Written by Gracielle Dedo
Since the beginning of the pandemic, nearly a year ago now, I’ve been practicing methods of escapism. Most people are these days, whether it’s through rewatching a favorite tv-show for the fiftieth time or re-reading a childhood book series. I found myself implementing both of these methods. Although they kept me somewhat sane, I had to find something greater.
For seventeen years, every summer my family and I make our way from whichever state we were living in at the time, by car or plane, to the rural parts of Minnesota. Tucked away in a town so small you could easily walk from one end to another, is a vast lake accompanied by a heavy sense of community spread amongst log cabins. Each day I made mental notes of how long until I would reach this place. If it weren’t for the harsh winters, my family would have left Arizona to stay in Minnesota for a few months particularly early. Instead, I patiently counted the days until I could embrace my purest form of escapism, my cabin.
My great Grandpa, on my Mother’s side, found himself engaged in a rather interesting poker game. What was wagered was a piece of land accompanied by a small log cabin perched atop of a vast hill in Cass Lake, Minnesota. This tiny structure became known as the log cabin in my family. My great Grandparents, Nana and Papa, had seven children. The nine of them spent many summers in the small four-wall space. I’ve heard countless stories ranging from bats swooping down amid sleep wreaking havoc, to how to elder siblings would mess with the younger. Eventually, those seven children grew up and had children of their own. It was then that another cabin was built a few yards away. Over the years, the large extended family has grown and so has the number of cabins. There are now a total of six. That number will surely increase when the time comes that I have children of my own.
This past summer, I experienced something foreign. I stayed long enough to watch the leaves change from a collective of greens to vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. There was one day in September in which it was so cold that I wore four layers, not counting a blanket constantly strewn across my shoulders. I sat atop a large hill found by walking along the path towards other family’s cabins. The valley of trees before me was so astoundingly gorgeous, it felt surreal. I sat there despite the chill in the air slowly numbing my toes and fingers, taking deep breaths, mentally taking pictures. Even on the coldest nights, I made my way down the hill in which my family’s cabin resides, onto the dock extended from my large family’s little beach. I can walk this complete distance, downhill, in total darkness. I have become accustomed to every tree root and bump over my seventeen years of living on this earth.
Once on the dock, I wrap myself tightly in a blanket. Praying the mosquitoes are tolerable that night, I lay down on the wooden planks. A few hours past midnight, when there are only a few fishing boats still out, the milky way is the most visible. The first time I went stargazing at an ungodly hour in the summer was nearly six years ago. It was then that I was lucky enough to see the northern lights. Now, once a week during my summers, I walk to my stargazing spot. Sometimes with my siblings, sometimes alone. I lay down, count shooting stars, and embrace how thankful I am to call such a place my home a few months out of the year. This past year I kept residency at my cabin from June to September. My usual stay is most of June and July.
As of writing, I am once again counting down the days until the lakes of Minnesota have warmed up in preparation for the summer dwellers. I hope this year I get to stay until October, to truly embrace what the fall is like on an island in Minnesota. To also stargaze even longer despite the bitter winter that approaches. This is my true escapism from my current monotonous life, the idealized reality that keeps me hopeful during these times.