A random appearance is always welcome. Without the cabin these connections that have been forged throughout the years wouldn’t exist. When I was younger my grandpa used to take us fishing and catch hundreds of sunny’s in a day, but now it is me who takes him out fishing and cleans the fish. He can still remember all of his past fishing and hunting stories that I’ve heard hundreds of times, but he still tells them with the same zeal as when I first hear them. There is a saying that, “They’re not your friends, until they’ve been to your cabin”, although I wouldn’t hear that until later in life it is true to the last word. I never wanted to share that place with just anyone. It was a big deal to me to invite people up to the place that I cherish so much.
Every person that we meet or place we go has an impact on who we are and what we become. While I don’t consider the cabin to be my home, I would think it safe to say that my experiences up there had more of an impact on who I am today than anywhere else. Every year we go through the cycle of ceremoniously opening and reluctantly closing the place. Every year people get older and busier. Every year, a summer worth of memories are added to the countless memories from my past. Every year the cabin stays a constant. There is a lot more to it than just 4×4 cedar walls. It is where I grew up, it is who I am. Even though the doors are closed for the majority of the year, in my mind it is cabin season all year long.