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The Hawk's Nest

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Photo by Ernie Hawks Photo by Ernie Hawks

Nostalgia isn't always what it's cracked up to be

For the first time this year I’m set up outside to work. It’s a perfect spring day for taking the laptop outside, putting my feet up on a stool and letting the breeze blow through my hair. Okay the breeze is blowing over my bald head.

I love this kind of day. I enjoyed winter also, but now with spring, I’m ready to put away snow gear, equipment, skis and snowshoes. I have said winter is one of my four favorite seasons. Well, spring is another.

Last winter we were outside listening to a noiseless morning during a heavy fresh snow. It was evident we were already snowed in, not going anywhere until the roads were opened. Bundled up and sitting, protected, on our covered porch, hot coffee in hand, we were guessing it was about five feet deep in the front yard, and still falling, but not willing to dive in and get a measurement. It seemed even that small disturbance would be a violation of the serenity.

From behind us suddenly came the sound of wood cracking under stress. Logs snapping, steel twisting and tearing, and then utter silence, another loud crack, followed by nothing, wood sliding, rubbing on wood and metal, then the hush of the fresh snow morning.

We were quite sure what had happened, so headed through the house and out the back door onto the deck, with snow up to our waist. Sure enough, the old chicken coop at the edge of the woods had leaned hard against a couple of big firs, still swaying from the hit. All the snow was off their branches now and adding to the burden of the already overloaded roof on the ancient, unused shed.

Our reaction was: how had it lasted this long? Every fall we have wondered if it would be there in the spring.

It wasn’t completely unused, as no shelter ever is; we had a few things inside that didn’t have much value and we didn’t want in our view. There was also the squirrel condo that our cat loved to visit. All the cat really did was terrorize the little critters. I never saw any evidence of it causing real harm. I wonder how the squirrels liked the rocking and rolling of their place collapsing.

We had talked of taking it down but had nostalgic feelings about it. It was a visual memory of the place we had purchased several years ago, the last of the old log buildings, all of which were past their prime—really past their prime. The only other one left is the house we spent two years working on and now live in. Because of that two years it is no longer the same kind of visual memory, thank God.

So now it’s spring, new growth is all around on the ends and tops of the trees, grass is starting to green up around the house and new shoots are on all plants in the woods. I am sitting in the sun on the deck working.

When I look at the coop, still leaning against those trees, I think about the day, years ago this very month, when we closed on our home in the woods. We knew it needed some work but nothing we couldn’t handle.

We had found our log cabin, away from civilization but still close enough to infrastructure to fit into our lives. We thought we would spend the summer camping on the property and working on the house; romantic, right? At that time, my wife, Linda, had several weeks off each summer so we figured when she went back to work we would be in the house. Naïve, people said, nah…

It was a good summer, only our second together; we worked hard but loved being in “wilds” on our own place. Progress did not happen as we planned but we didn’t waiver from our plan. Friends would stop in and say “Wow, you have a lot of work to do.” Or, “Boy this is a big job you’ve taken on.”

Finally it was time for Linda to go back to work and we were still camping. Our plan, now, was to get enough done and closed up so we could live in part of it.

A couple weeks after she went back to work we got up one morning in the tent. It was 28 degrees. Fixing coffee on a camp stove at 4:30 am, Linda announced we were going to stop work on the house and focus on the outbuilding that would someday be our shop. It had a stove, and with a few days of work, could be a rather primitive home—primitive but not a tent. It became a passable home for two years. Naïve? Romantic?

That was many years ago. We now live in the log cabin, even got married a few years back and are starting another year on our little paradise.

The last of the old look needs to become firewood. I’ll kind of miss it but there isn’t any choice now.  With the snow gone we can get to the coop so I’m trying to figure the best way to finish the job the snows of last winter, and time, started. One thought, I bet you have already had it, is hook a chain to it and drive away. That would do it, but I’m hoping for a little more controlled dismantling that would finish what time began. I don’t think that is naïve or romantic, but it will be gone and we will have a clear view into the woods.  

Nostalgia just ain’t what it used to be.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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