Urmilla Khanna and
Linda M. Rhinehart Neas

Linda M. Rhinehart Neas
Photo taken with Galaxy 5s, enhanced with GIMP
Inspiration piece

A Cabin in the Woods
By Urmilla Khanna

I am an A-frame cabin situated in the woods, in Blue Mountain, Linden, Virginia. I came into existence in 1976. Initially when I met my custodians, Dr. Jacob and his wife Zarina, they appeared to be good people. Zarina drove up from McLean, Virginia everyday to overlook the work being done by Eddie, the construction man. She stood beside him when he placed his compass to set my location. A couple degrees this way or that would not do for her. She upgraded every part of me as I continued to grow and take shape. From the outside I am a little cottage in the woods; but inside I am voluminous. I am fitted with a full sized range, a refrigerator, a dish-washer and a wood burning stove that was shipped to my address from Maine. I loved being pampered. None of the other cottages that were birthing in my neighborhood were getting this kind of special treatment. They all looked at me with envy. I could tell from the way the trees around them did not smile, swerve or dance. The trees on my property were tall, straight, lush-green and very happy.

As soon as I was born, I was furnished and decorated with tender care. I loved those days of my infancy and toddlerhood. Zarina brought in furniture, matched the colors, hung pictures on the walls and invited her friends over to admire her workmanship. Then one day Dr. Jacob was standing on the deck with vodka in his hand. He was shouting so loud that the trees began to quiver. Zarina was also snapping back. I pretended to be a snail and tried to shut down so I would not hear their banter. But it was hopeless. That night they slept in separate beds and I knew it was all over between the two of them.

Next time Dr. Jacob came to Blue Mountain, Zarina was not with him. There was another woman named Sandy. He told Sandy that she was his only love. She was, after all, his soul mate. But things did not go well for the two of them in the Blue Mountain. They may have been in love but they certainly did not like me. She said she heard Zarina’s voice coming from the bowels of my stomach. She has a gun, she told Dr. Jacob. She pleaded with him that they must leave right now. Come on, I thought. We are somber, peace loving folks in the country. We don’t fight with each other. We don’t carry guns. Look around— the trees, the bugs, the snakes, the birds, the crickets, the trillium and the daffodils— we all live in harmony. This is Blue Mountain, not McLean, Virginia or Washington D.C. People come here to discover the language of the trees. They whisper softly. You’ve just got to stop fighting so you can hear that rustling melody.

They did not listen to me. They continued to fight and brought their battles to the bedroom. Now they were throwing things at each other and it hurt. I could not tell them how badly I was hurting. I did not have a voice, but I certainly had feelings. If they wanted to understand me they had to quiet down and hear the unsaid and feel the unfelt. I begged them to sober down. They did not listen. They came back out and he was pounding so hard that it made the whole deck tremble. She was screaming too. In the middle of the night when all the trees had gone to sleep and the crickets had slowed down their chirps, the car in the driveway spewed dust and sped away. They left, never to return and I was glad.

I stood quiet and regrettably lonesome for many months and years. I felt neglected. Then in 1989, I heard new voices on the deck, the voices of Urmilla and Kris. I liked Urmilla immediately. She spoke softly and admired me greatly. She gave me a good clean up. All the belongings that were left behind by Dr. Jacob and Zarina and Sandy were pitched and I felt refreshed and clean as if I had just had a bath. You should see my foundation. Isn’t that what holds up everything? She painted it in a shade of yellow, a sort of Thai-curry-yellow, not turmeric, not lemon, just a sunshine-yellow with a hint of brown. It made me stately and handsome all over again.

One evening she stood on the deck with Eddie, the construction man and asked if there was any way he could provide her a view. She could see the crimson sky faintly beyond the lush green oaks. Sure, he said. I can bring down six or ten of them trees. It will make a narrow path and you will see not just the setting sun but the valley below.

The trees in Blue Mountain are so tall that for a few minutes at dawn and dusk when the light is just right, they appear as if they were touching the sky.

But that will be very painful; it will hurt, she told Eddie.

He smiled.

The oaks and maples swayed gently, thankful for escaping their ill fate.

Soon, I became a respite for Urmilla and Kris; an escape from their busy lives in Washington D.C. They spent a lot of time on the deck. They did not talk. She reclined on the chase and listened to the birds. Bird-chirps are also different at dawn and dusk, you know. In the morning their cries are energetic and melodious. In the evening it is a hotchpotch cacophony as they flutter their wings and try to settle down for the night.

Urmilla and Kris loved to have their tea on the deck. She read her journals, sipping and savoring the freshly brewed tea. Kris on the other hand drank his quickly and went off into the woods. He cut and split the big logs and collected bundles of sticks for kindling. She loved the smell of oak and hickory that emanated from the cast-iron stove.

I have seen many pleasant days with my new masters. From time to time, they have brought bunches of family and friends from the city. Some have come to party, others to sit in a circle and discuss books and yet others to just chill out and enjoy the peaceful green. Urmilla has sat many long hours in the loft looking out the glass front of my A-frame and dreaming. Then I see her thumping on her laptop hoping to record a few words of creativity. You inspire me, she says to me once in a while. I do, I am not bashful to admit.

At times she has performed match-making duties right here on my deck. Young people have fallen in love and later married. I like providing that kind of service. Those are the subtle functions of my life—to make people happy. I have witnessed pajama parties when girls sang songs in Hindi and in English. I have seen some of them sit in meditation and others perform Tai-chi in the early morning sun. All of this is encrypted in me and can be retrieved if you just allow yourself a few peaceful moments in the Mountain.

It is midnight. Today, Urmilla is here alone. She pulls up the chase and makes herself comfortable with cushions and covers. She muses about the bygones. Her husband has passed almost twelve years ago and life has changed. She thinks it is time to move on. She watches the twinkling stars in the dusky sky; she listens to the last chirping of the crickets. It’s time she decides. It’s time to say good-bye to the little cabin in the woods. She turns to look at the tall trees for one last time. They sway in the gentle breeze exactly as they did the first time she stood on the deck and admired their stately beauty some twenty years ago.

Next morning she hands the keys over to the realtor.


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  1. Posted June 2, 2015 at 9:46 pm | #

    The image, a view of trees washed in tears, the words, a beautiful story that carries us to the view, full circle. So lovely!

  2. Posted June 3, 2015 at 3:28 am | #

    Thank you, Annmarie. I very much enjoyed collaborating with Urmilla.