A sheet stretched out as a roof, walls of plastic boxes, a colored garland to chase away the shadows … In recent months, my two cadets aged 6 and 10 have developed a passion for the cabin they have tinkered under the attic, by diverting the furniture from their room. They often sleep there together. They play it. They sometimes nibble there quietly, convinced to live an adventure in the open, in the wake of Tom Sawyer, Robinson and so many other predecessors. A trapper’s hut as seen in Jack London’s novels.
In these times of recourse to machines, a makeshift canopy may be enough to awaken the fertile imagination of children, like a snub to the fascination of screens. In this fleecy refuge, surrounded by books and a bestiary of soft toys, they feel at home. Sovereigns of an inaccessible world.
I remember very well the beginnings of this cabin. It was shortly after the homage to Samuel Paty. Like many school children, this national tragedy terrified them. The following days, casually, they started to share a room. I saw it as an instinctive response to the climate of general anxiety. As if this bivouac at the corner of the radiator protected them from a hostile environment, between endless pandemic and terrorist threat. Not to mention climate change and its share of disasters, which weigh on the shoulders of their generation.
A den while waiting for a better tomorrow? And why not… We ourselves, adults, maintain an ambiguous link with the successive confinements which assign us to residence. We miss cafes and theaters. Our loved ones too. We plague the curfew. But basically, we are not so bad at home.
What is the use of going out?
Outside, the XXIe century turns of the eye. What is the use of going out? Those who experience this anguish are victims of the “cabin syndrome”, which some shrinks are alarmed by. The message is clear: we will have to think about going out one day. Reclusion cannot be a lasting horizon, unless you are a potential misanthropist.
May I be allowed, however, to rehabilitate the virtues of the cabin. A thebaid, however transitory, has the power to restore you when everything collapses. This is what I remember from the beautiful book by Édouard Cortès (1) and the interview he gave me for Pilgrim, in his Périgord hut. Crushed by an agricultural failure, the former shepherd took refuge on top of an oak tree, six meters above the ground. “By making this cabin, I rediscovered the wonderful land of childhood”, he confided in welcoming me in the hollow of the branches, on a windy winter evening.
Less extreme, many of our contemporaries offer a night in a yurt, a trailer or a chalet lost in the forest. In the age of transhumanism and pandemics, the cabins remind us who we are. Big children, who were camping in the attic just yesterday. Carefree and free.