Saturday, July 12, 2008

Beauty Oak

This is the heart of my Grandfather's cabin in the northern woods of Wisconsin. When he first bought the tiny house 50 years ago it was heated by this stove and my mom and her sisters pumped water and used the outhouse between swims in the lake and fish gutting lessons. It was a two bedroom house with a kitchen and living room until my Grandfather decided to prop up the cabin and put in a basement. The second bedroom where my mom and her sisters slept in bunk beds was converted into a bathroom when my Grandfather decided to live there year round. He also built a garage, which is bigger than the house, when the city put in a roadway that lead up to the cabin - Deer Trail Road. Grandpa lived there into his 90's , golfing daily, until he passed away in 2007.

Now the cabin belongs to my mother and her two sisters and we all gathered there last week for the first time. Sleeping in tents on the beach, futons, air mattresses or the floor, ten of us for three days played in the warm water and soft sand, held toads in our hands, picked wild daisies, canoed through lily pads, listened to the calls of the Loons, walked through schools of fish, ate wedding cake, put floating candles out on the water and saw bright constellations through the clouds of the milky way.

At home now, a few good books keep the Northwoods alive; one of which I am reading for a bookclub- Truck, a Love Story by Michael Perry ("I am happy to live in a place where I can chuck a washing machine out my back door and no one judges my behavior unusual"), The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers by Caroline Arnold ("It had the head of an ox, feet of a bear, back of a dinosaur, and tail of an alligator") with beautiful black and white illustrations by John Sandford, and The Range Eternal by Louise Erdrich (A girl in the Turtle Mountains remembers how a wood-burning stove provided the family with good soup, warmth and protection along with "pictures of long ago" in the hot flames of the stove's belly.

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