Soon, very soon, I will be heading to Oklahoma to visit my family with Nick. All I’ve been able to think about lately is their cabin…and we will be arriving there just in time for the Fourth Of July celebrations.
The cabin is nestled in an area just east of Tulsa in what’s called Cedar Crest. The land is private area and lays on the tail end of Spring Creek. In the 1950’s a small dam was built on the creek which created Cedar Lake, a private lake where no motor boats are allowed. Just small row boats, canoes, and the occasional kayak.
The creek runs southwest, about 34 miles from Kansas, OK (the town, not the state) and ends in the northern tip of Ft. Gibson Lake (a manmade reservoir).
Spring Creek is the most pristine large Ozark stream left in the state of Oklahoma.
Us Northeastern Okies take much pride in being located in the “foothills of the Ozarks”. Many people who drive through Oklahoma travel along Route 66 (I-40) and see the flat parts of the state. But once you hit Tulsa, that flat landscape starts to change. It gets GREEN and starts to roll. In the summer months, it’s absolutely breathtaking.
The tree frogs and locusts will agree. Their buzzing of summer is one of the most relaxing sounds to me. In the evening the fireflies (lightning bugs) take to the low sky. The humid air takes a break and all is right in the world.
I’ve spent a lot of time at that cabin, on Cedar Lake. The cabin has a kind of unofficial name of “Flash Pointe” (fancy “e” at the end and all), named after a nickname of my father’s. They’ve had the cabin since, I believe, I was 17 years old.
I hated school but my last couple of years were alright; probably made better by this “weekend retreat” I was lucky enough to indulge in.
The cabin went through a renovation a few years after my parents bought it and it has more of a “cabin” feel now. Before it was a funny structure with 1970’s decor and a “swinger shower”, as my dad called it. Basically, two bathrooms were connected by a shower. It’s a split level house with 3 bedrooms, garage, and a screened-in porch.
We would spend just about every weekend there, smoking a brisket, preparing weekend-long feasts, reading, fishing, napping in a hammock, swimming in the ice cold creek, zipping around in electric golf carts, and exploring the terrain.
I’d bring my homework, sometimes, and hole myself up in the top bedroom, the only room on that floor. Most of the time I’d just pull out a puzzle and turn on the radio to the only station we would get up there…NPR. On the weekends, they’d have Prairie Home Companion, classical, and jazz.
At the time, my parents didn’t want cable TV there so, I found ways of entertaining myself. We’d occasionally rent a movie from Blockbuster before leaving town or play cards as a family.
There weren’t many kids there around the same age as me and if there were, usually around holidays, I typically never had anything in common with them.
To keep it short, I was an odd girl, especially compared to my peers.
I had my friends and would occasionally invite them up on the weekends but, I thoroughly enjoyed that alone time.
My mother kept herself busy by either cooking, reading, or napping whilst my father would be “piddling”, as my mom puts it. He’d be tuning up one of the golf carts, taking the dog for a walk, fishing, burning piles of leaves, stoking the fire, repairing something, cleaning his latest fish or deer, or checking on the brisket.
I’d roll out of bed just before noon, grab some cold breakfast, put on some shorts over a swimsuit, douse myself in bug spray and sunscreen, and head down to the garage to ask my dad for the golf cart.
I’d fart around for hours just driving up and down the roads, past the tailored cabins, and down trails that had only been carved by other golf carts. There were a few back roads I’d frequent that were heavy with brush and rocks. One time, a friend and I got the wheels stuck in-between two rocks on one of those “roads”. It had just started to rain and the ground was getting wet and muddy. I thought it was the end of my life as I knew it. For sure, my father was going to kill me. But, we got it out, after many tears and a legit panic attack.
After galavanting around via golf cart, I’d head back to the cabin and grab some lunch. Typically, a TV dinner I had brought from the city or a sandwich, washed down with a Dr. Pepper, an Okie favorite.
I’d spend a fair amount of time stoking my mother to entertain me somehow. I’d wake her up from her 2nd or 3rd nap and start to chat her ear off. I don’t know what she could’ve possibly done to entertain me, but I must’ve felt there was something that could’ve been done to lift my x-generation boredom.
After no luck with that, I’d find my dad again, probably up on the roof or somewhere in the back of the cabin around a propane tank or something of the like, just tinkering.
At some point he started to let me take a canoe out on my own. I’d mostly paddle upstream as the water was more shallow there and more isolated. Sometimes, if I stayed very quiet, I’d see a deer pop it’s head out from the brush as if just to acknowledge that we were both sharing that same silence. The water would get so shallow that I’d have to get out and drag the canoe a ways. I always came back before it got dark and during those summer months, that sunlight would last until about 8:30pm.
On days I didn’t go out on the water, I’d head down to the swimming hole. I rarely swam in that water, though it is nice and clean. I was never too keen on swimming in anything other than a pool. The swimming hole was an incredible place with rock bluffs stretching about 50 feet straight up. When the water is at the right level, the curators attach a floating dock to the wall with metal chains and you can swim out to it. Once there, many people climb up the rocks. I climbed them a few times. I was more interested in sitting on the dock and studying the layers of the rock. Oklahoma was once an ocean, eons ago. There are many layers of Trilobites and Crinoids; a feasting ground for a nerd like me.
Near the swimming hole was an old fashioned swing set and metal slide. I’d climb to the top of the slide and just sit there listening to my CDs. Sometimes, I’d just sit in silence and watch the turkey vultures circle high above the bluff. They still do that, to this day…same spot.
As dusk would roll in, I’d take the little cart to the main field, just past the wigwam and the dam. The field is vast and green and is outlined by statuesque trees, like a fortress. It has but one golf hole there. I’ve never seen anyone playing in that field (golf, that is) but there’s a flag there and everything. I never understood that.
I’d park the cart with a view of the wall of trees and the setting sun. The bluffs are too high to actually see it set but a warm glow would cover the open field.
A light fog would start to form, like someone had turned on a smoke machine. It’d hover right over the grass and there, peeking through the wall of trees would be a family of deer, carefully wandering out into the fog-laden field.
I would time it just right. I’d hit play on my CD player. Debussy’s “Prélude a l’aprés-midi d’un faune”.
Sitting there, watching the timid deer graze on the grass, every so often looking up and freezing as if medusa had caught their glance, I found the most intense peace I have ever felt in my life. Nothing has even come close to it since.
When I faced my years with anxiety, my therapist would guide me through meditation. “Focus your attention on a place where you feel most at peace. A place where you are happy and where you feel safe.”
I would sit back and take a deep breath. Through the buzzing and whirring of my head, I would start to see it.
I would picture the field at dusk.
I would picture sitting at the top of that metal slide and the vultures over head.
I would picture sitting in the middle of the still, Cedar Lake in silence with the deer.
I would picture being in that top room, listening to the music on the little radio, putting a puzzle together.
I would picture laying in the bedroom at night with the windows open and the locusts singing.
I’d picture the little grey squirrels and the blue birds, who only like the countryside.
To this day, I picture the cabin.
Here’s a video of Cedar Crest when it was first consecrated as a club in the 1920’s. Thanks to the Tulsa Historical Society for sharing this!
And to add some bonus things….I had a CD that I would play over and over when I’d visit the cabin. I made a playlist of that old CD via Spotify. It was a classical compilation that is scratched beyond repair now. It’s great for those solitary and deep-thought days.
Also, something I read in high school that aided in this perspective I received in regards to the cabin: "Pilgrim At Tinker Creek" by Annie Dillard
Do you have a mind cabin? A real cabin? A place you go to either mentally, spiritually, or physically to retreat or be at peace?
I feel lucky to have experienced my parents’ cabin. I cannot wait for July.