My heart sank a little when greeted by two, large, brown garage doors. A “garbin”— a garage/cabin with attached living space — stood where the cozy two-bedroom cottage we had seen online, the one I had dreamed about in our search for a year-round retreat. But it was there, just tucked behind the huge garage. Despite it needing more windows, I quickly knew this was it. We had Lake Superior’s south shore, forests with cross-country ski trails, and our own small hamlet within striking distance to the Apostle Islands, ice caves and Friday night fish fries.
I started a cabin journal the minute we closed on our place on Bark Bay, west of Cornucopia, Wis., in November 2013. Birch Bend is what we named it. We mostly call it the cabin. It is a small place at the edge of the woods, on a grassy lawn set back from a high bank, overlooking Lake Superior.
I accounted for each visit the first year — who came, what we did, ate, discovered, spotted in the wild. And each entry added to our stake, our claim to this place. Layer upon layer, like phyllo dough, in the pages of a small craft-paper notebook. The panoramic sunsets watched from the cedar swing. Trying the fresh lake trout on the grill. Seeing moon shadows on our late-night walks down the driveway. What it feels like when subzero air stings your cheeks or the ache from icy water as we wade across Lost Creek. The layers add up, building tradition. I have it all recorded — illustrations, too. Sketches of birch trees, our Lab curled up after a day of exploring, the hummingbird feeder hanging above the lupine.
I am on to the second volume, this journal a gift from our son, its cover a slice of cedar containing many empty pages to fill. The first entry describes our grandson’s visit last fall as a newborn and most recently a description of the wildflowers I found June 1: bunchberry, trillium, Canada mayflower, bright yellow marsh marigolds. I arranged them in small bouquets to bring a bit of the outside inside.
Keeping a journal tells the story of our time here, documents our traditions and brings these memories back to life.
Debra Palmquist, Plymouth