Charming. Peaceful. Quaint.
Comforting. Romantic. Cozy.
What solitude loving, tree hugging, hiker, artist, writer woman wouldn’t want to live in this cabin, in these New England woods, with hawks and herons, with beavers and porcupines as neighbors? With two wonderful friends a half mile down the dirt road? With a supportive brother and his family, including two amazingly intelligent, funny, and creative nieces 15 minutes away? With new trails to explore? New coffee shops to frequent? New inspirations to discover?
That was my plan for the Fall 2014/Spring 2015 Academic Year. I moved into the cabin late in February 2014. (A story to be shared in Blog #2!) That spring, my biggest concern was the spiders that crawled out of the kitchen drain in the mornings…spiders so big they required mouse traps or a hard copy of the OED to kill them!
I finished my semester, teaching three English courses at Westfield State University, and headed off for three weeks to visit my life long friend Jesse and her husband Michael in Columbus, OH and to spend two weeks alone traveling in what now has become a yearly pilgrimage to Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota. When I returned from my vacation, I was newly inspired to spend the summer working on paintings for a 2015 art exhibition I’d been offered and to focus on Round Three of my novel revision.
For two days all went well. I was thrilled to wake up to the sun through my window and sit on my screened-in porch, sketching and writing. Then one evening I walked into the house, only to be met by a hundred ants crawling all over the living room floor. I stamped on them in knee high boots, but every time I turned around, their numbers grew! I went into the bedroom where armies of ants seeped out of seams in the wooden walls, where they raced from one end of the room to the other, covering the ceiling, walls, and floor. In an act of desperation, I fired up the vacuum cleaner and watched as they were drawn like magnets into the hose. Still, when I turned around, there were MORE MORE MORE!!!
Remembering a jug of liquid bug killer I’d brought from my former residence, I sprayed down the entire cabin: walls, wooden floors, carpeting… everywhere the ants crawled, I sprayed. At midnight, I went to bed, exhausted and creeped out. I awoke to thousands of carpenter ant carcasses (that’s right: these were NOT tiny sugar ants; these were the Big Boys!) all over the house… but none of them were moving. I never saw another ant in the cabin. AND I was pretty proud of myself for handling the situation without needing assistance. PROBLEM SOLVED!
A few days later I was cooking dinner at the stove. I thought I saw Movement. A Shadow. A Tail. I turned around and a mouse boldly stood behind me, apparently intrigued by my spicy tomato sauce. After screaming loud enough to scare the squirrels off the roof, I reached for the thickest book on my shelf and heaved it over and over, to no avail, as the mouse ran around the kitchen and living room. I baited up two dozen traps and placed them in strategic locations… but the mouse was no fool. I lined up an entire row of traps along my bedroom threshold (where there was no actual door), determined to keep him out of there, at least. At one point I couldn’t tell if my eyes were playing tricks on me, or if indeed, there was more than one mouse.
Truly panicked, I called my friend and neighbor Amanda who has no fear of mice. Despite the late hour, she agreed to come to my rescue. By the time she arrived, I was nearly out of my skin from over the top anxiety, not to mention hoarse from screeching in terror every time the mouse made himself visible. Unable to work her magic with my uncontrollable energy, because it was obvious now there was more than one mouse, Amanda asked me to wait outside. FIVE MICE LATER, Amanda informed me the coast was clear. However, that did nothing to calm me down. FIVE MICE had been running around my house…. my tiny little cabin, invading my corners, the stone fireplace, the allies behind the bookshelves, the narrow passageway of the kitchen, the safety of darkness under the couch, the formerly relaxed recesses of my mind!
I couldn’t sleep. I accepted Amanda and Annette’s offer to spend the night at their house. But even there, I could feel tiny mice feet all over my skin! When I returned to the cabin in the morning, I found myself in the same panicked state of the night before. I called everyone I knew, from OH to NC, to ask if they would let me move in with them!! I didn’t know what direction to move in; I didn’t have an answer yet, but I knew something had to change. I knew I couldn’t continue to live in a cabin slithering with rodents in the midst of warm summer days. What on earth could I expect in October…. my mind ran wild with horror.
Frenzied. Frazzled. Frantic. …. is sometimes what it takes to force us to create change in our lives.
A thousand ants and five mice were the beginning of a life changing decision process for me. This blog, YesRiskJoy, will narrate my journey of becoming a vagabond, a gypsy, a traveler into the unknown, seeking a life where painting and writing will finally become my focal point. The incidents at the cabin made me realize that it was time to turn into the direction of my dreams. This blog will chronicle that journey. I hope you’ll join me!
(Cabin Photo by Gail Hayden)