A cabin is not the same as a house. “It is not a shelter” but often a place of “delicious peril” and “a jumping off place” for a child. A cabin on a lake is a place to be alone with oneself and from that will come strength to deal with “the more serious winter perils later on.” Diane Johnson makes these observations in her new book “Flyover Lives: A Memoir”. Diane Johnson has numerous books published as well as having written the screenplay for Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” She grew up near Moline, Illinois; part of the vast in between of the United States called flyover country. It’s not far from where I grew up and I share some of her memories of going to a cabin for the summer time. For as she reminded me, the Illinois summers are mercilessly hot and humid and escaping north was an old tradition. But there are as many dissimilarities too.
Her family has been in America for more than two hundred years and her stories of them are not of timber barons or inventors. They are quite ordinary lives of farmers, teachers, country doctors and a lot of housewives, but she writes with such detail and feeling that their lives are as intriguing as any biographies of presidents or generals. And they bring back memories. And sometimes that is a good thing.
One of her relatives, a great uncle, built a cabin on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan near the Mackinaw Straits She spent summers there in the 1930s and 1940s. And she writes of the difference between a cabin and a house.
I felt for this house the special love that almost everyone, I’ve since discovered, feels for a summer house—a love quite different from the feelings you have for the house you grow up in. Perhaps a summer house is where, forced into your own company, you discover that you are yourself, and maybe that’s something that can’t happen in an ordinary life, when you belong to your parents and school. The organized city child is deprived of these hours of messing around alone, though they must be the crucial ones in which we discover things, develop a point of view, learn to rely on ourselves as reliable observers, establish in our own minds that we are we. Continue reading