Dreaming in Delaware: Cabin Fever
It’s as contagious as a virus. In some cases, you can see the scratch marks where those who suffer have tried to climb the walls. In my case, it’s a compulsion to make “to do” lists. I have the 4 am lists, written in the near dark, and impossible to read come morning. There’s the back-of-the-bill-envelop collection and there’s the mid-afternoon mental list I draw up so I don’t succumb to a nap. I avoid the Reminders app on my phone, which seems apt since it’s Nation Data Privacy Day.
To bring the fever down, I collect my texts of tasks and check off the ones I’ve completed. I unearth an old spiral notebook that has to-dos dating back to 1995. The educational ones are history; the church lists obscure; the repair list for the old Inn in WV catches my attention, one item in particular. In block letters, all caps, I’ve written: FIRM THE FOUNDATION!!
That’s a tough task. That “to do” took us over 20 years, and my father had worked on it for ten years before we tried our hand at it. The corner I-beam of the old log cabin closest to the river had rotted out. You could feel the bounce in the floor boards, and that bounce could bring the whole structure down.
Concrete was our father’s solution to firming foundations of all kinds, but by the time the Inn passed into my “to do” list, the holding wall had tipped sideways, exposing the 20” wide hand carved beams to further decay. There’s no future when the foundation crumbles. How to build back better is a challenge. “Why even try?” is a question even more important.
The words of a young poet, Hallie Knight, are like a spring tonic for me as she urges us to recognize the depth of decay and the work still needed “To Rebuild”.
“The windows break, one by one,
Under the weight of wrongs, the structure strains,
Until one day fire catches,
And only the foundation of good intentions remains.”
Any good intention needs know-how, and in this case, an Amish carpenter and a home-grown jack of all trades, figure out how to firm the old Inn’s foundation. The rot and the worn-out has to be carefully removed. Not every tradition, preserved like concrete, not every custom set in stone, not every I-beam of our structures should be saved.
This is not a solitary “to do” list. Repairing the support structures of democracy be it the Constitution ratified in 1787 or an old Inn started in 1800 will be:
“A job led by all, not by one,
We work long days turn long nights.
The creation of our hands
Proving more than surface level acknowledgment of rights.”
The rot is removed, the debris cleared away. Boards that are on the level replace all that was slip-sliding away. The good news is: the rest of the foundation is firm. The good news is: the original I-beams will bear the weight of a beloved community for years to come. The good news, as this high school poet reminds us:
“The past is not buried
What we have transformed
Before our eyes.”
I feel better already.