This is a story about love. It’s not a love story, but we’ll see about that.
I have just spent two weeks in the north woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in a log cabin built by my grandfather over 60 years ago. It was during the Great Depresion that he set to work, digging and hand-pouring a concrete basement, felling and stripping pine logs, cutting the dovetail joints and making himself a place where he could pursue his interests of hunting and fishing. A big bear skin hangs above a doorway, and legend has it that he shot the small black bear right outside the cabin in the days when there were few other homes around the lake.
It’s a place I can remember coming to as far back as my memory goes, and the truth is that Ive been coming to it since I was an infant. Though the years, so many people have come to this place, including my own children, eaten meals at the long communal table topped with zinc my grandpa built (he built all the furniture inside the place), and sat around the campfire at night. All these people have filled this sweet gem with their energy, their laughter, their love. Not much has changed in the cabin all these years…and yet this time as I spent my days, enjoying the views of the lake and the wildlife that teems all around, I was filled with abiding love. The type of love that has been described as needing no words, only presence. Scenes of me playing in the sand as a kid, of the lavish meals my maternal grandmother would cook for all of us, the dozens of fish lined up from a succesful day out on the water filled my head and heart. There are so many stories attached to this grand old gal, and my heart swelled with gratitude for having her in my life, for the people both living and dead whose energy and laughter still emanates from the walls if you but listen for it.
I did not know my grandfather very well, even though he lived 6 blocks from us. When my mother was very young, her mother – my grandfather’s wife and the mother of my mom and her older brother – died of gall bladder problems. Because my grandfather was a businessman, he sent his two young children to be cared for by one brothers family, and then another’s. Because my mother and her older brother were shuffled between relatives, the relationship she had with her father became strained. My own mother did not grow up with the special touch of a mother’s love. I never knew my mother or grandfather to be demonstrative of love. And yet…this cabin in the woods stands as the container for so many wonderful memories.
How funny it is that we determine whether a person has loved us based upon their behavior. I always feld oddly awkward around my grandfather.The silence between he and my mother stood in the way, and I never really talked with him. However, spending the past two weeks in his ‘presence’ made me understand that sometimes, those who struggle with physical contact, hugs, a simple “I love you” or warm smile, can demonstrate such deep love via a three bedroom log cabin on a spring fed lake which has stood with open arms for the scores of people who have loved her right back all these decades.
Love doesn’t always come to us in the package we want or expect. Sometimes, we have to listen deeper for it.