Yesterday I escaped to the cabin, arriving at sunset with gold blazing across lake after lake. I took my favorite drive through the state wildlife management area, where there was still enough light to see grebes diving.
In the perfect rural quiet I could hear yellow warblers, song sparrows, a thriving amphibian community, and the ultimate treasure -- the call of a loon.
Picture me this morning: Scribbling on a notepad in the woods or on the dock that, after more than 30 years of living in Minnesota, I realize is my God-given right.
I'm picturing it, too. Because in reality, I'm composing on my computer, sitting on a concrete patio overlooking a golf course.
The word "cabin" is a misnomer. This is more of a fully furnished condo with cable, wi-fi, a gas fireplace and a brand new set of nonstick cookware. And it is all mine, for one week, every other summer.
So how did I, a nature lover, end up here, on a golf course? I hate golf.
Minnesotans routinely go "up north" to the "cabin." I never thought I would succumb. But then, 10 years ago, came a phone call.
"How would you like a $50 gift certificate to the Mall of America, and a digital camera?"
Fifty bucks? We lived only minutes from the mall, and $50 would go a long way back then. Plus a digital camera? I didn't know anyone who had one of those. The catch: I would have to sit through a presentation about a resort "up north."
A no-brainer. The suckers! I explained to my 7-year-old daughter that under no circumstances would I be buying anything. We were only in this for the loot.
Then the slideshow began. With the alluring lakes, brilliantly orange orioles chirping in lush treetops, families having fun, modern cabins, a property that I would own and pass on for generations, all within easy driving distance of our home.
And if we ever tired of this location, we could trade points or something, gather friends with access to ready cash, and easily maneuver a free vacation to tour castles in Ireland or track rare birds in Costa Rica.
"But Mom," my daughter whispered as I signed on the dotted line. "I thought you weren't going to buy anything."
How could I possibly turn down such a deal for a prime, biennial summer getaway?
Ever since, I have concealed the truth about this place, speaking of it in the haziest of terms, as vaguely as possible to my family and former husband -- especially, because it was, well, kind of embarrassing. What in the world was I doing buying a timeshare?
Finally, I've come to terms with it.
I'm an idiot when it comes to organizing things like a fancy trip to Europe, which is never going to happen, but I wouldn't trade my time here with my daughter for anything. To exist, our vacations needed to be compulsory.
Without the timeshare, we'd never have gone fishing or horseback riding, climbed a fire tower, biked on the Paul Bunyan trail, or bought goofy things only tourists do, like three-foot puppets. I wouldn't have the memory of my daughter reaching for my hand as she reads a trail sign warning of bears.
We'd never have shared the supreme relief of being rescued after losing our paddles and getting stuck in a cove in high winds on a huge lake.
Forget about green solitude and the nonmotorized wilderness -- when you're up the stormy cove without a paddle, there's no sweeter sound than a big gas-guzzling, fume-spewing outboard heading your way.
So I guess I don't need to be vague about my cabin Up North. It may not be built of logs, surrounded by moss, hidden in deep woods with its own dock on a secluded lake. But it has brought me the same satisfaction that any other cabin would have -- time shared with my daughter, worth every cent.
Not to mention the 50 bucks (greenbacks, not roadkill) and the digital camera.
Leslie Martin is an editor. She lives in Mendota Heights.