I can remember every essay I’ve ever read about someone closing up a summer home in the woods, by the shore or on a lake. There’s a beautiful melancholy about closing windows, draining pipes, putting slip covers on furniture and saying goodbye to the memories until next year.
I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have a retreat in the woods, a sanctuary in the wild. We don’t have one; but we rented one for a long weekend. Eleven of us packed everything but our kitchen sinks and traveled hours of interstate, state roads, busy local roads, not-so-busy local roads, switchbacks with steep drops and vertical climbs passing old barns collapsed under the weight of time.
There it was on the crest of the ridge—a cabin more beautiful than the pictures on the website. The views were majestic, postcard panoramas of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Who couldn’t make memories here? Oh, wouldn’t it be nice?
“Maybe a few of us could go in on one” someone said, half joking.
“People make money owning vacation homes.”
“An investment like this would probably pay for itself in a few years. Someone is sitting on a gold mine.”
Kids raced through the cabin exploring bedrooms and bathrooms, reporting on a soaking tub with jets, a steam shower and – joy of joys – a hot tub.
We gathered on one of the decks and watched the sun slowly disappear, painting the rippled mountain ridges a soft steel blue. Leaving the city and jobs and routine behind, there was a collective exhale.
Night fell and bats fluttered near the deck, darting in and out of the tree tops. The next morning, bat droppings covered the railing to the deck and the front porch. I swept them away, but there were more bat dropping throughout the day on the front porch.
“Bats must be nesting in the eaves. The owners should probably call a professional,” someone said.
By afternoon, large bees were buzzing by. Carpenter bees were drilling perfectly round holes into the wood beams of this lovely retreat.
“The owners should probably call a professional.”
“Wonder what the taxes are on a place like this?”
“And what about cleaning and property management fees?”
We took a long, meandering scenic drive, the sort you take when backroads are not well marked, hiked a winding trail and hit a tourist spot in town. We also just lingered at the cabin sharing meals, playing board games, chase, hide and seek. We enjoyed every inch of that lovely home, the very one with the steam shower that didn’t work, two broken chairs and a loose footboard on a bed.
We left that house in the hills with the same sweet melancholy others have described, taking one last look and closing the door to a wonderful time. We took our memories with us but left the bedding, wet towels and maintenance expenses behind. It may be the best way of all to enjoy a cabin in the woods.