Last week I returned from seven weeks alone in a beautiful cabin in the forest in east-central Ontario. I have so many things to report and photos to show that it is very difficult to know where to begin. I suppose I will be posting in a long drawn out series. I kept a journal while I was there and I will include a selection of entries.
This started while I was away in Italy last summer. I was consumed by the idea of living a pioneer-style life in the wilderness of Canada. When I returned I began a search for a very simple place to live for a short time over the winter months in order to test out my idea for substance. Thanks to my friend Kate who found this cabin south of Bancroft last spring, I was able to see it myself on a trip that we took together for five days in October (see earlier post). Sue, the awe inspiring owner of the cabin asked if I might be interested in taking care of the place (her house, dog Genie, cat Molly, fish and 4 cows) while she went away for a week or so in the winter - of course I would! I deliberated for a month or so and then finally asked what she would think of me staying at her cabin for January and February, helping with chores, trying not to get in her way ... I imagined my time in the forest to be a test of independence, taking everything I needed with me there and relying on Sue only for drinking water and fire wood. I ended up with so much more but that comes later in the story. Anyway, Sue thought about it carefully and said yes! A price was agreed on and I began my preparations.
The cabin was built by Sue about 10 years ago I think. It is small and simple, bright and comfortable. There is no electricity or running water, but there is a propane range and a sink that drains into a bucket under the counter (one must not forget to empty it regularly). Drinking water comes from Sue's house, about a half kilometre away, and is transported on a sled in a big jug with a tap - Sue has made a perfect spot for it under the counter. The cabin is full of her inspiring solutions. The wood stove is old cast iron - really just a box with legs, a door and a stove pipe. It has scrollwork cast into its sides along with its name: Favorite Box 25. I often made the fire too hot and ended up sweating in my long underwear cursing my baking brain, opening windows to the -25 degree nights. There is a small wood pile in the front porch and a larger one out back that I kept stocked with sled loads of wood from the pile at Sue's house. I used my dad's axe to chop the odd too-large block of wood and also kindling, but I was a bit blue because I had fantasized about spending hours of every day splitting wood. I collected snow every day in basins to melt by the stove and had a pot on the stove where I heated it for washing. I always chose the cleanest looking snow for this purpose and was always surprised to find countless dark foresty particles in the melted water.
The nights were very special. It was dark early and without electricity I was left to rely on the warm glow of fire. My lantern, candles and the wood stove became very dear to me over long hours of straining to read and write with the silence outside disturbed only by the fluttering sound of the flames - except when the wind was whipping ferociously through the trees!
Here is part of my first journal entry:
January 8, 2011
I arrived at this cabin today and here I am in my long underwear and a big sweater vest and old down filled slippers from my mom, sitting in my winter hideaway with the sound of the fire and the light from the candles. It is 6:45pm and it has been dark since 5:30pm. I have a glass of wine and have just finished a beautiful beef tenderloin sandwich and read for a bit - but restlessly. I have unpacked nearly everything, the supplies meant to last me through two months of independence. My wonderful mom and I drove through a snowy wonderland to get here today on my favourite Ontario roads 512, 514, 516, and 28 plus a road we had never been on - Detlor Road. They were all so impossibly beautiful - all hills and forest, wild, basically uninhabited, some houses along the roads occasionally. There is a crust of snow/ice on every part of every tree and it makes for a magical complexity built of a myriad of greys. When we arrived, my mom and Sue and I loaded everything onto three sleds and pulled it down the path to the cabin (it took three trips) - winding around and up and down and through such peaceful white and grey forest to this lovely cabin that feels perfect for me.