Not too far into the forest near our homestead stands a small six sided cabin that is now on it’s last legs as it leans to one side ready to let gravity take the final toll. The cabin is on land that is now technically owned by our family; I say “technically” because it is doubtful in my mind if humans can really own land. We inherited the cabin when we bought the land from a neighbor who put the parcel up for sale a few years ago. We were fearful that a stranger would buy the property and build a house near out homestead. We had wandered the land for years and learned to think of it as our territory as the previous owner, an elderly woman, would only come to the woods occasionally for a retreat in the cabin.
The cabin has a curious history. It was built by a woman who called herself “Pasha” with no last name. Apparently she randomly chose the spot to build the little cabin as she neither owned the property nor knew anyone who did own the property. In those days the property was an 80 acre parcel owned by a travelling nature photographer who either worked for National Geographic or freelanced for that magazine (I am told that actual photographs of the property can be found in issues of early 1960’s National Geographic magazine, although I have never been able to verify it). Pasha “squatted” on the property building herself a little six sided cabin about three eights of a mile in the woods at the end of an old logging road.
The cabin was situated on a flat piece of terrain, which is unusual for this north side of the hill, in area that received ample sunlight in all seasons. The cabin was built from skinned, 5 inch pole size, maple and ash logs. The logs were stacked on top of one another and nailed together with spikes through the center of each log. The cabin sits on six stone piers which are to this day very solid and have never been impacted by frost heaving, heavy rains, or an occasional earth tremor. Siding made from slab wood from a lumber mill was placed over the skinned logs to make it fairly weather tight and the original windows, one in each of three sides of the six sided building, were covered with plastic. The roof was made from boards placed on pole rafters. The roof was originally covered with roofing paper.
The interior of the cabin was beautiful in the old days. It was bright from the large windows, somewhat spacious (perhaps 18 feet in diameter) with a small pot belly wood stove sitting in the center adjacent to a center post that supported all of the pole roof rafters. The skinned maple and ash logs served as the interior walls. The light colored logs reflected the light that shown through the windows and gave the interior of the cabin an open, airy look.
I am told by people who lived in the area at the time that Pasha, for the most part, built the cabin by herself with hand tools. A friend helped her with the transportation of some of the materials and perhaps with some of the heavier construction.
Based on what I can piece together from various people’s memory, Pasha lived in the little cabin for about three years. She had no car and very few friends in the area so she basically lived off the land picking wild herbs, catching trout in the brook, and hauling water to the cabin some 3/8ths of a mile away from that same brook. Winter, spring, summer, and fall Pasha lived the “good life” presumably happy to get away from it all.
One farmer who lived nearby described his encounters with her as ghost-like. He said very occasionally he would get a glimpse of her crossing the dirt road to go to the brook, but generally she made no noise and went about her life undetected.
Sometime in the late 1960’s the absentee owner sold the land to a land agent who sent a team of surveyors to the property to subdivide it into several building lots. Evidently the surveyors reported their discovery of a “squatter” to the new owner and the perspective real estate agent. Years later the realtor told me that their encounter with her was “strange”. He said she was generally uncommunicative and would not answer questions. She thought the land was hers by right. They did manage to find out that she was from California and offered to buy her a plane ticket to San Francisco, no strings attached, to avoid eviction proceedings and the legal expenses associated with those proceedings. They even drove her to the airport.
The land was subdivided and the parcels (20, 10, 22, and 28 acres) were each purchased. A Mrs. Joan Clark bought the 28 acre parcel with the cabin on it. I bought the adjacent 22 acres. Mrs. Clark used the land as a refuge from the busy life in Plymouth, Massachusetts. She was by nature a woods girl and felt totally at home coming up and spending any where from a week to two months in the little cabin. Mrs. Clark was a very talented painter and she decorated the little cabin with brightly colored works of art displaying fish, butterflies, and landscapes. She came to enjoy the woods in the spring, summer, autumn, and early winter. She would occasionally walk about the woods in deer season armed with a shotgun, although I never knew her to actually harvest a deer from the property. She told many stories of visits to her cabin by deer, bear, coyotes, and fisher. For the first few years I lived on the adjacent parcel in a tipi and would visit Mrs. Clark whenever she was “out back”. At the time I had two dogs, one of them a black and tan bloodhound cross who would smell her presence and trot up the trail to visit with her. That made it easy for me to know when she was in the area.
When Mrs. Clark wasn’t around the little cabin became home to mice, chipmunks, and an occasional flying squirrel. I was constantly exploring the woods so I would stop in and hang out in the cabin frequently. In the early years I would do a small repair to the cabin now and then to keep it weather tight and in good enough shape for another year’s use.
The years passed, I built a home with my wife with materials from the land, and Mrs. Clark, like the rest of us, got a little older. As she aged she visited the cabin less and I did less maintenance on the little cabin because I was building a house. Eventually the little cabin began to age significantly along with you and I and the rest of the universe.
Mrs. Clark decided that as an older lady she would like to be a little closer to the road so I built her another small cabin only a couple of hundred yards from our house. She came to that cabin for the next 10 years or so, once or twice a year, to enjoy the forest but she always visited the “old” cabin. You could tell it was like a first love to her.
The little cabin stood alone in the woods becoming the permanent home for chipmunks, mice, flying squirrels, and thousands of borer beetles.
One night, well after midnight, there was a loud knock on the door of our homestead. I went to the door hesitantly only to find a man who was quite drunk leaning against the door. I asked him if I could help him and he responded he was out reminiscing when he got stuck. Looking out the doorway I could see a truck almost on its side that had been backed over a steep slope on the north side of my driveway. I thought about calling the state police but decided the smarter and more human thing to do would be to let this guy sleep it off. I put him and a sleeping bag in my four wheel drive truck and drove up to the little cabin in the woods. I told him to sleep in the cabin and I would pick him up in the morning. I really didn’t want him around my family as I had no idea who he was.
The next morning, bright and early, I hiked up to the cabin. He was sitting out side of the little cabin in a folding chair that he had removed from the interior of the cabin. On his face was the most remarkable smile.
I greeted him and he stood up and extended his hand.
“This is it”, he declared. “This is the place I was trying to find!”
I was deeply puzzled by his greeting, but held on to my thoughts and listened to what he had to say.
“I helped Pasha get the building materials to build this place. I knew it was around here somewhere, but couldn’t find it. I sure do thank you for helping me locate this old cabin”.
He sat there smiling like there was no tomorrow.
I was intrigued and asked him how well he knew Pasha.
“Oh not that well, she was a strange sort, but she was glad to accept my help. That was a long time ago, but I clearly remember her saying that this was her paradise,” he replied.
“You know,” he went on, “I got a note from her after she flew back to San Francisco. It was kind of strange. She hooked up with that Jim Jones guy, you know the one that took the commune to Gianna. I never heard from her again and always wondered if she was one of the ones that drank the cool-aid.”
He looked off into the distance with a twisted look on his face.
“That was Pasha, you never knew what she would do next.”
We talked for a while. I pulled his truck back up to the driveway and sent him on his way. I was a bit disturbed by the whole experience and still to this day think about Pasha and the cabin. Had she really perished at Jonestown?
The little old cabin is mostly habitat for mice, borer beetles, and other woodland critters now. Last December during the great ice storm of 2008 hundreds and hundreds of trees snapped off and were uprooted during a two day ice storm. The forest in our area was devastated. I was sure that I would find the little cabin buried under the forest debris, flattened to the ground by either a large branch or whole tree. Two days after the storm I forged my way through the forest climbing over dozens and dozens of tree tops and entire trees that buried the logging road. When I got to the little cabin I just stood there in disbelief.
There stood the six sided little cabin with scores of branches piled around the entire perimeter of the camp. Not one branch landed on the old decrepit roof or brushed the worn out siding. It was if something had thwarted each branch away as it fell.
The little cabin, still covered with ice, stood there in peace with its surroundings. It looked beautiful as the sun rays reflected off the ice covered siding making the six sided cabin look as if it were a diamond in the forest.
The cabin still stands today. Barely.
Written for www.wildramblings.com in June of 2009.