Growing up, my family had a tiny cabin in the middle of the woods somewhere in Colorado. While my much more geographically savvy brothers could tell you exactly where it was, all I remember was it required a lot of packing and it took “a car ride that lasted forever” to get there.
It was a one room cabin with a screened-in porch attached to the front that was larger than the cabin itself. There was an outhouse that had that famous Farrah Fawsett red bathing suit poster on the inside of the door, as if Farrah was gleefully watching us take a shit in the middle of the night. I always felt bad that Farrah was stuck in that smelly, disgusting place. Gritting her teeth, no less.
My family didn’t outright own the cabin, we shared it with like four other families from my mom’s work or something. Sort of like a timeshare situation, I think. All I really remember was we had a printed paper calendar on our fridge with color coded highlights of which family got the cabin which week – and it was mostly scratched out with trades.
It was a tiny cabin, but it did the job, as it served as much needed respite for my busy, stressed out fam. Cheap respite. All we had to do was bring food for the tiny kitchenette and wood for the fireplace and sleeping bags and boots and coats and jeans and socks and hats and gloves and toilet paper and matches and board games and then me, my mom, my dad, my brother, my other brother and our dog Lobo would all pile into both the minivan and station wagon to truly be one with nature.
Five of us humans plus one massive dog were all expected to comfortably fit in that one storage unit sized cabin. There was a pull out couch and at some point we brought up my brothers’ old wooden bunk beds, which included an additional mattress underneath making for three child-sized sleeping spots. (I love that my parents got the luxurious fold-out like they were the important, adult people.) I have no freaking clue how we children managed to sleep in that cabin before bringing the bunk bed. Did we sleep on the wooden floor, maybe? What about the spiders? WHAT ABOUT THE SPIDERS?
The cabin was on a hill and it overlooked a small, but pretty, pond surrounded by many abandoned beaver dams. It was really a picturesque place, minus the surplus of vacant beaver dams. There were lots of places to explore and things to do, like check out the beaver dams. Rocks, trees, water, rolling hills, stars, never seeing a beaver.
It looked like a dam Robert Frost poem when it snowed.
(Did Frost ever wax poetic about beavers and their said dams? I’ll google.)
And it was at this cabin, where we spent many a color-coded calendar weekends, that I became… an indoor girl.
Of course I didn’t know it at the time. I just knew I couldn’t quite place my finger on why I dreaded going to the cabin so much. Our dog came with us. I loved our dog. I also loved the smell of fire. I also loved not brushing my hair, always wearing sweatpants, and making smores.
It is only in hindsight that I realized my “indoor girl” -ness. Like, recent hindsight. On a June evening where I was reminiscing with my husband as we sat outside on our tiny bedroom porch — our new, only pastime in this year of 2020 quarantine — it dawned on me that my absolute favorite memories of the cabin were threefold:
- Going to the spot where a tree fell over a giant rock that my brothers and I called “the fort” and while the boys were out trying to catch trout or scrape their knees or something, I instead brought my Babysitter’s Club book to the tree/rock “fort” and sat under the tree “roof,” leaned against my rock “chair” in the dirt “bedroom” and oh my god I was playing house in the woods.
- Playing UNO with my mom on our patio that was screened-in and covered so I didn’t have to feel the hot sun touch my sensitive face or the mosquitos bite my sensitive skin and I could eat all the M&Ms and shuffle all the cards and oh my god I could also do that at home.
- When my parents would include their tiny bedroom television and VCR and an extension cord in their packing and take me to Showtime Video a few days before where I could pick any movie I want– oh my god oh my god my parents bribed me to go to nature with $2 Tuesday movie rentals.
Seriously number 3 was my absolute favorite part of going to the cabin. While everyone else was out breathing fresh air, I got to happily sit next to a dying fire and watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Jumanji in peace. Inside. As nature intended.
I’ve never wanted to admit that I was an indoor girl. I always thought I liked hiking and camping, and I totally believe in the rejuvenation aspects of the wilderness. I like being away from mirrors and hearing the sounds of a river and how good mediocre food tastes after a long day moving my body with a backpack on. I know how to put up a tent, how to properly put out a fire, how to dig a hole to poop in. I’ve owned a truck before! I married a man who likes to fly fish! I’m soo cooooooool and outdoorsy like that.
But, alas, the signs are all there. They always have been.
The truth is, I like the great outdoors as long as there is an indoor spot just for me. I like camping, but I think I love a cabin more. At our cabin, I loved looking at the stars – the amazing, awe-inspiring stars that you could never see unless you were up in the mountains – as long as it was through the screen of our porch because, you know, coyotes.
I loved stepping through mounds and mounds of Robert Frost snow because I knew there was newspaper back near the fireplace in the cabin that I could wad up and stick into my boots to make them dry again. Also, after the snow stomping escapade I totally had the VHS of Cool Runnings calling my name.
So, you know, I was basically the 8-year-old, female Jack London.
I’ve been thinking about the cabin a lot lately because I think it’s why I’m doing relatively okay today, in this month of July in this year of 2020 – the year of our humanity’s reckoning.
I mean, I’m not okay. I don’t think anyone is okay. I’m very sad and I miss many people and I’m constantly angry and and…
I also don’t think this year is a loss.
I think 2020 is a historic year, an important year, a year of rebirth and positive change in many ways. At least, I hope it is.
The challenging thing about it is we’re still IN the year — we’re in the thick of it — so it’s impossible to comment or reflect while it’s still currently happening all around us.
There’s still so much IN we’ve got to be IN until we’re OUT. You know?
Reflection, much like revealing if Robert Frost wrote a beaver poem, will need to come at a later time. For now, I am hopeful that big, wonderful changes are coming to this world in regards to health, class, race, identity, beliefs, and leadership. In the meantime…
I’ll finally admit it. I’m an indoor girl.
And I think my indoor-ness at the cabin is why, right now, I don’t feel so disconnected from the outside world today.
Because even within that tiny wooden cube of a cabin, I still felt like I was enveloped in nature. That I, too, was experiencing something special. Perhaps it’s not the same as the authentic wilderness experience that my bothers had, who were out canoeing or climbing or whatever young boys did, (I never really knew, I just knew they smelled.) But in a strange way, when I was at the cabin I felt just as “in it.” I was still something small surrounded by something vast and important. I understood that, and I appreciated it. And wasn’t that the whole point?
Things slowed down at the cabin. Things were observed at the cabin. The cabin was quiet and different than the real world. I don’t think I complained about going because for some reason even though I missed running water and my stuffed animal collection, I knew spending time at the cabin was significant.
It’s hard to explain, but I have been stuck in my two bedroom North Hollywood apartment for nearly four months now, and yet with everything going on, I have never felt more aware and connected to the outside. Things have slowed down. Things are being observed and reflected upon.
My neighbors and I wave at each other through our masks as we take out the recycling from all our take-out orders.
My TV job is remote and yet within a Zoom we’re discussing and absorbing all the news of the day, writing silly things about it, and putting it on the air to hopefully get people to chuckle and also, maybe, push the needle a bit?
My social media, though I take much needed breaks, serves as a place to provide observational fodder, like how strange it is to live with the limited styles of clothes I have here in LA (I left all my normal work clothes in NY, so I only have yoga pants and then super formal-wear here, hence how my Formal Friday postings began) and also to spread info about charities and causes that need supporting.
And since May, there’s been a daily, peaceful, well-attended BLM protest happening at the park across the street. I’ve found my screened-in porch equivalent by driving by, cardboard sign in hand, honking and cheering at the work they’re doing.
My family and friends are, thankfully, healthy and safe. I hope they can remain that way, and I’m hopeful keeping in touch with calls and emails and texts help with that.
I know there are many thoughts about social media advocacy and hot takes about when we should be around people and combativeness about when we are safe to get out and go places. I’m not here to argue about it, I just know I’m well-informed with my choices and have a personal comfort zone to observe.
After all, I am an indoor girl. I don’t like the thought of spreading sickness just like I didn’t like the thought of coyotes and sunburns and spiders – and coyotes aren’t crazy contagious, you can’t get severe, crippling sunburns from strangers who think they’re “fine without a mask” and, aside from the Funnel-Web, spiders can’t kill you in your prime.
And just like I appreciated being one with nature from within my cabin, today I feel more and more understanding of the world while being in this apartment right now. Is it ideal? Hell no. But it’s significant.
I will stomp in the snow again when I know there’s plenty of newspaper back near the fireplace. And yes that is my contrived vaccine metaphor. I dunno. I’m tired. You get it.
Also, Robert Frost never wrote a beaver poem.
- One L
“Feel the Rhythm! Feel the Rhyme! Get on up, it’s bobsled time!”