Saturday, February 28, 2009

Even the air smells different

Two weeks ago we had our annual January thaw, lasted two days and the temps got up to 40 or thereabouts. At the time I thought, even the air smells different, even though there is more snow out there than anyone needs. My mother-in-law, a woman without a vestige of whimsy in her body, agreed.

And this morning, after a lovely all night rain, the air still, indeed, has a different cast to it. Not sure what causes it, but this time of year it happens, late or soon, and my spirits start to stir, to move about a bit more. The sap begins to rise in the trees, and I think in humans as well.



Winter depression is a difficult time, partly because you KNOW it's gonna happen again, and partly because all of the sage advice about getting more exercise and sitting in the sunlight really don't obtain--unless you consider, wood stoves, roof shoveling, and stair climbing less worthy of the name Exercise...perhaps if one paid for the use of a stair machine, and did strength training lifting expensive weights in a gym, that would qualify as exercise. with a capital $.



But the sun is higher and the days are definitely getting longer. In a month, or maybe a bit more...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Well, parts of us think winter's over...

We had 18 inches of new snow night before last. Plow, plow, shovel shovel shovel. We have quite literally run out of roadsides to put it on, (our driveway is in a valley, a former riverbed) and are considering renting a friend to move some of it with his bucket loader. One should always Know People with road/construction equipment, it's so much cheaper than owning/storing the stuff yourself.

Last night I got sloppy with the stove and put one final stick of wood in, barely enough to keep it running for an hour, and went to bed. The woodsman part of me no longer cares, and the parts that wear all those carefully layered clothes are in agreement. Winter, for them, is over, and the weather had better know that and catch up very quickly. Even at zero this morning outside and a brisk 50 degrees inside, I wasnt alarmed. Sun's out, got two stoves started, it'll warm up. shrug.

This happened last year, long about mid February, too. We had a long winter, starting in Mid November, and by February everyone, it seems, had had enough, already. Even at 20 degrees in a stiff wind, in the parking lots you would see people walking coatless, hatless, ungloved and unbooted. Little kids with no coats on. I did wear the coat, but refused to button it. It's as if something in us rebels after several months, and refuses to acknowledge the cold any longer. It gets almost Zen-like.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

major winter weather event

For the first time in not nearly long enough we listened to the weather on TV tonight. I only paid attention to the voice, from another room. Even at that, I could feel my anxiety level rise, my heart started to beat faster, and I thought, hey, it's just SNOW. It's just another damn storm.

Then I started listening to the voice as a voice, not what he was saying, and realized he was speaking in that urgent, "it's outta the park, it's a home run, the Dodgers win!" voice, somewhere in the upper register. It's a tone designed to communicate excitement, anxiety, even panic.

I've lived in New England for 63 years, and seen a LOT of snowstorms, most of them without the benefit of an over-the-top rip and read weatherman inciting his listeners to anxiety attacks about weather.

And so tomorrow we will greet the new snow which may or may not turn to rain, may or may not turn to sleet, and accumulations of anywhere between six and 18 inches. Probably. Unless the weather changes. This is, after all, New England, and all the meteorologists in the world can't do a thing about it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rites of Passage

My husband turns 65 this week. Medicare looms. It's a jungle out there, and I'm just glad he knows his way around this stuff.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Truck talk

Last week my husband took his truck in to be inspected. In this part of the country we have state inspections yearly, mostly to protect us from ourselves, I guess. Salt and sand on the roads in the winter lead to rust and ruination on a car, no matter how often you wash it.

My husband drives a Toyota Tacoma. Had it since '02. Last year it passed inspection, this year they refused it, because, suddenly, the entire frame was rusted through, in some spots you could put your fist into the holes. Apparently the damage starts on the inside, where the vent holes get plugged with sand/salt and whatever, and it just eats its way through what appears to be fairly inferior steel (as is most steel these days) in a matter of a few years.

Turns out Toyota has known about this potential problem since the late 1990s, and only now is sending out warning notices to people about this particular group of vehicles. We're still waiting for ours. They are also offering a free frame replacement and garages are gearing up for the trucks they anticipate will be coming in.

Im finding that the more I think about this, the more irresponsible I find it to be. And it's been a very quiet announcement, no fanfare, no government recalls on a truly dangerous problem. There have been recalls for trucks that exhibited the possibility of a particular part perhaps failing in the future--but nothing for something as widespread and scary as this is. Perhaps Toyota is looking to keep its "Tough ManTruck" image tarnish free, and a public announcement sorta crimps that one.

It's one thing to acknowledge responsibility for something that looks to be a serious problem down the road (no pun intended), it's another to admit culpability after the fact and offer to replace what needs replacing. In some cases, i suspect, too little and way too late.

Writer's block and other horrors

Most of the time 'writer's block' is used to describe three days of not-writing, a week of the inability to compose or edit a piece of work. Someone will wail, "I haven't written a WORD in four weeks" even though that morning they actually finished two poems.

Somebody will suggest emergency measures, such as journaling (more about that in a minute), or reading other people's work, or free writing. something. Anything. go for a walk, someone says. Take the day off, is another good one. None of this works, because if you leave it alone and don't pick at it, it will come back in a week or two, or six. If you get scared and sweaty and start free writing and 'exposing yourself to good influences", it will come back in a week or two, or six, and the free writing gets the credit.

Often the person who is experiencing this earth shattering event has just finished a series of poems, or a spate of work, or has spent the last few weeks revising and submitting work all over God's earth. No wonder they're not writing. At some point the body and the brain have to stop producing, have to stop running so hard, and take some time off. The writer's brain can only do so much for so long, and then it stops. Enough, already. I'm leaving for awhile.


Most writers have cycles of writing; one writer will write like mad for a year and then stop for a year, to recover. Another will write on a steady ongoing basis, for two years, and then nothing for six months. Regular as clockwork. The secret to all of this is to find your rhythm, and work inside it. Mine is what I call a Cicadian rhythm--17 year cycles, like the cicada--five years of intense writing followed by 12 years of blank paper. it has happened this way three times, now, and the next time any heavy work happens will be in about ten years, give or take.
No, I don't like it. So I read, and make quilts, rediscover the dust floating merrily under the bed, spend quality time with a camera and a garden. It will come back, by itself, like the cat who just wanted to stay out all night, and will come in when he's damn good and ready.

Journaling: for some people, this works fine. Every day you write bits in your journal--remembered conversations, ideas, first lines. This is perfect for prose writers, who have a fund of ideas and never enough time to implement them. But the danger is, you spend all that time writing down the synopsis of a short story, or a poem, and once you've done that, you've written the piece down, and some part of your brain wants to go on to something new. For me, as soon as the idea hits the paper, I need to extend it, work on it, finish it, AS a real draft, not just a page in a journal. the most terrifying words I can hear from another writer are, 'let me tell you about this great poem I want to write..." and I flee, simply flee. no no, I say, don't tell me. Write it down, but dont tell anyone. It has been said that Hemingway wrote some of his best short stories on a bar stool-- instead of channeling that language onto the page, he used it up by telling people. Poof, gone. The impetus to write is over.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I didnt need to know this

now and then a new startling reality creeps in, now and then it whacks me right on the nose. I was just mentally drifting the other day, and said to myself, well, I do have hopes for reaching 80, at least...and suddenly I realized that 80 for me is only 17 years from now.
In dog years, not long at all.

In older lady years, barely a blink.

and every year spins around faster than the previous one. Lookit this, it's nearly the middle of February already.

Friday, February 6, 2009


sometimes words are almost useless. I hasten however to explain that we are in the dead of winter, and this is my stubborn cranky old cat who insists that winter is OVER and where is my GRASS. and she is just sitting, not peeing, in this pot. In case anyone was wondering.



Wednesday, February 4, 2009



Looks positively festive, doesnt it.

Weather or not, it's what we got

and now we're at the other end of the cycle, having rounded the corner into February, moving slowly and steadily toward March. My dad always said, once the end of February came, he could handle anything, weather-wise. I sorta feel the same way. March is just the last gasp.

I was thinking the other day, how much our point of view has changed over the last 25 years or so, as to Need vs. Want. We are now almost a cashless society

We are also turning into a culture of instant everything, from coffee to credit to food. In some regards it's an improvement, since microwaves cook food faster for far less energy, and you dont pour the vitamins down the sink when you cook carrots *g*.

But in some ways we seem to have lost the willingness to wait for the next paycheck, or to save toward what we want. When my mother's old fridge died, when I was a kid, she had been saving for over two years, a dollar here, a dollar there, toward a new one. She had it all picked out, and was just waiting for the old fridge to die.

That new one lasted her fifty years, and i bought the last one for her.

My first 'new' refrigerator died four years ago, after a long and glorious career, and like my mother I had a new one picked out, long before it sighed its last. it was just a matter of time, and I was willing to wait.

I play an online game, and in it what you buy to progress costs silver or gold. Often you will see kids coming into the chat room yelling about how they "NEED" 10 gold, or 100 gold, they NEED a horse, or armor, or something. Mostly what they get is advice on how to earn it themselves, instead of panhandling, but I see so many of them doing this, you have to wonder at the reality of the ethic behind it. Most of these kids are under 15 or 14, and have no concept of waiting for what they want, or working for it in some way. Gimme gimme. And it's not their fault, it's what they've learned.