I do a lot of reminiscing this time of year. And, like any good cabin wife, I do a lot of it right where I should: standing behind my kitchen sink. From there I can look out the window and up the driveway, keeping track of any comings or goings, observing Nature’s ebb and flow while washing and rinsing. It’s my other water view—the one that lets me gawk and ponder the passing of the seasons while being way more useful than when I’m swiveled toward the front yard just staring at the lake.
“Vacation is just another sink,” a friend of mine used to gripe at the end of every summer. She was a mother of six grown children, two of them twins, and our office secretary back before we had to call her an administrator for political correctness. Mostly, though, she was a grumble puss, a glass-half-empty person looking for opportunities to bemoan what she saw as her fixed station in life.
At the time I wondered if she’d ever found herself standing doing dishes in some of the primo spots I knew and appreciated. Had she heard loons calling over her shoulder while Rangeley balsam wafted over her soapy hands? Was there ever a beagle beside her circling for crumbs, softening her heart more than her two-legged beggars? Did she ever vacation where she had to do dishes without a sink and swear if, by some act of grace she got a sink, she’d never complain again?
Back when I first heard the vacation-sink observation, I thought having a camp by the lake–plus having a working sink in the camp by the lake—would be the vacation of my dreams. I had the camp part, a rustic A-frame on the northern tip of Moosehead. I sort of had the sink part, too. I’d recently graduated from perching a large Rubbermaid Roughneck dish tub on my kitchen counter to an actual sink installed in the counter. Except for the drip bucket under the drain pipe that often became a cenote for sacrificial mice, the arrangement was a much better alternative for holding water. But, when it came to running water, the mechanics of getting it into the sink by way of the faucet, my first camp setup left a little to be desired. The only running water I had was the kind I got (or hoped my husband would get) by running down to the lake with a bucket.
Fast forward a few years to my newly-built but still rough Rangeley cabin. So thrilled was I by the promise of indoor plumbing, I didn’t really mind reverting back to the old Roughneck tub for a bit. It was way before the time the girls would want to live in the shower, so they didn’t care that I swabbed Spaghetti-Os off them with giant wads of Wet Wipes. I, however, was psyched beyond belief. Water, warm wet flowing water over my hands and my crusty dishes, was looming closer and closer like an oasis.
“You’re getting hot running water at camp?” my mother-in-law asked in astonishment. “All those years on Great East Lake, I only had cold water coming out in the kitchen sink. Had to heat it on the stove.”
Yup, back in 1988, I was as spoiled as I thought a remote cabin wife could be. Not only did I have lakefront property, I was going to have the luxury of bringing some of that lake water into my basement, heating it up, and gushing it into my brand new sink on demand! Seems like just yesterday I stood by the Sears “almost-the-best” stainless steel sink sitting inside my plywood pre-countertop next to the Coleman stove that was about to be put into hibernation. I was holding my breath, praying for water to pour forth. Thanks to my husband and the wizardry of hydraulics he was overseeing outside–where a hundred feet of hose came up out of the lake, through the cellar window and into the pump tank–we were ready and waiting. Finally, on his third try priming the pump, the spigot let forth all its pent up air and whoooosh sent a glorious torrent splashing and sputtering inside the sink.
That was more than 20 summers ago. But I still feel the same inner release, the same
liberated feeling over knowing it is possible for me to listen to loons or watch hummingbirds hover inches away white I’m rinsing crusty pots clean down to the
shine. My vacation sink is now my everyday sink, the one I’m glad to come home to, even after taking hiatuses now and again to some pretty sweet condo sinks in the Caribbean.
“All done up there?” I can still hear Tom hollering from his plumbing control center in
the basement. “Can I shut it down?”
It would be this time of year, time to shut down the water, close up camp and head down the mountain till May. “Yeah,” I’d yell back, taking one last swipe at the counter with my sponge. “Done with the water. You can shut ‘er down.” I’d look out at the hummingbird feeder dangling in the wind and hope none would come by first thing in the spring before I’d have a chance to fill it up again.
Now I’m happy to stay put, standing at my newer, shinier sink that fills with well water. I can look for as long as I like—through the yellowing birch branches to where I used to haul a “camp stuff” box out to the car, interrupting the flow of my best possible life for the cold months ahead. ‘Course, what’s not to be happy about, now that I’m living my best possible year-round life in Rangeley AD (After Dishwasher)? I grin each time I grab the box of dishwasher detergent out of the old Roughneck tub in the cupboard and know that, even if I wanted to roam far and wide, I couldn’t find a better place to hang my towel.