I originally wrote this line for an episode of “Major Dad”, reflecting a less than enthusiastic perspective about camping. This jaundiced “take” can be equally applied to visiting our no-frills log cabin in Michiana.
The line went:
“We’ve got a little time off. Why don’t we go someplace and live worse than we usually do?”
Stepping into our cabin for the first time in almost a year, we were greeted by not one but by two chirping smoke alarms.
The twin conflagrational Early Warning Systems are suspended within a foot of each other, one from the ceiling of our living room, the other from the ceiling of the adjacent bedroom. At first, it was hard to tell if they were both chirping or just one of them. You had to stand directly under them. And then you knew.
It was, like…”CHIRP”, and then a few seconds later and one foot away…”CHIRP.”
The intervals between those advisatorial outbursts were never consistent. Sometimes, they were fifteen seconds apart.
Other times, the two virtually overlapped.
We had been on a plane for four hours, and driving to Michiana took another two, a total of six hours in transit. When you finally arrive at your idyllic hideaway, what you want to hear is the happy chirping of indigenous robins and cardinals.
Not dysfunctional smoke alarms!
And, as you probably know, when you remove the batteries, they just continue on chirping. I understand it’s a Safety Precaution. But it’s also annoying! Plus, how exactly does that work?
And, of course, although the cabin was well stocked with replacement batteries, none of them fit the requirements of our disabled smoke alarms.
As a result, as in Deliverance, though not as tonally enjoyable, we unpacked to the sounds of “Dueling Chirping.”
The defective smoke alarms were not the only surprises that welcomed us to our greatly anticipated home away from home. Since the pre-arrival housecleaner had neglected to sweep out our screened-in porch, when we stepped out, we were presented with the accumulated detritus that had blown in through the screens over the past eleven months.
In truth, however, it was not just the defective smoke alarms or the peeling paint or the telltale holes in the furniture coverings indicating an invasion of winter mice squatters that dampened exultations of, “Yay, we’re here!” Through a cumulative lack of attention and oversight (compounded by distance), our cabin had unquestionably lost a step. Or five. A combination of debilitating “dings” and inevitable decay left the unmistakable impression of a place that had definitely seen better days.
What did that remind me of?
Oh, yeah. Me.
It was like “The Cabin of Dorian Gray”, except instead of the cabin getting older while I remained energetically the same, we were both falling apart at precisely the same time.
What kind of a story is that?
And yet I still loved it there.
You recline on the bed and you look out the window bordered by curtains with cowboys on them, and all you can see is a towering canopy of green, dotted by intermittent patches of a sky that is, not a sky that is perennially hazy like in L.A., but one that is vibrant and palpable and real.
A sky as it was meant to be seen. Unfiltered by schmutz. (General Translation: Pollution.)
You sit on the porch with a book – I read four books in eleven days, two of them over four hundred pages long. Does that say, “There’s nothing to do out here?” Or does it say, “A relaxing environment – no unwanted interruptions, and no television”?
Anyway, you sit out there, listening to the birds warbling “There’s food here!’ or “How ‘bout it, baby?” and being regaled by the ever-changing weather patterns – unlike L.A. where they found one type of weather they liked and seemingly banished everything else.
And somehow, you just…
Do you remember (the book) Be Here Now? I can’t do that anywhere else. But in this immersing and unavoidable stripped-down terrain, there is nothing to do but
Be There Then.
Michiana is a place for recharging, and I would miss it desperately if I didn’t go. I just wish the condition of our cabin did not remind me so much of a line an elderly sage I once knew said when he was asked, “How are you?” and he replied,
“Deteriorating on schedule.”
Maybe that’s why I read the four books – to distract me from listening to my arteries hardening.
And our venerable log cabin’s as well.