Yesterday I asked Emma, “Do you want to go to the indoor pool?”
To my surprise she answered, “No.”
“Do you want to go for a walk?” I asked.
She said nothing, which could mean she wanted to or it also might mean she didn’t. It could go either way.
I needed to be more specific. “Do you want to go to the cabin?”
“Yes!” She replied. She ran into the mudroom and grabbed a leash, which she attached to my shorts. There is a history (as there is with almost everything she does) to the leash. When she was a toddler, she became absolutely terrified of dogs, all dogs. We would explain to her that the dogs wouldn’t hurt her and anyway they would be on a leash. The only way she could be convinced to go on a hike was if she could hold the leash. Over time that led to putting me on a leash and now it is a given that the dogs run freely, but I am on a leash that Emma holds and occasionally tugs on if I am not going quickly enough or conversely, am going too quickly to force me to slow down. In any event, it works.
Off to the cabin we went, the dogs racing around fighting over various sticks they found along the way and Emma and I leashed together.
The cabin, one room, no hot water, no electricity, a wood burning stove and fireplace, was nick named “Zurcher’s Folly”. My immediate family built it log by log and at the time, my father, in particular wondered if it would sit unused. In the 1970’s the ranch had no houses on it, just fields, shrub, irrigation ditches some beaver dams, herds of elk roamed through each winter, bears and coyote took over in the summer. The only structures were a barn and the ranch house at the edge of the property where a revolving door of people lived in return for taking care of the irrigation ditches, sometimes boarding horses on the land.
Since the cabin was built various family members have slept in it. During a brief break between colleges I even lived in it for four months, packing my food and water in, sitting out on the deck looking out onto the Rockies and contemplated life. The cabin has always held a special place in my heart, a place my family built with their own hands and hard work, a place of solitude, removed from everything else. Unless an airplane flew overhead one would not know what year it was. We go out to the cabin at least once every time we come to Aspen. A pilgrimage of sorts, it is a reminder of what is important in life and what we all love about being in this part of the world.
My two children have been going out to the cabin ever since they were born. So it was with a certain degree of excitement that Emma and I made our way through the grass and fallen trees before rounding the bend and caught our first glimpse of the cabin’s roof.
Emma immediately began to run. After I’d unlocked the door, she dropped the leash and fell onto a mouse dung covered platform, which serves as one of two beds. We stayed there for a few hours, me rereading the journal we keep where everyone who has visited the cabin over the past thirty plus years is encouraged to make an entry, and Emma singing and dancing.
On the way home Emma grabbed the leash once again and tugged on it.
“What?” I asked.
“Go to the indoor pool,” Emma said.
“But it’s too late now, Emma. We have to go home and get dressed for the picnic we’re going to,” I said.
Emma pretended to cry with an exaggerated facial expression. Sometimes this leads to Emma actually crying, what begins as a kind of joke can soon turn into the real thing.
I began to sing, “We can’t go to the indoor pool. We’re going to a picnic.”
Emma picked up where I left off, “I want to go to the indoor pool,” she sang, then looked at me.
“We can’t, we can’t, we can’t,” I sang back.
Then Emma sang, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.”
We went on like this making up verses and melodies, sometimes overlapping each other, sometimes stopping mid “verse” until the other picked it up.
“I could hear you two singing all the way up the trail,” Richard said when we eventually returned to the house.
“Wasn’t that great?” I asked.
“She’s doing great, Ariane,” Richard replied.
And he’s right.