I wake to the early morning light shining through the cabin window. The cold in the cabin tells me the stove has gone completely out. I think about getting up and leaving the cozy warmth of the wool blankets on the bed. My mind wanders back to childhood memories of cold floors meeting warm feet.
I wake to the early morning light shining through the cabin window.
I’ve positioned all the clothes I need right at hand. Using the bathroom will require a quick trip to the outhouse. I slide out of bed, get quickly dressed, and slide my headlamp on. Without electricity it’s still very dark in the cabin.
After the quick trip to the outhouse I busy myself starting a fire in the stove and warming the cabin before Shirley gets up. There is a small wood box in the entryway. I grab an armload of firewood and a couple pieces of kindling. I notice the wood box is nearly empty and consider I’ll need to fill it later if we want to stay warm for another day. There are a few coals in the ashes of the stove so I stir them a bit and it just takes a couple pieces of cedar kindling and a few pieces of hardwood to get the fire crackling in the stove. There’s something primal about the crackling of a wood fire and the smell of wood smoke. It’s in our genes. I love it.
There’s something primal about the crackling of a wood fire and the smell of wood smoke.
It’s a three room log cabin with a loft. Two bedrooms on the back side and one big open room on the front facing the pond. The big room has a kitchen area, wood stove, and a living room/dining room area. The pond is serene, completely undeveloped other than this handful of rustic camps. A separate unheated entryway holds a day’s supply of wood. The entryway also includes a small side room with a shower stall. There is no running water per se, but there is a small hand pump on the kitchen sink.
Taking a shower involves heating some water, rigging a shower apparatus, and at this time of fall, a dash of fortitude. I found it worked best to save all that for after breakfast, but I did prep for the shower by filling a kettle with water from the hand pump and placing it on the stove to heat. On the list of modern conveniences the cabin had three, a gas refrigerator, a gas stove, and two gas lights.
Breakfast, or any other meal on our vacations, really doesn’t vary much from what we eat at home. Much of what we eat we bring with us whether we’re vacationing “off the grid” or not. We’ve found simple ways to transport food regardless of whether reaching our destination by car or plane. When it comes to our food and the contest between quality and convenience, we always opt for quality. It’s too important not to.
When it comes to our food and the contest between quality and convenience, we always opt for quality. It’s too important not to.
With breakfast finished it’s time for a shower. It’s accomplished using something called a solar shower. It’s a bag filled with water which is hung overhead. A hose with a spray nozzle exits the lower end of the bag. The nozzle is turned on and off by twisting. The water is either heated by hanging the bag in the sun or heating the water on the stove. Hanging it in the sun was not an option this late in the fall, so we heated water on the stove. One large kettle of cold combined with one large kettle of hot is just about right for a hot shower.
We filled the bag by lying it in the sink and pouring the kettles of water into the opening in the top. I’d guess we got between 3 and 4 gallons in the bag. From there the bag had to be carried out to the unheated shower stall and attached to a rope and pulley mechanism for hoisting overhead. Toting a four gallon bag of water around and holding it up while attaching it to the rope provides a bit of early morning exercise. Once everything is set and you’ve steeled yourself to disrobing in the unheated shower stall (40degF), it’s just a matter of alternating rinsing with washing by twisting the shower nozzle on the bag. I thought the bag provided a nice long shower, although my sense of time may have been altered by my desire to return to the warmth of the cabin.
Once back in the cabin, and dressed for the day, my thoughts turn to getting out in my canoe. I’ve dressed warm by adding a layer of wool long john’s. The extra layer works well for life in the cabin which is cool in areas away from the stove. It’s been windy for several days but this morning the water on the pond is calm and it’s time to wet a paddle. To be honest I’m not a huge fan of late season paddling but I’m looking forward to this fall paddle. I haven’t been out in my 16’ wood and canvas EM White canoe in some time. It’s rounded hull and fine lines make it a dream to paddle and the rich patina of its aged planks and graceful lines combine to form a piece of fine artwork.
I traipse down to the pond, taking it all in. I flip the canoe onto my shoulders and traverse the short gang plank to the dock and carefully lower my canoe into the water. I kneel amid ship and scoot over to the edge of the gunnel. She heels over onto her chine and settles comfortably there. My paddle finds purchase in the liquid magic and I’m free, walking on water. The air is crisp and the water cold. My breath precedes me, visibly present in the fall air. I travel along the shoreline noticing the late season foliage. The sun is bright in the early morning. It’s good to be here. I drink in the sights, sounds, smells, and feeling. Meditation and relaxation can take many forms, for me it happens kneeling in a canoe. Like the count of a mala bead, each paddle strokes brings me closer to peace, closer to freedom.
Like the count of a mala bead, each paddle strokes brings me closer to peace, closer to freedom.
With my morning paddle finished and my canoe settled safely on land, I feel comfortably tired. Looking forward to the quiet warmth, I meander back to the cabin. I think about how I’m tired from more than just the paddle. I think about how much physical effort is involved in living without all the modern conveniences I take for granted. I think about our ancestors and what a different life they led. Maybe it was better. Certainly it was better for their health. Our bodies are made to move and movement feeds our bodies as surely as food.
Our bodies are made to move and movement feeds our bodies as surely as food.
Back in the cabin, Shirley and I while away the hours absorbed in reading. It was the impetus for this get away. A vacation with nothing to do and nowhere to go. A chance to shut-off the phones and the computers. A goal of relaxation rather than stimulation.
We packed along a few other items in our trick bag of tools in an attempt to max our relaxation response. Premier among them was a massage table so we could swap daily massages. We set-up the table next to the wood stove and made sure to Stoke the fire before massage time so the cabin would be nice and warm.
We decided we need to play like this when we returned to our everyday life.
A deck of cards was also in our trick bag. When’s the last time you played cards? Cards used to be an extremely popular and common form of entertainment and social interaction. I’m of an age where cards hold many special memories of special time spent with family and friends, and yet I almost never play cards. It was immensely fun to play again. It’s really quiet, slow, and guaranteed to produce some smiles and laughs. We played cribbage and although it had been so long that we had to refer to the game rules frequently, we had a lot of fun. We decided we need to play like this when we returned to our everyday life.
Occasionally we would interrupt our cabin life to go for a walk. The late fall air was clear and crisp. The trails were covered with a soft coat of leaves and thick with the scent of evergreens. Our afternoon hikes were the perfect prelude to an afternoon nap.
Our ‘different’ vacation was a great opportunity to unwind, shut-off the constant chatter of phones, internet, work, contrived entertainment, and the endless to-do list. I learned some things. It showed me the value of slowing down and the physical and mental benefit of a simpler way of life. I’m going to try to use what I learned.
My expertise is nutrition, but I always advise my clients on reducing their stress levels. It’s critical, really. You can eat and assimilate perfectly and if you don’t manage stress it’s all for naught. Stress, because it’s a survival mechanism, takes priority over everything else.
I’d love to hear your experiences in the quest to unwind from our modern life. What has worked for you? Please leave a comment below.
Latest posts by Peter Wright, NTP, CGP (see all)
- Dehydrated Broth – Making It Easy to Drink Broth Every Day! - March 11, 2017
- Lose 10 lbs DURING the Holidays - November 19, 2016
- Finding Good Oils - February 7, 2016