Monday, August 23, 2010

Prodigal Daughter

by Zinta Aistars

Now that I have that thought it mind, I can't let it go. Or it won't let go of me. That thought: that a decade from now, give or take, or an even dozen, I will be living my lifelong dream: living in a cabin in the northern faraway, in the misty beyond, in the enchanted forest.

I've been amusing myself with a daily search of property listings in and near the Keweenaw, that finger of a peninsula, at a slight crook to the east, pointing north into Lake Superior. To my excitement and pleasure, enchanted forest, misty beyond, northern wilderness places abound. Many of them are called "camps." That is, not year round residences, but deer camps (for those who have seen Jeff Daniels' hilarious movie, "Escanaba in the Moonlight," you'll know what I mean) tucked away and very nearly forgotten for most of the year. The whole point of these camps is to be well hidden. Those who hunt deer live in these camps in deer season (that would include pretty much every red-blooded male and a growing number of females in Michigan's Upper Peninsula) and otherwise leave them be.

For me, as I spend my evenings surfing listings for these charming little cabins, they hold promise of being extended into a year round residence. Most of them do not have what one might call "modern amenities." No flushing toilets, possibly no running water, or even electricity ... water is hauled in, presumably on the back of that pickup truck with the guns slung across the back window. Outhouses have crescent moons cut out the doors for a bit of fresher air. Or else, there are none at all. The forest is there; use it.

Then there are those cabins, many built out of logs, that are a bit more luxurious. Sinks are tucked into corners, a partial bath may not have a shower, but there is a white porcelain throne with running water. Tiny refrigerators stand on pedestals. Wood burning stoves have cast iron pots on them and flames flicker below. Some go even further ... with lofts overhead, reached by climbing log ladders, with windows cut to the sky.

Of course, there is also vacant land. A plot awaits my plot to unfold. I could pitch a tent, build a campfire, sit and dream on my long weekends and too few vacations, drawing lines in the air of where my future home would be. There the living room, with window turned toward the cool blue lake. There the tiny kitchen, all compact. There, the spot where I will sit, rocking away the hours of contemplation, reading dense poetry and rereading, again and again, Thoreau's Walden, about a life lived in simplicity and solitude.

What will I find? What will take hold of my heart? What land or camp or tiny cottage will call to me in the voice of Home?

I have held this dream inside like a treasure, a hushed secret, since I can remember. Since I was a little girl. My big sister chattered away about raising a big family, marrying a fine man, living in a big house, blessing her clan with her love and being blessed. I could understand that. But my heart was always drawn to something else. My sister got her dream long ago. I had mine deflected for a time, and have no regrets, not one. There were houses and marriage and children and picket fences and dogs curled up on the hearth. All good. I respect these traditions very much.

Yet my heart pulled, and tugged, and longed ... for something else. So now when my children are adults, married life has been tried and set aside, my career has thrived and given me much satisfaction, I find myself coming full circle. I look in the mirror and see the face of an older woman. I like those fine lines. I really do. My heart grows tender when I see them, for I earned them with honor. I have blessed others with love and have been blessed. But now, it's my turn.

A woman lives a life of servitude, and I do not say that with anything but utmost respect. We open our hearts to others, and we make our work that of building and sustaining strong relationships. Even when we pursue careers outside the home, we continue to nurture our partnerships, cradle our children soft and warm, and we sacrifice, we sacrifice, we give and give and never count how much. I enjoy being a woman. I have enjoyed being a wife. I have adored being a mother. Even when such loving and giving has given me test and trial.

Now it's my turn. Or nearly. For what is ten or a dozen years? It's time to plan, and I realize I am actually behind on these plans ... I need to catch up. I need to prepare. This is one plan that I am determined to not let fall apart or myself to be distracted.

In a couple weeks, I will head north, since earliest childhood my favorite direction. I will head toward that peninsula off a peninsula, the Keweenaw on the U.P. At its very tip is the tiny picturesque town of Copper Harbor, where my father brought me many summers as a little girl. He set up his easel in the rocks of the Superior shoreline, mixed his paints, and painted the harbor, the boats, the white lacy waves, and the line of dark trees on the shore. I sat on the sun-warmed rocks with an open notebook in my lap and drew with a pencil, imitating my Tetis. I can still remember him looking at my drawings at the end of the day, nodding, smiling, his big warm hand caressing my upturned face. "Good."

Where have the years gone? Where has life gone, so quickly, sometimes so slow and heavy, but all in all, looking back, in a blink of an eye, gone, gone.

I am much older now than my father was then. My father now is an aging man with slow steps and bent back, but still with paintbrush in hand.

Full circle.

My sister is traveling in the Keweenaw with her eldest daughter at this very moment, sending me occasional cell phone photos of places that steal my breath with their beauty. I know every spot she photographs. I know that land. I am stunned to find myself weeping as I stare at the tiny photos on my cell phone. These are tears of a quiet joy, the tears of a prodigal daughter. Two weeks from now, I will be standing there, beside me, a realtor with directions to my favorite listings.

What's another decade, I think. I must get ready. I must get my finances in order, erase any remaining debt, squirrel away savings like acorns for the long winter. I must have a mission and stay on it, not lose focus. I have carried this dream too long to conclude this life not having lived it. 

All my life, I have longed for Home, the place that calls to me and then holds me. I have known many homes. I have loved many of them, left slivers and chunks of heart behind in each. Yet Home eluded me. Until now. I know now. My eyes tear up at the tiny photos sent from afar because I finally see.

Perhaps I will sit, a woman with graying hair, on those sun-warmed rocks where once a girlchild sat, on the Superior shoreline and draw with a pencil. Draw the white lacy waves, the boats rocking gently on the waves, the scraggly trees bent to the wind, and beneath them, there, a tiny spot, see it? a little house tucked away. A woman standing in the open doorway. Her face turned, bright, to the sky, and smiling.

1 comment:

  1. I imagine you there, warm fire, snow piled high around the front door, actively participating in the life of the quiet wood, wintered in where few can find you, treasuring the deep moments. Yes, make plans, take steps, put things dynamically into motion, and then step into the waiting sanctuary.