One Night On Tustumena

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The world is so wide here, I can see clear into yesterday from where I stand.

This lake was once, a lifetime ago, home to trappers and homesteaders; those with a spirit adventurous enough to journey the miles of wilderness and settle here, in this pristine land. It’s said they followed the river to its source, or came across the Harding Ice Fields from Seward on walking trips that must have taken weeks or months to complete.

I try to imagine the courage it took to set out, no maps, no predestined results, to go by. When I come here for three days I bring a boat load of gear. They filled only a pack with what they could carry and strapped it to their backs. There were no coordinates, no GPS to mark the way, just a determination for a better life; some escaping, others searching, all on the same journey for truth.

It’s why I come here, too.  Just to remember myself, at my most basic.  Out here, I am the best part of me.

They built cabins, these people so long ago, not with chainsaws and generators to power their tools, but with handsaws for cutting and no blueprints to guide their way.  They surely must have built their cabins in the summer months, for the winter would have been too late. Logs, uncured and fresh, would have shrunk through the seasons as they dried, creating leaks and cracks between. I picture bearded men, bundled in fur, stuffing moss between the logs with calloused hands.

Some of these cabins still stand, refreshed and rebuilt by a well-meaning government that may not understand the aesthetic and historical value of decaying logs and dirt floors. They’ve become recreational cabins, now, instead of landmarks of our past. One can no longer picture the way the cabins used to be, only the polished results of ‘progress’ stand in their place. I wonder why society thinks everything has to be ‘useful’, or not exist at all.

Small flames dart among the coals in the pit. I douse the fire with water.  I can hear the wolves speak to each other across the water.  A moose laps lake water nearby.  The campsite darkens. I’m tempted to check each child’s tent.  But I know they are safe and well.  At home, inside my walls, I worry.  Out here, on the lake, I just know.

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2 Responses to "One Night On Tustumena"
  1. Chelsie says:

    I love that picture of the lake. Mmmmm….so lovely….
    I have a collection of photos of run down cabins too-from Oregon. Whenever I see one where ever I am I wonder about the people that built them, what they did, how they got there…My dad has a hobby of fixing up the old cabins that were built in the 70’s on his sister’s property. Not so old, but still lots of history and stories to tell 😉

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