There's a Reason They Call It an Obsession

E.B. White’s house and farm in Brooklin, Maine, are currently for sale, and I keep trying to work the numbers. The way I see it, if 370 like-minded people all agree to chip in $10,000 a piece, we can swing it, which sounds completely doable to me. Of course, the tricky part is that the 370 people need to be the right 370 people. Ideally, they would all have some connection to children’s literature, either as creators or editors or readers or sellers or reviewers or simply lovers of the stories that have marked our childhoods. They have to be not crazy. That would be really important in a venture like this. It would be nice if they were all fairly easy going and had a good sense of humor. And, most important of all, they all have to have no interest in living on the farm themselves since I want it all to myself.

My list of potential takers is short but growing.

I sent an email to a well-to-do friend of mine, who actually could make the purchase outright if she so chose, and asked if she would please buy the farm and install me as its permanent, on-site caretaker. Oddly, she has not responded. I can only guess she’s a little busy at the moment. August. People are often on vacation.

This is all a symptom of a much bigger problem, one I’m trying to figure out. I have lately and violently become obsessed with the idea of owning a few acres of land in Maine that overlook a pond. (Important to note: This obsession began before I knew that E.B.'s farm was for sale, and really that’s a separate obsession. I’m proud to claim that I’m complex enough to entertain more than one obsession at a time.)

Anyway, this other obsession: two to five acres of wooded land on the edge of a pond. What’s that about?

Here’s what I envision: a one-room cabin with a wood stove, running water, and solar panels with battery storage. A place to write. A place to think. A place of great solitude and natural beauty.

Why am I so taken with this fantasy? How often would I actually drive five hours north into the woods of Maine to take advantage of all that beautiful solitude? Why not just rent a cabin once a summer and call it a day? Why am I haunted by this image of a small cabin in a vast wilderness?

A friend of mine suggested it’s because I want two things simultaneously: a change of scenery and the familiar sense of home.

She’s probably right. My writing (and my sense of well being) improve when I can kick myself out of the wagon-wheel rut of my day-to-day existence, but land in a place that feels welcoming and attuned. A place that’s strange, but not too unpredictable. A place that is vast, but contained. Which is why the fantasy is so dependent on five or so acres of untouched land enclosing a single-room cabin no larger than my bedroom at home.

And you know what? I found it. I actually found the absolutely perfect place with 5.8 acres of wooded land that sloped gently down to the edge of a pristine pond. And because it was east of Bangor and more than an hour from the coast, it was actually affordable. It was one of those rare fantasies that held the possibility of slipping into reality.

But two things: First, I hesitated and the property is now under contract to someone else. (Who? Who are you? Please make yourself known. We must be kindred spirits of a sort.) Whoever it is, the little red flag on the internet site announces: Pending Sale.

And second: even I know that I don’t really want to own a cabin in the woods. I can barely manage the house I live in: mowing the lawn, wiping down the kitchen counters, and getting to the dump on a semi-regular bsis. I know, I really do know, that owning a piece of property is a burden, a headache, a constant worry, a financial drain. And the very last thing I need right now is an extra burden in my life, financial or otherwise. I’ve spent the last eight years shedding burdens and I’m nearly down to the bone.

Which makes it all the more interesting to ponder why the fantasy persists. Because it does. At least twice a day, I check that real estate listing to see if the Pending Sale flag has disappeared—if the sale has fallen through and the property is back on the market.

And what will I do if it is?