Or how to avoid house visitors.
Moving into a remote mountain cabin is an easy transition provided you’re not dependent upon sweeping approval from friends, particularly those whose idea of an outdoor experience is driving to the mall with the window down.
I discovered this reality after moving into an A-frame located at the end of a dirt road along the north side of a pine-packed ridge at 8,425 feet. Limited to three rooms and a loft, the cabin looks as if built by Habitat for Humanity on a budget. Despite size limitations, it harbors everything I crave in a home: out-the-door access to forest, front and back decks, a visible night sky, wildlife, close proximity to ski areas, and a large fieldstone fireplace for ambience and warmth—everything but endorsement from friends.
When I announced my intentions, the majority of friends expressed the type of astonishment more befitting to if I had declared I was going in on a Myrtle Beach timeshare with Kim Jong-un.
“Why?” they’d ask. “You’ve got everything here: cineplexes, stores, restaurants.” The question itself provided answer. But rather than point this out I nodded as if heeding their counsel, concluding that it’s easier for people to grasp quantum theory than it is for them to understand the appeal of solitude.
This becomes strikingly apparent during initial visits. They don’t know what to say prompting naive quips and strange questions. “Aren’t you afraid of a crazed ax murderer breaking into your cabin?” asked a friend’s wife, implying that murderers armed with medieval weaponry are commonplace in alpine forests. I wanted to answer, “About as much you fear your gated community getting attacked by a catapult,” but refrained, appreciative for how she modified ax murderer with crazed so as to eliminate any confusion with say, a melancholic ax murderer.
Another friend upon arriving commented, “This is a great place to bury a body, huh?” Rather than respond I let it pass, imagining the real estate listing for such an intended use: Large, private treed lot. Perfect for mafia hitmen, undertaker hobbyists, and ironic archaeologists.
One of the most repeated quips is “What? Are you writing the next great American novel?” Tired of feigning laughter at this hackneyed witticism I now answer, “Too ambitious. I’m instead focusing on writing the next great Nicaraguan novel.”
But the most common question is, “What do you do up here?’ The polite side of me responds “Ski, hike, bike, write, read, chop wood.” But what I really want to answer is, “Try to find space for all the animal-themed house-warming gifts.” Move into a cabin and everyone assumes you harbor the decorating tastes of Cracker Barrel. Consequently, I now own so much wildlife kitsch–chainsaw-carved bears, moosehead fan pulls, slate coasters imprinted with elk tracks—my cabin is one jar of huckleberry jam away from achieving Montana gift shop status.
This same type of gift-giving doesn’t apply to other homes. I would never arrive at a friend’s housewarming party in the city bearing gifts of switch plates adorned with strip mall motifs or slate coasters with the shoe prints of meter maids.
Regardless, a few hours of sitting on the cabin’s deck in the sharp mountain air usually alters opinions. Upon leaving, many ask that I keep them in mind for housesitting duties. But there are others who admit they won’t be visiting often. Which is okay. One less distraction from finishing the next great Nicaraguan novel.
Jeff Wozer is a nationally-touring standup comedian. Check him out at jeffwozer.com.