“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
We used to go on “Mystery Trips.” My father would pack up our station wagon and we’d blindly drive north into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Sometimes we’d just go to a tourist trap and return home as I slept in the backseat under one of his jackets, but other times we’d find ourselves taking an entire weekend somewhere off the beaten path.
Somewhere like Drummond Island, a small island situated in Lake Huron that’s as close to Canada as it is the United States. I don’t remember much outside of searching the woods for arrowheads (which I think were strategically placed by my dad) and sitting on the end of the dock hoping for a bite (which I’m pretty sure never came), but I do remember how much I loved being in our rented cabin despite the lack of anything that needed to be plugged in.
“I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.”
I was young, so I never understood the importance of what was happening there -- or what wasn’t happening there -- until I began taking these trips later in life. They weren’t our traditional “Mystery Trips,” and they weren’t with my father. But rather, they were coveted once-a-year trips at a long-time friend’s cabin just forty-five minutes north of where we grew up.
We’d take the scenic route through “The Tunnel Of Trees,” a stretch of road that ran along the shores of Lake Michigan where you’d be a fool to go over 35 miles per hour for fear of either getting in a head-on collision on the winding road, or even worse, missing one of the views.
Most of the cabins in the area were constructed in the same styles, all giving you an overlying sense of home no matter where you were residing. And whether you discussed the unsolved Robison murder that occurred a few miles down the road or dared one another to walk the length of the dirt path without a flashlight at midnight, the same conversations never seemed to become stale.
“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
Even today, it’s nearly impossible to get any type of high speed internet which is a blessing much more than it is a curse. You’re left alone with waves, pine trees, and old books that have situated themselves on the same wooden shelves for generations. The only thing harder to keep track of than the bald eagles downshore is the time causing you to stay up later and wake up earlier than you anticipated. Again, a gift, not a curse.
The groups of twenty that you used to take there to drink underage have been whittled down to a select few looking for downtime; but as the fire dies and the conversation dwindles, the buzz still seems to remain the same.
Somewhere within the logs and stone fireplace lies a comfort that can’t be found anywhere else. A sense of home away from home, a sense of peace in the wild.
If nothing else promise me this -- you’ll spend some time at a cabin.
Quotes via Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden: Or, Life in the Woods”.