There is no way to describe the significance of our cabin today without first looking to the past.

When Bryngel and Carrie Johnson, Norwegian immigrants and my great-grandparents, were looking for lake property in 1923, they found a 50-foot lot on a high, steep bank overlooking Lake Minnewaska in west-central Minnesota. Three generations later, we speculate that the view from that high bank reminded them of the fjords of Norway. Or that’s what we tell ourselves when we’re not cursing the bank as we climb the 59 steps it takes to get from the dock to the cabin. But that magnificent view is only one of the reasons we have continued to return to this place for nearly a century.

Over the years that single lot has expanded into a four-cabin, extended-family compound surrounded by woods, ravines and an apple orchard — an idyll for a young city boy, filled with swimming, water-skiing, apple fights, and countless adventures in those mysterious woods. And now, the place has become an ancestral oasis that continues to host a Johnson family reunion every July 4th, next summer marking the 97th in a row.

Our cabin sits in the middle of that compound, on the edge of that high bank. Built in 1972 by my father, my grandfather and a local carpenter, it’s simple yet comfortable. But within its simplicity is a sacredness. A sacredness that comes from being part of something greater. Part of a family tree that continues to grow. Part of a place that has taught each one of us about who we are and where we come from. And part of a gathering that continues to teach us about love and laughter — the two best things that life has to offer. They’re lessons that I hope will continue to be taught there for generations to come.

Charlie Rethwisch, Plymouth