Monday, July 8, 2013

Shrink and Swell

By the time my newborn settles into sleep, a whisper of rain skitters through the forest scattering birds. A black swallowtail butterfly prances from one spruce needle to another, stretching the pattern on her wings. An Eastern yellow jacket hops hurriedly across the deck. The sound of a motor runs on a lake I can’t see.

Through four skylights, I watch white clouds bleed across a blue sky. My feet are bare, hot against the floors of a hand hewn log cabin, which sits on 1.5 acres along Egg Harbor in Door County, Wisconsin. I walk slowly through the three-bedroom house, admiring the craftsmanship of the builder. It’s the kind of home I’d love to retire in someday — every detail is handcrafted by local artists even the custom cabinets and furniture.

The owners, Maureen and Moe Toshner, worked hard to offer a “restoring experience” to their guests. “There is something about the warmth of wood and the smell of pine that relaxes me. The logs make me feel like I am a part of nature, I'm away from it all,” Maureen says.

The bottom of my robe tumbles down a winding open staircase that the builder spent a lot of care trimming. I press my cheeks to the cool stones of a natural fieldstone fireplace and run my fingers along the cracks in the logs.

Having owned a log cabin, I’ve always been drawn to the process with which logs shrink and swell. After a tree dies, water in the hollow portion of the wood cells evaporates first. When all the water inside the cells is lost to evaporation but the cell walls are still swollen with water, a fiber saturation point is reached. Shrinkage only occurs below this saturation point, when cell walls lose their moisture. The drying-out movement along the log’s diameter causes cracks or checks to occur slowly over time until an equilibrium is reached with the surroundings.

The baby purrs against my chest, snuggled deep in a sling. She likes my slow dance to settling wood. My toes purposefully rock the planks that trigger a squeak, crackle, or snap.

I wonder if the wood is resisting its circumstances as am I. Today is my 40th birthday. My husband left two hours ago, taking my seven-year-old daughter and four-year-old son to pick up a friend from the airport. His gift: a few hours of “writing” time (newborn permitting, of course) in this quiet luxurious cabin. As soon as they return, wedding festivities will begin. A classmate from my MFA program is getting married and soon my tomboy will be twirling on wet grass in a white flower girl dress and my son will need a lot of hugs as he juggles ring bearer jitters.
Photo credit: Matt Moeller
Photo credit: Erin Wilcox
Turning 40 feels akin to reaching a saturation point. Ten years ago, I imagined I would be climbing Denali or spending my 40th photographing and writing about a Wonder of the World. Today, I wrap my arms around a Door County log instead of a Tetrameles nudiflora, whose famous roots filmed in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider choke the ruins of Ta Prohm in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

I try not to feel disappointed. That I should’ve accomplished more in my career, been a better friend, wife, or mother.

I try not to feel sad. That it’s time to let go of some dreams.

I should be tougher. Let critiques like these repel rather than soak in:

"If you give up medical school, you'll always worry about
money and you'll end up writing on the side anyway."

“I told you you were making your life harder by having a third.”

Mostly, I wish I could have proven them wrong. I wish there were less regrets.

Feeling terrible for admitting these thoughts, I collapse onto the couch, prop my feet up on the knotted surface of a coffee table made from planks of an old barn, and close my eyes to the absence of kids, Internet, cellular connectivity, and anything that normally pulls my attention in multiple directions. Thunder rumbles above. Through the screen door, a cool wind blows in the calming smell of cedar, poplar, and birch. I can hear the wood in the cabin settling down with me.

I allow myself to consider that wood is not resisting as much as relaxing into its circumstances, something I desperately needed to do. The cracks give the logs character and in the end, when all is settled, creates a work of art.

Later that night, my husband will put down the kids so I can enjoy the hot tub on the deck. As soon as I dip my feet into the water, flashes of lightning will light the skies followed by chilly rain. I will shake my fists at the stars and try to laugh instead of cry.

After the jets have soothed my bug bites, I will tiptoe into the cabin and check on my family. The baby is asleep on my husband’s chest. Upstairs in a custom log bunk bed made by the builder, my daughter is snoring but my son is blinking at me. He cups my head in his little hands and says, “You’re the best mommy in the whole world! I have the best family.”

When I ask him why, he gushes about the bunk bed, the cabin, and all the fish he and his sister caught all by themselves for the first time yesterday.


Photo credit: Scott Frickson
He reminds me that this is how I should choose to remember my 40th birthday. That somehow despite all the things that I should’ve done, it is the things that I have tried, the cracks that I made in my life, that matter.

Visit www.lesliehsuoh.com for more adventures.

32 comments:

  1. Photos look great! Very cool blog. Great to have met you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for capturing such a happy moment. Good eye!

      Delete
  2. Beautiful post! Honest, poignant, uplifting.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Leslie, this is such a lovely piece. It makes me weep. I'm much older than you are. Life mellows with age, and a decade or two after this you're going to feel even more content with your choices. What a lovely family you have.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Leslie, a few years ago, I took a writing retreat for a week in a log cabin owned by a friend of a friend in northern California. A wonderful environment for dreaming and writing. It must have worked for you to if this lovely post was the result. I couldn't imagine trying it with a newborn. Happy Birthday!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you! I really do hope I feel contentment at some point.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is lovely. It's hard sometimes to want what you have (instead of what you thought you wanted) but it's worth it. As John Lennon said - Life is what happens while you're making other plans, right?

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Excellent Blog. I really want to admire the quality of this post. I like the way of your presentation of ideas, views and valuable content. No doubt you are doing great work. I’ll be waiting for your next post. Thanks .Keep it up!
    Kindly visit us @

    Lord Ganesh Prayers in New York,
    Jai Hanuman Puja in New York,
    Maha kali Puja in Jamaica,
    Lakshmi Pujas and Prayers in USA,
    Lord Krishna Prayers in Jamaica,
    Sai Puja in New York
    Shiva Puja in Jamaica,
    House Hold Puja in Jamaica,

    ReplyDelete
  9. It involves a combination of kneading, pressing, stretching, and rubbing movements to promote relaxation, alleviate muscle tension, and improve overall well-being.

    ReplyDelete
  10. massage parlour near me is a classic choice for relaxation. Incorporating long, flowing strokes, kneading, and gentle stretching, this massage promotes relaxation and enhances blood flow.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Unlock the secrets of body to body massage centres in bangalore Our comprehensive guide covers everything, from choosing the center to aftercare tips

    ReplyDelete
  12. Massage techniques can also be used to improve posture. Sitting or standing for prolonged periods with poor posture can result in muscles becoming tight.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Finding the perfect female to male massage near me is crucial for those seeking a moment of relaxation and relief from life's stress.

    ReplyDelete
  14. You may be seeking relief from tension, stress or just desire to pamper yourself take a break and enjoy a relaxing massage parlour in chennai centre, our staff members are dedicated to providing an unforgettable experience.

    ReplyDelete
  15. You can get rid of fatigue, headaches, body aches and tiredness with our services. We also help you achieve a radiant skin. This service is offered at Spa in Chennai.

    ReplyDelete
  16. We have the best therapists in the business with years of experience. Relax with us!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thanks for sharing all this information here on this page.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I truly enjoy looking through on this web site , it holds superb content .

    ReplyDelete
  19. A nursing vacancy company in India serves as a vital connector between nursing professionals seeking employment and healthcare institutions needing skilled staff. These companies rigorously verify candidates' credentials to ensure the highest standards are maintained. They provide specialized training programs to enhance nurses' capabilities and prepare them for diverse medical environments. Career counseling services help nurses navigate their career paths effectively. By managing regulatory compliance and documentation, these companies simplify the hiring process for both nurses and healthcare providers. Leveraging extensive industry networks, they offer access to a wide pool of qualified and dedicated nursing talent. As a result, their meticulous approach significantly enhances the quality and efficiency of healthcare services across India.
    https://dynamichealthstaff.com/

    ReplyDelete
  20. Investing in a hosting plan unlocks a multitude of benefits for your online presence. First, it ensures your website is live and accessible around the clock, offering reliability to your visitors. Hosting plans provide robust security features to protect your site from malicious attacks and data breaches. Additionally, you can manage your website effortlessly with user-friendly control panels and automated tools. Comprehensive customer support is available 24/7 to assist with any issues you might encounter. Various hosting plans offer scalable options, allowing your site to grow seamlessly as your business expands. They also come with essential features like domain registration and website builders, making the setup process straightforward. Ultimately, a good hosting plan enhances your site's performance, user experience, and security, offering peace of mind.
    https://onohosting.com/

    ReplyDelete
  21. Breast cancer operation costs in Delhi vary significantly depending on the type of surgery performed and the chosen healthcare facility. A lumpectomy, which conserves breast tissue, ranges from INR 1.5 lakh to INR 2.5 lakh. Mastectomies, involving complete breast removal, cost between INR 2 lakh and INR 4 lakh. If reconstructive surgery follows a mastectomy, expenses can exceed INR 5 lakh. High-end private hospitals typically charge more than government or charitable institutions. Additional expenses for diagnostic tests, medications, and follow-up consultations further increase the financial burden. Comprehensive health insurance and thorough financial planning are essential for managing these substantial healthcare costs.
    https://www.breastoncosurgery.com/services/breast-cancer-treatment-cost-in-delhi/

    ReplyDelete
  22. Dr. Amit Patel is widely regarded as the best colon cancer surgeon in Ahmedabad. With extensive experience and specialized expertise, he is affiliated with a leading multi-specialty hospital. Dr. Patel utilizes advanced diagnostic and surgical techniques to provide top-quality care. He is known for his compassionate approach, creating personalized treatment plans tailored to each patient. Dr. Patel ensures holistic pre- and post-operative support for optimal recovery. His impressive success rates reflect his dedication and meticulous attention to detail. Trusted and respected by the community, patient testimonials consistently commend his excellence in colon cancer surgery.
    https://drvirajlavingia.com/colorectal-cancer-specialist-in-ahmedabad

    ReplyDelete
  23. Dr. Shona Nag is a highly experienced breast cancer surgeon based in Pune. She specializes in managing complex breast cancer cases and provides personalized treatment plans for each patient. Utilizing the latest technological advancements and research, Dr. Nag delivers innovative and effective therapies. She is actively involved in clinical research, contributing significantly to the advancement of breast cancer treatments. Known for her compassionate demeanor and clear communication, Dr. Nag ensures that patients feel supported and well-informed throughout their treatment journey. Her dedication to excellence and patient-centric care has earned her a reputable standing. Dr. Nag is celebrated for her contribution to oncology, particularly in breast cancer surgery. Her commitment to patient welfare and cutting-edge treatments makes her a leading figure in her field in Pune.
    https://www.drshonanagbreastcancer.in/understanding-cancer/what-is-cancer-can-cancer-be-cured

    ReplyDelete