We tried to do it all—
To live in a rustic log cabin four miles from the nearest neighbor
at the end of a road we had to maintain ourselves.
It is one of the loveliest spots in the county
outside of the Wilderness.
We spent our 2-week honeymoon there, and then
the rest of the summer putting cedar shingles
on the steep roof of the 2-story dwelling.
I’d haul the shingles up to him, up the narrow stairs
that showed the worn marks of previous owners,
when access was only by trail,
then climb out the window and up a ladder to where
The view on three sides was meadow and forest
and to the south, across the river,
a tall, rounded mountain with a fire lookout at its peak.
And he commuted to work every day.
Twenty minutes on our road and half an hour on the
highway that paralleled the winding river.
I got a job teaching in a one-room school
in the little village about two miles away.
Once when the truck lost its brakes I walked
as fast as I could to the highway where
a Forest Service parent saw me and gave me a ride.
The first winter we tried to stay, our log bridge washed out
as did highway bridges.
Our first child was born that June.
He climbed trees to string a number-nine-wire phone line after
I spent the summer there with our toddler with no communication.
We planted a lawn and a garden.
I made applesauce from the trees in the old orchard.
When the mice chewed the wires on the generator
we used kerosene lamps.
We put a shower stall on the north porch
and eventually the septic tank was dug,
the outhouse came down,
the shower moved upstairs and there was
a flush toilet.
We lived there during the summer and many weekends
as two more children arrived.
For a couple of summers I used a gas washing machine
Then the electric machine from town got moved each summer.
Water came from a spring at the head of the meadow
and we used a bathtub for a settling tank to filter
some of the sand and tree debris.
Bears tried to dig up the PVC line. Maybe they thought the sound
of the water beneath the ground was bees.
They loved the apples and left great piles of dung.
We kept a sprinkler on the roof to keep the shingles wet
in case of fire.
Our heat came from a large wood-burning heater downstairs
as well as the old Monarch cook stove.
There was a gas refrigerator and a two burner gas stove.
He designed and built a bridge that would be able to withstand the
fall of a large Douglas fir from the cliff above, if it fell.
A bridge that wouldn’t wash out the way our log bridges did.
He cleared logs from the creek with an old military truck
that had a winch and taught our young daughter to shift the gears
while he wrapped a choker around a log.
A John Deere tractor was his tool for general road maintenance
but washouts required hiring someone with a big cat.
That road wanted to be a trail.
I have photos of the big English walnut in the orchard,
golden in the autumn,
and of fog filling the canyon below us;
of deer on the lawn while a child in diapers watches;
of Ponderosa pines growing in the forest around the meadow
and madrones blooming sweetly in the spring;
of the old barn near the bend in the road;
of weathered boards on the south end of the house,
a rich wine color from years of sun;
of rusty hinges and old farming equipment;
of family posed for a Christmas photo.
But we weren’t able to do it all.
Susanne Twight-Alexander is a poet from whose heart lies in the mountains, forests, meadows, wetlands, lakes and ocean side. She has published one chapbook, Being. Her heart also is warmed by her grandchildren. She has lived in Eugene with her husband, Tom, since 1989 and loves to hike.