Eulogy for the Cabin
The Cabin burnt down this month. The historic and deadly Beechie Creek wildfire came down the river in Oregon, and destroyed the little cabin on September 8th. My great grandfather (My mom's mom's dad) lived in Salem, and built the cabin in 1920. He called it Jessie's Inn, for his wife. The Cabin was only 25 miles from Salem, Oregon, close by today's standards, but I imagine back in 1920, it seemed like it was out in the mountains.
Everything is gone now, except the river and the kind neighbors who have looked after the place for years.
Many people in the Santiam Canyon have lost so much more than we have, and my heart aches for them. But my heart is sad for the loss of the Cabin, and I want to share about it, because I think it will help with my grief.
The Cabin was very rustic and not in the best shape. And by rustic, I mean that you had to be prepared to share the space with rats ( wood rats- cuter than city rats, but big) spiders and bugs. And so many ants. There were several large ant hills on the property, and the ants had developed a complex network of highways for conducting their ant business. when I went there last week, the ant hills were gone, but the ants were still there, looking dazed and confused. I am confident they are rebuilding as I write.
The outhouse was called Friendly Village. I never thought to ask my Mom why until we found out it was gone. She told me that my great - grandfather used it as a church retreat in the 20's and 30's, and his church friends named it that. That didn't really answer my question of why, but it doesn't really matter.
We kept a diary at the cabin, where usually people wrote about the weather and what we ate for dinner. There were diaries at the cabin, going back to the 1960s. In the stack of diaries (now gone) my dad wrote about my first visit when I was a baby. He wrote something like “Jule didn't have much to say. She has yet to say anything about anything because she hasn't learned to talk yet."
Somewhere, I have video of my high school friends and I having a small party at the Cabin. We are drinking beer, dancing and singing to Tom Waits -Rain Dogs - getting progressively more into it, as time passes, and more beer is consumed. Thank god social media did not exist then.
Most everything of value had been stolen from the cabin because it had been broken into countless times over the years. When I was about 21, I discovered one of the biggest robberies. They took many antiques including my grandmothers wedding trunk, an antique dresser, any dishes that had any value, and a giant rack of elk antlers.
The beds were all lined up on a covered sleeping porch, where you could sleep outside under crisp sheets and blankets, listening to the constant sound of the river as it lulled you to sleep.
Memories of family, friends, boyfriends, husbands, wives, kids, music, dogs, games, the 70's clock radio in the kitchen that constantly played equal parts static and OPB -- if ever a space and place and a soul, this one did. It was a place that five generations of my family shared and loved in our own way. It wasn't insured, and really the only value it had was sentimental.
I went there on Saturday for the first time since the fire. Every single thing that wasn't metal was burned, melted or broken. Of the house, only the chimney stood surrounded by ash, the crumpled metal roof, glass and nails. On the surrounding property, only the charred tall trees remain ( many of which will need to come down). On the edge of the property there were many charred cans and bottles which had been thrown from the road. Some cans were from the days before the pull ring openers.
I rescued a couple of charred things out of the ashes. But I really am working on just letting go of that old place. This helps to write about it, and think of what that place means to me. That love helps me to move forward, and think about what the future holds.