Ross Mackenzie

Steve McQueen, the quirky movie actor, said he'd rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on the planet. Roger that, bro'.

Cities used to have a compelling raison -- safety, commerce, the interchange of ideas. Now, modernity has rendered them unnecessary for commerce and ideas, and too often they offer far less personal security than the reputed badlands beyond urban walls. Think about it: How do you like your chances with citified goons out of "24" or the bar scene in "Star Wars," compared with happening upon a black bear browsing for berries in an alpine meadow?

It's funny -- odd funny -- that only after some time spent in a city does one discover that what he really was looking for is something he left behind, back where his heart is. On the water, in a canoe, on a mountainside, or -- as in our case -- in a river's-edge wilderness cabin.

THE RIVER is 50 yards wide and not particularly distinguished for its beauty or strength. But it is the barrier, or moat, that has to be traversed -- by swimming -- to retrieve the canoe stashed in the cabin. The canoe serves as a ferry between cabin and car while we're in residence. Then one hauls it up the bank and stows it in the cabin, and -- with the Labrador puppy, of course -- swims back across to the car and the long road home to "the social rumble" that "ain't restful" (as Satchel Paige reminded).

Made of cedar logs cut and milled on site about 80 years ago, the cabin boasts zero electricity (the nearest electron is about 10 miles away) and no well. We haul drinking water and run lights, refrigeration, and a cook stove on propane. For those who don't want to encounter late-night berry-picking bears, there's also a propane toilet.

Set on the riverbank against a backdrop of birches, maples, and white pines, the cabin is where we long have put everything back together after crises and societal cluster bombs scatter our tidy piles across the landscape. There, in this wilderness idyll, the coercive urgency of our daily lives yields to the laid-back majesty of simplicity.

NEITHER the forest nor the river knows anything of politics or ideology. Nothing of leftist anger and malign idiocy. Nothing of cosmic catastrophes such as unaffordable pensions for everyone or $20 trillion in accumulated debt. Nothing of ObamaCare or illegal immigration, of Iran or the Ground Zero mosque. Nothing of Obamian, Pelosian, or Sharptonian pipsqueak arrogance. Nothing of that ersatz master called public (or world) opinion.

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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