When my son and daughter and I came to the little mountain in 1977, the cabin was pretty basic, and not pretty. Covered in asphalt shingles designed to look like green and gray brick, windows only on the valley side, and those not insulated; the original one-room cabin locked tight in winter, with bars on the few small windows, steel clad doors, dark.
I was so naïve. I didn’t check the well, the septic, the insulation. Standing on grass next to the cabin, we looked at the view, at a topographical map of the land, at a nearby red maple tree, the old orange tractor, and said, yes.
My children and a couple of friends walked the trail with me down to the pond. It was May, and water danced over the dam with a wonderful roar. Light splashed through new spring leaves. So much water over that dam by now. So many lessons, trials by cold, no running water safe enough to drink, no electricity to run things, and who knew where the gray water went.
But always there was the land, there were the oak trees, the sugar maple trees, the birches; there were the granite stones, big as horses, the sun and moon and stars rising through crystal black skies; there were wood thrush and oven birds and barred owls; gray foxes, and porcupine babies; shy white tailed deer, bold raccoons, and flying squirrels with their huge black eyes.
Star moss and arbutus hid under snow, hobble bush bloomed along the creek and blueberry bushes huddled low on the ridges.
Nothing was not worth paying attention to. And the happiness that rose from not freezing, from not burning down the cabin, from chopping wood, from hauling water and laundry and groceries and books and birdseed up the mountain in a little blue plastic boat; was a kind of joy, as the old hymn has it, that we had never known.