The Cabin

A memoir - $20.00 (Forest Books, 2012)

US Currency

Canadian Currency

In August of 1990 I left Bellingham, Washington in my white Honda for a new life in Québec, Canada. I knew, of course, that I was going to a different country, and to a province with a different language, but I also felt I was looking for something else, something elusive, something I couldn't define. What I found was a new family, a spiritual path, a new name (Munira) and the vision of a cabin in the forest. The Cabin is the story of how I dreamed that cabin into existence. But it's also the story of my deep connection to the people and places I left behind and my trips back and forth between the east and the west coasts. I began writing this memoir the day I left Bellingham, recording each day's adventures in my journal. It took me nearly 20 years to finish it.

Like any memoir, The Cabin isn't just a story; it's also a reflection on life's journey, which brings the past and the present into focus and explores the decisions that lead to major turning points. I realize that I am one of today's nomads, free to move from place to place thanks to the speed of modern transportation but I have often been troubled by feelings of displacement. In The Cabin, I have described my struggle to adjust to the life I created for myself and my discovery, through my travels, writings and meditations, that I could redefine and extend my awareness of what it means to feel at home.

From The Cabin, Chapter 1, "Leaving"

August 1990 - Bellingham, Washington

The morning of August 3, I stuff everything I possibly can in my white Honda and strap my bicycle on the back. Mid-morning, Bekins, the moving company, comes and takes the rest of my things away. Then I go meet Elias for lunch at the Bagelry where he has a summer job. As we stand in line waiting for our bagels, we look at each other. We both have tears in our eyes.

Driving out of Bellingham is unreal. I'm too numb to even ask myself if I know what I'm doing. I have pictured this moment many times since I decided to move to Québec. Each time I thought about it, I was overcome with fear. Sometimes I woke up fretting at 4:00 a.m., my favorite time for freaking out. I decided I'd be able to handle everything - getting the work permit, packing, taking care of the moving details, crossing the border and going through customs, getting to Montréal, finding an apartment, starting work, speaking French - everything - except the actual moment of driving out of Bellingham. But, of course, I have to drive out of Bellingham because if I don't, none of it makes any sense - and besides, I've given up my apartment and quit my job. Once again I have put myself in a situation that is going to be hard and scary, and I have no real choice except to go through with it.

I cross the border at Huntingdon, B.C. Everything goes well in spite of the fact that I can't find my car registration. For a moment, I almost hope they won't let me in without it, but the customs officer says, "Oh, I think I can find everything I need on the inside of your car door." I leave the crossing with a package of official papers, which I am told to guard with my life.

I cry halfway through British Columbia as my Honda winds its way through the Cascades. Tears run into my sunglasses and down my cheeks. I already miss my kids. I'm not numb anymore, and I'm asking myself over and over, "What have I done? Why am I leaving? My life in Bellingham was good." It was so strange watching my things being carried out to the moving van, knowing I wouldn't see them again until we all reach Montréal - 3,000 miles away from my kids, my friends and my apartment. The fact that I knew I would feel this way doesn't help, but that is the reason I wanted to come alone, the reason I wanted to drive all by myself - so I could cry whenever I felt like it and take enough time getting there to make a real transition.

I think about a particular day, just after Michael and his daughter, Indra, moved out of our house in Ridgemont, one of Bellingham's newer subdivisions. I woke up that morning, as I did many mornings those days, feeling miserable and depressed. I was alone. Jason was in Seattle. Elias was at James'. The house, which was once filled with activity, seemed too big, too quiet, too empty. I got up, went downstairs and looked out the kitchen window at the garden, the fruit trees and the pond with the strawberry patch behind it. It was early spring and mist was rising off the pond as the morning sun began to warm the yard.

It was beautiful, but I couldn't see anything but the broken dreams, and I wanted desperately to be somewhere else - some place with no memories. As I stood there watching a bird land in the cherry tree outside the window, I suddenly shivered with both fear and excitement and I said out loud, "Now I'm going to find out who I really am." As I drive through the mountains of British Columbia, I know that this journey is an integral part of that process.