Life in the Woods

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And so we find ourselves living for a time in the Northern Michigan woods. The OCH team is working nearby on a timber frame porch addition – a unique, compelling project – one that is worth uprooting our lives for 2 months or more, relocating to this lovely, lovely, endlessly lovely, but somewhat isolated place.

The land is lovely, as are the people here, particularly the ones we are working for, and with. They’ve accommodated us with cabins, the kind that people dream about summering in during the deepest, darkest, doldrumy, wintery work days. Danny and I, currently serving as the catering department, get to linger longer in ours as we bake muffins and brown meat for chili. We await the ding of the timer sitting on the screened-in porch which overlooks a forest-ringed lake.  I could sit on this porch for-absolutely-ever. It is quiet, so quiet. The kind of quiet I rarely find in ordinary life. The only sound is the breeze ruffling the leaves. First the birch leaves which tremble at the slightest waft, then the heavier oak leaves and pine needles. Even on still days the birch leaves are dancing.

After an unbroken string of opulently radiant days (“Another beautiful day in a beautiful place,” I’d sigh to Danny as we bump down the dirt road toward the paved one that takes us to the nearby town on our daily marketing outings) it finally rained last night. Dripping on the cabin roof it sounded just as the rain does from inside a tent. It’s been ages since I listened to the rain from inside a tent, but I instantly recognize it as one of my favorite sounds, incomparably soothing.

What is it about camping, or otherwise living simply in the woods? It’s physically harder, as all of the daily tasks are accomplished with less convenience (no dishwasher) and comfort (no air conditioning) than we are used to. But it’s emotionally easier. It’s healing in many ways. Why is that? Is it the silence of the woods that creates quiet within us, insistently defeating any inner turmoil that wants to rise? Is it the turning outward of our focus to the rustling trees rather than our eternal inward self-preoccupation?

At home, in the city, in a city house, we spend extensive time, effort, and money in beautifying our space. Each season investing in a new color scheme, each year investing in new home improvement projects. Here in the woods, the sense of urgency to beautify a space seems unnecessary. Although the kitchen is sparse and spare, the furniture wobbly and patinaed with age, they don’t offend the way they would at home. The beauty is in the trees, and in us.

A timber frame home has unique ability to bridge those worlds… to satisfy the desire for a beautiful space without forgetting to look to the trees. It’s the soothing enchantment of a forest on a still day, without sacrificing convenience and comfort. The frame the OCH team is getting underway here in Michigan will sit just in that border zone, pulling together the best of both worlds. We look forward to sharing updates of its progress with you soon.