Our farm's log cabin can get pretty hot in July and August, but it's a fine place to be in Indiana's autumn. Set in a ring of sugar maples, it has an aura of permanence - a quiet solidity and plain-faced appeal that forgives long absences with an unassuming welcome. Open the door, and there it is again - the subtle scent of well-seasoned, old-growth timbers, the gleam of the little wall mirror, the china pitcher and basin in the corner, the oil lamps on the writing table. The long windows stretch from loft to floor, drinking in light from the pasture. The crystalline quartz in the hearthstone winks a greeting. And after any period of benign neglect, a genteel drapery of dust and cobwebs stirs in the breeze from the threshold.
Today I hauled a wet mop and bucket from the farmhouse, across the stream valley and up to the cabin. I toted out the bedrolls, unfurling them to air on the long grass, cleared and wiped down the log mantle, polished the lamps and tabletops, and swept the floors. I filled the bucket with collected rainwater and began to mop the cherry floors. Each sweep of the mop brought a ruddy glow from the dull, dusty wood.
It was almost like bathing a child, something I've grown unaccustomed to. Yet I recalled the satisfaction of it as a faint breeze worked through the screens and the leaves sifted along the slope of the roof. Every nook and cranny of the place needed attention, and each one I left fresh and damp was full of meaning: Here, where my son used to sit and sketch on our overnight retreats; each step to the loft; the fluted picture frames (like a proper log cabin, ours features portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln). I lingered over the hearth brick - handmade long ago and roughly shaped - with its deep imprint of a hound's paw. Our own three dogs lolled on the porch, blissfully unaware that a 19th-century predecessor had put his casual stamp on the place.
When I'd finished with the lower level and the floorboards had dried, I sat on them and surveyed the small room in all its rustic, unpretentious simplicity. There is nothing quite as lovely as a log cabin on a fall pasture - especially when it's brand-spanking clean.