I need to build a cabin for the winter. I am at work, but I know this thing to be true. I need to build a cabin. A primal urge. I look out the window from my low-rise office window, through the soft-Vue double thermal insulated glass panes. The snow is falling aggressively to the still, green grass. It is yet fall, but the winter is coming, and I need to build my cabin.
A meeting is called in the conference room of the main floor. Most of my department is there. The coffee is hot but bland, Styrofoam cups full of java for the weary. Minutes are faithfully kept and will be sent out later via email to be stored in a “Meetings” file. We exit the room in our starched shirts so clean. Pressed lines. We are the washed; our work is sanitary. A glimmer of sun shoots through a window and taps me on the shoulder as I walk down the hallway. I look back out at it. I know, I reply in my mind. I will be there soon.
I have to build a cabin because it takes strength to set the posts and lift the beams into place, and I grow physically weak in my office chair, staring at a screen full of numbers, figures, and words. Electronic blips of nothing, compiled into endless streams of reports and budgets and forecasts and action plans, all stored away into folders that exist only on the screen. I must take action, action that is real and physical, near some woods with good timber, near a real stream, with fish in it for me to catch and fillet and cook over a fire in a stone contraption that I will build.
I sit back at my desk. My wife and kids stare at me from a five by seven frame. Quarterly department goals stare at me too, taped to the wall beside my Field and Stream calendar. Two worlds. Another meeting is called for the afternoon. It is cancelled later and not mentioned again.
I must do these things because I grow mentally weak as well. I must figure the length of beams and type of flooring and how to frame the walls and where to put the door and window, and how steeply to pitch the roof. It takes foresight to know where to set the posts, and where to build my cabin, to assess the weather and available materials. I must do these things. A phone rings across the room. I pore over numbers and figures and budgets. I pass them onto someone else at another desk. I see him staring into a different screen with electronic nothings. We are both weak. I quickly sketch a wall elevation with some trees in the background.
I exercise at the gym some nights. I run a little. I read, some. I do a few Sudoku puzzles on Sunday afternoons. There are no consequences. If I don’t go to the gym, no one will care. I return to my sketch. If I don’t set the beams in place accurately, my building will fail me.
Another email about a meeting tomorrow morning. I will awaken early and come in before the rush to sit with the other weary ones. I will receive the minutes later that day, maybe the next. I will store them away in the electronic folder. Probably, I will never look at them again.
I will do this thing, this cabin, for I need to sit on my porch, however small it may be, out by the woods of an evening when the cicadas call. I will not think of my neighborhood association, or my insurance rates, or the price of gasoline. I will not see the electronic nothings. I will not think on these things.
I will hear the cicadas, and listen to the frogs at night down by the pond. Hopefully a coyote, or many, will yip close by. I will not answer the phone, if it rings. I will stare out at the fields and look into the woods, and I will look up into the night. The Milky Way, opaque and centered, will speak of the Author of all things. I will see more stars than I’ve ever seen before, and I will be in wonder at it all.
I will ponder the trees huddled together over by the wood line, and I will plan my hunt for the next day. I will get up early because I want to.
I will look at the wife of my youth sitting on the porch next to me, the porch that I will build. We will talk of days gone by, and days to come, and what she put into the chili to make it taste so good. Oh, she is a fine wife. We will talk about the children God gave us. Fine children who someday will have this cabin for themselves to come to with their own families. Or they can build their own. Perhaps they will learn from me how to do it. They are pioneer stock. Hardy. I have told them that.
I will tell my wife that I love her, and we will be glad we built our cabin, and I will think on what I have done. I will examine the square corners and plumb walls, the way the eaves angle out, just as I had planned. I will remember how I chose just the right lumber, each in its rightful place according to my design. I will remember that my ability, and my will, are both on loan. I will remember the hard labor and be glad. The winter will come, and then the spring. I will do this thing, and I will again be glad that I am a man.