There’s something about an island, something about waking in a log cabin to the sound of loons calling and water washing over rocks. Something about those storms — the ones preceded by a strange almost mystical silence in which the sky turns greenish-yellow and the winds, when they come, come fierce enough to bend the tallest pines like grass. The storms that keep everyone off the lake save those of us of the islands.
This is how I grew up. On the books, I was born in Minneapolis and was raised in St. Louis Park, but we had a cabin on an island in Elbow Lake, north of Cook, Minn., and this was where my mom and I lived from June to September. Dad and my two older brothers came on the weekends. Mom was an artist and I was a dreamy child who knew that place in the woods where the fairies lived and spent days creating things in the solitude that became part of me, the solitude that’s made me who I am.
The cabin was built by my dad, with my brothers as the workforce. He bought two one-room log cabins on the mainland, took them apart and hauled them across the lake log by log, joining them into one large cabin where there was no TV, no electricity, no phones and no running water. I loved it, this place of my heart.
When I moved to Alaska in 1975, I thought I would find a new heart place, a new place of wilderness wider and wilder than Minnesota. And I did. But I never quit yearning for the woods of northern Minnesota and the island of my childhood.
My older brother, Kit, owns that island now. And right next to Kit’s island, across from Diving Rock where Mom and I swam every morning all those many years ago, is the little island named Wee Toddy by Don Macrae, who built a cabin there in 1953. the year after our cabin was built.
In 1969, Macrae sold that island to my oldest brother, Dave, and his wife, Barb. In 2010, right before he died, Dave made me promise that I would spend several months at his cabin the following summer with Barb. He knew Barb wouldn’t go alone. Sadly, this trip never happened. Barb was gone before the summer came, a victim, like Dave, of an aggressive cancer. They left their cabin to me.
And so I return to the lake of my childhood, to this little log cabin with its stone fireplace where the flag commemorating Dave’s years in the Air Force sits on the mantle and the sound of wind on water lulls me back to a simpler life. Although it seems like yesterday, it’s been 40 years since I spent months at a time on this lake, in these islands. I still love the peace of it.
Sitting in the wood-burning hot tub at sunrise, I listen to loons laughing and I am filled with gratitude, the kind of gratitude that feeds the heart and soul.
Debby Dahl Edwardson, barrow, Alaska