Category: the personal side

personal life, personally


This Morning I Woke

I woke this morning and opened my eyes to the world — my world — and its peaceful, benevolent calm. By chance, I closed them, again, and was startled to see the cosmos spinning, a sea of tiny stars.  Intrigued, I watched.

First came vistas I could recognize — Betelgeuse and the belt of Orion, Sirius and the Swan, the great square of Pegasus. Then that vista moved …or I moved, and went beyond what my brain recognized as known to see more, then, more than that, all moving. I opened my eyes, again, and knew I sat upon my bed …closed them, and there, yet, was cosmos.

Enthralled, I just sat and breathed, keeping closed my eyes to watch in wonder ever broadening horizons that stretched all ways to beyond the knowns of all infinity.  Then, a cat called — Pepper — demanding my attendance, and I opened up my eyes, again …left that cosmos to its spinning.

Rising, I made my bed, turned the plant lights on, started my day, and, yes, attended Pepper.  I cleaned the downstairs bathroom after morning ablutions, careful in that cleaning not to jostle and destroy a carefully constructed corner home (behind the toilet) of the room’s long-time resident spider.  Too close my hand, and, terrified, darting, she hid beneath her wedge of web, a thickened pad of strands just a little bigger than her inch-diameter self. I eased away and waited, and, sure enough, she came back as quickly, climbing back atop her bed to resettle and arrange her legs and pedipalps. I smiled, pleased that she is once again comfortable and happy in our home, hers in mine and mine in hers.

I made my coffee, then sat contemplating for the minutes that first cup permits me take before I must start morning chores:

When I go out into the natural world, I am embraced by nature’s quiet, by natural shapes and colors, all gentle and complementary to each other, sometimes sharp, sometimes muted, sometimes bright, but always gracious in their presentation. When I go out into the human world, I am accosted by a sea of rudely regimented shapes and structures, all saturated with a cacophony of too loud, unnatural sound and colors too intensely brash, those shapes, those sounds, those colors all rubbing garishly against each other.

When I go online, again I am accosted by this same cacophony and brash intensity. I can mute the sound; I can place a filter on my screen to dim the garishness.  What I cannot filter out is the human ‘rude’, a rude expressing forth an attitude of influence, of will, of conflict.

Why, I wonder, do we celebrate inflicting influence and will, wreaking battle, war, and conflict — the conquering of others different than us, their destruction, their obedience to “our” will, their subjugation, defeat, and even death?  Why is it that getting our own way, despite what harm, pain, and cruelty that means to others — any others, be it other human, animal, plant, or rock and mineral — brings us pleasure? It’s in the games embraced by the teeming multitudes, in the images and sounds the throngs prefer, in the very knit of what the masses label civilized. And all of it pits tribe against some other tribe, tribe against the world, tribe against nature and reality, tribe against its own members. And in ‘tribe’s’ triumph and glorification of ‘defeated’ enemy, there’s no recognition whatsoever that, within a moment’s time — just a moment — the tribe will again turn restless, craving violence, to find ‘enemy’ within itself to engage in battle and defeat in bloodied conflict.

It’s in the winning, in the gory glory of annihilating and stamping out another and the many other upon which humans seem to thrive. It’s in subjugating life, home, sustenance, perspective, culture, and proclivity of others, all (plant, animal, rock and other human), that humans find their satisfaction, never recognizing that their own lives, homes, and sustenance, their own perspective, culture, and proclivity is vulnerable when the mob turns to find anew another enemy from within.


Guns, Schools, Kids, Safety, and the Human Predator

There’s a LOT of hyperbole, a lot of emotion, a lot of tears and cries of anguish. But the sides involved aren’t communicating with each other effectively. In fact, they aren’t even talking, just pointing fingers and screaming back and forth, filled to the brim with emotion about keeping kids safe by banning certain kinds of weaponry. Why am I hearing, I wonder, about guns? Shouldn’t I be hearing about BANNING VIOLENCE?

You know, there are disturbed children. There are born sociopaths. And there are damaged children, some of whom will never become undamaged. And, truth be told, there are just some people who are born mean-spirited. The fact is you cannot legislate safety and you cannot protect people from predation until and unless you somehow identify those who potentially could become predators …which, because we are human, the super-predator, is everyone. The problem with trying to outlaw tools of predation is that other tools then become employed, tools with equally unpleasant consequences.

Everyone wants to live in safety, but humans are, by nature, a very cruel and vicious creature. Heck, most of you don’t think twice about killing a spider that has walked across your path, even when you’re in that spider’s garden.

Let’s look at the rabidity of the factions involved in even this debate. It’s practically torches and pitch forks, no dialogue, no seeking common ground, no attempt to understand each other’s concerns.

I was the kid who was bullied when stuck in a public school. I was a kid who was shunned as ‘different’, not because I was a sociopath and mean, but because I was an outsider. No one befriended me. Nobody protected me from being beaten with chains by my school mates, this in high school.

I can fully understand why a bullied child would turn a gun or a crossbow or a bomb on his classmates. I can understand them lacing candy with poison to retaliate. I never did it, never even thought about doing it, but I can certainly understand the motivation to ‘get even’. I have a broken spine in my back today from those chain beatings. But I was raised by a father who came from the Dutch Reform heritage — always taught to turn the other cheek and to forgive.

You all want safety for your kids and for yourselves. Great. Then you and all of us have to change the nature of human beings worldwide, a huge undertaking with the understanding that not everyone wants peace and tranquility and safety. Some thrive on cruelty and mayhem, on butchery and terrorizing. But, to begin, we have to set an example and that begins with each one of us not engaging in name-calling, castigation, spurning, ostracizing, and condemning those who don’t share our perspectives.

That also means that, reality check, you and your kids have to be always prepared and always vigilant, capable of defending yourselves, even if it means the death of another at your hand.

Just my thoughts.


Laughter, Joy, and a Few Tears

It was a service of caring, of sharing, of laughter, joy, and poignancy, the pews filled to overflowing in a beautiful non-denominational church called The Gardenia Center in Sandpoint. I sat quietly behind the piano after my accompanist, Laura Clark, and I started the service with “Greensleeves,” chosen by Patrick because it harkened back to their wedding. Laura then bridged between the Western and the Eastern with an improvisation on Native American flute.

The Buddhist ceremony, led by the benevolent Reverend Master Zensho Roberson, was short, yet beautiful, gentle incense discreetly flavoring the air, after which came Patrick’s eulogy, an extemporaneous expression that brought much, much laughter, joy, and delight from the attendees. Patrick is a wonderful extemporaneous speaker, always engaging his audience with encouragement and embrace. His eulogy broke the shyness of others who then shared with us how Elaine had touched their lives. It was a very good send off. We finished with the playing of ‘Here Comes the Sun’, a bright and hopeful ending, and people seemed satisfied. I didn’t stay for the reception afterwards, but, by all accounts, it went off very well, too — Elaine remembered well and surely with joy and a few tears.


The February Lacewing Reprise

Last year about this time — late February — I was sitting outside on the steps. It was morning, a few hours past sunrise. In my peripheral vision came tiny movement. I glanced that way and was startled to see a lacewing struggling across the snowy slope of the snowbank to my right, a mountain of snow that is the result of snow coming off the second story roof immediately above.

“What are you doing, emerging right now?” I wondered aloud.

I reached over and nabbed the struggling creature who was somehow functional despite it being below freezing. I stuffed “her” under the cantilevered kitchen overhang where, not trusting the heat tapes alone to protect the plumbing from our vicious winter north winds, I had wrapped and insulated it for winter, stuffing a heat lamp under there just for good measure. It’s warm under there all winter — well above freezing. If she was to have any chance at all, it would be there.

Never thought another thing about it. It was a fluke, I figured.

Sunday morning, Feb 25th, 2018, a full year later, a couple hours past sunrise, I was again sitting on the porch steps, sipping a cuppa to take a break from chores and demands for attention by animals and humans. And what do I spy in my peripheral vision? Yep. A lacewing struggling across the snowy slope of the snowbank …again.

Obviously, it was not the same lacewing. But, considering the timing, I’ll bet she’s a close relative. Nabbed her and stuck her under the cantilevered overhang, down where things stay warm and cozy till the weather moderates. Hope she makes it. More, I wish they’d fix their emergence clock. Obviously, it’s not timed properly for North Idaho.

 


End of the Week Update

This week has been fraught. Just fraught. Everything was a crisis, everything was a scramble to get done in time, and I managed to just squeak through by a just keep pounding away at it determination, all with almost no sleep. Today, after the last flurry of frantic, I crashed for five hours this afternoon. Then, I got up and sat outside in the cold, letting the crystalline snowflakes coming down outside land on my upturned face. The feeling was wonderful after such a numbing week.

Today is Mom’s birthday, Mom who unexpectedly died October 13th of complications from a twisted intestine, which itself was the result of having an appendectomy when she was just nine years old. Today, on Mom’s birthday, I finished up the memorial service program for Elaine’s funeral and got it to the printer, saw a proof, and then did all the other jobs and chores still pending with their own deadlines. Elaine was one of Mom’s friends — a family friend, actually.

I think the whole winter has just been one overwhelming hurdle after another. Everytime I think I can maybe get my life back, something else happens.

Anyway, sitting out in the cold with the snowflakes hitting my face was a small recess. It felt good to just sit and let the cold seep into my bones after such a hectic time. I know more “hectic and frenetic” is just around the corner, but the time out felt wonderful. It was sorely needed.

Here’s what the memorial service program looks like. It’s a trifold, top is the outside, back, and inside flap; bottom is the inside.


Family Friend Elaine Tormey Has Passed

I got a phone call Sunday morning last. Family friend, Elaine Tormey, who Mom spent untold hours with on projects and talking about their projects — making quilts and clothes and other things, Mom doing embroideries for them, Elaine sewing them up — passed away. I’ve spent the last few days helping Patrick with preparations for her memorial service, which takes place March 3rd. I’ll be playing flute at the service, the intro and outro, along with a lady accompanist named Laura. This has been a winter of death and passing. More later when I get my feet grounded, again.


The Hammer Has Fallen

Overnight
Snow. The snow could be heavy at times. Steady temperature around 26. Blustery, with a north wind around 18 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. Total nighttime snow accumulation of 3 to 7 inches possible.
Sunday
Snow, mainly before 10am. Patchy blowing snow after 10am. Temperature falling to around 19 by 4pm. Blustery, with a northeast wind 16 to 21 mph, with gusts as high as 33 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.
Sunday Night
A slight chance of snow between 7pm and 10pm. Patchy blowing snow before 10pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 5. Wind chill values as low as -11. Blustery, with a northeast wind 16 to 18 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Washington’s Birthday
Mostly sunny, with a high near 21. Wind chill values as low as -12. Northeast wind 7 to 11 mph.

Hammer Down

“Wait five minutes, and the weather will change.” That’s the North Idaho old saw. Unfortunately, it’s neither superstition, nor ignorance. It’s quite canny.

All of January, just about was balmy. Like spring. Dangerous for us.

I kept saying: It’s going to drop the hammer down on us in February. Well, February came and no hammer.

Two days ago, it was sunny and 56 degrees — unheard of for February in North Idaho, except in winters immediately after (I was told by nodding, knowing old timers, all long dead, now) Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and, witnessed first hand, after Chernobyl and Fukushima. But, hey! No worries. Those last two were just the after effects of nuclear meltdowns.

Now comes the hammer: Yesterday, it was 18°F, as it is today, too, with a wind from the north, the wind chill putting us down to 3°F they tell me, though my little, local weather station gives me a different take — -3°F. Despite that small six degree discrepancy, it’s C-O-L-D.

Strong north winds suck the heat right out of this house, despite its heavy insulation, and my winter wrap on the foundation. Couldn’t get it above 65°F in here, and the cats got grumpy. So, I had to go out to the wood shed, grab the big wheel barrow, load it, haul it, stack it in the porch rack, then start the wood stove. Now, the cats are all toasting and roasting around the barrel stove, blissfully baking their tummies.

 


A Week Gone and Days of Catch-Up, Now It’s -1°F

Monday, December 18th, the roads were clear. There was no snow on the ground, having all long melted away to return us to bare, slightly frozen ground. It was raining as I loaded up the Explorer with Husband’s guitar, computer, “bathroom bag”, washed clothes, food, drink, and miscellany to take him over to his semi-. Snow was coming, though. We’d have it for the Winter Solstice and Christmas, something that seems important to most folks.

Why people love the white stuff — cold, solid water — that, for me, means nothing but expense and hard work, is completely beyond me. But, hey! We live in a nation where the desires of the ‘wanna’s seem to take precedent over the practical and sane. Well, starting Tuesday morning early, probably around 2 A.M., it began coming. And coming. And coming, some more.

We live in a snow belt — a micro-climate — where even a mile south of us, when they get eight inches, we get two and more feet. Our micro-climate is about a mile in diameter, the result of mountains rising west of us within a mile’s walking distance. And, here, in the old growth forest, we have an even more interesting micro-micro-climate. At the end of the drive, there will be a foot on the ground, while at the house, there’s four inches …and that’s in the open spots, where the trees don’t catch the snow on their branches.

It was snow-blower time, and quick, because the stuff was heavy, the temperature hovering right around melting. I’d be lucky if I could get the stuff to blow without constantly having to clear the blades. Neighbor was cussing and fuming — couldn’t blame him — when he called to say, yep, it was deep out there on the county road. He’d meet me out there where we’d tackle it together. And it was still coming down with a vengeance as I headed north in low, low, the only speed that didn’t clog the blades. I felt lucky. At least it would blow.

In North Idaho, when the snow is wet and heavy like this (and, despite what the realtors and the Chamber of Commerce will tell you suckers, dupes, and gulls, it’s like this a lot), all but the highway-sized snow plows get bogged down by it. So do snow blowers, large and small, all the way up to tractor-sized. You want packing snow to build that snow man? Hey, we’ve got it by the ton, easy. You could build a full-sized, working castle with it, it holds together that well …until it rains right after you’ve carved in the last detail, melting it all down to sludge. Then, after the rain, here will come the arctic chill, freezing wheel-rutted slush on driveways and roads into crunchy, unbreakable ridges that slice tire sidewalls. Enjoy that white stuff, city slickers and townies. Meanwhile, we’re out clearing roads and roofs before the next onslaught. And the next onslaught was but an hour away.

Happy to have the driveway, road, and paths cleared, I refilled the fuel tank, cleaned up and checked the machine, then hung soggy, dripping coat, hat, and gloves to dry. I knew there was more coming, but NOAA promised the rest would be but a mere couple of inches.

Wrong.

By the time we were nearing dark — 4PMish — we had another six inches and that was here in the trees. What that boded north at the county road I didn’t want to think about. No sense dealing with it, though, not until daylight. The north wind had picked up, and there wouldn’t be any sense to moving the same snow twice and three times …which is what happens if it’s not an emergency and you’re still set on trying to move snow when it’s blowing sideways.

I laid down with a book for a warm-up snuggle under the afghan, happy that the power hadn’t even flickered — not once.  Fell asleep.

Boom — sound woke me with a start and, except for the snow glow coming in the windows, I’m all in the dark.

Grab flashlight, trundle downstairs. Battery operated clock reads 6:20 P.M.

Now, I trudge out to the road. Yep. Not a light on in sight — nowhere. At least, the power lines aren’t down on my drive or on the county road. That’s a good sign, or so I thought.  But, of course, the gas furnace was out.  (It requires power to run and no amount of argument had ever convinced Dad or Mom to get one that would stay going even when the electricity failed.)  Light the wood stove …before the house temperature drops.

Paper, kindling, and a couple of logs later, and I’ve got the barrel stove going, cats snuggling up, enjoying the toasting.  A check outside shows that, yep, it’s still snowing. No sense fussing. Time to do the power-down routine …which I actually should have done an hour ago, but…

Back upstairs to kill power to everything electric, hitting off switches on the older computers and pulling plugs on newer ones that, even with the back power button off, still stay “lit”. Soundboards …speakers …keyboards …circulation fans — check. Downstairs, and its turn off the furnace, unplug the mega-coffee pot, the cord to the block warmer on the diesel truck …. We do this because we’re near enough a major dam that when the power comes back on, we get a strong enough surge that it can fry everything from the lowly light bulb to stoves, furnaces, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, engine block heaters, computers…. Kzzt! And that’s WITH surge protection on. (Yes, it blows those big, bulky, super-expensive surge protectors, too, we found out the hard way. Costly lesson, that.)

I finish up night chores, which includes four hours devoted to getting battery-operated aerators going in the fish tanks, then head off to bed after banking the fire so it hopefully lasts until the power comes back on or until morning light, whichever comes first, hopefully the former, thanks. Meanwhile, my cell phone’s message list kept pinging every few minutes — the SO (Sheriff’s Office for those unfamiliar with my shorthand) sending warnings of roads closed due to power lines down.

Morning brought no power, just the daunting task of starting the snow blower by hand. Took me forty-five minutes. Neighbor, who has a smaller one, it only took him twenty, and he’s taller and stronger than me. We met on the road, him telling me that his house was holding at 55°. Mine was holding, with the barrel stove going, at about 68°. We set to blowing the county road and drives, again, both of us worried about what was to come — predicted subarctic temperatures down near the zero mark (…which, by the way, started today). “It’s gonna be a damned cold Christmas if they don’t get those lines fixed. Down all over both counties clear to the Canada border,” he told me.

Great!

The roof man showed up as promised. Before the deep freeze. But, instead of the crew, it was just the boss, surprise, surprise. He did the out-building roofs in under two hours. Happy day. Got that load off before the wet stuff froze down. He always blesses the fact that the main house never has to be cleared. Dad built it that way, foot thick log rafters and a roof so steep you can’t stand up on it without a rope, not an A frame, but a good 12/12 pitch.

It wasn’t until Thursday afternoon that they finally got the power on here. Others weren’t so lucky. They wouldn’t see a return till long past midnight.

Now, most probably think that when the power comes back on, life returns to normal. It doesn’t. There’s the tidying up and cleanup, re-powering-up the house and appliances, making sure that the heat tapes that protect the water lines are still working, and, please don’t forget to plug in the big diesel’s block heater. Right.

I just barely managed to get online Thursday …for about ten minutes. Friday? Sort of. Spent that mostly checking servers and installations. Oh, yeah, and email. OMG. Sifted and sorted that mess, too. So, now it’s Saturday morning, -1°F and, finally, I have a smidge’s worth of time to whine and be grumpy.

Everyone have a great Christmas. While we don’t celebrate it, we do enjoy your ‘joy and merry’ and, especially, the Christmas music!

 

 

 


Morning’s Hot Toasted Buns

I have an author friend who doesn’t wake well.  She doesn’t wake ill, either, but she does wake slightly brain-dead, slightly out-of-sorts, and slightly, only slightly, mind you, miffed by people like me who bound out of bed with a bounce.  She wakes up slow. She wakes up stiff. It’s a back thing. And she deals with it by using a microwavable heating pad applied to her backside, plopping down (gently) to toast herself as she herds her first cup of coffee down her esophagus.

Now, I want you to imagine a woman in her late middle years who’s vivacious, perspicacious, and wry, whose humor is enough to send you into coffee-up-the-nose paroxysms at one of her witticisms once she’s finally gotten herself up to fighting speed. Then, she’ll run rings around those bleary-eyed twenty- and thirty-somethings still suffering the effects of their wild night spent at the rave in the arms of their latest heartthrob, the ones you find desperately hustling their kids off to school and themselves to their day job, their phones in their left hand, their right plying makeup using the rear-view as they careen down the interstate, driving by knee and a curse.

Breakfast for some is a bagel, for others a beer, but for friend Laura Belgrave, morning brings hot, toasted buns.


Scroll Up