A group of four of us from the Banff Centre went out to the cabin in question, above. We had to snowshoe two kilometers in along a trail, and the building, which belongs to the Alpine Club of Canada, has no electricity or running water. Lit by gas lamps on the wall, water boiled from fetched snow, an outhouse by the wood shed and two great fire stoves to heat the place. It was perfect.
There’s something about the word ‘rustic’ that I don’t like: the way it smooths over the sense of harshness – a sense of dishonesty. Or it’s more that I can’t imagine someone who lives in a place like this year round calling it ‘rustic’ without a lacing of irony.
So say instead the cabin was perfectly rough, self-contained – what was needed was there, and what was not needed, or could be fetched, was either there or was no – absent, external.
Beams held up the ceiling and the loft above. The stair had a rope banister. There were benches by the fire, places to hang your soaked socks to dry. Within this sufficiency there were also flourishes, like the model parrot in a pirate’s hat which sat above the fire. And the board games for the drawn-in nights.
There’s no denying it wouldn’t be an easy place to live for long, but I could have stayed a week. I felt very peaceful – after a late night, disturbed by an intrusive animal (after a foam cooler box, as teeth marks showed in the morning), I woke up earlier than everyone else, and built up the fire and watched it until it was light enough to read, then read until everyone else got up, many hours later.
It’s a kind of intense peacefulness that envelopes you as you sit watching a fire you are keeping lit, with no one else around. And there is the silence too of people sitting beside you on the bench by that fire, with nothing much to say and a book in their hands too. Heightened silence, but easy at the same time. I would like that every day, but that’s not to be, until I have the chance to build my own house, if that ever happens.
Until then, I’ll gather these things for The Library of Endings. I’ll make the trip useful, or I’ll try. Writing as a way to lay out the walls, to re-create and contain what is fleet like this. I look at the pictures for now, taking a breath. How many months more will this place last so crisply, sense-rich, in my mind?