Sunday, March 1, 2015

At The Lodge

Jenny called and said she and Scott wanted to buy B and me lunch before the reading, so headed right out, since I had to walk down. Did nothing about my appearance, so I was looking very much the part of The Hermit From The Ridge. The thaw and a slight drizzle had started so I knew the walk back in to the house was going to be messy. Fine lunch, good conversation, and I gave a good reading, twelve pages focused strongly on the ridge and told a couple of anecdotes (B asked me to explain to the audience about micro-waving mice for the crows), then some chat afterwards. A fine afternoon. The driveway, as predicted, was a slick mess coming back in. B had bought me a whiskey for the actual reading, which made the whole affair much more like the readings we have when a writer visits the ridge. I think it's supposed to be in the forties tomorrow and the melt will cause minor flooding. Another messy day, withall. Of little concern to me, as my new schedule allows for a day off. I might split a rick of wood. At the lodge I read with care the new poster which was about what to do if you met a bear in the woods. The lodge is lovely, big timbered, lots of local stone, fireplaces. Everyone seemed to know who I was, which was mildly disconcerting. Very attention audience. Jenny runs the reading series, she's the Naturalist for the forest, incredibly bright, perky, and nine months pregnant, due in three days. We had both hoped she would go into labor during the reading. Didn't happen, and she and Scott left right away afterwards, because three young girls were staying at the lodge specifically to visit her, and wanted to see the hibernating snakes in her office. We talked about melanistic hybrids. How the texture of possum fat was very like caviar. All evening the snow sublimates into ground fog, and it's a lovely thing, the way what we see recedes and advances. It's March goddamn it, it is no longer February, and I want the fucking ice-jam to break. I want my feet to be warm. Last time I was in town, the Scioto River was breaking loose, huge ice-flows drifting into the flow of the Ohio; a few degrees of difference you're left with something else entirely. Still dripping at midnight. I might see the ground tomorrow. Read more...

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Country Life

I called B today, to find out what bird Harrison was referring to as a Trogon. Seems it might be a parrot that only occasionally wanders north of the US, Mexico border. House Wrens are Troglodytes. My Internet connection didn't allow me online, the pigeons were on strike. I thought about killing a male Grouse today. He was right outside the back door and a real temptation, but I didn't feel up to the chore of plucking and dressing a bird. I thought about fried gizzards, which I love, and made a mental note to drive to the Briar Patch, a cross-road gas station and store out west of Lucasville, where they fry everything. I only go out there a couple of times a year. KFC fried gizzards are an abomination, they were always fried yesterday and resemble soggy lumps of dough. I make a stir-fry from sliced gizzards where they have the mouth-feel of water chestnuts. It's a pain in the ass to make, but no one ever knows what they're eating. Not that I would not tell someone what I was fixing. The people that know me well will eat anything I cook, knowing I wouldn't bother wasting our time. Cranking up the stove because I wanted to make a batch of biscuits. Hot bread, as it was always called in my family. Sliced bread came later. It was good for sandwiches. But hot biscuits are a thing unto themselves. Later, I was in a kind of stupor from eating one too many, staring into space, wondering about self-control. Free will is a cute conceit. B said someone had stolen his chainsaw off the back porch, he knew who had taken it, a dim-wit vaguely related, pawned, no doubt, for a couple of pain-killers, a case of the truly poor robbing from the lower middle class. The landed gentry encourage this shit, because it removes them from the fray, where dogs actually do eat other dogs, and smallpox cleans up the rabble. I need to read some pages out loud, to time them, and get the pauses correct, for the reading tomorrow. As usual, I have no idea what I'm going to read. There are literally thousands of pages and as I read, walking around the house, stopping at the island, I mark particular paragraphs, some of which have been marked before, which must mean I like them. One time I only read pieces that Linda had liked, she's my ace reader. At this point I could do a reading of only pages that had been written on February 28th. I could probably do thirty minutes for every day of the year. A foot locker with 365 booklets, and one smaller pamphlet for three leap years. I finally settle on reading a sequence of pieces about leaving the museum and starting to spend all of my time reading and writing. Late afternoon, the birds are very active, and I go for a walk, to clear my head. I give that up fairly quickly, because the six inches of settled snow has crusted over just enough to almost support my weight. Every step crashes through. Awful walking conditions. Settle in with Barry Lopez. A toddy, roll a smoke, listen to the snaps and crackles of the fire. The left-over chorizo dish has become a kind of fried rice and it's very good, toasted biscuits are always good. I did have a moment of near panic. I'd dozed off, awoke with a start, thinking I was confined; I just had my feet tangled in the lap-robe. Another toddy, read some more Lopez. Arctic Dreams is a magnificent book. I actually begin to feel warm, go outside and see that it's 30 degrees, perfect conditions for an ice storm, so I go to the shed and get an armload of wood, get out the candles and an oil-lamp. I keep my head-lamp in a specific place that I can find using only my sense of touch. It's been a beautiful but brutal February, and I want to dust off, and clean the house. Read more...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Feeling Good

Something about just getting it done. Getting the Jeep down, getting what I needed in town, hiking back in, getting a good fire going, making a meal. Simple stuff. And the birds were out in force. I tend to forget myself, in the midst of the mundane. I clear snow off of stumps and the edge of the print shop stoop, so that the next time I arrive at one of those places, there's a dry spot to park my ass. I want to build a crude bench halfway up the driveway, so I'd have a place to sit and roll a smoke. The tendency is to be in too much of a hurry, getting from one place to another. It's always best to slow down. When I walk in, with a turnip and a parsnip, I'm not trying to make a point. It's just that the last time I had them, roasted with clarified butter, salt and pepper, they were very good. I fall into my below zero survival mode, eat early, crank up the fire, read for a while, take a nap, then get up after midnight, nurse the fire, and write for a couple of hours. The second sleep is good for dreams. I usually get up the second time, stoke the fire, then listen to NPR until I get pissed enough at something to throw off my blanket, turn off the radio, and make a pot of coffee. I reread what I was writing, add or subtract a comma or two, have a first cigaret, and consider my breakfast options. Like John Thorne, I cast a wide net for breakfast. I seldom put left-overs away at night, when it's this cold, so a breakfast hash with a fried egg is fairly common. As mentioned often, an egg yolk is the perfect sauce. Grits have become a fixture. Grits, with a sausage patty and a cheese omelet is more often to be dinner. I just ran out of squash, rescued from the Thanksgiving displays, just before the first hard freeze, and I'm very fond of half an acorn squash, stuffed with compote or berries for breakfast. Biscuits and gravy if there are left-over biscuits. Toasted corn bread with molasses. I still have a steak and a pork tenderloin in the freezer and it's almost March. I need to get out next week, because I'll need almost everything, but I'm pretty secure right now. One of my new rules is that if I extend myself physically, splitting wood or walking out and in, is that I just take the next day off. I might read Ezra Pound or Levi-Strauss, Gunter Grass, or Delillo, I might take a walk and get completely sidetracked by a narrative I create (at zero degrees all narratives are suspect), or cook marrow bones because of some atavistic desire. The hours slide by. An acquaintance asked what I did with my time. If she had to ask, she couldn't possibly know. Well, I spent several hours thinking about cannibalism in North America, then I thought about ground water contamination, then I thought I'd better pop the Chorizo into the freezer so it would slice more easily, listened to early blues while I chopped onions. Read more...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Getting Out

I'd visualized driving out for a couple of days, so this morning I just did it. I figured the crust on the snow would help slow me, and it did, also the undercarriage dragging. Four-wheel low in first gear. The only slight slippage was when I needed to tap the brakes at the second curve. Got to town, dropped off books at the library and didn't check out any more because I didn't want to carry them back up the hill. Stopped at the pub for a huge open face pork and provolone sandwich and a sample of Russian Cabbage soup, all excellent. Stopped at the museum, to see the new African Art show which is very handsome. Then Kroger for whiskey and tobacco, some vegetables and another package (on sale) of link Chorizo sausage. I'm imagining something on rice. Picked up a wad of mail, including a new chapbook by my favorite Canadian poet, Guy Birchard, which I read through for the first time at the pub. Loaded my pack and parked at the bottom of the hill. So much easier walking back up in the tire tracks. It's still a hardy trek, make no mistake, and I stop several times, but it's lovely, the snow such a pristine napp on the landscape. The contours and old logging roads, sensuous mounds and stumps, everything smoothed out and rounded. It gets to 25 degrees, but the sun is so intense there's dripping everywhere. After the hike in, I was done for the day, took off my boots and shed the outer layer. Made a nice toddy, about four in the afternoon, with cider and a pat of butter. My needs satisfied. I might make a pan of biscuits later, but I'm stuffed from lunch and samples. And I've brought in considered supplies, and I can get to my reading on Sunday. If I split and made another rick of wood inside tomorrow, that would be a good thing. I need to pick some pages to read on Sunday, read them a few times, to check my punctuation. But I don't need to fret, I can do that. We writers are an arrogant bunch, even as we float off on our individual icebergs. We are many and various. I have to go nap. Read more...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Story

Dupree running his trap line. It was late. He made arguments for and against. Several of the traps were in bogs, where water inevitably crept over your boot-tops. Dupree puts his shoulder into freeing another stuck wagon. Nothing you wouldn't do for any other pilgrims. No matter what they say, I would never eat your babies. I draw a line, somewhere south of there. Dupree had a penchant for moving targets, he told me, this could hardly be ascribed, that he was only ever comfortable when the ducks flew in without a decoy. I had to think about that. We either become the ducks or the shooter in his blind. Shocked out of my reverie by a small helicopter that seems to be examining each of the hollows. Google Maps? I have no idea. It's difficult to escape the notion, what with recent events, that someone is interested in me. Not in a good way. Odd, if so, because they would find me at a point in my life when I'm rather remarkably almost spotless as concerns any important laws. It's probably nothing, a State Forest survey of trees damaged in the ice-storm of '04, a close study of extremely local drainage, or fuel to the rumor that 'they' want to buy up the land that would connect two wilderness areas. If that rumor was true, and they caught me on the right day in February, if the price was anything short of disgraceful, I might sell. There would be the problem of where I would go. Further south. Truthfully, though I have moved a great many times, including moving a print shop twice, I'm not sure I could do it again. I'm finally living in a place designed by me, built by me, for me; all of my books about me, my beautiful Stanley Waterford cook stove, windows that look out on deep forests, and, often, a serene stillness that calms the soul. Then there are the crows, who interrupt the interruption. I did have a couple of mice for them, they're like spoiled kids who expect candy and a present. Still, they function as a scratch on the sound-track album. A hitch, where Bob forgets his own lyrics. The day got away from me. I woke up imagining a fictional character and was soon brought back to point. Stoke fire, melt snow. I'm tired of lifting my feet so high to walk, it makes my hips hurt. It dripped for a couple of hours today, so it might have been above freezing, at least where the sun was shining. Read more...

John Clare

The darting mind: Christopher Smart, Skip Fox. "The pretension of biographical reality," as Harrison says, is sometimes overwhelming. Something woke me. Took a few minutes for me to come fully awake but there was a noise inside the house, something small and frenetic. I knew it was a bat before I turned on a light. A merry chase ensues, me in my long underwear with a butterfly net. It's difficult to get a bat out of a butterfly net. By the time I get it safely released outside, I'm completely awake, so I get a wee dram and roll a smoke. Bats are vectors for rabies, so I had put an oven-mitt on one hand, being careful not to get bitten. I'd heard a piece on NPR about rabies recently, and I had retreated to what might be called a careful mode, not wanting to die that way, convulsing and foaming at the mouth, no matter how appropriate that might be. Later, staring into the middle distance, I had a minor epiphany that involved Mormons and all the women I've ever loved. There were pillars of salt, and a freight train loaded with coal. B told me to wear ear protection. I'm good at reading sign, but I made no sense of it. I have a history of not understanding. I don't give up, if we did that we'd all be dead at 18, but fifty years later, I'm still not sure I get the point. Antony mentioned that he hated going to events, openings or such, that he hated getting ready, felt like a gadfly; but that once he was there, he enjoyed himself. I knew what he meant because I hate going anywhere, but once I'm on the road I feel great about the prospects. It would be so easy to just give up, the temptation is everywhere, but something in the DNA makes you cast the net one more time, for old times' sake, and you find something new. Enough to stumble on. Keep ample supplies of animal fat, a bag of potatoes, usually there isn't any reason to exist; but the birds seem to think otherwise. Read more...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Another Front

Harrison says that knowledge gives shape to scenery. Which is certainly true. The ridge is packed in snow, and I might try to get the Jeep out tomorrow because I think that breaking through the crust would result in even slower speed. I think I could hold a line, going down. I'm thinking about it. More severe weather coming tonight, 10 below, it never got above 15 degrees today, but I had to get outside, so I refilled the wood-box, split some small stuff, brought everything inside. Two or three more nights below zero. It's been a fairly brutal February. I had a divine sardine and onion sandwich for lunch, then went back outside, because I was dressed in insulated everything, and it was so beautiful. I'd cleared one edge of the stoop completely, so that it would be a dry place to sit, and I use it often. Hermit dressed in tatters, smoking a badly rolled cigaret. I read some Sidney Lanier today, thinking about music and words. Then some more Harrison. Read a nice piece about the comma queen at The New Yorker, which was actually a history of the comma and where it stands today. A subject dear to my heart. I end up spending several hours looking at commas. I was sore and a bit sour, from working in the cold and getting older, but I bucked up enough to spend the evening slightly altering meaning by where I placed a pause. Seemed like a pretty good use of my time. I made a great mayonnaise with Adobo sauce and a finely minced chipotle, then made a great grilled cheese sandwich with several different shredded cheeses. Simple pleasures. Got a good fire going and tucked in for a nap. I need to get up after midnight, and tend the fire. If I do get out tomorrow, I'd have the vehicles tracks to walk up and down in, easier than the high-footed dance I have to do walking up in the same footprints I made going down. My potter friend, Antony, called and wanted to visit, and actually did. Drove out, parked at the bottom of the hill, hiked in, drank coffee, and we had a couple of hours of conversation. A rare mid-winter treat. I didn't get the Jeep out. After Antony left, I took a little walk, down the logging road, thinking about the choices we make. He's at a crossroad, a choice between one life or another, and both of them are attractive. Henry Miller could have played competition table tennis. Something killed a rabbit, an owl probably, and there's an interesting kill-and-eat circle in the snow; I studied it for so long that my feet got cold and I had to go back to the house. Simon Ortiz said "There are no truths, only stories." Which seemed germane on several fronts. The first of which was the story I made up about what had happened at a very specific place recently, bird kills rabbit. Anyone might notice something else, which would tell a slightly different story. Also, that there could even be a consensus, Penn And Teller would blow away with a nod. I'm having a steamed artichoke for dinner, with the chipotle mayonnaise and a pone of cornbread. I've been looking forward to this. I'm going to listen too Bach, then take a nap. Read more...

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Forecast

Maybe changing over to rain, we're right on the line (often described as the Ohio River) where ten inches of snow might just be one inch of rain. I'm sore, my body aches and creaks, but I'm careful, and the world is glorious. A dawn walk along the logging road, knocking ice off overhanging brambles with my mop handle, lest it fall down my neck, and it's like walking in a crystal palace. It's so beautiful I'm left speechless. I know I need to eat more, so I fry up some potatoes and sausage. It got above freezing, briefly, all the snow and ice is off the trees and the snow on the ground has crusted-over at ten to twelve inches. I worked outside for a while, but I didn't like the footing, so I went inside for a toddy and read Harrison, then John Thorne. Made an excellent omelet with the last of the roasted vegetables. I slept long and hard last night and didn't need a fire right away this morning. The wildlife enjoys the brief reprieve before another round of cold temps. The birds are out, rabbits, and a family of grouse down near the print shop (I think they have a nest underneath, out of the snow). There's a set of deer tracks, a young buck, that cross the logging road. I read back over some writing, as Linda had suggested, and it held together quite well. The way that leaving the museum was a jumping off point for so much more reading and reflection. Not worrying about the boilers, not cleaning the bathrooms, not setting up tables and chairs; but pursuing avenues of thought, forming mental constructs, remembering. Also cooking hash with a coddled egg, eating hot fresh biscuits and cornbread, or cooking a great bean soup. Walking outside and being distracted by everything. Actually having in my pocket a list of words, with a note of the specific dictionary that I wanted to look them up in. Time better spent, in my estimation; and I save money by not going to town, I don't buy a damn thing and I eat well but cheap, and my finances are recovering from the new tires and shocks, land taxes, and car insurance, all at the same time. For my land line, my long distance service, and AOL, I pay about $80 a month; I don't need satellite TV because I don't have a TV, but I'd like to cut down on that cost and improve service. It's difficult to sort things out. All of the companies lie about their service. Read more...

HIke Out

Much more snow overnight, and still snowing when I get up. Warmer, though. I dawdle around, warming the house, reading some Harrison, then head out to B's. The top of the ridge is awful, and the driveway, because I had to break trail through a foot of snow. The roads hadn't been plowed, so even when I got down to Upper Twin, it was slow going through eight inches of increasingly heavy snow. When I got to B's I was breathing hard. We talked for a while, an hour and a half, about building projects and book, he commented on my lack of stamina, which is certainly a fact, mostly because I haven't been walking up and down the driveway. He drives me back to the bottom of the driveway, and I have a pack with mail, whiskey, tobacco, and I stopped often. I knew it was going to be a slog. But then I could see around the last curve, the top of the driveway, then I could see the print shop, and I knew I could stop there and rest my weary ass. Just a last hundred yards to the house, and because my exertions, it actually felt rather warm. Built a fire, put things away, read my mail, put my outer layer near the stove to dry. Sleet was pelting me, the last couple of hundred yards, but it's difficult to express how excited I was to get back home undamaged. I sat in the open door of the print shop, reattaching a crampon that was caked with ice, letting my heartbeat return to normal, watching the wetter snow start clinging to everything. It's incredibly beautiful. Every stick is encased. Late afternoon ground fog, which is what you get when a great deal of snow is sublimating into almost saturated air. It tends to hang around. If this turns into an ice storm I'm going to follow Mac's advice, hitch a ride into town, and rent a motel room for a week. I could take a great many baths, lotion my entire body, watch TV, and trim my toenails. A cruise at the Super Eight. No housekeeping, ground floor, a smoking room, $250 for a week sounds like a deal to me, there are places to eat nearby and machines that distribute candy. I have a list of shows people think I need to see, and I occasionally do see one of them, in a motel room in Nebraska, and they're usually pretty good, if a discerning friend had recommended it. And I don't mind watching a movie, it's a little like reading a book, it can be a good way to fill time. I'd rather be discussing a particular piece of punctuation, but what the hell, hot running water. My outside thermometer was ripped asunder by a snow slide off the roof. When I get back from my adventure, I sweep the back porch (actually just a path across the back porch) and the snow is up to the second step. At the head of the driveway there's 14 inches. Tentative arrangements to ride into town with B on Wednesday, it's his early day at the college, he can pick me up and drop me off at the bottom of the hill. I can walk to the library and Kroger, and wait for him at the pub. I'll have to carry a full pack in, but I won't be in any hurry, and if it doesn't snow much more, at least I'll have a path. The shopping list is very considered, for a hike out and back in deep snow. I'm pretty well set on meat, grains and beans, but I need vegetables, and I'll need juice (frozen, mixed with melted snow is the lightest solution) and maybe a library book. The book is optional because I have several thousand at home. I need to make another soup. I'll split some wood and stamp out some trails. I can use the Jeep, I think, to make a trail over to the head of the driveway, and leave it there, so I can ferry myself the last two hundred yards back and forth to the house. Arrangements. Confusing tracks, on the last leg in (after stopping at the print shop to regain my breath) where something had happened, a rabbit had been killed by either a hawk or an owl, the entire narrative was spelled out, but it was a confusing blur in the snow. I find myself, often, reconstructing what might have happened, in a medium that disappears right in front of my eyes. Read more...

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bottomed Out

More or less as planned. I had a nap, TR called at midnight, so I got up for another couple of hours, stoked the stove and put on the last of my gnarly night logs, took another nap and just caught the fire again this morning. It did get to fifteen below, then just before noon, finally, one degree above. I suited up, swept the new snow off the back porch, and it was way too cold to be outside. This weather saps all of my energy. Clear for a little while this morning, snow clouds building in the afternoon. Another Winter Storm Watch through tomorrow night. Woke with a terrible charley-horse in my left leg and it ended up so sore I didn't dare try the hike out to B's. The whole experience was awful, a terrible way to wake. Actually stumbled a couple of times, when I'd forget to favor it. I did walk out and get most of the snow off the Jeep, started it up after last night's cold. The extent of my labors. Rereading Harrison's essays. He's a good food writer, all of his writing is very good. I walked around in the house all day, trying to work the soreness out of my leg with some success; put away a few books, some of which required climbing the stairs. Next year I'll use nothing but the composting toilet, I'll maintain the outhouse for guests. I'll have to clean and dump the composting toilet. I need to fix the light in the bathroom, so I can read in there, when I'm using the composting toilet. I need to fix the drain in the kitchen sink, not that I could be using it now anyway. I'm melting snow for wash water, there's so much of it, and it's so clean. I need 50% more firewood which would halve my electric bill (I've used a lot of back-up heat this winter) because I'm home so much, and I want to be a little bit more comfortable. I'd let the fire go out, to dump the ashes, and realize just as it's getting dark, that I hadn't dumped the ash bucket, never remembered when I had boots on, so I have to go do that, and with all the snow, it's still quite light after six. Lovely and not as cold, 15 above has never felt so good. I do need to get out to B's, as this rationing nonsense is ridiculous. But I get a good fire going and heat my left-overs, spend an hour reading Harrison at the island. The wind picks up, with the next round of weather. The rookery has moved to a more protected space, but my three old friends still roost in the dead poplar out near the outhouse. It feels very solitary tonight, not depressive, I'm perfectly happy to kick back and read for eight hours, but I have a strong sense of being alone. I'll go on the record here and say it, roasted sweet potato chunks, with red sweet pepper chunks, and rounds of Chorizo is incredibly delicious. You eat it right out of the skillet and dip everything in the Chorizo fat. I talked with Linda, which is always a treat, about the threads in my writing, and she recommended that I look at just the work since I left the museum; when I became so much more solitary. I'd had the same thought. I find it reads pretty well, and there are a lot of threads, only a few of which are ever explained. When I turn on the radio, to see what day it is, it's a Miles Davis set, where he leaves out almost everything. It's beautiful. I have a picture of him, tacked to the wall, and I look at it almost every day. You don't explain, you just play. Read more...

Celebrity Crap

I don't know who any of these people are, I don't recognize them. I haven't seen a movie in twenty years and I don't own a television. I don't listen to popular music. The snow has muffled all sound. Six below when I wake, supposed to get up to five degrees today, then fifteen below tonight. I suit up and go out, to cut some poplar starter sticks, but it's too cold; my days of working outdoors at zero degrees are over. I keep a stash of mop and broom handles (these are common in dumpsters) and I just bow-saw a couple right in the entry way. Theses are usually Ash and they burn very well. I'm going to roast the last of the sweet potatoes and my last sweet red pepper when I move over to the island later, to be closer to the stove. My plan is to have someone call me at midnight, because I don't seem to own an alarm clock, so that I can get the house warm for the early morning hours. I blew it off this morning, because I was so snug in my mummy bag. There was a skim of ice in the pickle buckets of wash water by the back door. This seems extreme even for me. When it's zero, you absolutely have to get up and tend the fire. I need to buy some sort of alarm thing. As long as it doesn't tick. I hate ticking. I do need to hike out to B's tomorrow, he called and said he had my supplies, whiskey and tobacco, and that trip will exhaust me. The biggest problem is breaking trail through a foot of snow. Once I'm off the ridge I can walk in the road, which I heard them plow today. B will probably drive me back to the bottom of the hill; crampons and a mop handle, walking back up in the trail I had broken coming down. I think I'll take the Jeep over to the head of the driveway, so that as soon as I achieve the ridge, I can knock off the snow and turn on the heat, drive the last 200 yards to the house. I might sit for a while, with the engine running and a book on CD; the seats are heated, I'm a cheap date. I call TR and he agrees to call my phone and let it ring a few times, to wake me up, when I need to tend the fire. Otherwise, I need to go chop a few vegetables. And a link sausage, a chorizo. Stoke the stove one more time and curl up in my bag. Needless to say, the roasted vegetables with the sausage fat is incredibly good. I eat it right out of the pan, no mediation, and there's enough left over for a hearty breakfast. Probably because I made a point of calling TR, I'm awake before he calls and have the fire roaring. Well below zero and the only sound is branches snapping, the quality of mercy is somewhat strained. At ten below, my manual says, tuck in your toes and breathe through your nose. Read more...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Passing Fancy

Nothing could be further from the truth. I love the concept of a Cheba, a wooden cage with a cleric held over the public square. Held accountable, which, of course, is a myth. But it's easy enough to sacrifice a fat priest. Two geese go into a bar. Later, of course, no one remembers anything. The twelve step program on the ridge is you either live or die. Phone was out so I couldn't SEND, then it got very cold and I went into hibernation mode. Four inches of new snow, more in the forecast. Up to fifteen degrees today, near steady down to ten below Friday night. Blowing snow all day. A great many birds, stocking up on Sumac seeds, including two pair of Cardinals looking out of place. Even a Pileated Woodpecker joins the fray. I needed to split and stack another rick, but put it off until tomorrow, despite the fact that it's supposed to be colder, because it's likely to be at least partly sunny. All day today, when I decided to go out, it would start snowing harder, so I finally just gave it up, put on my slippers and got a toddy. My survival plan is to stay wrapped up, eat roasted vegetables, and reread Barry Lopez's great Arctic Dreams. My phone is restored and I call B at the University, and ask him to get me whiskey and tobacco and hold them at his house. Maybe I can hike down there on Friday. The radio is a flood of closings for tomorrow. Athens is closing down, and in several counties you're not supposed to drive unless your wife is having a baby. I might be able to get the Jeep down on Saturday or Sunday, if not I'll hike out and ride into town with B on Monday. Ran out of aluminum foil, so I nuke a couple of potatoes, so that I can fry slices with sausage and eggs. Just at dusk a wave of snow that obscures everything. From listening to the local news and weather, I get the idea that everyone is just writing off tomorrow. Schools, post office, State and County offices, everything closed, stay off the roads, stay home and watch a movie. Stay tuned for our list of cancellations. I've never seen the Towhees eating the Sumac until today. No one is singing. The crows check in, but I have nothing to offer, they bitch and moan. The trip to the outhouse was an adventure. I had the warm seat under my arm (which stores next to the stove) but I saw right away there was a problem. The outhouse is only three-sided and doesn't have a door, snow was drifting, and I was in the teeth of the wind. Pooping thus, I had to consider my career choices. Now it's wind, it came out of nowhere and took the stage. I sign off as quick as I can. Read more...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Below Zero

Ten degree high and below zero for the next several days, but the sun was out today and I needed wood. First I had to sweep eight inches of new snow off everything, tramp a path to the woodshed. I managed to get one hour of work done in about four hours and I was all in. I had to switch into my insulated Carhartt bib overalls, add a fleece vest and my work boots, wear a face mask and a hat, and wear insulated gloves even though I don't like them because I can't feel what I'm doing. I got another rick inside, in the #1 position, right next to the stove; and some starter sticks that I store under the stove. Tracked crap into the house, so after stacking the rick, I had to sweep; I left the insulated bibs on because they're so warm. I might sleep in them, the next few nights, sleeping on the sofa to tend the stove. A slightly flattened grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup for lunch. Roasted vegetables for dinner. I'm actually quite comfortable, in my bathrobe, with a lap blanket, a muffler and hat. The crows were back, and I had one mouse for them in the freezer, so I nuked it and tossed it up into the snow on the outhouse roof. Pretty funny routine for a few minutes, three crows, one mouse, deep snow. The hot mouse had sank right down through the dry snow. Would have made a great little instructional video on how to work together. When I came in the last time, traded boots for slippers, I made a wonderful hot chicken broth cocktail with a shot of whiskey, a small pat of butter, and a couple of drops of hot sauce. Both of my shoulders sore, but nothing serious, I'd barked a knuckle on my left hand; the air seemed thin, and I needed a lot of it. By damn though, I had tramped paths where I needed them, split out kindling; positioned myself for what might be a difficult couple of days. Add another blanket, over my back, I can always read and sleep. Read more...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Tort

We could argue. We could. I'm sure we could disagree about almost everything. It gets this cold, though, and I tend to forget the point. I nap for a few hours, get up and stoke the stove. I need to stay up for a couple of hours, so I wake Black Dell and go a few rounds. Read some essays. Rereading myself, I stumbled on a sentence that didn't say exactly what I wanted to say, so I rearranged it several different ways, changed the punctuation. I'd add a word, then take a word out. The meaning, if we can call it that, was morphing right at the ends of my fingertips. I was reading the words out loud, rolled a cigaret, fetched a wee dram. While I was at the island, I opened the stove door and looked at the banked coals. It's a lovely thing, stirring the coals, watching a fire rekindle. It engages several senses, and the combination of smells and sounds and vision, the way memory comes alive, is not something we control. I put a couple of logs on the fire. I'm still repeating this set of words (look up 'set' in the OED) out loud, dressed like a homeless person. The stove is so hot I had to make a pan of biscuits, a major distraction. A whole new realm of smells and tastes. When I make a batch of biscuits (which is usually eight) I just leave them out, split them open and toast one, whenever I think about something that would be good on a split, toasted, buttered biscuit. Almost anything is. I never had a biscuit go bad. And I'm still working on this line, trying to make sense. Hours have gone past and I'm still working on the same sentence. Anyone who could move at all would be faster than me. Tom The Slough. I'd better go, serious weather forecast. When I finally woke up the second time, it's five degrees and snowing hard. Winter storm watch until Tuesday morning. It's quite beautiful out but deadly cold. I have to put on full facial covering to go dump the pee pot and the dish water. Supposed to still be very cold tomorrow but partially sunny, and I'll have to restock all the stations of wood. Next year I'll need more of everything, I'd underestimated the demands of being home all the time. The cooking and eating aspect of things has been fine, soups and stews and large fried rice dishes that I can eat for several days, making biscuits and cornbread frequently, dried beans. The isolation is interesting and necessary for me now. I can mimic the actions of a fox digging for a vole, mumble, or even talk out loud, as I was doing last night, teasing the meaning out of a group of words, without calling attention to myself or trying to hold up one end of a relationship. I can turn off the refrigerator and listen to snow settling on leaves. I couldn't be a decent partner right now. And my lifestyle would be difficult for most people to embrace. Not having running water and having to walk in and out on a very steep hill through deep snow tends to be a turnoff. It's hard to imagine a Mrs. Basho. Thoreau, on the other hand, went home on the weekend for a family meal, and the help would do his laundry. Where you place your faith seems to be the luck of the draw, either your mother is Jewish, your father is a Protestant minister, or your best friend is a Catholic. Incredibly, it starts snowing harder. I'm going to go toast a biscuit. Read more...