Jim and I recently took a short trip to Washington, DC- for work and for play. We stayed in a nice hotel, complete with electricity, indoor plumbing, and a shower…yeah, we know how to class it up! I have to admit that less than 5-minutes after check-in, I had turned on every light in the room, and was enjoying a long, hot shower! To me, few pleasures compare to REALLY hot water…especially that which is delivered without being heated in a tea kettle or carried gallon by gallon up a ladder. Non-gravity-fed showers are also pretty cool 🙂
However, I have to admit that as the end of our first evening in the city drew to a close, I found myself turning to Jim and exclaiming, “I miss the cabin!”
We have spent a few weekends away from the cabin since we moved in this past summer. Each time I arrive in a “normal” house, re-entering the 21st century, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Lights turn on at the flick of a switch. Heat pours out of radiators and, unlike our small wood stove, continues to offer warmth long after you’ve fallen asleep at night. Gallons of water are heated and delivered with the turning of a faucet.
And then the shock wears off.
Perhaps I’m just a “grass is always greener” kind of person, perpetually unsatisfied with the present moment, constantly seeking happiness around the next bend. Those who know me well are likely to be nodding their heads in agreement. But that’s not the whole story.
I will someday have a home with electricity, water, and indoor plumbing. I envision myself spending the first week taking long showers, running around turning on all of the lights I possibly can, and maybe even charging into the bathroom completely unnecessarily to flush the indoor toilet, just because I can. And yet, as has been the case each time we have left the cabin to enjoy a weekend of modern conveniences, after a short period of time the gratitude I feel for these amenities will dissipate and transform to a sense of expectation. When we loose power in a snowstorm, I will find myself begrudgingly lighting a candle, cursing the falling snow. When the water heater inevitably malfunctions, I will resent the absence of a hot shower.
In the cabin, there are few expectations. The water neither carries itself indoors, nor heats itself. Electric is available only after a trip outside to start up the generator, which is used sparingly to conserve gasoline. Indoor plumbing is not in my near future. When nature calls, I must venture out into nature. And yet, when I put forth the effort required to meet my basic needs in the absence of 21st century conveniences, I am consistently met with a sense of accomplishment and gratitude.
Overcoming these small challenges on a daily basis keeps me in check. I appreciate what I have in such a different way when I have to work for it. Heat is not an expectation. It is an art form (especially for me, as the act of building a fire in a wood stove is an area where I lack mastery). When I work for what I have in my physical surroundings, I notice that I approach other challenges (emotional, interpersonal, etc.) with more curiosity and less angst. My mother recently reminded me that the way Jim and I live in the cabin is the way all of us lived just 100 years ago. We launched ourselves into a culture of instant gratification, and never looked back.
At the risk of sounding hypocritical or pretentious, I acknowledge that I am writing this from my MacBook Air. My iPhone sits beside me. Both are wifi connected. I am far from a cavewoman. I thoroughly enjoyed my long, hot showers this past weekend. Yet, I hope that when I am lucky enough to have a home with electricity, plumbing, heat, and hot water, I will find a way to balance my love of the convenient with an appreciation of the value of good, hard effort and gratitude for the gifts that surround me.