I imagine that place has memory, just like we do. Form happens – a family party, a campfire, an engagement, a death – and the experience floats away like smoke as time passes, existing then only in the energy created by that experience. “The cabin” as it has always been called by my family, is a place that collects memories like corners collect rolling, soft balls of dust.
For starters, it’s a place of intention. From the beginning when my mother and stepdad, Bob, purchased it back in 2007, it was a place of rest and family gathering. They were busy pastors with no permanent home of their own. They wanted a place to get away to, to find quiet and Sabbath. Mom grew up with family vacations to Lake George, Lake Memphramagog, and Sherman Lake, and passed on her love of reading by the water and cooking over the campfire to us as we grew up vacationing on lakes as well. She dreamed of having her own place on a lake and in her 50s, finally saw that dream realized with 200 Burr Pond, Goose Landing, “the cabin,” a tiny, three-season camp on a small, mountain top pond in Pittsford, VT. Over the next 12 years, she and Bob poured love into the 900 square foot cabin, adding a foundation, insulation, a well, a screened-in porch, new windows, a washer/dryer, an outdoor shower, and, the final piece of the tiny cabin puzzle, a beautiful master bedroom.
More than the structure itself, they poured love into the cabin through generosity. They shared it with others, inviting friends and family to use the cabin frequently for rest and rejuvenation. They hosted family gatherings for birthdays, Memorial Day, and Labor Day every year. We would gather to eat, swim, sit by the campfire, sing, play, and rest as only a loud pack of Woodworths can, year after year, until it became an integral part of our family routine and life.
The cabin was truly my mother’s favorite place in the world. She loved hearing the owls call in the middle of the night, the woodpecker’s loud banging at 4 AM, the birds singing just as early, the loons that would occasionally grace us with their presence, briefly stopping by the small lake. She built a labyrinth out of stones in the backyard. She painted everything red to match the cabin – the fence, the swing, the sap bucket flower pots. She filled the cabin and the space around it with love.
After she was diagnosed with cancer and quickly began to decline, she spent her days floating in the pond, sitting around the campfire with family and friends, throwing rocks into the pond with her beloved grandson Wyatt. She spent her final days with a view of the pond, her spirit finally floating up and away from her beloved place.
And after her passing, her connection to this special place continued. Just as Stephen Jenkinson describes the wake that is left behind from one’s life, the reverberations of my mother’s entire life continue to pass through all of us. For one thing, her way of being in the world, of loving others, of welcoming them into her family, so moved her dear friends Sharon and Arden to help my brother, Gideon, and I to keep our beloved cabin place in our family. Sharon assures us we don’t need to thank them anymore, after months of not quite knowing how, and now I’ve realized that maybe instead we need to thank Mom for living the life that she did and being the person that she was. Not perfect, of course. But kind and loving and gracious and generous. Thank you, Mom, for this dear gift of the cabin, and for the gift of your love of place and family.
I came across this today, the third anniversary of Mom's death, by one of my favorite writers, Danna Faulds. It felt like a message from my mom:
“This is what I have to say to you. Do not let the day slip through your fingers, but live it fully, now, this breath, this glimpse of newly risen sun catapulting you into full awareness. Time is precious, minutes disappearing like water into sand unless you choose to pay attention.
Since you do not know the number of your days, treat each as if it is your last. Be that compassionate with yourself, that open and loving to others, that determined to give what is yours to give, and to let in the energy and wonder of this world.
If you are tempted by complacency to miss the gift of twin fawns in the yard, or a towhee scratching at the feeder, choose to be awake instead. Experience everything – writing, relating, eating, doing all the necessary little tasks of life – as if for the first time, pushing nothing aside as unimportant.
You have received these same instructions many times before. This time take them into your soul, for if you choose to live this way, you will be rich beyond measure, grateful beyond words, and the day of your death will arrive with no regrets.” – Danna Faulds