Category: for the love of the living

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!

 

 

 


Home Alone on Thanksgiving.

It’s Thanksgiving across America. In countless homes, somebody (or even several somebodies) is up early prepping food to go in the oven. Me? No. I’ll probably grab a hunk of cheddar cheese for my daily sustenance, same thing, same amount I had yesterday.

Food isn’t important to me. Never has been.

Oh, sure. I do love (real) mashed potatoes and gravy. I love a good casserole. Turkey stuffing is the best …when done the old-fashioned way. I eat none of it since my body decided to pack on an additional, unwanted thirty pounds that stubbornly won’t come off, despite years of an 800 – 1200 calorie per day diet that includes no carbs.

Sure, a wonderfully grilled steak is a treat. A good piece of fish or chicken….

Such used to be life. No longer. (Mostly I exist on coffee.)

Thanksgiving is mostly about people, though. And, honestly, people don’t figure prominently in my life. Animals, yes. Not people.

I have a few good friends — cherished friends; I have my best friend — my husband, F. W. Lineberry; I have acquaintances — I’m talking real world people, here. Most of the people I care about now, though, most I name as ‘friend’, are Netizens. I’ve never met them in real life, and we certainly don’t share a meal on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving used to mean spending several days prior and the morning of prepping a huge turkey, baking squash, homemade bread and special sweet cakes, making stuffing, peeling potatoes, pulling frozen garden veggies from the freezer. There was polishing gold- and silverware, washing up heirloom china, sharpening carving knives, digging out the special table linens, cleaning house from top to bottom. No more. Not for the last few years. I think the last time Forrest and I prepped a Thanksgiving dinner was in 2011, when we lived in town, two years prior to moving back to Dad’s house. It was a smashing success, the guests people who were lonely and alone, folks who had no caring family or loved ones. And, since then, yes, I’ve put on dinner parties, but not a Thanksgiving. (Turkeys sigh with relief.)

In my life, there’s no real reason to make a big fuss on Turkey Day. Dad’s been dead for years. Mom just died. To them, Thanksgiving mattered. So, it mattered to me. No longer. Were my husband home (but he’s not; he’s still fighting nasty roads in BC, Canada), we’d have a meal together, delighting in each other’s company…just like we do any and every day that he’s at home — not often.

I’m a zentaoist. Every day is Thanksgiving. Every day is precious. More, every moment. And, honestly, putting on a feast, unless it’s for those who are lonely and have no family or loved ones who care, unless its for those who need it, makes no sense …to me.

For the lonely? The bereft? Sure. But I do that any day, sipping coffee, water, or tea, maybe even orange juice, sharing a meal of whatever best comes to hand from the pantry and the frig, sitting down around the dining room table with someone who arrived spontaneously and just needs a spirit lift.

I listen to them and, if they get too morose, will liven the conversation with subtly pertinent anecdotes from life. It can last as long as four or five hours. Then, needs fulfilled, they venture back into the world, me returning to my solitude, grateful that I know I’m loved.


February 14th, 2017, A Tribute to True Love

I’m in love. I have been for decades. Oh, yeah. In love with life–that, too–but I mean with the man who is my husband, Forrest Wayne Lineberry. For years, after a very ugly divorce, due to the bills that divorce wound up ladling upon me, we lived in a space that measured 14×18. Feet. It included one tiny bathroom with a shower, one tiny kitchen, and the bedroom/living room. Two cats, three birds, a hamster, a frog and a tercel in an aquarium, plus a 55 gallon fish tank filled with very old, very long-lived fish resided there with us. My horses and livestock didn’t. The horses I boarded. The livestock went to Dad’s.

To say we were poor is an understatement. Still are. The divorce took everything and more. (Yes, I got screwed, having hired an attorney who was honorable, while my ex- hired one who was Machiavellian, more the fool me.)  The divorce took my relationship with my father, as well, a man who, because of his Dutch Reform upbringing, believed marriage was for life, never mind any abuse.

Anyway, I fell in love. With my bodyguard. If you ever want to know about that, watch the movie, The Bodyguard, starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner.  Except, unlike that movie, the bad guy wanting to do me harm wasn’t some wacko or some jealous relative, but rather the man divorcing me. I wasn’t a wealthy, successful singer with a beautiful voice, and Forrest was only a skilled martial artist, not a trained ex-Secret Service man.  Oh, yeah.  And, in the end, we stayed together.

I’m wishing for you all the same love and commitment we have with and for each other–a cherishing–in your relationship with your significant other. There really is no substitute for it. So, find it, keep it, and don’t ever settle for less, no matter what you have to give up.

Sincerely,

Me.

 


February 13th, 2017

Twice a day, a flurry of activity breaks the peace and solitude. Livestock squeals, bawls, and whinnies. Dogs bark. Cats yowl. Diesel engines rumble. Then, the frenzy passes, and, for the most part, quiet returns, broken only occasionally by the shriek and rhythmic clucking of a hen announcing her successful laying of an egg.  It’s late winter, here, the unbroken snow fields where animals don’t roam waist deep in snow.

Today, sunshine bathes the land, delighting eyes weary of the past week’s storms. Birds sing and peep, crows and ravens cackle, happy for reprieve. A moose wanders by, still chewing on leaves and branches stolen from the rhododendrons.  She adores them this time of year, those and the twigs and branches stripped from the aspens and the maples by the ice storm than followed last week’s heavy snows.

Inside the house, faintly you can hear the washing machine cycle through its rinse and spin, rinse then spin, again, while, outside, you hear metal pounding metal and the occasional muttered oath when that pounding falters. Somebody’s smacked their thumb, again, while driving in a latch pin.

A while later, chains clank as a tractor rumbles up the track to park inside the shed. The engine dies.

Footsteps clomp upon the porch.  Chores done, it’s time to get to work up in the office.  It’s Monday morning in North Idaho.


Last week’s snow


Live Now.

An  art friend of mine has recently begun posting some secular humanist perspectives over on G+. He turns off comments, perhaps to avoid discussion…or, maybe, to fend off trolls.  Of course, it could be that he considers anyone who might choose to discuss the topic to be a troll.  He’s rather odd that way–easily offended, easily riled, easily disquieted.

Anyway, his posts got me to thinking about the mindset of atheist secular humanists, especially those who perceive life and reality as reducible to clear, concise mechanical processes that include chemical reactions and Newtonian physics. He’s a retired engineer, so this mindset comes quite logically and naturally to him and his. Dwelling in the strictly empirically measurable pragmatic, any idea of something more than life as a chemical reaction and consciousness as a neurological function is quite alien. Having myself dwelled in mechanism, pragmatism, atheism, and stoicism for a solid decade or more of my own existence, I can understand the very solid, stolid stability provided by it. What bothers me is that what he’s doing is no different than the proselytizing of the fervently religious. In truth, it’s no different.

Here’s the thing, though: Does it really matter what he believes versus what someone else believes? No. His beliefs give him solace, just as those who believe that their loved ones have gone to join Jesus or entered Nirvana or…do them. The fact is there is no proof or disproof of continuance of the self/soul/spirit upon the body’s demise, and, truly, it really doesn’t matter. Live now.


An Awesome Message


Part of an NF Book Series I’m Writing

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The weather forecast predicted a low of 48°F. and a high the next day near 62° with partly cloudy skies. I sat on the cement apron under my awning, reading one of my manuscripts, a novel I was planning to publish the following month. Around me, a few wasps and hornets still sipped at the water saucers put out expressly for them. Others worked at the dried beef strips provided them because their normal fare of garden insect pests was long since depleted.

Out in the garden, my tomato plants were heavy with green tomatoes slow to ripen, everything else having been harvested, except for a couple of winter squash and pumpkins. We had yet to have a frost.

These were the lazy days of autumn, when you get a lull between the heavy work of a summer spent preparing for winter and the miserably hard work that ice and snow brings to the north country. It’s my favorite time of year, not too hot, but not yet cold enough to warrant wearing a shirt over my t-shirt.  My mom calls them ‘gravy days’, and it’s an apt term.

Happily occupied on finding where reader flow could falter in the novel, I ignored the first nudge.  And the second.  When I got up to get a cup of coffee, though, the nudge became impossible to ignore.  I groaned.  I didn’t want to and reminded myself that NOAA (the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) was predicting continued mild weather.

The nudge turned into an insistent pressure, like a nag, but silent, just known…like when your mom is watching you from across the room when you haven’t done your homework or your chores, yet.

Okay!  Enough, already!

The pressure backed off, but its presence didn’t leave.  I got dressed to go over to the local farm store where they keep a supply of straw on hand.  Starting up the truck, I felt my usual, pragmatic terseness about giving up my afternoon for something that, while it needed to be done before the freeze, certainly wasn’t critical right now. The thought of the empty fuel containers came to mind, and I groaned.  Got out.  Got them.  Tied them in the back.  The neighbor was outside lighting his barbeque as I pulled past his place.  He waved.  I waved back.

I don’t argue with my nudges. I’ve had too many proofs of just how important it is to listen to them. So, begrudging the fact that I often get smirked at by neighbors and friends, I do what’s suggested, when suggested, regardless of how illogical and impractical it might seem.

At the farm store, the high school kid who loaded the bales of straw onto my flatbed wondered out loud to me on why I was getting a full load today instead of my usual handful of bales.

I thought about hedging.  Decided against it.  “Because it’s time to winterize the garden and stock up for a blow.  Livestock can’t go without straw in the cold.”

He gave me what, locally, we call ‘the hairy eyeball’, pointedly looked up at the blue skies and sinking sun, then, more pointedly, said, “Su-ure,” sarcasm dripping.

I grinned, finished strapping the load, then followed him inside to pay, grabbing a couple of rolls of heavy plastic and some snow blower sheer pins, to boot.  Then, I stopped at the gas station and filled my empty gas cans, bought some fuel stabilizer, and got some oil, just in case.

Once home, I spent the rest of the afternoon on into dark harvesting the green tomatoes and squash, pulling the houseplants in, winterizing the roses and banking the house, then loading the rest of the straw into the storage barn.  Last, with the yard lights on, I stapled the heavy plastic up around the north end of the open air barn.

Exhausted, I fell into bed around 10PM.  The thermometer reported the outside temperature at a pleasant 54°.

 

I rise early.  And I don’t keep the furnace on all year.  At 3:30AM, upon rising, the house felt chillier than usual.  Not much.  Just a bit.

I poked my head outside.  It was brisk, but it hadn’t frosted.  I shook my head.  “So much for following nudges,” my surly side grumbled inside my brain.  “Hey, the job is done, and I won’t have to do it later,” my ‘glass-is-half-full’ side shot back.

Not to be outdone, the pragmatic self responded with, “If it stays warm, the roses will rot. I’ll have to uncover them during the day, at least.”

I damped down all comments, moving to ‘not-think,’ the only sane way to deal with all the arguments and counters the rational, pragmatic brain will spawn.

Daylight showed gloomy overcast.  By 8AM, a chill wind had started.  By 10AM, the temperature outside had dropped from 42° to 35°.  By noon, the grass was frozen stiff, a winter storm warning in effect according to the National Weather Service, and the wind chill put the outside temperature down near 10°.  By evening, it was much, much worse.

If I hadn’t ‘listened’, which is another way of saying, paid attention to my instincts, my inklings, my nudges, I would have been scrambling to get everything done, working in miserable conditions to do it, and, believe me, it’s no fun stapling up plastic in the wind, to say nothing of trying to binder twine leafs of straw around roses to protect them from the bitter wind’s frost burn with freezing fingers.  Instead, I prepped the snow blower, then, bundling up, went over to help the neighbor with his frantic winterizing.

That night, snow started, the wispy, nasty stuff that creeps into every crevice and burns your face like stinging nettle when it hits you.  By the following morning, we were sitting at an ambient temperature of 3° F. with a wind chill of -26°.  It stayed that way for three solid weeks, no breaks.

 

People ask me how I know when to do what. Above, I gave you a simple example, not life critical, certainly, and probably inconsequential to most, but very demonstrative of how following nudges, following ‘flow’, allows you the luxury of avoiding unnecessary panic, toil, and suffering.

Oh, and the next time I visited the farm store, that high schooler grinned at me.  “You were right about the weather!  How’d you know?”

I gave him the easy answer, one that doesn’t give people willies: “A little bird told me.”

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Bittersweet

My guyIt’s bittersweet to hold your husband for 10 minutes after not seeing him for two weeks, then have to let him go, not knowing when and if you’ll ever see him again.


A Long Night of Snow Blowing Ahead

It’s snowing. It’s been snowing. I’ve already blown the drive and county road once today. Tonight, we’ve already got 8 inches and it’s coming down fast. Right now, it’s light and fluffy–easy blowing. But the temperature is on the rise…which means it will turn heavy, and, once it turns to rain…which is predicted, you can just about plan on abject misery trying to move it. So, I’m going to start blowing it now, about halfway through the predicted amounts of 7 to 13 inches. (We usually get more than is predicted, because, though we don’t live up on a mountain, we are in a micro-snow belt. There’s this band of heavy snow micro-climate that starts about 1/4 mile to the south of us and ends about 30 miles to the north. You can pretty much figure that, yep, we’re gonna really get it tonight, and, if it ain’t up by morning, plan on spending four to six hours moving it instead of one-and-a-half to three.)

Tomorrow will be snow removal on the roofs. Luckily, I’ve got a guy coming in to do the barn, because that building is too high for me to get at. It takes using the Minnsnowta, a special roof removal tool that’s too heavy for me to handle. Forrest can heft it and loves it, but I can’t even get it up on the roof edge.   I’m stuck with my high tech roof rake…which works well, but not on a high roof like is on the barn.

So, pretty much figure I’m going to be up all night, then all day tomorrow, too. Won’t be getting much else done.


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