To live inside a tree

The story of The Cabin is one that you might typically find in this blog. Being inside it always felt like residing inside a tree.

Early spring at the cabin

The mystery behind it: it wasn’t originally built where it is now, but carried to its place in the Hudson Valley over seventy-five years ago. It was the kind of job that only a twenty-something with a lot of energy would attempt. In 1935, at the height of the Depression, a young man managed to move it, lock, stock and barrel, from the Delaware Water Gap to New York. Two rooms, one upstairs, one down, no indoor kitchen or plumbing. Built in the 1780s, the structure stood for a century and a half before it was dismantled log by log and transported a hundred miles to the east. The story goes that he relocated to be near his aunt, who lived just across the swamp from where the little cabin now sits atop a small hill. Someone else might question why anyone would move an ancient structure with all its dents and wrinkles, rather than just build anew. For me, it makes perfect sense.

Original Delaware Water Gap site

The past for me is a series of mysteries within mysteries, endless Chinese boxes. In my work, and in Blog Cabin, I try to crack these open. You go into a mansion of a hundred rooms, say. Enter one room to start. What furniture is there, what hangs on the walls, what style is the hearth (there are as many kinds of hearth as there are houses)? Are the walls plaster? Is that a series of framed miniatures hung beside the mantel? Whom do they depict? Outside, on the façade, do you see Georgian brickwork, Tudor stone or simple clapboard? Dark wood, probably chestnut. Of course, learning all of this detail serves to unlock the character of the people who live inside. And we haven’t even gotten to the petticoats yet. If ever I haven’t made progress in my writing, I have a simple solution. Do more research. A surefire remedy for writer’s block. Life is more exciting too if you track down the history of the thing.


Filed under Jean Zimmerman

4 responses to “To live inside a tree

  1. I miss your blog posts. I hope their absence means you’ve been writing your next book.

  2. Marguerite Beal

    Miss your books. Try writing about Beatrice of Newport. I won’t do your research for you. Beatrice is yours to find.

  3. Richard Wheeler

    Love your writing. The title of this post is so arboristic.


    I have heard that it was a slave cabin.  When I was a kid, Mrs. Kutner, and probably her husband, lived there.  She was often cleaning the leaves and branches at the driveway bridge.   Let us know when the next haircut is.  Great to see you both.   Don’t abandon your true craft.  You have a talent.  Anybody can assess a tree’s health.  

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