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.