We bet you have a dream, a wish, or a goal of being off in your secluded cabin in the woods. Our guess, you want to escape the city or even, seeking for inspiration from nature — to create the best work of your life. Whatever your reason, you’ve got to hear Yvonne Wakefield’s story of building her cabin and her life one log at a time. Who knows, you might find the motivation you were looking for in this interview or her books from the Babe in the Woods series. So, here it is.
Hi Yvonne, when did you decide you needed to tell your story as the Babe in the Woods?
I’d previously published some really early, very raw, scattershot journal material and wanted to tell the story about my relationship with the cabin and living there alone. After publishing “Suitcase Filled with Nails: Lessons Learned from Teaching Art in Kuwait,” the book I wrote about working as a professor in the Middle East teaching art to university-aged Muslim women, I decided to continue on a book about my life at the cabin.
What can your readers expect to find in the first book from the Babe in the Woods series?
The story of a young, naive but determined orphan girl who pushes herself to learn skills to rebuild a home she lost. In the process, she builds connections with the locals and heals from a sorry past.
Babe in the Woods: Self Portrait was released recently. What part of your journey does it cover?
Self Portrait takes up where the first book leaves off. It resumes my story of living alone in a wilderness log cabin. But it is also the story of coming and going there over several summers that includes my development as an artist, log cabin builder, and unfortunately my experience with rouge bears.
Why did you choose to build your cabin on an Oregon mountainside?
In high school history class, I learned about the Oregon Trail. When I came of age and was ready to set out on my venture I headed to Oregon, not knowing if this was the spot on the map where I’d eventually settle.
You don’t seem to miss the city. But in the beginning, what were some things that you missed or wished you had access to?
I still don’t miss the city. What I miss still, I was at the cabin last weekend during snow and rainstorm, is a good road, Other than that, I have everything I need there. It just takes a lot longer to get hot water and heat if you first have to fall a tree, buck, and split it to build a stove fire. Everything is the same as it was when I moved into the cabin as a teenager. The same kerosene lamps provide light, the same stove heats the interior and all my original tools hang on nails below the porch. I still draw buckets of water from the creek. I did build a bathhouse that is really the only luxury addition.
Is there a fascinating bear-related story you’d like to share here?
One summer when I returned, I discovered bears had gotten into all of my food stores below the cabin. These weren’t wild bears, but habituated ones relocated into the wilderness above my cabin. No matter how diligent I was about keeping my food under lock the bears continued to raid my cabin. When I found myself between a sow and a cub, I had to make a big decision contrary to my philosophy of co-existence.
Being an artist, what’s the best part about having your studio in the forest?
There are no electronic or telephonic distractions because there is no electricity or cell phone reception. I don’t even have a radio. On the contrary, I can’t extend oil painting sessions past sunset unless I’m working by full moonlight. One snowy night I was finishing a watercolor painting inside the cabin and went to rinse my brushes in the sink and I noticed it wasn’t draining as usual. I went back to finish the painting and during this time the gray water drain pipe had frozen. I had to haul buckets from the creek heat the water and pour it in the sink until the pipe thawed. If I’d had modern plumbing this would not have happened.
Let’s do a round of rapid-fire questions. Ready?
Artist or writer
In my mind’s eye, I don’t distinguish between the two
Country or Folk music
Writing in the morning or late at night?
Your favorite book of all time…
The Living by Annie Dillard
One item from your “bucket” list you’d like to share…
I’ve never had a bucket list
One thing you can’t live without…
my little dogs
What’s your favorite holiday memory?
Before my parents died and Christmas was a time for family and celebration I got a red kick scooter. I was five years old. Before I could use it on Christmas morning, I had to finish my breakfast. I stuffed my mouth like a chipmunk, was excused from the table, hopped on my little scooter, and spit scrambled eggs in the gutter as I scooted down the sidewalk.