Inspirational & Spirituality
Home to Cabin 7
Written and illustrated by Lisa Loucks-Christenson
Purchase with The Old Man & His Dream (pictured below)
HOME TO CABIN 7 (cover coming soon)
As I walked off the dock, a loon cried out on the lake and I turned to meet his stare. I watched his black-and-white checkered body bobbing on the gentle waves of Steamboat Lake, Minnesota; he was swimming by himself, calling out to his mate.
I understood how he must feel. I too was on the same big lake, docked at the same sunset, and I wasn’t sure how I had even arrived here, but at least I knew where I was. I could see the pug hole across the lake, at the last moment of the day.
I wished I had arrived earlier in the evening. It would have given me time to walk the beach and reminisce of all the summers our family spent together there. The loon cried out at the same time I was looking around for Dave and Emme. I was just starting to call out his name, my husband of 30 years, when a large fish jumped in the moonlight.
I knew that fish. We’d met before on a story I wrote years ago, The Old Man and His Dream. A gift I wrote for my grandfather for his Father’s Day present. For some reason, the giant musky had returned to me, for a second time in my life. In his eyes, I knew a new story was unfolding and, like before, in the first book, details were dancing across his glossy pupils, reflecting on the still waters. I could see new skies. From where I stood, I could see the northern lights, and I was making mental notes of everything I could see and hear.
I tried calling for Dave and my daughter, but I couldn’t open my mouth. I tried again and my mouth snapped shut. The air was so different here. I couldn’t speak, only listen and watch.
The next thing I heard was my name spoken through the winds. They caused me to turn my head behind me, and starting at the resort. The cabins were all there, none of them had been uprooted, dug out and moved. They were rooted there like trees, cabins with roots, and they were all yellow again. That beautiful canary yellow I loved. I couldn’t see anyone, but I could hear their laughter. As faint as it was, I couldn’t deny how familiar it sounded. It reminded me of crickets on an early summer night—sharpening their song, faint at first, but as I walked closer to the cabins, their chirps became words that were audible and I finally understood them.
I knew, instantly, this wasn’t some lucid dream: I was up north, a place I always wanted to visit in September, but I had never found the time.
As I walked between the old birch trees, I ran my hands on the peeling bark, over the spots the woodpeckers had drilled their beaks in search of ants or bug larvae. I looked at the lake and it was no longer quiet; it had white caps; the musky was gone, so was the loon, and the laughter I had heard had now become a woman’s voice. It was my grandmother’s. She said, “Who’s that coming to the door?”
It was nice to hear her voice—it had been almost eight years. I couldn’t talk. It was like my mouth was stuck shut from eating too many of dad’s pickled pike bites. I knew, somehow, I couldn’t just walk in. I had to be invited inside. It was holy ground. I felt like a mannequin. I could see everyone in my family that had passed on, all staring at me with a smile but no words. Everyone that was ever with us up north was there, even Martin and Anna Rebers, the old owners of from Omega Resort, the first place we ever stayed as a family.
Family and old friends we’d met there stared back but said nothing, like they had to wait. Finally, after what seemed like another lifetime had passed, my father was there. He stood at the screen door and I smiled as it creaked as it always did. He was opening it waving me in, “Hello, Lisa, welcome Home, we’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.”
I tried again, but I couldn’t speak. I could feel the sand on my bare feet as I entered. I brushed it off before I entered. The sounds and the way to communicate them into words were different here. I’d spent years living with hypersensitivity pneumonitis interstitial lung disease, I’d spent over four years on oxygen so I could watch my daughter get older, watch my grandparents and great aunts and uncles, friends all die, including my sister, who I always say took my death, then.
I realized now, life had been preparing me for this inward pouring of a new life. It was similar, the best I can explain, to waking up in the morning on the first cool day of September. The day I’d wait all summer long, every year, to cool down so I could breathe easy again. It would have been easier to move north years ago, if half of my family had not been buried there, and near, except for my sister, who had decided on cremation so she could, for as long as we needed her, remain with each of us.
Thankful the air was cool now, crisp like sucking a candy cane in the winter, and unlike the humid air of the previous day I relaxed, knowing I wouldn’t have to rush to St. Mary’s, unable to breathe, or be joined with the other patients suffering from Covid-19. I wouldn’t stand a chance to not become infected with the virus, or survive if I did catch it. I already knew how it felt not to be able to get a breath. My life felt like I was sleeping with pillows over my mouth, in comparison to now, inhaling easily all the air I could take in and want, oxygen that was readily available and free to use.
I tried to open my mouth to try to speak, but again, it felt like I was swallowing the air like it was water and the air poured into my lungs like I was inhaling the words I wanted to speak, but couldn’t get out like I’d been caught in another riptide.
In that moment, I knew I wasn’t standing at the pearly gates. I had, somehow, taken a detour and I had somehow found my unexpected return to Cabin 7, but did I get to stay for the day or forever?
© 2004 Lisa Loucks-Christenson / Cabin 7
The photo above is not the Return to 7 book cover, but it is a real photo of our beloved Cabin 7. The winter day I shot that picture, the temperature was about -70 Fahrenheit with wind chill, maybe a little cooler, when I hiked out and shot the picture. Then I did something I couldn’t do in the summer. I walked into the three-foot snowdrifts and broke my own path to the middle of the lake. I stopped when I saw the cracks in the thick ice, passing where the river runs through the lake. Where I stood, it was around 90-feet deep, a place I knew well. From there, in that place, I could receive a message from my dad in Heaven. That day he came to me as a hawk, which didn’t surprise me. You have to have trained eyes to understand what I experienced. Dad gave me the message I needed so that I could finish the book, The Old Man & His Dreams.
HOME TO CABIN 7
Tentative Release: Winter 2022
Narrative non-fiction, a memoir of sorts, with some visionary fiction included as a bonus. A story that’s written in the present time about my vision of my future. I open this story, told from my first person perspective, with the day I return to Cabin 7 and re-join all of my family that left earth and have been waiting for my arrival.
Return to Cabin 7 is a story about how to prepare ourselves for our future so we can transcend our pain, worry, and past and carry of best memories hooked into our hearts. It is possible. I’ve been at death’s door. I hope this book will help you get ready for your next lifetime, because we never know our end time any more than our entry point of our arrival, do we? Mine took me here.
This story is a sequel to my The Old Man & His Dream.
Cover Illustration by Lisa Loucks-Christenson. This is the real old man, my grandfather, with the musky playfully beside him. The body of the fish stretches out the row of cabins and resorts where our family stayed, “up north”, on Steamboat Lake, and represents our storehouse of memories. © 2021 Lisa Loucks-Christenson
The Old Man & His Dreams
Written & Illustrated by Lisa Loucks Christenson
Publisher: CoyWolf Entertainment
From the Private Library of Lisa Loucks Christenson
A facts-to-fable™️ story about an aged man who has a dream about catching a grandiose fish before he dies. Set on the shores of Steamboat Lake, in northern Minnesota. The story follows the life of her grandfather and his dream of catching this fish, while taking his annual vacations with his extended family. As the years go by, he teaches each of his grandchildren, great-grandchildren. Everything he knew about catching monster fish and about the one that he promises is closer to their hearts than they know.
With his time running out, he feels hard-pressed to prove the existence of this fabled fish: he wants to hook the legendary fish and bring evidence that what he dreamed is real.
The Old Man & His Dream story spans years of fishing trips and family vacations will have readers cheering for the old man, and leave them wondering if he’ll ever catch the big fish? If he does catch it, will he keep it or release it?
Author note: A trip back to this place in Northern Minnesota; a place where all of us “Loucks’s” cut our teeth and caught our first big fish, enjoyed endless card games, trips to Cass Lake and Walker, Minnesota, cabins (we had others too, but most of the time, we stayed at Cabin 7).
This was the place that we could stay up late playing board games, Uno, drawing, reading magazines and books while we snacked on popcorn and watched Johnny Carson on the 13-inch B&W portable television. It was a time when our large family gathered and enjoyed the weekly fish fry’s, battled stormy weather, fished in the rain, fell in love, and captured the beauty of the Luna moths flittering under the heat from the flood lights. These are stories of three generations vacationing, our family spending time together through the years.
This story is not only based on our adventures, but on how our time together taught me not to fear death. It opened my eyes and showed me how to embrace the lives we have, understand the paths of our loved ones that have departed. It’s a record of stories they may have, unknowingly or wittingly, left behind for us to find, discover again, travel, and take time to reminisce the days and years we’d spent together, years after they had left us here on earth.
I discovered, years after my grandfather’s tackle box “officially” retired, that our memories remain locked inside, like willing captives waiting for the next fisherman to open it and to read our story.
Once inside it, I found the first memory, piles of rubber worms all of us had bought him when we were kids on our limited budgets. Most were never used. Maybe he had kept them sealed for us to find again? Maybe he knew to catch a story-sized fish you needed the right lures, not worms, to hook them. On the other side of his snap-lid treasure box, tucked below the silver minnow rapala’s that he caught his northern perch, and sun fish on, is where I found his gift.
It took me many days—each that seemed like it was its own forever, but they soon passed by keeping the day’s adventures with them. Time that went by easily, days, weeks, months that folded into years and then decades. I had been too busy with projects, getting married, parenting, empty-nesting, health issues of my own, and something I didn’t expect: my family and really die.
I had to learn through new births, deaths, circumstances and interference, my wants and hopes there was a dark place, a guttural emptiness I had to battle when I realized that the things I longed for were things I could never change, never achieve, have, and sometimes, never even understand. I had to break my own paths through stinging nettles and canary grass that towered my every step, interrupted my every thought that those seeds that stuck to my face and heart would be planted in me, and they’d uproot the pain. They would choke out the bad memories and take me with—upward into depths of faith I didn’t know were possible. I never let go. I held on. I now knew to keep your life is to become dead first, sometimes, many times; many deaths. “y todo va a estar bien”
In my hands, in a flurry of rainbow colors and various hooks, lures, spinners, and weights, sat the true meaning of my grandfather’s tackle box. I ran my fingers through his broken fish lines that remained bundled and still weighted to his empty hooks that still showed signs they too had weathered his experiences.
The tangled fished lines had proved their test of time. Each one was twisted, holding its own story. There was one color and brand for each of our family members. Every line, like family member, had its own limited footage measured against its own test strengths that had to fit, at one time in a salable-sized box that fit on shelves, before my grandfather bought it and unboxed it, setting us all free to run and wander, tangle ourselves in messes and reel us in and fix us, only to toss us out with new lead weights springing us into the weeks, into the pools, into the deep trying to help us catch our dreams. When I looked at the mess of lines, I cried. We were all hooked and tied to my grandfather’s heart. He did this for us.
I went through each line in search of mine. Surely, he’d have something different for me, his memory-keeper, storyteller granddaughter. I wondered what color I’d be, what weight, how much I could hold and take—I’d seen a lot already. It had to be strong. I was sure he’d pick the strongest line for me.
Instead, I found I was the light-weight, the weakest line, the one easily broken—and so full of fix-me knots. Is that who I was to him? That’s how he saw me? I tossed it back in the box.
Then I looked at the box. The coil of line seemed endless. I mean, who on earth would ever use that much line—in a lifetime? Maybe someone who fished every day and broke their line daily, I suppose.
I felt a warmth come over my hands, and then over my heart. I realized why I had the longest line of us. As I pulled it in like a sucker on a short line and unescapable hook, I found my end—it was gently knotted to the weights of my heart, to the stories he held on to while he sat on the other side, probably laughing like he always did when he got to see us figure out he’d been letting us run the line like a hooked fish that had already been caught, but he was tiring us out so the fight would be easy for him as he reeled us in. He’d been there and still was there. That’s what I understood. Although I couldn’t see him, he was there.
Like the first night I went septic, and it was so easy to leave this world, to go to the place of peace, all I had to do was go up an incredible amount of stairs—with lungs that didn’t work—it had been a journey. Once there, all I only had to open the arched door, and once there, I tried with all my strength but it wouldn’t budge. I kept pounding on it. I knew, but I can’t tell you how, that my grandfather was on the other side of the door and he was holding it shut. He would not let me in. He told me I had to go back.
Like when I was caught in rip-tide in Florida, instantly I was in one place, then deep in the ocean far beyond the land where my family appeared like ants, worse, they didn’t know that was me all the way out there and I couldn’t summon them — because they couldn’t swim very well, but if they knew it was me, I knew they’d try. I was truly on the wings of angels as I swallowed waves after wave of salt water. I found it impossible to keep my mouth closed as I swam because I had to get air, and would—just as the next wave poured over me. That swim took me 45 minutes to swim from the ocean to the beach. My soul held in the water and it wouldn’t let me go. I kept trying. I swam against the waves. My salty tears were all I gave it, but it had been enough to feed it, so I had no choice but to hold them from it. Every foot I gained, I was getting pulled out three feet. I refused to quit. I knew my family needed me. I had to survive.
So, once again, I found myself an instant back in the Saint Mary’s Emergency Room. The nurse was strong. Had she never been broken? Was she so strong because she had been tackled a few times? A middle-aged blonde-haired woman that walked on two legs attached to a small framed but she had arms packed with an incredible strength, strong enough to pull against my resistance; enough to keep me from going back. She was fast, too. She slapped with a mask and 15 liters of oxygen filled my lungs as she began to regulate my “earth air” back to a survivable place, one I hardly felt was breathable after my experience.
In my new position, I finally understood why my grandfather never wanted to return to the lake again. Some times things are best said, unsaid. He left the boxed up at a time in his life where he could see and revisit the best memories, not the pain. From there, he could see his favorite surroundings, not the troubles, ones that he must have known, would eventually, funneled his life into his end and into his afterlife.
The Old Man & His Dream was written as a Father’s Day gift for my grandfather, a WW2 veteran, recipient of a bronze star and a Purple Heart, but I’m telling you, because I knew him well, he had a heart that could show me things no one ever has.
The Old Man & His Dream is a gripping story for anyone who has been “up north,” or has stayed on the ever-changing shores of Steamboat Lake.
I hope you’ll find a place in your heart for this story and its poignancy.
“Walking my victory!”––Lisa
Loucks Studios Inc. owned stores will have a sample of the books content, the full book probably will probably be launched online, I haven’t decided, yet.