log cabin in redwoods

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Anticipation can be wonderful or torture depending on a number of factors. Age is one. Remember how Christmas seemed it would never arrive? I remember impending snow storms and how excited we kids were about school closings and instead spending the day outside building snow forts.

Seriousness of a life event such as a wedding, moving and divorce influence how anticipation affects people.  As do the threat of natural disasters. With a hurricane on its way, I’ve felt increasingly anxious. Being alone with my pet dog and keeping us both safe. What constructive actions can I take beyond the stocking up on supplies (and keeping the television off with cable news and weather channel’s increasingly urgent “we’re doomed” hype…)

Back in the late 1980’s, I lived by myself (with two dogs) in a cabin in the redwoods south of San Francisco, California. The first couple of months were really scary; the sounds that suburbia and the forest makes are worlds apart.  Slowly I learned about self reliance in ways that were different from frequent business travel alone in unfamiliar places.

For one, it was quiet. It took some getting used to not hearing traffic and other sounds that humans make.  There was also a great deal of left brain mind chatter that eventually calmed.  Feeling extremely afraid and not sure what of.  Of being alone.  Worrying a huge redwood tree would fall on me during rain and wind that northern California experiences.

If there is a mantra I’ve created to help myself get through painfully fearful times, it’s “I felt this way before and I didn’t die (or other verb) then; I’ll be just fine now.”  There have been many wee hours of the morning when sitting in the dark, I’ve thought of that mantra and even wondered if dying might not be a better alternative than the terror.

The day to day builds bedrock even when I was completely unaware of it happening.  When I ran out of hot water, I rolled the heavy propane tank over to my old liftback Toyota and drove the forty five minutes to the propane gas station in Pescader0.  The trash bags were taken to the dump there too.  When I ran out of milk for my coffee and the closest grocery store was twenty-two miles each way, I bought “instant-moo” powdered creamer as well as other canned food items. The rough wood kitchen cupboard became a decently stocked pantry.



There was a cord of wood just outside for the small stove the cabin had for heat. The 1950’s round-edged refrigerator worked fine. There was even a horse named Sarge who used to stick his head into the top part of the kitchen Dutch door as he looked for fresh carrots.

Late one night I was walking alone and suddenly felt the hair rise on the back of my neck. I sensed rather than heard something over my head. When I looked up and over to the right I saw an owl land on a utility pole.


Northern spotted owl


When there were the inevitable rains and wind, I still jumped when a branch struck the cabin roof.  I started saying that fear-mantra less often and knew what peace and quiet was.  The quiet was inside me.

So here I am twenty-five years later 3,000 miles away from that cabin. When I remember how fear felt back then and what it’s like today, it beings a smile of recognition. “I felt this way before and didn’t die (or other verb) then; I’ll be just fine now.”  Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have the chance to live in a cabin in the woods again and being so close to and with nature.

The difference is that nature is wherever I am.  It’s not a geographic thing where nature is only in my favorite places in the American west. Nature in all of its exquisiteness, power, quiet and beauty is everywhere.  I’m still planning to move though.

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Redwoods on the Sequoia Trail, Big Basin Redwoods State Park

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