For those of you who have been worried (rightfully so, as we haven’t posted since February), we’ve survived! The snow has finally melted, blades of green grass are peeking up from the earth, and a subtle but perceptible heat is beginning to radiate out from the sun. On a few occasions, the daylight has offered up enough warmth to allow us to move through an entire day without feeding the wood stove, which has been ravenous throughout this long, cold winter.
I have to admit a feel a little bit proud…but mostly exhausted! There is less work to be done now, compared to the dead of winter. There is sunlight. And yet, even the most menial task feels daunting. I am so grateful for spring that I feel myself collapsing into her arms like an overtired child making her final surrender to sleep. I am so needy that I worry I am not fully appreciative of winter’s passing and spring’s emergence. Perhaps I’m somewhat resentful that she did not arrive sooner.
Regardless, Jim has been the real workhorse. Although he did get me my own set of gallon jugs with which to carry in water, we both know we have survived largely on his contributions. He has brought in the water, the wood for the stove, and the gasoline for the generator throughout our time here in the cabin. My only real duty has been to wash the dishes each morning, and even this, I refuse to perform until he has warmed the house and prepared a pot of coffee. He says that my willingness to stick it out here through the winter is contribution enough. I’m glad that he feels that way and, admittedly, surprised that his opinion hasn’t faded over the course of the year. Oh, I also empty my pee bucket on my own, so maybe that’s worth something.
As much as winter was a challenge, it was also a hibernation. The cabin was warm and dark. When the sun set at 4:00 in the afternoon, it offered permission to surrender into bed at 8:30. Now, there is light in the sky by 5:30 in the morning, and darkness does not seem to hang its head until 8:30 or 9:00. I feel a pressure to match my energy to the frenetic pace of spring, and yet I find myself overwhelmingly coming up short.
As the earth begins to thaw, Jim and I have also realized that we must revisit the construction plans that we abandoned last winter. The original house site is no longer covered in snow and is splayed out in a pile of earth and rock that shrieks for our attention. The voices of friends and family echo the phrase “create your dream home.” We look to each other and realize that we aren’t as sure about what that is as we were a year ago. The house my father designed for us last summer is a gorgeous mountain home with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an open floor plan. The cathedral ceiling in the living room gazes out over a wrap-around deck framed by mountains, trees, and sky. Don’t get me wrong, this was no mansion; total living space was around 1400 square feet. There were a variety of factors that resulted in our decision to abandon the building project last winter but regardless of the reasons, for the past 10 months, we’ve found ourselves living in a 16 by 24 foot cabin, and while it’s true that we’re both completely and utterly exhausted, we are happy.
This little cabin has been a powerful teacher who has asked me to reexamine myself, my world, my relationships, and my priorities. One of the greatest lessons she has taught me is that giving and receiving are not so black and white. I have learned that the things I seek require great concession. And the decision to surrender offers massive reward. Case in point: if we were to build what was 10 months ago our dream home, we would- I’m sure- find great happiness in the beauty and ease of living in such a space. But this would come with a cost: a mortgage, higher taxes, and monthly utility bills. This translates to an extra pressure to earn an income, question unnecessary purchases, budget the amount we spend when we eat out, and limit our time off and the extravagance of vacations. In contrast, life in the cabin has required constant concession. We shower only once or twice per week using water that has been donated by friends and hauled in on Jim’s shoulders. Going to the bathroom requires a trip outdoors. If you’ve been following this blog, you get the picture. And yet these simple sacrifices have produced unanticipated freedoms. We have almost no living expenses. We eat out when we want to. When Jim travels for work, sometimes we buy an extra plane ticket so that I can come along. We spent a week in the Florida Keys this past April. Having cancelled the honeymoon to Italy we had originally planned in order to invest in our first home, we realized while we were in Florida that this was the first vacation we’d ever taken together!
The cabin has taught me that opportunity and surrender exist within each choice. That a dream home is more than just a structure- it’s an existence. The nature of the foundation, walls, and ceiling that we choose to surround ourselves with ripples into each and every corner of our lives.
Today, Jim and I are in the midst of making a decision. Change is certain. We have no idea what shape our home will ultimately take, but we will do our best to construct it upon the following foundation:
Appreciate what you have. Trust it is enough.