I push past the cottonwood and willow shoots. It’s been about three years since I’ve been here. A little over four since I had cleared the area. When I first moved into the cabin, it was hidden amidst a jungle of both willows and cottonwoods after years of neglect. Trash was strewn across the lawn and a heavy coating of dust coated everything in the interior. Just three years away from this place and nature had already begun the process over once more.
The branches brushed against my chest as I moved around towards the door. Ducking under, I moved inside, unsure what would lie beyond. Animals? Stuff everywhere? Mayhem? A blanket still stood across the door frame to the main cabin, beyond the arctic entry. That was a good sign. I had used this blanket in the past as a “door,” more or less. Shoddy construction had left many gaps in the walls, a door that did not fit and plenty of places with insufficient insulation. At the time, I knew nothing about building and construction. Only that putting up a blanket in this open void would somewhat slow the escape of hot air at 40 degrees below zero.
I moved the blanket aside and stepped into the main room. I see daylight through some of the logs and insulation scattered around the floor. There are some vole droppings near the kitchen counter and a pile of dust and wood shavings under the kitchen table. 5 or so voles lie dead in the slop bucket. The hole in the side window is still as I left it, with a rectangular piece of cardboard covering the shattered portion of the paper thin glass. On the other side of the cabin, the surface of the wood stove is slightly rusted. There is a gap in the roof next to the stovepipe and I find myself staring at the clouds above. Yet the books still stand on the shelves as I left them, my .22 LR just above and my canvas prints and pictures remain on the walls.
A wipe down of all surfaces with some soapy water and a half hours’ worth of sweeping rid the cabin of its filth. I move to the woodstove to start a fire and find the catalytic converter rusted shut. I try to start one anyways and end up just filling the cabin with smoke. No smoke leaves the stovepipe. Climbing onto the freezer, I jump to the top of the propane fridge then make my way on to the roof to investigate. The roof flashing for the stovepipe has slid down the roof and the insulated pipe has been crunched completely shut. Snow coming off the roof this past spring is the likely culprit. We try first with a shovel, using it like a hammer to bang the gasket into place. No luck. Next is a crowbar. I stick an end in the pipe and try to pry my way to an opening. Some smoke starts to come out. More prying. The flashing makes its way further up the roof. In only a few minutes more, the flashing is back in place and the insulated pipe is at roughly half it’s originally opening. Not ideal but workable for now.
The hills of brush still sit in the yard from my first time clearing this property. Fireweed and tall grasses spring up in any area without willows or cottonwoods. Some new growth is welcome, such as the plethora of raspberries growing around the edge of the cabin. the process of new growth and decomposition is always ongoing. Without maintenance, everything returns to the ground and the metals and plastics that can’t sit atop it. It’s easy to imagine an alternative storyline for this cabin. One in which I never arrived, there is a hole in the roof and water begins to go in the cabin, rotting the logs inside. There’s evidence of similar occurrences in some of the cabins throughout the community. Things get neglected over time. Cabins come and go. For now that process has been delayed.