On an early October Saturday, I have a list of chores for our little cabin: shake the rugs, vacuum spider webs, put away screens, wash windows, set mouse traps, bring in hoses.
The hummingbird feeders hang abandoned. A flock of geese loudly honks, furiously protesting the southbound flight. Nuthatches along the riverbank frantically search bur oaks for crawling tidbits. While hanging out the rugs, I watch them obsessively hopping and picking their way up and down the oaks amid wind gusts and fluttering spirals of leathery leaves. Occasionally a hairy woodpecker or a brown creeper joins them. Chickadees chatter noisily — dee-dee-dee.
I come to this neglected cabin on the Crow Wing River to get away from the noise and stress of Minneapolis. Because it is the end of the season, I grab the vacuum nozzle. Moving the vacuum vigorously over the concrete floor into the corners, the tension of the city still with me, I push hard.
Outside the window, I see a nearly upside-down chipmunk cling ferociously to the bird feeder, stuffing its cheeks. Screeching and clicking on a branch nearby, a red squirrel attempts to scare the chipmunk, who refuses to yield. My arm motion slows as I watch, mesmerized.
On the river, a duck taking a fall bath dives, flutters, splashes and preens. Whispering along the river channel, wind gusts gently lift oak leaves onto the water’s surface. Twirling downstream, they become miniature fairy boats in a Tinkerbell story. The duck, still preening, moves into swamp grass, stretches out her neck and tilts her head as she gently bobs up and down.
Turning back to wage war against the spider army, I vacuum furiously, but my focus has changed. On the opposite riverbank I notice movement — ripples in the water. The otter has slipped into the water and is swimming my way.
It’s useless. I put down the vacuum handle, kick the off button and pick up my coffee cup and binoculars. It’s Saturday. I have a list. Dragging a chair to the window, I busy myself with the most important task … The stress is lifting.
CHANGE OF SEASONS! Let’s shutter these cabins for the cold months ahead. Cabin Country will celebrate your beloved hunting shacks through the fall. Please send your photos and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or submit online at www.startribune.com/hideouts. Come wintertime, we'll turn our attention to ice-fishing houses.