October 16, 2011
It’s something I most definitely do not look forward to. It’s something I have to do every year in Desolation Sound before the mercury dips below freezing: close the old place up for the winter. I dread doing it, because it means I won’t return again until the spring… March if I’m lucky, April more likely.
Our cabin isn’t insulated for the cold like others in the Sound, and we’re fairly exposed to the wild winter weather on the coast, so we really need to batten down the hatches and get the hell out of there. Every year it’s the same nostalgic, weary process… I haul up the kayaks and the canoe and tie them down undercover, stack all the paddles away, drag the deck furniture inside, put the picnic table up against the wall, disconnect the propane on the BBQ, clean off the grill and roll it to the back of the cabin out of the elements. I then take a long walk through the woods with my machete, up to our water tank and turn the tap to the right for the first time since last April (righty-tighty, lefty-loosey), shutting off the fresh water supply to the cabin. That really makes it final.
Then, to make sure we don’t return to burst pipes in the spring, I hike back down the trail and open up all the taps at the cabin… the bathroom and kitchen sink, shower, hose, and hot water heater, draining every drop. I’ll flush the toilet a couple of times, then bail the remaining water in the toilet bowl and the tank into a bucket, heaving the excess water over the side of the deck. That part is kind of gross.
I take down the just slightly fraying Canadian flag from the flag pole, fold it carefully and put it inside. I turn off the fridge and empty it of all contents, some headed for the compost, others into the cooler to take back to the city. I turn off the strains of the Vinyl Cafe or Cross Country Checkup on our little transistor radio and tuck that away too (I always seem to close up for the season on a Sunday). I hang up the life jackets and put away the chainsaw. I get out my garden clippers and cut back all the flowers so their bulbs will hopefully hibernate over the winter and bloom again in the spring.
All the while, a giant bald eagle sits on a craggy branch at the top of the fir tree overlooking Russell Cove, watching me. Or at least I think he is watching me. When I step back into the cabin I see him swoop down onto the beach, startling a few big, black ravens who noisily make room. I hadn’t noticed, but it seems the ravens had been feasting on dead Chum salmon that have washed ashore, and the eagle wants his share. The inlet is scattered with dead salmon at this time of year, washed into the inlet from their fall spawning death ritual up the nearby Theodosia River.
Almost done, I put the thick tarps up over the windows to protect them from the horizontal rains and lashing gales of winter, securing them with ropes and cords, lashing them into place. The happy cabin that is usually filled with so much sunlight is now darkened, all the dishes put away and food removed.
I carry my bags and cooler down to Big Buck$ and load her up quickly, hop on and fire up her gutteral outboard motor. As I start slowly puttering away on a glassy sea in the gorgeous low sunshine of fall, I reach into the cooler and pull out a final can of lukewarm beer. As I crack it open I turn to face the shuttered cabin, raise the can to its cedar shake roof framed with blue sky and shout “thanks!”
Then I gun it back for the government wharf.