The smell of pinewood through the walls, the sound of the boiling kettle and the sight of fir trees for as far as she could see through the windows— what was this if not heaven? It had taken her a long time, a lot of wishful thinking, calculating, building resilience and finally, a stroke of luck to get to this spot. A cabin in the middle of the forest. Her writing cabin!
The honking city life had given way to the sounds of nature from the moment she opened her eyes in the morning. She could go for a walk in the woods whenever she pleased. She could have long rendezvous with the birds. She had all the time to conjure stories from the footprints she saw on the mud or on the freshly fallen snow. She could write uninterrupted. When walking leisurely, it took her only twenty seven minutes to reach to the edge of the woods that decked on to the peaceful Lake Syran. Sunsets were gorgeous there. Sometimes, if she woke up early enough in the morning, she would even sprint to catch the sun just as it would be taking a peek in the crystal clear water for a quick touch up before it stepped out into the broad daylight. It was magical.
For as far back as she could remember, Sonja had always wanted to be engrossed in writing, solitude and nature. This cabin provided her all of these things. When she was in university studying Psychology six years ago, her friends sometimes planned outings to their parents’ cottages and invited the entire group. Sonja always refused. Even though the prospect of going amidst nature was always welcome, she really did not see the point of going there to socialize or to party. To her, cottage life meant being alone with her thoughts, reflecting upon the world and the life she had experienced thus far, reading good books and letting her pen take grip of her mental thoughts.
She put a honey-lemon tea bag in her favourite blue mug that said “Yeah. Write.” and traipsed over to the kettle. Tucking out her hand from beneath her blanket shawl, she lifted the kettle from the stove and let her nose experience the warm aroma of the steaming tea as the water spouted into the mug over the infusion wrapped in the thin filter paper. Sonja put the kettle back on the stove and turned the heat down a bit. She liked to refill her tea with hot water until the flavour was fully seeped out of the tea bag. She picked up her mug and trudged back to her magnificent view by the window. On her way to the cushioned chair by the window, she glanced at the logs that were still quite warm in the fireplace. Good, they would last her just fine until the next morning.
She placed her mug on the table in front of her. Just as she was about to perch herself, she became alert all of a sudden. Was it that unwelcome feeling again, creeping onto her, out of nowhere? She immediately stilled herself and looked out through the window. Snow had begun to melt. Beautiful rays of sun danced between the gently swaying branches. She tried to think of how wonderful it all looked, but her mind seemed to be slipping away. Try as she might, she was unable to take control and swerve her mind back to happy thoughts. A dull, sinking feeling started to wash over her brain and made her entire body seem unbearably heavy to carry. She plopped down on the white cushions.
For a few moments, Sonja felt dead. She stared listlessly into space, but was seeing nothing. The pinewood did not smell aromatic any more. The cabin seemed too small. And lifeless. Everything that was so great about her surroundings just minutes ago seemed wearisome in this moment. It was all a useless, depressing setting. The sunshine beaming through the glass pane seemed like a burden to even look at.
Sonja buried her face in the blanket shawl wrapped around her. Tears started to pour. Through her muffled mouth, little sobs came out like whispers at first, blending in with the sound of the gently whirring steam from the kettle on the stove. After a few minutes, her heart started swelling up with extreme sadness. Sobs turned into wails. Neighbours would have heard her, if she had had any. Her cabin was the only one for at least half a kilometre on each side. A squirrel came close to her windowsill, lingered briefly, then scurried away. Inconsolable tears kept streaming down and Sonja continued to cry her heart out.
When Sonja woke up, her body seemed to be made of lead. She must have cried herself to sleep again. She was still on the chair with one arm dangling and the other clutching her shawl. A slight chill had crawled up her arm and was threatening to pierce its way through the cashmere-acrylic fabric she wore. The only light she could see in the room was from the burning embers of the fireplace.
Sonja gathered herself with some effort and started to stand up. She felt like a million years old. She turned on the lamp, flooding the cabin with brightness. She went over to draw the blinds on the windows. Darkness enveloped the vastness outside. The cold wind seemed to have picked up a little. The bare branches were bobbing and swaying, as if in a hurry to finish an important conversation. Moonlight was bleak tonight. Was the moon depressed as well? Was it sobbing with its face buried against the blanket of clouds too?
Sonja walked over to the little kitchen and shook her head at the empty kettle on the stovetop. The stove had burnt all the water inside and now seemed to be demanding more—to have and to destroy. Maybe that is what depression did to her as well—it wanted to take the essence out of her and destroy it. It wanted to leave her empty.
About six months ago, Sonja had realized that she was suffering from depression. Bouts of sadness had first seemed like a phase—of missing her parents perhaps. Her dad lived in the city about three hours away and her mother had moved to the south of the country after the divorce. Sonja had never been too close with either of them. But her relationship with both of them was agreeable—occasional coffee or dinner with dad, and a monthly phone chat with mom. Sonja’s cabin was a gift from her mom. Her mom had bought it from a friend’s nephew, who was selling this cabin at a cheap price before moving to the warm tropics. Mom had always been good at giving gifts. But this one surpassed them all—this was the culmination of Sonja’s wishes. Sonja had always believed that dreams did come true if you dreamed hard enough. Well, here she was.
However, the sad feelings were beginning to become more frequent. When she thought she had all she wanted, her mind was telling her to be sad! She could not understand it. Was depression going to ruin the rest of life for her? She could not let that happen. She must deal with these feelings.
Sonja went over to her laptop. She was thankful for the Internet connection she had been able to secure after almost two months of hassle. She pulled up her Facebook page. There were many people who followed her and were happy for her and proud of the life she was living. Perhaps some were envious too. And definitely there were some who thought she was wasting her life. None of her business what people thought. Yet, she felt compelled to make a post every other day to prove she was doing well, holding tenaciously to her writing dreams, was constantly inspired by the life she had chosen for herself and willing to share the inspiration for others too.
She looked at the post she was drafting for the following day. This time, it was a picture of her journal and pen on a mossy rock, in the backdrop of frosted trees catching the dim light of an obviously cold afternoon. She had staged the picture earlier that day and used photo filters to create an inviting apparition. Underneath she had written the words, “Writing beckons. Nature summons. Solitude wraps me in its arms! I am now complete. In this Syran forest, I have happily found my destination.”
Sonja looked wistfully at those words. Those were words she wanted to feel, to be, to live. But she knew those words were not true. The glamour that she was trying to present to the world about her writing life was not a reality. Complete? She was far from it. She was broken. Happily found her destination? Quite the opposite! She was depressed. She was sometimes unsure of why she was here.
From what she had studied in Psychology about mental illnesses, she knew that denial and faking were maladaptive ways of coping. She had to face the situation head-on. If she was unhappy she must admit so, in order to make a change for the better. She tapped her foot thoughtfully while her picture and words looked right back at her with luxurious innocence. How satisfyingly good the post looked! And how incredibly pretentious it was! It was a lie she was about to tell the world. But first, she had told the lie to herself. Most importantly, she had made herself believe the lie in order to create a post out of it.
Sonja sighed. She knew she had to scratch through this fake veneer. She had to break free of depression. She had to do something about her mental and emotional well-being so that she could actually have a happy life instead of complicating her situation by pretending to be happy.
And she knew what was the hardest part of it all. Owning the problem. And asking for help.
Her eyes fell on her blue mug. “Yeah. Write.”. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath in.
Sonja turned to look at the lovely image on her screen. Then the words again. “Writing beckons. Nature summons. Solitude wraps me in its arms! I am now complete. In this Syran forest, I have happily found my destination.” She tucked a stray strand of her freshly washed black hair behind her ear, and put her fingers on the keyboard. She selected the text and started to type over it.
The next day, while her Facebook ‘friends’ waited for Sonja’s regularly scheduled post, her parents and a few of her close friends received a private post containing an unfiltered image of a solitary tree with bare branches. The words underneath read:
“Writing can wait. Nature’s healing powers are taking too long to work. I am afraid solitude might hurt me. I thought the Syran forest was my destination, but I first need to find myself, my happiness. I need help.”