Many people get an enthusiastic smile on their face when I tell them we live in a cabin out in the bush.
The tinge of adventure and even romance this notion conjures up is expressed in their questions. Did we build our cabin ourselves? Do we fish and hunt for food? Are there bears around? Doesn’t it get lonely?
Once I supply the nitty-gritty details of hauling all our water by hand, on foot, of eating mostly canned food and always the same staples throughout the winter, of our wind-up radio that only receives one station and of doing laundry by hand, once I tell all that, most people will exchange the smile for a doubtful look in their eye. Don’t we have any luxury items or wish for things that would make our lives more comfortable, easier? Fresh foods more often?
The luxury items here, as I see them, are the surrounding wilderness and wildlife, something that exceeds any momentary value and will sadly keep on withering away as our species continues to senselessly gobble up the resources of our planet as we merrily procreate. I would not exchange the sound of the wind, not drowned out by noise, and the curious glance from a moose by the cabin for any amount of money.
But in terms of things that can be paid for and that we already own, I guess the satellite internet is our one big luxury. It was expensive to install and is a monthly bill to pay. And when I dig down deep I confess that it’s true, there are two or three things that I pine for, that would mean ultimate decadence and luxury to me.
To have a hand-agitated washing machine and wringer would be heaven. Nothing motorized that stinks and makes noise and needs to be maintained, just a simple mechanical contraption. No stooping down over a tub with a toilet plunger in hand anymore, no wringing out the frigid laundry with freezing hands. What incredible ease that would be, especially with jeans and bed sheets.
Also, a manual or solar powered water pump for the garden. It would mean an end to the endless trudging back and forth between the lake and the garden with 20-litre buckets of water. It’s not so bad during a regular summer but when it’s a hot and dry one—no fun.
I guess both of these items we could construct ourselves if we were more mechanically inclined. Unfortunately, the mechanics fairy did not bestow any talents on either of us at the time of our births and little aptitude has been added since.
But the utmost pinnacle of decadence, the one extravagance that I would favour hands-down over a washing machine and wringer, and a water pump, is this: an expediter. That is the one thing I really fantasize about. A reliable person in town whom we could e-mail our endless shopping lists, who would track down and buy all the pasta packages, canned milk and cheese to last us a year, the correct O-rings we need, the elusive lemon-juice bottles that were not once available last year whenever we were in town; who would not only shop for us but also organize the shipment of all the stuff to our cabin. A person who would box it all up, load it on a chartered plane or boat, and have it delivered to our remote doorstep.
Somebody who would take the horror and stress out of the town trips, leaving us free to enjoy our times in civilization: visiting friends and taking care of personal business in an unencumbered way. Yes, an expediter would truly be the one luxury of unimaginable value. Alas, it is not the sort of job anyone would do as a hobby and our bank account has so far stubbornly refused to grow to such proportions that could make this wild dream come true.
One day I hope we will be able to afford an expediter. Until then, we make do with what we have: our cabin, the woods and mountains around us, a lifestyle that we chose. And truly, it does not involve much hardship. It is a blessing. Except for the town trips.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who
lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.