If These Walls Could Talk
Updated: Dec 26, 2022
By Kristy Gustafson
I’ve been trying to fix the Wi-Fi for the past 30 minutes. Unplugging and replugging more than I can count; resetting the router with the tip of a pencil in that stupid, teeny, tiny hole; powering it on and off, switching networks, cursing the gods of technology under my breath.
Even the landline has no dial tone, let alone my cell phone. But that’s to be expected in a faraway place such as this one. A place shrouded in redwoods, where a jagged two-lane road––sometimes one and a half––winds you alongside a creek and up into the hills.
Stubbornly, and phone in hand, I decide to dial anyway. The Carlson cabin, a number I’ve had memorized for as long as I’ve had fingers. I’m met with silence. So much for those hiking plans.
I wonder why I’m even trying to make plans in a place like this, a place where flying by the seat of your creek-soaked bikini bottoms or the rocking chair your great-grandfather built by hand is the only expectation.
I pause and breathe then, glancing up into the wooded canopy that envelops our cabin. I listen to the birds outside our open windows, keeping time with a rapid succession of chirps and tweets. I look out to see if I can spot any of them in the trees, but they appear invisible to the naked eye, detectable only through melodies unique to their own kind. For a moment, I try to picture a world where humans communicate in this manner. I can’t imagine it being very efficient, but they seem to make it work, and at this point in time, it’s certainly more efficient than technology seems to be faring.
I repeat the words I told my friend last night, this time to myself: we have nowhere to be but right here.
So I put my lukewarm tea mug back in the microwave, the one that reads “How Swede It Is” in big block letters, and find my way to the brown, leather recliner and begin writing. Between strokes of the pen, I take in the stillness all around me, the cascading sunlight catching the canopy of trees in patches that glow practically neon, the sound of the creek carving its way toward some unknown place, dodging boulders and fallen branches. I’m surrounded by knickknacks that have continued to multiply and fill the cabin over the years––Dalla horses and framed photos of my FarMor and FarFar, grandparents I never had the chance to know. On the wood-paneled wall by the bar hang two framed certificates from Ellis Island. Axel Victor Johnson and Annie Harietta Isabella Ohlander. My great-grandparents.
Near the kitchen is a poster of the ship they came over on from Sweden. “Svenska Amerika Linien,” it reads. “Göteberg Direkt New York.” I look at all the memories we’ve contributed since, in the form of swim race metals and pool snapshots framed in blue and yellow popsicle sticks, a ceramic log cabin I built by hand in a high school art class, and lettered ribbons from Midsummers passed.
I’ve forgotten all about the Wi-Fi by now, the landline with no dial tone. I’m too preoccupied taking in this collision of worlds, of generations I can only hope will all be together someday. I don’t want to move, I don’t want to be anywhere else but here. I only wish these walls will continue telling me stories that never end. So, I pull up a chair and I listen. I watch as if the walls are living, breathing, beating things, and I smile. Because they are.