This is the hardest of the Cabin Fever series to write as I’m trying to think about what I took away from my cabin years. Difficult because there is so much.
After a lot of thought, I think I can place most of what I learned under two broad headings: space and connection.
I think of this as both time and distance.
Walking for hours and knowing I would not see another person all day.
Talking and singing (very badly) to myself with only the trees to judge.
Walking in the dark and knowing the way by the slight curve of the road and the barely visible outline of black trees against navy blue sky.
These are all things I haven’t done for decades, but I still remember those ridiculously free feelings as if they were yesterday.
And time. So much time.
There were lots of things to do, of course — chopping wood, hauling water, keeping fires going in the winter, but so much time left for dreaming.
Of course, I had no electricity, so news of the outside world was limited to static-garbled scraps from the William’s Lake radio station, intermittently and randomly snatched from the sky by my old battery-operated radio.
“Come on over to the Boitanio Mall, climate controlled for your comfort …”
“Billy Jack, could you please come pick up your egg delivery from the train station as soon as possible. They’re hatching and running around …”
Limitless hours were left over for chasing random thoughts, reading books from cover to cover in one go, watching clouds, examining the light on a leaf. My Kodak Instamatic wasn’t up to capturing most of this, but that love of waiting and watching, now part of my photography, was hatched (like Billy Jack’s chickens) back then.
When I first arrived in Likely, however, I was quite afraid of all that space. I worried (and I know this from the one lonely diary entry I wrote in that whole period) that I might be hollow inside, and that I’d become filled up by the space and there’d be nothing of me left.
At the same time, I felt a bit claustrophobic, surrounded by miles and miles of trees.
I couldn’t say when those fears left me. I know that, at some point, I started thinking of the trees as my friendly neighbours and I guess I just stopped worrying about whether I was hollow or not.
If I’d set out to “find myself” I guess I must have just stumbled over myself one day without really noticing at the time.
While much of my Cabin Fever Series has been about me being alone out in the woods, the fact is that I couldn’t have done any of it without the support of a lot of other people. Even if I didn’t see people for days on end, I knew I was part of a community.
Back then the mail was delivered to Likely’s post office (a series of boxes at the gas station) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Mail Days everyone from a fifty mile radius came into town, ostensibly to check the mail, but mainly to see each other. The Likely Bar was the community centre.
I can’t remember how we arranged this, with no phones, but on a Mail Day I knew I could rely on a ride into town (about 15 miles away) from one of my Seven Mile Road neighbours. And I knew that if, for some reason, I didn’t show up — someone would come to check on me.
Should I feel the irresistible urge for human companionship, on a non-Mail Day, I knew I could always walk the couple of miles to my nearest neighbours and be welcomed in for a game of Bear Trap and several cups of well-percolated coffee.
Some of those Likely people who let me live with them when I was cabin-less, who loaned me tools, brought me firewood, gave me lifts, and even taught me to use a rifle (bear-in-the-cabin situation, luckily resolved without my having to practice my limited firearms skills) are still good friends today, forty-plus years on. In better days ahead, we should have a Likely bar reunion!
And it wasn’t just the Likely community I felt supported by. Old friends and family wrote to me often, and some even visited me in my little cabin, including my friend from Wales who helped build the cabin and gave me my first driving lessons. My very first lesson ended up in a ditch, but hey …
And my parents, my lovely Mam and Dad … many of you wondered how they fared, worry-wise during those years. I like to think that (without the torment of minute by minute Tweets or Instagram posts) receiving only occasional vaguely worded letters from me, they had just the most general idea of what I was up to. I hope that might have helped with the “no news is good news” frame of mind so valuable to the parents of absent children.
I was always hoping for a letter with my mother’s handwriting when I picked up my mail. I’ve saved many of her letters, and I use fragments of them sometimes in my images, as a thread of ongoing connection.
My parents never once wrote that I should drop everything and come home immediately, for which I am forever grateful. Once those days were long and safely over, I did tell them some of the more hair raising stories and we had some good laughs.
Now it’s my turn, as the mother of young adults, to chant the No News is Good News mantra when they’re off doing inadvisable things. My son thoughtfully gave me a Guatamalan worry doll after his last trip to help with that. What’s that saying about karma …?
For those of us lucky to be just waiting things out at home during the time of COVID-19, not working on the front lines, and fortunate enough to have a safe and comfortable space to be sheltering in, these past few weeks have been a new and strange kind of space. Connections are being forged by our common effort to protect each other, as well as via the myriad ways of staying in touch online — boomers Zooming, my kids playing out dramatic Dungeons and Dragons campaigns online, WhatsApping, FaceTiming, pod casting, blogging …
For myself, it’s had me looking back on my Cabin years with great gratitude, as I was privileged to have so many life style choices available to me — and the fact that I’m posting online about a time when there were no lines to be on, seems strangely cyclical.
Lastly, a few more random things I took away from those years:
- Hot running water is amazing. Showers in particular
- Ditto, being able to listen to music whenever you want.
- You can get by with very little.
- If you’re going to be alone a lot, never, ever watch horror movies: advice I follow stringently to this day.
- Life is better with a dog. A cat is nice too.
32 thoughts on “Cabin Fever Series IV”
I have so enjoyed these instalments and marvelled at your capacity to embrace challenges and capability to master so much! It makes me wonder what in the world I was doing at that stage of my life…. Thank you so much for sharing!!
I’ve absolutely loved you cabin series. A brave adventurer but I don’t think you looked at yourself that way at the time. But holy cow, you were. While reading each missive, I was thinking about the animals that were lurking out there while you went about your business 🙂
Take good care during this uncertain time and thankvyou for taking us on this journey.
Fabulous times when life was simpler and filled with wonderful adventures. Thank you for sharing your treasured memories with us.
I bow down! Talk about brave and independent! You must’ve already found a large part of yourself, unknowingly perhaps, to have had the confidence to set on an adventure like that – especially not having grown up here! Thank you for sharing your wonderful series with us…it has been fun to be transported to your cabin in the woods, especially from the safety if our couches! Stay healthy ❤️
Thanks, Amanda – you too, stay healthy!
And yet now here you are in the heart of civilisation…….although I really enjoyed our visit , I couldn’t imagine living in a built up area where there are so many unknown people and human hazards,much rather face a bear than a human bent on destruction.
Love from Islay.xx
What a wonderful diversion, taking us along with you on your adventure! I thoroughly enjoyed it, remembering how very timid I was in my youth, afraid to step away from the norm, I have enormous respect for your independent and questioning spirit as a young woman. Thanks for your memories….
A wonderful account of the Zeitgeist at the time, June. I had a woman friend those days, who disappeared to Atlin, B.C., to live in a teepee, solo and off the grid, and give birth to a child she was expecting. I’ve never seen her again, to my regret, because I’d like an update about her life’s path! I hope she came out with the same kind of wisdom you have acquired. You sure are a can-do woman, not afraid to learn unorthodox skills, and why not? Sometimes, it’s good not to know what you’re in for beforehand. The skill of being self-reliant is what makes you more than able to survive the current situation of a toned-down, simplified, somewhat isolated life. Do you know of a book by Kate Braid, ‘Journeywoman,’ about her work as as construction carpenter in a man’s world? I think you’d love it, she’s funny. Thank you very much for your good read about your former (formative?) life.
Thanks, Mariken — I’ll have to seek out Kate Braid’s book.
Just want to say thank you for sharing these wonderful memories. Somehow, I missed series I. Read II first and then absolutely had to go back and find I. Then looked forward to more. Your words are as lovely to read as your images are to look at. Thanks again!
Your account was so personal I feel I joined you on your adventure, and also quite jealous of your bravery. I grew up in small logging camps similar to Likely, but with all the mod-cons of the 50s. I did for a time, want to live ‘in the woods’ but my fear of bears and cougars and all things wild that might eat me, kept me in the city (with its own wild ones). Your story was a wonderful read. Thank you!
I really enjoyed reading this series- it brought back so many memories. I never had the nerve to go off like you did but my husband (before I met him, actually immediately before I met him) had a similar adventure around the same time in the backwoods of Alberta. What an incredible way to learn about oneself , always assuming one survived!
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So enjoyed your adventures all the while wondering how your parents felt but you covered that at the end. Thanks
Thanks for this – you were so brave living alone and without the conveniences. I admire you!
Have lived reading your cabin stories. You must have had trust in yourself as well as a sense the world was a good place, and your parents must have felt pretty much the same. What a great gift to experience what you did! I really liked the way you came to think of the trees as your neighbors – you became part of your surroundings. Thanks so much for sharing this.
Thanks so much. I loved your account of your younger days building a cabin and living in Likely. What an adventure! I am about your age and am rather wishing that I too had had that kind of experience. Good on you.
Thanks June! I’m so impressed by your story!
All I can say is I had similar experiences with what we hippie kids called the farm. We lived without running water and learned that cutting wood in the fall was a good thing. I could add more but your series which had pictures I lack, touched a nerve in me. We both became accomplished women and perhaps that rugged on the edge part of our lives made us even better than those that just went to college and become accountants. (no dis on accountants but you know what I mean). Love Robin
Thank you for your writing. I’ve very much enjoyed all of your stories and photos. Came for the Crows – stayed for the rest ♥️
June, I’m loving your cabin series! What a feat. I’m just in awe. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this story with us – I keep looking forward to the next installment.
Wonderful stories, June, thanks for sharing. A woman named Chris Czajkowski lived a similar life near Anahim Lake around that time. Have you read her books? Such brave and adventurous women, very inspiring.
I haven’t see Chris’s books — will have to seek them out!
June! Love your wonderful stories; I too came for the crows and ravens but stayed for the cabin series. You are a remarkable woman. I gobble up each installment that you write and wish for more. Your photography too is stunning. I have sent a link to your blog to my niece who was also a tree planter and most likely knows the areas around Quesnel and Likely (a great name). My Mother was from a village in Warwickshire, England and remember her often saying, “No news is good news.” However, now with the technologies we have there is no excuse for not writing home or Facetiming relatives across the pond.
Cheers and stay healthy and safe.
Great reading. And am totally with you on the horror movie advice.
Enjoyed your blog & hopefully there’s more to come. I want to hear the bear story again. Still remember you telling it many years ago
Thanks Dave. Ah yes, the bear story …
I loved these stories so much! And admire your courage resourcefulness in living and building your home in the woodlands. It reminds me of a similar time in my youth, when I had friends living simply in remote places. I admired them, but never really joined them, only visited. Brava!
Finally got around to reading through your life story building/ living in a cabin, June. And some story! Fantastic reading, impressive you. What a brave and intrepid marvel you were, heading off into the wilderness of 1970’s BC. Definitely, a book is in order. Still waiting for more of Finlay the Magnificent’s adventures, this referenced bear story, and did you ever learn how the cabin came to be burned down? Thank you again for sharing this wonderful life story with us, during such an exceptional time. I can understand why your thoughts were drawn back to it now. Look forward to more stories, as always.