The old man (I’m not old, but in my mind’s cabin I am) liked to chop firewood for exercise and peace. The rhythm of the axe rose and fell seemingly at its own pace, with little effort but lots of joy. The moist, rich smell of oak and hickory filled the air. The sound of work did not bother the wildlife. Birds chirped and sang and squirrels chattered. He admonished his hounds for giving them chase–his lions he called them: Caesar, Cleopatra and Patton.
His aging profile is noticed in the lines on his forehead. His hairline is receded now but the admixture of Celtic and Saxon blood is undeniable in his features despite the passage of time–A regular Child of God, he reminded himself. He’s thin, still broad, but slightly hunched forward at the shoulders.
The gentle sounds of nature around the cabin were like Beethoven for the destitute. It was nature that played maestro to his all his thoughts and every activity. He rose early each day to review the day’s schedule over cups of steaming coffee. The matters mostly involved fighting back the weeds and vines and birch that threatened to invade his peaceful oasis in the woods. The task was unending but in them he found for each day of his life reason, calmness, and progress. Fighting for civilization, he mused, by undoing nature’s painstaking labor.
In the afternoon, after lunch and a midday nap or a book, he tended to his vegetable garden and five fruit trees. If the heat was not too much, he sat and marveled at what he created in the midst of wilderness. He would walk down to the bank of the creek and sit in the shade. He’d count the wood ducks and the bass and catfish or playfully throw acorns at the soft-shell turtles as they emerged from beneath the surface for air.
The water passed by at the same pace of his life. He was deeply and utterly and completely content. Even free he’d boast, if he were in an arrogant mood.
Winter days were equally rustic and simple. He would carry in carefully cut firewood to the fireplace and escape the cold with a book and a glass of scotch. The light from the crackling heat provided warmth and light to soothe and assist his reading while reclined in his easy chair. He wrote once during one of these nights, “Here I have not only silence but complete peace. Sometimes it is so quiet I can overhear my mind and heart. The wisdom these two share.”
Inside his cabin was a sanctuary. Before entering, he left his boots at the doorstep. He expected those who visited to do the same. His home was a modest, two story, two bedroom affair. He hired laborers from nearby and helped build it, too. On the ground floor was an open layout: living room, guest bedroom, dining room, kitchen, and bathroom and off to the side near the staircase was his reading area and library, which was closest to the fireplace.
Reading was a passion and he had finally developed a taste and discipline for the classics. In the place of large meals were simple hearty stews, salads and the vegetables from his garden and the fruit from his fruit trees.
Ascending the staircase, one passed his book-lined study. On the upper floor were the master bedroom and a fully furnished loft that opened to a balcony facing east. There in the early morning, he would talk to God, created to creator—the details of which are forever unknown.
The cabin stood in surrounded woods hugging the nearby creek. It was remote from the nearest road and invisible from the nearest highway. Although he kept to himself most of his days, he was friendly, agreeable, and never turned down strangers.
He told his son one evening, now a young lawyer, who stressed to him about the lack of time and opportunity that, “One does not have time, son. One makes time. The same goes with opportunity.” (The son forgot this nugget of wisdom. Years later when he realized it for himself but was too old to do anything with it and forgot that it was ever told to him to start with, could do nothing but share it with his son and hope for a different outcome).
His son would help him from time to time with the sawing, clearing and piling. Each claimed for themselves something basic from the land and something basic from each other. At night around a fire or on the balcony looking up at the stars, they would smoke cigars and sip scotch. He asked his son to share with him about his aspirations, about life in general. They called this council the “God and the Stars Discussions.”
The man told his son that satisfaction would take him further than any good favor in life. He explained, “Consider morality, ethics, economics, politics, each passing year and compare it to your own level of satisfaction. Then you are forced to compare your own happiness against the world and decide for yourself who’s doing better. However, one must be willing to retreat, tactically, of course, within his own interior lines and be willing to leave behind dead weight that just yesterday was precious and invaluable.”
His son tried, underneath those stars, to follow along in his father’s wisdom but admitted that with his whole life in front of him, the thought of retreat and living in a cabin was obnoxious. The father calmly and reassuringly said that it’s good to grow old because it allows a person to change gradually, “It’s easier to smile, it’s easier to cry and forget the things that once set our minds on fire. The more one relaxes and sees life in all its simplicities, as opposed to its impossibilities, the more things that seemed important recede. Yet, one does not retire in this simplicity because there is always something to do! Physically and mentally one finds tasks that can be measured and their completion noticed.”
The son pressed for more clarification. Finally the father revealed all that he had learned in life was abundantly within and around the cabin. In which was thus, “Find so much satisfaction in your life and days and works that all of them are more a pleasure than a chore.”