Photo by Walter Henritze

A friend borrowed our cabin for a few days and, as she was amused to report later, her teenage daughter spent a considerable portion of her time there hanging out of the bedroom window with her arm craned out as far as it would go, trying to get reception on her cell phone.

I think you can get reception sometimes when the wind is right and the planets are all in a row if you walk out about a hundred yards and waggle your phone at the highway. You might need to swing a chicken too, I don’t know. I don’t know how any of this works. I don’t know how the internet gets through the plasma in the air or if the cell phone system is vibrating in ether, or, really, which humors are involved at all. Because I don’t understand any of it, I don’t take it personally. Even at home, I can’t count on being able to summon up a given website at a given time. Sometimes it works and sometimes it don’t.

But here in the cabin it don’t. Guaranteed. We got a land line for emergencies. Like if one of us drops dead, or forgot to water the cat. It’s a Princess Phone. It works unless a tree falls over the wires, which does happen kind of often.

This place even has antique air. I don’t know what the components of Cabin Smell are, but they surely include mildew, and maybe the aftermath of a mouse social. We bring Pootie up here because he likes to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life as much as anybody, and when he comes back home he smells a little fusty, like the cabin.

But if we decide to come up to the cabin for a few days, we can expect our email to pile up. We can expect voice messages to pile up. There’s no way to let people know that we’re not responding because we didn’t get the message, and not because we’re hammered with messages and haven’t gotten around to it yet and might never. I put in my blog posts in advance, but what if my commenters suddenly conclude I don’t love them anymore because I’m not replying? Can they wait a couple days before dumping me altogether in a snit? I wouldn’t have believed it if, 25 years ago, you’d told me one day I’d get fifty letters a day, and a bunch of them would be people wanting me to

Like something. I used to get, like, one letter a year from most people. If I wasn’t home to answer the phone, I never even knew it rang, and there was no answering machine. Communication used to have patience built right in.

Now I find myself concerned that some little cyber-snippet has gone unacknowledged. It’s fretty.

Pootie is an expressive guy. “Pootie wants to know,” Dave will say, as the Poot nods enthusiastically, “if there’s any more chocolate.” Nod nod nod. “Pootie wants to know,” Dave will interpret, “if the basketball game is on.” Nod. When we get home, I will press Pootie’s head to my nose to inhale that rich, dear, complex aroma of dust and mildew and ferny woods. It makes me happy. Pootie is a great communicator. It’s just that he has to be right there with you.