Decades ago, JB’s parents bought a tiny cabin on the Umpqua River. They put a lot of work into it over the years, it is an integral part of JB’s childhood memories. He always wanted the cabin to be as much of a part of our lives — of our children’s lives — as it was for him, but we were so far away. We drove there over and over, but the pleasure of our visits was often overshadowed by the sheer effort of getting there.

Now the cabin is a little over an hour from our house. We go there almost every Friday, and our routine has become as comfortable as a broken-in pair of jeans. We leave around 4. We stop at a McDonald’s in Cottage Grove for Happy Meals. We put coins on the train tracks in Drain. We stop for a half-gallon of milk, and more often than not, a pint of Umpqua Dairy ice cream, Blackberry Revel flavor. We start a fire to warm up the cabin, pop popcorn, play a few disgusting, giggly games of Would You Rather? and curl up in front of Shark Tank.

Saturday morning JB bundles up the boys and they spend hours trekking through the chilly, secretive woods. I drag a chair over to the window and drink cup after cup of coffee while gazing out at the river. The days of swimming and sunning are gone but fall brings a peaceful sort of pleasure all its own: no need to get up, no need to go anywhere, nothing to do but sit and breathe and look for the silver-fast splash of a fish jumping from the water (like watching a meteor shower, your eye is sure to be in the wrong place. By the time you see it, it’s over, but how delighted you are all the same), the foggy tendrils caught in the autumn-tinged trees, the way the river’s glassy reflection transforms to a matte, pockmarked surface when the rain sets in. The osprey that circles its dinner before dropping in a sudden startling rush, the ragged V of geese heading upstream in a comical flurry of honks.

It’s just a short drive down the road now, but oh, it’s an entire world away. I think this over and over: we are so lucky.

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65 Responses to “72 miles away”

  1. Em on November 9th, 2012 6:50 am

    I’m so jealous. My grandparents had such a place when I was little. It is still my happy place (you know when you are on a crowded subway and getting sort of claustrophobic and if one more person touches you, you might scream? So you close your eyes and imagine what you just described. Happy place.). I keep trying to convince my husband that we could move to such a place now, full time. That people live in such places and go to work and school from there but he’s not into it. I think his happy place IS the crowded subway.

  2. H on November 11th, 2012 2:02 pm

    Matt and I decided we are definitely making the trip next summer. Part of me aches for that place and part doesn’t want to know the cabin without grandpa. Silly. Hope we can see you when we come. Zac and the boys can fish.

  3. Willyn on November 12th, 2012 5:26 am

    i just love the place.. it’s like heaven on earth :-)

  4. Linda Geertsen on November 13th, 2012 12:37 am

    The view from the bed is killer. Of course JB wanted this cabin to be a part of your lives. I get it. As you said, “no need to get up, no need to go anywhere, nothing to do but sit and breathe.” OK! Sign me up!

  5. agirlandaboy on November 13th, 2012 11:06 pm

    You have the thoughts and words of a person who can really, really write, but you also have the effortless rhythm that’s a total giveaway that you’re natural Writer. At the risk of pretending like I’m some kind of authority, I have to say: YOU HAVE IT.

  6. Sheelah on November 14th, 2012 5:20 pm

    In the thick of a stressful week as the mom of a 2-year-old and 5-month-old and the wife of an obsessed fisherman/outdoorsman, this post (the first I’ve ever read of yours) is just what I needed. Something peaceful to look forward to for our whole family… Though admittedly pretty far down the road since we still want one more :)

  7. Sarah on November 15th, 2012 8:21 am

    I’m late to this but I wanted to say that seeing this ace through a new lens makes it magical. I know it’s the same place that used to bring you so much stress, but it looks so different now. I’m so happy to watch this unfold from afar. And like others I’m so jealous. My husband grew up 6 hours from where we live but there’s no serene escape at the end, just LA. :)

  8. Erin@MommyontheSpot on November 17th, 2012 5:52 am

    This is such a beautiful post. Whenever you write about how you and your family decided to go after the life you always wanted, I feel inspired. thank you.

  9. Anne on December 2nd, 2012 12:18 pm

    Wow. What an amazing place. Lucky ducks.

  10. Katie on December 11th, 2012 2:35 pm

    This is a late comment, but it’s so nice to see good things happen to good people. I’ve been reading your blog since before you had kids. Nicely done Karma.

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