BY KIMBERLY MAYER
I don’t know that I’ve ever stayed in one of the WPA era National Park Service Rustic Lodges, but I’ve been there in my dreams. Where guests rock in rocking chairs with wool throws over their laps and steaming mugs in hand before a great stone fireplace, knowing they are safe from bears.
The look and feel of a lodge is what I long for in winter, and I continually ask how can I bring a little of that to my home on the water in an old growth forest in the Pacific Northwest?
Nature provides all the drama here. Wind storms come off the sea in winter and everything keels over but the house and the strongest trees. A forest so dense, it regularly thins itself out. After each storm, the ground is carpeted with cedar needles, softening and quieting the outdoor world.
Our dog’s bed lies at the foot of the fireplace, where she always faces the fire. “It brings out the wolf in her,” we note. In the summer, we move to sitting around a bonfire in the evenings. We may not have wolves but on full moon nights fox congregate on the beach to yip at the moon.
Back in the house in winter, candles stand in lanterns posed for a power outage that rarely comes–it’s almost disappointing. Soup’s in the slow cooker, one recipe after the other. We all agree the second day is tastier than the first. This far north a mud room is called “the Alaska room,” where a third of the contents are rain gear, boots and waders.
We walk everywhere. Over to the marina to check on things daily. There’s the mail to pick up, and a little market that never disappoints me, no matter what I need. Everything conspires against taking the car, and not to ferry off island–for as long as possible.
Nature is a gentle giant here. Short of a tree falling on one’s head, I can’t think of any real danger. Besides the people who are few and friendly, the island is populated with deer, little foxes, raccoon, rabbits, comfortable cows, horses, goats, sheep, alpaca, and a camel. Plenty of birds overhead, though the eagles think they own the airspace.
You can see where I’m going, there is nothing to fear here. And creating a lodge is not all about weathered or salvaged wood, rock, leather, burlap, Native American blankets, wrought iron, rusted iron, sliding barn doors and antler chandeliers. There ought to be an element of adventure, if not danger, to it.
So I invent something while walking in the woods. I invent Sasquatch, or Big Foot, for myself. Though no one sees her, I am certain she’s here. Big and hairy, perhaps 10ft tall, yet gentle and shy. Maybe.
Assuming they are nocturnal, I look for her sleeping by day. I look between the trunks of giant cedars for an outstretched arm or leg, a 24” foot protruding out. I look over moss covered rocks for her enormous head at rest. I figure she’s gone brown and green with the forest over the years. Lichen probably grows on her. She is hard to spot.
It makes for a more welcoming homecoming. Knowing she’s out there and shutting the door behind me, helps this house become a lodge.