The cabin fantasy

If you have not seen the fascinating youtubes of Shawn James, you should. Shawn has been building a cabin and related outbuildings in the woods near Georgian Bay for the past three years. His filming technique has been improving steadily, and he now has a drone to get aerial shots of his territory. He has 670,000 youtube followers, and is in constant receipt of fan mail from all quarters of the world. Many people are having vicarious pleasure in following our pioneer as he labours to build his projects.

The fascination of Shawn James is his utter absorption in the task. In many films he works in complete silence for hours and then concludes his weekly upload with reflections on whatever he wants to talk about.

He is an introvert. He prefers the company of himself and his cute golden retriever. In three seasons I do not think he has cracked a smile twice, and then only fleetingly. You will wait in vain for any levity, any wit. He is as serious as Jordan Peterson.

What I like about James is his ordinary canadian-ness. He speaks in what for foreigners will seem as a thick Canadian accent. He lives in the woods, and James makes you realize that what for Canadians is quite ordinary Ontario bush looks to an Australian or to an Arab as exotic landscape. No vast prairies, no deserts, but a land bounded by trees and swamps and rivers. It is our home, but to the universe on youtube it looks as strange as anything on earth.

I used to live the cabin fantasy too. I inherited a square-log cabin built in the 1850s. It was very well built, had been vandalized, and we restored it to health. Gradually, as my family expanded, and our twenties turned into our thirties, the notion of using an outhouse, or washing in the kitchen sink, lost their charms. First came insulation and a wooden stove, then a well and cold running water. Then a propane stove for cooking. Then, in order, hot water, a shower, and finally an indoor toilet with septic tank. Eventually it was a well-insulated rustic cabin, with wood shed and tool shed attached.

My ideas changed too, from the 1970s. Back then I was an eco-catastrophist. I followed the Club of Rome sky-is-falling , resources-are-running out mantras. On his occasional forays into matters beyond construction, Shawn James will venture thoughts on man and nature, but mostly he sticks to the issues that make him so much himself: careful steady work, measuring twice, walks with his dog, explaining to the camera what he plans to do, and showing how he gets things done.

There are three seasons of his films available, and he provides many an urbanite, desert dweller, and inept non-builders a vary Canadian fantasy.

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