Cabin Fever


View from my Snow Cave

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

Feb 27, ‘15

Some years ago, I lived in a small apartment in a large house in the woods.  I was going through a very painful break-up with a fiancé, a man who I loved very much but who I couldn’t marry.  There were 4 apartments in the big house and 1 woman per apartment.  In the center of the big house was a large living room and a small galley kitchen on the east side of the room.  There was a balcony upstairs from the apartment on the right to the apartment across the divide to the left.  The entire west wall of the living room and the upstairs balcony was all glass.  The light was wonderful at all times, to me.   The part of the balcony that crossed the west wall was a wonderful spot to stand for long periods of time gaing into the woods.  We saw much wildlife from that spot.

I read Walden throughout the years I lived there.  My favorite reading spot was in my comfortable chair in a spot where I could look out my large window with a south/east south/west exposure.  I fed birds at the feeder on the windowsill.  From where I sat I could see the tops of lilac bushes and a wide expanse of lawn leading to a tennis court and then a hay field – and birds constantly flitting about the feeder.  From the voice of his writing and the accounts of his experience and my growing sense of awareness, I began to live my own version of “Walden:My life in the Woods”.  The big house in the woods was part of a former estate that had been called “Kilravok.”  I call these 2 years of my life my Kilravock Years.  The sense of awareness that grew within as inspired by Walden is very much with me today.

Although I feel more faltering than I do confident, I’m still advancing in the direction of my dreams.

When I first moved into my apartment at Kilravock I think I was as miserable then as I have been most recently from three huge life changes since mid-December.

And here I am.


Albert is holding his own.  I can tell that he’s ill but he’s not suffering.  He has a life although it’s much diminished and he’s a lot less active than he would be if he weren’t ill.  He went quite rapidly from being a young cat to an old cat.  He plays, but so much less.  He no longer watches for mice.  He has a few spots where he likes to sleep; a windowsill, in a cabinet in the bathroom, on my bed.  He sleeps a lot.  He’s dropped a certain amount of young cat ‘snark.’  Other than that, his vital signs are all good.  He eats, drinks water,  begs for cheese.   He likes staying close to me and is still my companion as much as ever. I’m poignantly aware to treasure every moment.


I’ve heard nothing from my former client nor have I gotten a check.  I’ve entered the world of Social Services.  So far, so good.  I qualify for Food Stamps and will receive my card very soon.  I’ve received an emergency supply of oil from Fuel Assistance.  I’m on a list of applicants for a housing voucher.  I don’t feel as if I’ve lost my dignity.


I interviewed at a fairly new local Gallery last week, which appealed to me, but not mightily.  I have until April to decide and also need to have a meeting with my friend who’s offered to help me financially with this project.

The gallery owner liked my floorcloths.  I’m thinking to cut into 4 floorcloths the Sunflower floorcloth I did this past Spring and Summer for my now former client.


Due to the unusual Snow and Cold here in New England, things get done piecemeal – a little bit here and then put off any more until after the next snow storm….  With every plan for action there’s always the caveat “Weather Permitting.”  The weather doesn’t permit a whole lot, lately.  Cabin Fever is pervasive; we all have it.


The process of finishing the unfinished paintings is ongoing but not worth posting photos at this point in time.


February Rooftop, Oil, South Lake St, ’05

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3 Responses to Cabin Fever

  1. beetleypete says:

    After a lifetime of working and contributing, you should be looked after by your Social Services when you find yourself in this difficult situation. I am pleased to see that you are being treated with dignity Gretchen, and that you are able to get by.

    Good news about Albert. Long may he continue to be your companion and your comfort. I really like the painting. The branches against the blue skies work so well.

    The story of your time at the house in the woods was so well-described, I could imagine the scene, you sitting reading in your favourite chair. Did you know Kilravock is a 15th century Scottish Castle? Here’s a link.

    I hope the weather breaks soon, and Spring arrives to make things seem better.
    Very best wishes from England. Pete.

    • Thank you for your reply and the links to Scottish Kilravock. I knew that my Kilravock was named after a Scottish Castle, it was a part of the local mystique. The house I lived in was an adjunct to the main house — the castle — which had been turned into an inn and which, tragically had burned down some years before I lived there. I’ve never seen photos of Scottish Kilravock and thank you for the links.

      I was moved to write about those days because I had a phone conversation last night with one of the women I met there and with whom I forged a strong & enduring bond. She’s been living on the west coast for a long time and is now going through a tough time of her own. We reminded ourselves of those former days, had a few good laughs and revived a lot of hope.

  2. candidkay says:

    It sounds like a lovely home. And as for losing dignity? No. It takes courage to accept help when we need it.

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