Editor’s note: This is a family entry to the log book at “Ho Tan Tonka,” a family cabin near Brainerd, at the end of 2013. The writer is the son of John and Stephanie Sulzbach of Minneapolis.


It’s a long-established fact that the amount of energy in the universe is constant. New energy cannot be made; the energy in the universe is converted in various forms continuously.

Newton taught us that all actions have an equal and opposite reaction. When we apply heat to wood, we experience more heat, and the log converts into ash. This is a very familiar example.

An often overlooked but nonetheless true example of this law is showing itself clearly in our beloved “Ho Tan Tonka.” The house is wearing out. As talk turns to the real possibility that our “hard-sided tent” should be replaced, we are witnessing the effects of nearly a century of use.

The steam from tens of thousands of cups of coffee has been gradually loosening the adhesives used in the cabin; the satisfied sighs produced by delicious meals erode the edges of the foundation; the contented snores during well-deserved naps sag the ceilings.

Most destructive of all is laughter. The joyful shrieks of children rushing down to the beach; the percussive shouts of “corner on wheat” while playing the card game Pit; the glow surrounding a trick-making trump card; and the breathless disbelief of a successful fishing trip, followed by decades retelling the story, have wound screws out of their holes, wiggled the nails loose and peeled the paint. It’s the reason we have so many projects up here: Because we love doing them.

Thus after 80-plus years of creating such joy and making so many memories, it’s no wonder the toll on the cabin. There may be life left in these old bones. There may yet be another year of the taste of bacon and the smell of sticky rolls, but if there is not, we have only ourselves to blame. We’ve invested so much of our collective energy up here that large withdrawals have been made from the cabin’s physical state.

As for this year, the cabin, we Sulzbachs and the summer are all done for the year. We’ll be going up the driveway through an early- winter curtain and the snow settling on the cabin like ash.

Sine die.

Benjamin Sulzbach, new york city