Category Archives: the personal side

Bird Washing Day

I have some birds.  All of them are re-homed here because of various health circumstances and special needs.  …Like Whacky Bird, who quite literally faints at the mere suggestion of a changed routine.  And there’s Dumpling who managed to break his wingtip off and almost bled to death when his owner let him out to play.  Since the break left a shattered bone end and the vet had to pull some magic out of her arsenal to save him, the bird was re-homed with me because he needs special care and caging.

Oldest of them all, weighing in at 26 years of age, is Regal, a magnificent, slightly odd looking critter because he suffers a condition I call Bad Cage Disease, his early years being spent in a cage whose bars were made of zinc, not plastic coated steel.   Regal has nerve damage in one foot and a ring of missing feathers around his neck, all permanent problems.  He needs special supplements …which he loves, thank you very much.  But, because of the nerve damage in his leg, he can’t perch up high.  He’s now, basically, a ground bird, except for daily cage cleaning where he jumps up, one footed to a low perch that’s barely off the cage floor.  The fact that he’s supposed to be a perching bird, not a chicken whose feathers (except for the roosters, of course) are designed to stay above the detritus, makes him prone to, (a) getting his feet covered in doo, and, (b) miring his long tail feathers and wing tips, this all despite his special bird bath which he uses daily.

So we have “bird washing day” around here where I get him on my hand, take him to the bathroom, run some warm water, and proceed to, well, wash the bird.  Then comes clipping his toenails if they need it and whacking off any tail and wing feathers that are too long to stay off the cage floor.  He doesn’t mind any of it, at all.  In fact, he revels in it.

Whacky Bird, of course, thinks this is all sorts of trauma, and, usually, when I come back from the bathroom with Regal, I’ll find her either panting like a tired locomotive, still conscious, but unable to move, or she’ll be crashed out, unconscious, on the cage floor.  (She comes to after about five minutes, and, once Regal is safely back and she can see no damage has been done to her pal, she recovers to her normal, rather obnoxious self.)  Dumpling, on the other hand, will make all sorts of sympathetic noises once Regal is returned to his cage …which, Regal, being quite proud of his coiffure and freshly bathed splendor, pointedly ignores as he preens and struts.

So, there you have it.  Bird Washing Day at Dawn’s North Idaho bird retirement home.

bird bathing

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.

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.

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!

 

 

 

Monday Postponed Till Tuesday in N. Idaho.

Went to bed Sunday night with the Internet sort of on. Internet connectivity has been ‘sort of’ for several weeks, an off and on again experience, sometimes normal, sometimes sludge slow, sometimes not at all, but there. Hey! This is N. Idaho, just a few miles shy of the Canadian border. We’re still on braided copper wire up here. Some folks are lucky if they get 56k (kilobits-per-second) dial-up modem speeds. Remember those?

Monday morning, couldn’t get to anything but Facebook and reddit. (Yes, both of those work at dial-up modem speeds.) A call to Frontier netted me knowledge that the whole area from south of Sandpoint all the way to the Canadian border was out. No estimated time for a fix. (So that’s where all those Frontier trucks were racing off to when I dropped husband at his truck.)

Did I get out my Verizon hotspot? …No. I had things to do in the real world and wanted to wipe my slate clean.

Since Monday was already compromised, the best part of the day spent getting husband off to Canada in his big rig, it was a good day to get real world projects completed. When you can’t work on the Net, it’s a great, even awesome day to spend doing everything you’ve put off for just such an opportune moment.

My old friend Lloyd always warned, “Get your work done before noon, or it don’t get done,” and I’ve always found that to be pretty darned true. I had two hours to get done what needed doing before that noon deadline.

Now, I do as much work as possible via the Net, via the telephone, or, less favored, by old-fashioned USPS mail. Physically having to go to the bank, the lawyer’s, the insurance agent’s, the treasurer’s office… is always a pain-in-the-keister. (For those unfamiliar, ‘keister’ is an old word for ‘buttocks’.) First up, at the top of the list, was the bank, since everything else hinged on that. I needed some more checks — yes, checks — those rectangles of paper upon which you fill in the date, to whom, the amount, both numerically and written out in words, add the account and bill number for which the amount is to be credited on the memo line, then sign. Land taxes are due, and electronic payments are not to be trusted for things so crucial. When it comes to land taxes, I walk my payments in, getting a nice stamp of PAID from the county treasurer’s office.

I parked and hit — quite literally — the door to the bank — locked.

…Frowned.

Went to the other door — the one most people use. (Hey, I never walk the popular trail.) Locked, too, but this one had a notice on it. “Closed. Intenet down. Use ATM for cash.”

WTF?!

A peer into the windows showed bodies, the bank manager standing there wringing her hands — not normal.

…Grumbled. Frowned more, steam building up in my brain as I got back in the car.

Noticed the drive-up window was open and got in line behind a battered old red pick-up.

I recognized the ‘codger’ in the pick-up. Silver-haired and in his eighties, he’s notoriously cantankerous and a self-made multi-millionaire, North Idaho style. He’s a great guy …when you’re not on the wrong side of his temper (kinda like me, only the male variety). As I sat there, he’s pulling out pieces of paper, waving them at the unlucky woman at the drive-up.

I roll down my window. Yep. He’s giving her a piece of his mind, wanting the bank manager (the one standing on the other side of the building, wringing her hands). I keep hearing, “I’m sorry. The Internet is down.”

Other cars — Caddy SUVs, a BMW, a Porsche, another battered Ford PU, a Mercedes… pull in, go through the ATM, then circle the building to pull in line behind me, so many that, as I wait, the string of them curves out of sight around the building. Every one of them, like me, patiently waits for their turn. What’s our beef? BANKS SHOULD NOT CLOSE SIMPLY BECAUSE THE INTERNET GOES DOWN, NOT IN NORTH IDAHO, NOT ANYWHERE!!! Heck, Walmart was open, doing business. So was Home Depot. So, in fact were the Mom and Pop shops. Despite no Internet. (Maybe, like me, they have a back-up system that uses satellite, not wire, no guarantee, but at least it’s something. When that goes down, it’s pen and paper. Got it?)

Want to piss off a bunch of us mostly pretty highly educated, but, likewise, extremely, even cussedly, independent North Idaho ‘yokels’? Deny us access to what is ours, especially our money, for no good reason, and the Internet being out is NOT a good reason, sorry. Your bad.

After finally getting up to ask some very pointed questions of the window woman — no, they don’t keep a local back-up; they can’t even access the banking interface, which is run from the cloud — I drove over and marched into another bank. Their doors were open. They were doing business. I quizzed the friendly girl who offered herself up to my stormy countenance. Yes. They have a locally resident program and a resident backup database, so they can keep going when the Internet goes belly up, a regular happening here.

“Good. I’ll be back.”

It’s going to be a huge hassle, changing banks. We do a lot of direct deposit, but change banks I will. So will a lot of other folks. You want to stay in business? You don’t do it by locking your doors on a business day, and denying people access to their money and your services. For something as critical as banking, you have to have a back-up plan for eventualities or suffer the consequences of our bad attitudes. That’s why you get to use our money. Fail that, and you lose that privilege.

My Hands

I received a really hurtful email this morning. It was from a fellow flutist who said, and I quote:

“You have really ugly hands. Maybe you shouldn’t video yourself playing flute. Or doing anything. Its [sic] no fun to watch. Ever think about getting your nails done? Try some lotion, too.”

Well, to that, here’s my response …though I neglected to mention in the video, an expert equestrian’s hands:

For those who can’t hear, here’s a transcript of what I say:

“People comment about my hands. The brave ask about them, the concerned and well-intentioned offering me bottles of flowery-smelling lotion, presenting me gift certificates for a manicure and nail job, bringing me ointments and salves. It’s true, I don’t have elegant hands. I’ve got working hands. These hands play flute and piano, type 120 words per minute, move heavy objects, in short, do a lot of hard, physical labor. They’ve moved tons of hay and grain, dug post holes, strung barbed wire, carried wood and water. These are a martial artist’s hands, a musician’s hands, a swordwoman’s hands. They ain’t pretty, but I love them.”