Posted November 3, 2017.

2017 Fall Contest Winner: 3rd Place, Poet’s Choice

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

he perched.

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.

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