There’s been a lot of discussion over the last three cabin seasons about what to name our cabin. But at the end of the day, no one cares to commit to anything. And that’s because you can’t choose a cabin name — the name has to emerge organically, as if it was there the whole time and you just stumbled upon it.
But I tried. Hard. I really wanted to stumble upon something. A recent Facebook post told me that people do, indeed, name their cabins and even refer to them that way. I learned about Lupine Hus and Windsong and Cedar Cove and Spruce Lodge. And David Sedaris famously named his beach house The Sea Section.
And suggestions for me from other people included:
- Island View Cabin
- and it’s Swedish equivalent Ö Vy Hus
- Nilnoo Woods, borrowing a nickname that combines both Mike’s and my last names.
- Kaleside Cabin, a smart ass nod to Mike messing with my carefully chosen lake-themed accessories and turning them into kale-themed accessories.
- And my favorite suggestion: FRED
The one that emerged most naturally and even got some use was Camp Nilnoo. I loved it. I mean LOVED it. I made artwork in my head that would be the sign at the end of our long-ass driveway, welcoming people to Camp Nilnoo. I made up songs about going to Camp Nilnoo and sang them softly to myself in the car on the way up north. But I was the only one to get excited about Camp Nilnoo — and that’s because, of all the Nilnoos in my house, I’m really the only one who is called Nilnoo. As if no one else cares to combine their name with mine. It only works in one patriarchal direction. Sigh.
So I stopped trying. It would just be the cabin. Like everybody else.
But this summer, quite organically, I started uttering this phrase as I approached the steps to the cabin upon arrival:
And sometimes I’ll talk to the cabin; if I find a broken handrail dislodging from the cedar logs, I’ll say “Poor little mökki.” If we walk in the front door and find no bat poop, I’ll say “Good little mökki!” And if I sit on her top step and stare out over the islands while the sun sets, I might say “Thank you, Mökki.”
I have no idea if I’m using this word properly. Someone gave me the word and I never consulted any sources to verify it’s meaning or usage. The person who gave me the word was a salesperson at FinnStyle, a Minneapolis mecca for all things Finnish, including the most complete collection of Marimekko designs in the nation. You may know Marimekko by its iconic Poppies design:
When you walked into FinnStyle, you were welcomed by three things; a riot of color and pattern, a cup of hot coffee, and an actual Finn. The Finn approached me because I was drunk on Marimekko, unfocused and overly excited and likely to break things.
“What are you shopping for?” she asks.
“My cabin,” I say.
“Oh…” she says, “your mökki.”
When she says it, she purses her lips into a strange pucker so the little word can tumble out. It sounds a little like “murky” . . . if you had marbles in your mouth.
“My what?” I say.
“My mlrrkkee? What’s a mlrrkkee?”
She won’t say the word “cabin,” as if that is a word that does not apply to her. She describes it as “the small home that Finns go to in the summertime for rest and relaxation.” That’s a long explanation when you could’ve just said “cabin.” But the word mökki clearly means something to her; it’s a concept, not a thing. And it appears to me like a form of national pride: The Small Homes That Finns Go To in the Summertime for Rest and Relaxation. Something they all do, not just the privileged few.
And perhaps she wants to draw a line of differentiation between a mökki and some American cabins which are really just houses and may or may not be small and may or may not be purely restful — with their jet skis and their double ovens and their satellite Tv’s.
But I am there, at FinnStyle, drooling over Finnish textiles, so she must’ve known that I have a mökki. And she took extra care wrapping up my Yellow Poppies tablecloth, on its way to the small home that I go to in the summertime for rest and relaxation.
When “Hello, Mökki” comes out of my mouth the first time, I don’t worry about how it’s pronounced. For me, mökki rhymes with hokey pokey. And I don’t worry about the nonsense of calling your cabin “Cabin” — which is sort of like naming your dog Perro. But I’m not doing that, I’m not naming it. I’m just greeting it. And thanking it. And sometimes, when no one is looking, petting it.
I don’t care if it’s officially named. I don’t care if there’s no sign at the end of my long-ass driveway. And I don’t care if no one else uses it. This might be something personal between my Mökki and me.
But I’m totally getting a little sign by the front door that says “Hello, Mökki.”