A cabin in a remote place – in a fold of the hills, on a hilltop, in the desert, on a quiet beach. It matters not where, but often have I contemplated its appeal. Perhaps it has two rooms, with a wood fire for heating and cooking. Perhaps it is made of raw timber with an earth floor. Perhaps it has no more than a bed and a small table and chair. Its appeal continues whenever I encounter it, while hiking, on a long-distance bicycle ride, or glimpsed from a passing train. And from time to time I have pondered finding one for myself and retreating into it to write. For my criterion is not whether I can escape the world as such, but whether I can write there. A remote cabin is one such place.
The appeal has been stronger during some periods. When I was undergoing a difficult breakup from my first marriage, feeling out of control of events as they unfolded, I longed for such a cabin. When I was under pressure at work, with an alarm clock waking me every morning before I was ready to rise, demanding I head off to do something I did not want to do for someone I did not like, my cabin became very appealing. During the lost years, when I lived far from my children, the cabin beckoned so that I might bring them there. When conflicts have arisen, over petty matters that seemed to draw everyone’s energy inordinately, I felt the cabin’s call. When I was weary and tired of the world and its ways, I thought of my cabin often. And if I was merely passing by, on a forest trail or on a lonely road, my cabin would appear and invite me to tarry for a while.
Yet I slowly began to realise that the cabin need not be a physical place, a structure of timber and iron and stone. My cabin also became one of my mind. It is a place I enter often, especially when the world is loud and maddening. The furniture is simple, with a corner to read, a small desk and chair at which to write, a view over vast vistas of the mind and the thoughts that lie there.
This cabin too is a place of retreat, of reclaiming myself and what I love to do. I can switch off to what is immediately around me and switch on to what is more important. No longer do my ears here the noise around about, no longer do my eyes see what comes from immediate impressions of light on my retinas. No longer to the demands of clamouring people, thinking only of what they can gain for themselves, call upon me. Soon enough they realise that I simply do not respond. Instead I am in another world, the cabin of my mind. Here my thoughts run, ideas arise in peace.
On this journey I have found the cabin again.