10 June 2013

Cabin in Utah?

In my mind I hear often these lyrics to the old gospel song:
Where could I go where could I go
            Seeking a refuge for my soul
            Needing a friend to help me in the end
            Where could I go to the Lord
I am not yet convinced of the actuality of souls, but I am confident that we all somehow seek some refuge from the world’s noise. In the words of the spiritual that shelter for the soul rests in faith in the Lord who, it is hoped, will provide some succor and salvation at death’s approach.  But I think that on a daily basis we all seek some haven from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
There is a conventional understanding that cabins and shacks serve as a form of retreat from the daily spaces of the stresses that attend our lives at home and at work. As much as they are physical places, cabins and shacks seem to be psychological spaces as well, locations that exist as much in the mind as in the actual world.  If they did not exist in fact, it would be necessary to invent these edifices in omagination. Such may be said about the function of Yeats’ cabin of clay and wattles made on the Lake Isle of Inisfree. Of it Yeats writes:
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
            I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
            While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
            I hear it in the deep heart's core.
Yeats’ cabin of clay and wattles exists only in his imagination: alas, in the present the poet remains yet standing on the macadamized roadway in the midst of civilization, though in his mind that cabin is, nevertheless, the place where he can experience “peace that comes dropping slow.” Bob Dylan, too, speaks of such an imagined place in his composition, “Sign on the Window.” After describing the tensions and displeasures of his life in the city he longs to
Build me a cabin in Utah
            Marry me a wife, catch rainbow trout
            Have a bunch of kids who call me “Pa”
            That must be what it’s all about
            That must be what it’s all about.
It is the myth of simplicity to which Dylan alludes, one he might have first learned in part sitting in front of the television sets and radios of his youth. Or perhaps it was learned in the romantic literatures read by adolescents: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series Little House on the Prarie, or the tales of Caddie Woodlawn. Not unlike the myth of the little red schoolhousethat was neither red nor pleasant but that continues to live in our romantic image of a past that did not existDylan’s cabin in Utah, like Yeats’ cabin, serves as an imaginary retreat from the real world to which that world does not travel and where children run safe and free. Of course, the possibility of that retreat is as false as the idea of the West to which at the novel’s end Huck Finn flees ahead of the rest to avoid a civilization epitomized in Aunt Polly’s disciplines, but the cabin remains to a great extent in our national mythology as the symbol of physical and psychic escape.
But I have been wondering . . .


Anonymous barbara said...

I look at the comparison of your two photos and wonder too. What most people call "cabins" these days are becoming so much more like the homes they live in daily as to be almost too ostentatious to be called a cabin. These grand "cabins" take more and more work to maintain that I don't believe anyone can truly find escape.

To be in simple surroundings, amidst the grandeur of nature, quiet and alone with your own thoughts and imagined world...with nothing more to do than watch the dew drops drip...is to me the ultimate physical and psychic escape!

12 June, 2013 21:35  

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