Monday, June 9, 2014

3 things about the cabin

The beautiful Flathead River
We've just come back from a week at the cabin. We thought last year would be our goodbye, but we had almost a week this year to work on projects before we move away. I noticed 3 things about the cabin this year:

1. Though we work hard each time we come,  the cabin is our oasis. Pure glacier water flows from the taps; fresh air clears our lungs, and the early morning sun wakes us. We have lots of company to refresh our hearts. Shelves of books promise to mentor and amuse us. The cabin is wi-fi free, so we spend time talking, reading books, and exploring the surroundings. I’ve quilted, painted, and written here over the years.

A relaxing gathering room
We've learned a lot about each other, too. W enjoys crafting and building. He says it's his hobby - and we have a second home because of it. I may be the visionary, but he's the project manager. My style in tackling a project is to imagine the possibilities and plan all the details - start to finish. Once I lay the pieces out, I want to "go for it" until it's done.

W prefers to do a little part, go back to the store for supplies, do the next part, and then go back to the store. Sometimes we've driven each other a bit crazy because our processes are so different. He wants to do the task at hand perfectly; meanwhile, when the project is finished in my head, I'm ready to move to the next thing.

The "boys" bunkroom
If we were shooting for the moon, W would be the trustworthy engineer! If we were dreaming about what we could accomplish in outer space, I'd have wilder ideas and ways they could work. Both are valuable, right? I'm glad W is careful and matches all the tiles perfectly. But the wrinkled maps, papering the back entry, make me happy, too.

2. Time at the cabin is different – and better – than we envisioned. When I drew up the layout 18 years ago, I’d planned an efficient getaway, maximizing beds and rooms so the kids could fill it with friends and sleepovers (while we could still visit with adults). We just last year finished the inside (except for a few finish details). This year we painted the entry doors red and installed deck railings for the balcony.

Red doors and a balcony
We’ve spent 4-5 weeks here each summer, negotiating building projects and hosting camp friends. Our kids took turns at summer camps and roamed the grounds without supervision. Today’s parents are more watchful, but our kids had the run of the camp with their buddies. I’d whistle them in only for meals and bedtime.

The children have grown up and moved out on their own. They still meet friends and family at the cabin. Two spent their honeymoons in the partly-finished spaces (oh brave daughters-in-law!) 

The office - ready for words and work
The past few years, W would leave me behind on August 1; he'd prep for the school year in Seattle. 

“Are you lonely,” people would ask me. “Aren’t you afraid to be by yourself?”

Nope. After raising 4 kids, the silence was a gift so overwhelmingly wonderful that I would often waken with worship shouting inside my head. I made a point of resetting my inner clock, rising at sunrise and going to sleep at sunset. I only used electrical lights on dark rainy days. A steady stream of guests came in and out. 

W would return for me and close up the cabin a month later, on Labor Day weekend. By then I had decompressed from our hectic city pace and was ready for the next year. Purest luxury.

I thought I’d do my doctoral dissertation in the cabin office. Instead, I stayed away from the building chaos for a few years and wrote it at home. How I missed the people, beautiful surroundings, and the quiet. I can’t imagine summer without my “Montana month,” but I look forward to God’s provisions in other places.

3. The cabin is personal, quirky and filled with memories.

  • As we began to build, Pastor Rohde came by to watch the cement truck pour the footings. He looked and us, smiled affably, and asked very kindly, “Well, do you folks know what you’re doing?” before jumping in to help. Whew.
  • "Half-wide" steps maximize space
  •  Our dads put up the roof trusses and helped frame and life the walls into place. W’s dad died 12 years ago but we talk about his legacy and my dad’s when we’re here.
  • Our off-set stairs take everyone by surprise. They use half the space of regular steps and make room for a big closet underneath.
  • National Geographic maps from the 1970s and -80s paper the back entry hall. I find the maps and their capture of shifting borders fascinating. I hope the grandkids feel the same someday. 
  • Some floors are planked with 11” wide, reclaimed Douglas fir, trucked in by an Amish fellow who advised W on how to finish them (between man-chatter).
  • The kids' play area upstairs
  • The lamps and furniture are an assortment of “finds” and “rejects.” I slipcovered a friend’s modern pastel blue and pink sofa with cream canvas painter dropcloths. I paid $100 to repair a 100-year-old chair that matches the French Provincial sofa purchased by our daughter-in-law’s great-grandmother. Both sofas sit happily in the living room.
  • Visiting kids play games upstairs, perching on the torn vinyl seat of a commercial children’s table: we picked it up when the old Kirkland library auctioned off their furniture. It’s sturdy as a rock. Retro books and games line the Blockbuster shelves of the family room; our guests love to explore old and new favorites.
  • W fashioned 4 sets of bunkbeds by framing padded exercise mats with plywood backs (found on Freecycle). I imagined the 2 bunkrooms filled with small cousins and messy teenagers. 
Books and games galore - family history
      Instead, at last year's reunion, a family of 4 was the first to sleep in a bunkroom. Even the 6’4” dad could stretch out on the extra-long bunks. Romantic? Hardly. Comfortable? Completely.
  • We found a modern Western artist’s giclee print at an art show. It was priced at $10,000. Someone had torn two gashes in it during a move so the gallery marked it down to “barely affordable” for us. It was my personal post-PhD present. The art restorer in town wanted $900 to repair it. So we stopped at an art supply shop for linen PH-neutral tape ($20). I repaired the gashes and touched it up with my Winsor & Newton watercolours. Voila. Within minutes, we could hardly find the tears in the canvas. That abstract cowboy with his flourish of bright colors makes us smile each time we come.
  • The bedding and linens hail from our stay in England, our Seattle house, and local shops. The rugs and fridge are from a friend. Every thing reminds me of someone or someplace.
Happily keeping up a family tradition
on the way out of town:
the historic point
“Don’t sell it; you may need a retreat sometime,” advised a ministry mentor. Our kids and the caretakers will maintain the cabin while we’re away.

FB pictures remind us of the place during the winter. Once in a while, feeling overwhelmed by preparations for our move to Indonesia, I’ve clicked open that album. Immediately, I feel more peaceful and settled. (Yes, I’m that visual.) I may do that occasionally from across the ocean, too…

BTW: Pull out the futons, stretch out a cot in the office, and it sleeps up to 19. It's for rent during the summer when family isn’t there.

Read more:

*Lord, guard me as the apple of the eye. Psalm 17:8 ESV

*GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:19 ESV

*Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord. 1 Corinthians 12:4,5 ESV

Moravian Prayer: As we ponder the blessings you have bestowed upon us, give us hearts and hands willing to do your work for your kingdom. May our work be always pleasing to you. Amen.


  1. So wonderful to read about about a place Ive heard about from those who have visited there....with very fond memories. Happy you decided to NOT sell it! Its as precious as one of your children...

  2. Yes, they love being there as much as we do. Glad that God allowed us to be there.