Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Grand Adventures! And snow...

Well, actually, before I will "let it snow", I think I must acknowledge my dog's latest adventure.... And although I'll leave this one pretty much un-commented upon -- trust me, I will fill in later exactly why this is so important...

So, without further ado, Rilke's Grand Adventure:

On Tuesday, I was just starting out on Rilke's morning walk when suddenly he disappeared. Completely. Now this is not unusual for my dog. So originally, I was not concerned. After all, he knows he has it pretty damn good with me, so he's not so stupid as to not eventually come home. So really -- if he wants to be an independent little (shit) guy, than I'm cool with that.

Plus, I could hear a chain saw buzzing along the road in front of me, and a dog occasionally barking, so I was pretty confident where he had disappeared to -- after all, he was quite convinced that every new person and especially every new dog was his new BFF.

And if you do not know that term, I am not explaining it.

So I approached the two guys cutting up wood for the winter and their adorable German shepherd -- and realize a small white fluffy thing is nowhere to be found. Uh oh. This is actually cause for a concern... Rilke is not one to have not spied humans and dogs first (if you can follow that double negative!), in fact, he was so good at spotting "fresh meat" that he had learned to stop whenever I called him to "come" and immediately check around him in case I was trying to corral him prior to meeting any other trail travelers.

This meant I needed to start back-tracking and attempt to find him.... Considering it's been a good 10 minutes since I've seen him (and been whistling for him), there is a world of trouble he could have gotten into -- and indeed he did. He finally came running, and he was licking his chops, had stuff all over his scruff, and smelled... well, funny. Oddly enough, the first thing that came to mind was cattle grazing....

Which clearly makes no sense. Clearly.

Long story short (intermission is playing with the German Shepherd of course), we start the return home and he takes off again -- up a steep bank... And I know immediately what is happening, and why I now need to scramble up this steep bank and follow him.... Clearly he had indeed found "fresh meat" -- of the literal kind...

This is what I found:

And yeah, I don't want to talk about it, except for sharing my horror with all of you... And letting you know that of course this was right at the top of my drive, just on the other side of a low rise (foreboding, foreshadowing scary music starts to play), and that yes, I did dispose of all of this -- don't ask, except that yes, a very large animal could get at it if they wanted, but my dog cannot (foreboding, foreshadowing scary music starts to play) -- and yes, my dog and myself did get a bath.

The good thing was that the winter storm predicted had not yet started -- which meant that the aforementioned bath could actually take place "properly" (ie, outside on the deck, not inside in a shower). But come the storm did....

And I would like to blame "Rilke's Grand Adventure" on my grand adventure later that night....

My Grand Adventure:

You would think that because I planned in advance that after I attended book club that night I would park my vehicle at the top of my drive due to the seriousness of the coming storm, that I would have actually thought it through.

Not just a hat rack. Really.

And yet somehow, I thought through the idea of putting in the heavy things I need to take to the city this weekend, putting snow boots in the car for walking down the drive, and wearing a warmer jacket and heavy gloves. But I did not think through that it would be dark when I got home.

Not just a hat rack. Really.

And not just dark, but pitch black, complete nothingness dark. You know, that whole cloud cover thing that happens when it snows out? That just happens to umm.... obscure the moon and the stars, and those twinkly lights that happen thanks to Mother Nature?

Um yeah. Not just a hat rack. I swear.

So I arrive home around 8:30 at night to a light snow falling. I carefully park my car at the top of the drive, facing out just in case.

And perhaps I ought to digress a moment here and explain exactly why I was bothering to take all of these precautions. See, Ms. Not Just A Hat Rack does not yet have a vehicle with 4WD. I also happen to have a driveway that is approximately 600 feet long and drops 500 feet in altitude in that distance. You do the math, and that means my drive is approximately a 10 percent grade. Yeah, good times...

(Though it does make a killer sledding hill... Literally. Just ask my niece and her friends.)

So. I maneuver the car into place where it is facing out, not blocking the drive or the road, and start gathering my things to walk down to the house. And it is at this moment that I finally realize that I ... do... not... have ... a ... flashlight....

Oh. My. God. Crap, crap, crap. And another crap for good measure. And as a prayer to my mother, Holy Shit.

I step out of the car, shut the door, lock it, and the lights from the car go dark. I turn towards the drive, and see.... Nothing. Somewhere, far off, what looks like 10 miles away, I can see a dim light that must be my front porch light.

Oh. My. God. Crap, crap, crap. And another crap for good measure. And as a prayer to my mother, Holy Shit.

Because all of that had to be said twice in the hopes it had more power that way.

I pull out my "somewhat smart" phone, and push a button to get the screen to light up, and hold that in front of me. I can barely see my feet, let alone anything beyond them. And of course the phone immediately goes to sleep to save power.

Without cell phone reception in the area, cell phones constantly search service -- which means they go into "auto save" mode in order to have the battery not run down immediately from the constant searching. So mine did.

I hit the button again, and start to slowly walk towards that dim light in the distance, jabbing the button repeatedly...

I get about 20 feet down the drive, stumbling a bit during this period as this is the very steep hill at the top of my drive (which is actually the only part of the drive my car cannot handle in the snow -- the rest is twisting and sloping enough to manage), and swear I hear something behind me.

I stop, but refuse to turn around. And am positive I hear a low growl perhaps 10 feet behind me. POSITIVE.

So I, of course, continue to refuse to turn around, and do the only thing I can think of doing: start walking again. I do not run because, well:
1) I can barely see where I am going in the first place, and felt tripping and falling flat on my face was much worse than slowly making forward progress;
2) Just about all wildlife advice says never run. Let me repeat that: Never Run. As you are then a target to be pursued. Let me repeat that: A Target.

I then do the only other thing I can think of: I say outloud, "Whoo boy! It's good to be almost home."

And my neck hairs start tingling, and suddenly "identifying myself as human" seems like a very very very bad idea. I have no idea why. But as my grandfather used to love to say: "Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die."

And um, yeah. I'm thinking die is actually an option here, so... yeah. I didn't reason with this sudden thought that I should not actually identify myself as human, and therefore I needed to stop talking now.

I keep walking, breathing shallowly, and do the only other thing I can think of to do: start whistling. Do not ask me why I think whistling is somehow "less human", please just refer to Grandfather's Motto above. No reasoning, just doing or dying. Period.

And not just any song of course, but the absolutely only song appropriate at this moment and time -- the song from the Monty Python movie "Life of Brian" at the very end: "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life".

(And if you do not know this song, please do follow the link and watch the video... It may save your life some day. Seriously!)

So I whistle, and I walk. Slowly, deliberately, one step in front of the other.  Still refusing to look behind me, still focusing on the barely there light from my phone, and the very dim and distant but slowly getting closer and brighter front porch light in front me. The hairs on the back of my neck go down.

I finally reach the cabin, and realize I have also not done one other thing that I usually always do before I even get out of the car when it's at night: get my house keys out and have them in my hand.

Oh. My. God. Crap, crap, crap. And another crap for good measure. And as a prayer to my mother, Holy Shit.

Because third times a charm, right?

And now it's almost getting funny, because it's like I'm in the middle of a Hollywood horror movie. I fumble for the keys in my purse, pull them out, and immediately drop them. I am still resolutely refusing to look to my right and back up my drive. I pick them up, trying to pull out the door key, and immediately drop them again. Finally, I manage to get the key in my hands, put it in the lock, and open the door. Rilke immediately jumps all over me.

Which means that instead of immediately fleeing inside, locking the door behind me, and peering out of a window, I have to drop my stuff, turn around and let Rilke out for a potty break. He immediately bounds up the driveway, barking.

I scream "TREAT!" For once, it works.

Which is actually less reassuring than you think. (Think about it.)

We retreat inside for about an hour before I'm willing to go outside for his potty break, and by that time, all seems quiet. Except that now it has gone from maybe an inch of snow on the ground and lightly falling, to at least two inches and falling heavily.

I go to bed, and wake up to snow... snow, glorious snow.

And then I discovered the facet of snow I had not previously considered: that new tracks show up much easier in snow... And I saw tracks leading down my driveway toward the cabin....

These were not "brand new" tracks (ie, fresh since the snow stopped falling that morning), but instead were clearly tracks that had been made since the snow started, but much earlier, as they had been filled in half way with fresh snow. IE, made perhaps when several inches of snow were on the ground, and a bit more snow had fallen since...

I follow the path of the tracks, and they go past the cabin, around to the other side, and start towards the confluence. I go back inside, pull on boots and my jacket, and decide Rilke and I are immediately going for his morning walk.

The tracks at first almost look a human footprint, they are so large -- and too vague to note any "identifying marks" thanks to having been filled in by fresh snow. After studying them more carefully as I walk along the path, I realize that it is actually two tracks in one. That is, the animal clearly was stepping such that its back paws were landing in or very near to where its front paw had originally landed.

Ummmm..... My wildlife book says that's what cougars (aka mountain lions, because they're crafty enough to deserve two names... in fact, actually three, as they are also known as pumas) do. I quote:
Mountain lions frequently use an overstep walk as their primary gait. ... Step lengths in this gait vary from 15 to 30 inches. Cougars may also direct register (where hind feet step inside of where the front feet had landed), when moving through deeper snow. A variety of faster gaits are used when chasing prey or escaping danger.
Ummm. Especially when moving through snow...?

Of course, it turns out coyotes also use the overstep walk:
Coyotes utilize a variety of gaits, including walking, trotting, loping, and galloping gaits. One of their favored gaits is an overstep trot, where front and hind feet on the same side of the body land close together, with the hind landing slightly ahead of the front. These trotting gaits leave a line of tracks that is very straight and narrow.
And, of course!, so does the American black bear:
The American black bear travels over the landscape mainly by walking, but it can also trot, lope and gallop. These bears often travel in an overstep walk, in which the rear track lands ahead of the front track.
 Um. Great. In fact, for good measure:

Oh. My. God. Crap, crap, crap. And another crap for good measure. And as a prayer to my mother, Holy Shit.

And that is why I chose to spend most of the day inside, in bed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Essay: Celebrating Discovery — About Ourselves

One of my more "professional" bits of writing...
Posted on National Review Online, in their section "The Corner"

Posted on October 22, 2011 9:16 PM
October is a month of discovery — after all, it is the month we actually commemorate discovery with a federal holiday. Christopher Columbus might be debated in the halls of political correctness, but we can still use him as an excuse to celebrate the concept of discovery and the essential desire to explore and learn.
This desire is key not just to living a good life, no matter where or who you are, but is especially so to the American way of life. Our nation was founded by people willing to risk everything for a new life in a faraway land: a life that held no guarantees, but only possibilities and potential. It is this spirit of adventure and discovery that gives our nation its unique character, and has provided such inspiration to millions.
It is this spirit that we seem to have lost recently, and that we must reclaim for not just our own individual benefit, but for the benefit of the entire country.
Certainly, the past few weeks have provided plenty to remind us of why this spirit is so important, why focusing constantly on learning is so important, why all of this makes such a huge difference. In that time period, we have lost two creative and innovative men who changed their respective industries forever. Steve Jobs and Max Dercum were two men who spent their lives constantly exploring, learning, and teaching others about their discoveries.
For whether or not you own an Apple product, it is clear the influence Steve Jobs had on how we live our lives. He, as so many have pointed out, was able to envision new, different, better ways of doing things — products that we did not even realize we needed, and now many cannot live without. Love him or hate him, Jobs did change the world.
Consider Nick Schulz’s lovely essay on him from August. Schulz discusses how much of Jobs’s success can be directly tied to his failures — from the fact that he did completely and utterly fail. He was not “too big to fail” (perhaps one of the biggest complaints and frustrations of the “Occupy” protesters — this sense that others were too big to fail, but they were not). In fact, it was because of his failures that he was able to achieve success. For he ensured that the failures were learning opportunities — chances to discover more about himself, about popular tastes, about what works and what does not.
If there is one thing that everyone seems to agree upon regarding Jobs, it is that he was always curious — that he was obsessed with learning and discovery, with figuring out what the average person needed before the people themselves knew.
Max Dercum, on the other hand, is a game changer of whom most of you have probably never heard. Yet he was also someone obsessed with learning and discovery, and thereby changed our nation — or, at least, one of our great outdoor pursuits.
To many, Dercum is the father of downhill skiing in America. Previously, downhill skiing was virtually unheard of and rarely practiced, making Dercum’s efforts key to spreading this brand-new sport throughout the country. Along with his wife, Edna, to whom he was married for more than 70 years before her death in 2008, he tirelessly championed this sport, the two of them dedicating their entire lives to it. In fact, Dercum co-founded two ski resorts in the mountains of Colorado, both of which remain popular skiing destinations, as well as founding the Professional Ski Instructors of America.
He was constantly enthusiastic, full of life, and gregarious. He remained active and curious, skiing into his 80s and always involved in new projects and activities. He was the instigator and spirit behind his family’s new Dercum Center for the Arts and Humanities (, a “haven for life-long learning.” After all, he certainly never stopped wanting to learn and discover — even mastering the iPad (thank you, Steve Jobs!) in the last months of his life.
I never met Max Dercum myself, but I have met his children and several of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It is clear that his legacy is not just his vision in regard to skiing, but also his vision of life: of love of life, of constantly learning, and of all-embracing friendship — a vision that he passed on to his family.
We do not have to be technological savants to appreciate Jobs or to benefit from his accomplishments, nor downhill skiers to appreciate and benefit from Max Dercum. The qualities that both men illustrated are ones that are crucial to our American character. Their joy, their vision — their dedication to discovery, innovation, constant learning and experimenting — are the characteristics that have made our country so great, and that will allow our country to rise out of this recession and reclaim that greatness yet again.
As October reminds us to commemorate discovery, let us do so for ourselves. It is said we do not have to change the world, we only have to start at home — and in so doing, we may change the world too. So let us start at home: Let us embrace the spirit of discovery, of learning, of enthusiasm, of trying new things, of working hard, of embracing life. Let us remember the great men and women who embraced a passion and changed their lives, and then the world. Let us remember that we live in the country of possibilities, a country where we all have potential.

— Jana Novak, who spent more than a decade working in politics, is a freelance writer with two books — and several renovations, repairs, and natural calamities — under her belt.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Because I'm Not a Sicilian...

Murphy's Cabin is just a bountiful source of excitement, new catch phrases, and um.... education. Yeah. Right. Because there must be lessons in there somewhere, especially after the last weekend.

So...The Lessons Learned (in all caps, because these are important people!) from this past weekend, in no particular order:

Amazing people sometimes do get the recognition they deserve, and its all important corollary: Sometimes people who get recognition are actually amazing. See: Max Dercum.

Our mothers were right about the whole wearing clean underwear because you never know when you might get hit by a car thing. I, of course, never got it, figuring your underwear would not exactly be clean after you got hit by a car, now would it, so who would know if it were clean or not before? But that was until I saw how handsome the local fire rescue guys were.

It is always smart to put the bottle of bourbon away as soon as you finish your last drink. Because you never know when you might have a carbon monoxide alarm go off.

On a related note: "I would rather have a bottle in front of me than an frontal lobotomy." God love Dorothy Parker. She is genius. Pure genius.

That I do take "real" emergencies seriously, and thus missed out on getting a photo of said firemen (purely for professional purposes of course -- for you, my audience, not for me). Unlike when I had the coyote stalking me.... But that wasn't an emergency, that was just wildlife. And that is something entirely different.

Both dogs and people may pee when they're scared. Fortunately, I was not scared. I do, though, it appears, "well up". And yes, that is a scientific term, and no, I do not mean in regards to my bladder, but my eyes.

There is such a thing as a "vomit watch", and I have now been on one.... one more thing crossed off my bucket list!

Keeping your windows cracked at night so that you can sleep in cold air with the sounds of the river in the background is an entirely different thing than having them completely open, just in case....

Finally, I know just enough to be dangerous, and when death is on the line, that is actually dangerous. That said, even though I am not a Sicilian, I actually was right. It was the detector that was faulty. So there.

Sunday is the day of rest....

Nothing like discovering that the carbon monoxide detector in your walk out basement (where all the mechanicals are) is going off at 10 pm on a Sunday night.

Now mind you, the alarm had actually been going off since approximately 6 pm, but it took me four hours -- four hours! -- to find the source of the alarm. You would think when a place is only 1,000 square feet of finished space and perhaps 600 square feet of unfinished space, it would not exactly take a marathon to find an alarm.

You would think. Really, not just a hat rack. Really.

But the problem was that the alarm was not steady and was not loud. Of course, you would think that would be my first clue -- "hey, it's not a loud alarm numbskull, maybe it's down in the basement instead of inside the house".

Not just a hat rack. Really. I swear.

But instead, I did not think to look in the basement until I was taking Rilke out for his last potty break of the day. And then TADA, bright light flashes, light bulb clicks on above my head, it occurred to me. Duh. There are fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in the basement, maybe one of those is the cause of the alarm.

And wow. What a surprise. Complete shocker. The alarm was emanating from there.

So my first thought, after I found the culprit, was that the alarm was not steady, therefore it could not be "serious". After all, aren't alarms rather like dating? If you are "going steady", you are serious. If an alarm is "going steady", it is serious.

Personally, I think it's brilliant logic.

So I figured the detector and/or the electric outlet must be faulty. So I simply moved the detector to another outlet, the alarm stopped. Tada. We're done.

I then go upstairs, confident all is well, post on Facebook (because life doesn't happen unless you've posted about it), and .... decide that maybe, just maybe, I ought to double-check my work before I pat myself on the back too many times.

So I google carbon monoxide, carbon monoxide poisoning, and carbon monoxide detectors. And for my PSA of the day, I will note the following important points here:
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs after enough inhalation of carbon monoxide (CO). Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas, but, being colorless, odorless, tasteless, and initially non-irritating, it is very difficult for people to detect.
The acute effects produced by carbon monoxide in relation to ambient concentration in parts per million are listed below:[14][15]
Concentration Symptoms
35 ppm (0.0035%) Headache and dizziness within six to eight hours of constant exposure
100 ppm (0.01%) Slight headache in two to three hours
200 ppm (0.02%) Slight headache within two to three hours; loss of judgment
400 ppm (0.04%) Frontal headache within one to two hours
800 ppm (0.08%) Dizziness, nausea, and convulsions within 45 min; insensible within 2 hours
1,600 ppm (0.16%) Headache, tachycardia, dizziness, and nausea within 20 min; death in less than 2 hours
3,200 ppm (0.32%) Headache, dizziness and nausea in five to ten minutes. Death within 30 minutes.
6,400 ppm (0.64%) Headache and dizziness in one to two minutes. Convulsions, respiratory arrest, and death in less than 20 minutes.
12,800 ppm (1.28%) Unconsciousness after 2-3 breaths. Death in less than three minutes.
 And interestingly, I learn the most important fact relevant to me -- as it is all about moi, you know -- from the First Alert store. I download the manual for the specific detector installed in the basement and learn that propane gas, which I have, is heavier than air, so carbon monoxide detectors should be installed low to the ground in houses with propane. (Natural gas, on the other hand, is lighter than air, so carbon monoxide detectors should be installed near the ceiling.) It also notes that the detectors should preferably be installed at least 20 feet from any potential source, like a furnace.

At this moment, it occurs to me that the new outlet I had moved the detector to was:
a) near the ceiling (the old one was closer to the ground);
b) right across from the furnace.

So I scurry back down stairs. And yes, I did scurry, and no, you do not want to see what that looks like.

I plug an extension cord into the new outlet, drag the extension cord and detector across the basement, and set the detector down on a low trunk. Within seconds it starts going off again.

Damn. Crap. Shit.

I tromp back upstairs. And yes, I did tromp, and yes, that means I made a lot of noise, including huffing and puffing. Literally.

I go to the phone, tears in my eyes (see earlier post "In Defense of Crying"), and dial 911. I'm very apologetic and bashful, she's very sweet and reassuring that they do this all the time, I absolutely should have called, etc.

So I would like to do a shout out to Jennifer at at the local County Rescue for not making me feel stupid. Because it really is not just a hat rack.

I then open the door, pull on my winter jacket, gloves, hat, and start pacing between outside (where it is a balmy 26 degrees) and inside (where I could be slowly dying -- but who's keeping track?).

Well, until Jennifer called back again, this time her turn to be bashful, to say "Um yeah. When you offered to give directions? Turns out we do actually need them." But hey, who's keeping track?

So I returned to pacing.... Oh, and part of the pacing was not just to keep warm (though that was a big part of it), part was also because -- of course -- all of my outdoor lights are on sensors. So to keep the front porch light on for the firetruck, I had to continually pace...

Because it's Murphy's Cabin. That's why.

The fireman actually parked their truck at the top of the drive and walked down. Because they definitely do not have just hat racks. So all the sudden, you see these little dots of light in the distance.... And all of the sudden Rilke goes nuts.

I have never ever heard him bark so loud, so deep, so.... frankly scary. Damn it was impressive. I was so proud of my little guy.... until he peed in fright as they got closer...

Well, he tried. And that's all that matters right? Actually, what really matters is that even the firemen said they actually thought I had some huge vicious dog down here.... until they saw him, and started giggling.

And if you've ever wondered if firemen giggle, I can now attest they do. And on that note, if you've ever had a fireman dream? I recommend you come here, because... damn. And um yeah.... I hadn't actually managed to shower in two days....

Because it's Murphy's Cabin. That's why.

I had managed to put the bourbon bottle away though. So that's something!

Long story short, they ran their little meters all over my house, ran their other meter on me (oh get your minds out of the gutters! It's a little thing they clasp over your finger, and that's it!), and.... All was clear.

Of course, as they left, they did firmly instruct me to watch myself for symptoms, especially vomiting. So I am now on vomit watch.

Because it's Murphy's Cabin. That's why.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Defense of Crying....

I will be the first to admit that when I was younger, I completely looked down upon crying. I was judgmental with a capital "J" (yup, just like my name), because really? What kind of pussy-ass wimp cries in public?

I was willing to grant a few exceptions -- a few. Such as:
1) Injury bad enough that there was lots of blood or bone broken;
2) Death of someone close to you

And really, I wasn't even so sure about those exceptions to be honest. I mean, I have broken bones numerous times at this point in my life, and I have never once had a cast -- because you play through the pain, you just grit your teeth and keep going, you just do, you don't feel... and I have lost people, to illness, to suicide, to car accidents, to murder.... Stiff upper lip and all that.

Honestly, even my brother will back me up on being pretty much a tough little cookie. After all, he regularly used me for ummm "soccer practice"...

Well, okay -- I will admit I did cry sometimes to get him into trouble or force him to give something up to me, but that was acting and that is an entirely different thing.

Apples and oranges, people, apples and oranges.

In truth, I thought crying was pretty darn pathetic. And it drove me a bit crazy when people got all weepy around me -- like that was the way to gain my sympathy? Ha. More like lose my respect....

And then, well then my mom died, and then I bought this cabin, and then... well, then shit happened.... And I now understand crying has its purpose, and has its time and place....

Done properly, crying is not about getting attention, whining, feeling sorry for yourself, or trying to gain sympathy, friends or allies. Done properly, crying is about releasing negative energy.

I have discovered that a good cry can be like a good rain, washing away the muck and debris, leaving things clean, fresh and new. It allows you to "vent" -- to release the bad, the negative, the frustration, the anger, the irritation.

It allows you to take a deep breath, square your shoulders, and face the problem head on with a clear mind, clear heart, clear emotions, and clear thought process.

For a certain truism is that trying to solve something or even just do something while angry means that your anger clouds your vision and your mind, preventing you from doing anything -- or at least anything right. So if you can dissolve that anger in tears, clearing your vision and mind -- why wouldn't you?

So to my friends lately who have had tough times, to my friends that have felt on occasion weepy and even sorry for themselves, go ahead. Wallow a bit. Release, release, release and cleanse....

And then take a deep breath -- grab that handy bottle o' bourbon or whatever your poison is (the lesson from earlier posts) -- and look anew at the problem.

It will make a world of difference.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Heating Disaster Evidence

Not much to see here folks, move along....

sigh ~

So, in case you were dying of curiousity -- which I know you were -- I have finally uploaded the photographic evidence of the heating "disaster".

As really, even I know that the word disaster is a bit too strong.... I mean, it's not like when the septic tank failed. Now that is a disaster in terms of mountain living.

Seriously? How would you feel seeing this come down your drive? 

 Or saw this baby being lifted over your back yard? See that puny child of a man? Yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about....

Okay, let's face it. You would have been like me: giddy as a school boy. Oh. My. God. It was cool. I mean, that tank is solid precast concrete. Do you know how much it weighed? How big it was? If I still had a camera that uses film, I would have gone through a box of film rolls.

So maybe "disaster" is all how you look at it. As yeah -- it is not exactly fun to have your septic tank fail, but it is most definitely fun to watch a new one being installed.

Which just means the heating "disaster" is all about how I look at it.... For example, I'm sure gylcol is really good for one's hair. I'm sure it provides excellent conditioning qualities. Sure, yeah, that's it. And I learned something new, and it is always important to learn something new every day. Sure, yeah, that's it. So really, it was all just a walk in the park....

And because it was such a pleasant walk in the park, and such a wonderful learning opportunity, I thought I would share more of it with you....

The leak exposed! Due to the "brackets" that hold the tubes in place, it originally seemed as if it were two leaks, but in fact, it was just one -- one leak dripping out of two seams, because it was an ambitious leak. This picture was actually of the spray -- not that my camera managed to capture the actual action -- because it was not actually a leak per se (which in my mind conjures imagines of a steady stream of liquid), oh no. It was a spray. In fact, spray is not descriptive enough. How about "projectile spitting"? 
 The culprits -- carpet tack strips that had been nailed into the subfloor with nails longer than the subfloor was deep. Because one doesn't bother to think that dimension through when one has in floor radiant heating. Of course not. (And for those starting to make snarky comments, no I did not install the carpet.)
 A close up of the culprit -- tack strip in place surrounding the pillar holding up my little balcony on the second floor.
 Actually, make this one the close up of the culprits -- those really dark stained nails? Yup. Damn bastards. For good measure, in honor of my mother: Little shits.
The pillar, the couch, the culprits -- the "let me give you perspective" shot.
  Yes, I did move the furniture by myself. Because I am She-Ra.
 The fix in process. Pretty darn serious implement for projectile spitting, dontcha think?
 Tada! The fix! And you may also note what the bracket should look like (top of picture), and how much work went into this repair by the mangled metal, and oh yeah -- the ahem, "trimmed" beam. Because it is always safe to saw into one of your support beams....
 The other side of the now "trimmed" support beam, showing how the tube with its new repair valve now must "loop" instead of sit straight in the bracket. The weird tank at the base is part of my water system -- it helps remove some of the carbonation from my water as, seriously!, my water comes out of the tap carbonated. Because yes, I am so fancy and ritzy that I shower in Perrier....
 This would be another one of those "perspective" shots. And oooh, look! You can see my water filter supply on the shelves in the back.... Because I believe in the Boy Scouts motto. Or something like that... I think it's more like the "7 Ps": Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
 Oh, and all that electrical? Part of the water system -- well pump, cistern pump, timer for the "recirculating" pump... Don't ask.

And there you have it.... A walk in the park.

Or something like that.....

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Murphy's Law...

I know I have explained why I have (lovingly, I swear!) named my mountain cabin "Murphy's Cabin" -- but perhaps it is time to give a refresher on the name. After all, the cabin itself just did for me!

Murphy's Law (see here) is a famous saying that has existed in one form or another since the late 1800s. Its most famous version, which can be pinpointed to 1952, is: "Anything that can go wrong, will." 

Obviously it is not exactly a good situation to be in, if one hears someone say that adage. Or at least one would think not.

Yet I do swear (up, down, sidewise) that I do call my cabin this in a very loving way. Somehow, my experiences here have been for the best. Despite the fact that everything that could possible go wrong at the cabin, has, and continues to do so.

But that is the thing: not being too big to fail -- as after all, I have failed repeatedly in the past year --  has taught me quite a bit about myself. So the failures of the cabin, the failures of myself, have been a great opportunity. It has been an opportunity to learn more about what I am capable of, about what I can learn (and what I cannot), about how one truly lives life, and does not just float through it. For there is no possible way to float through life when one lives in a remote mountain cabin.

Unfortunately. Because I gotta admit, the idea of living on easy street, and having some one feed me bonbons and ice cream while waving a pond frond (or whatever the hell they were) for a breeze sounds pretty damn good.  Ah... Good times.

But I digress. As usual.

What I am actually talking about is not the good times, not easy street, but instead how to respond to the difficult times. This is not some profound piece about the bad economic times our nation and the world are facing right now, nor even some smaller profound piece about dealing with one's personal crisis during this recession. No, this is simply about Murphy's Law.

From day one, the cabin has been a text book case of Murphy's Law. Frankly, I think if you picked up a dictionary, you would see a picture of the cabin next to this entry. As has been detailed previously, even an abbreviated list is long:
septic tank, well system, snow,  filtering system, furnace, storage tents, roof, snow, deck, hot tub, bathroom toilet vent, snow, trees, wildfire, and did I mention the snow?
Basically, I had thought that by the time summer ended this year, and my first year of ownership had drawn to a close, that I had replaced virtually everything at the cabin that could possibly be replaced.

But that is the thing about Murphy's Law -- it does not magically end or not apply. As it very clearly points out, there is lots and lots and lots (and lots!) that can go wrong.

So um.... you would think I would have figured that out by now. I am the one who nicknamed the cabin "Murphy" after all. And I swear I am not all hat and no cattle. I swear.

Really. It is not just a hat rack. Really.

And yet.

And yet this fall I was starting to get comfortable. Starting to think I had a handle on the cabin -- and especially on the expenses going forward.

And there was the problem. Never ever assume anything. As they say, when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me. One should never do that. Just as one should never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.  

Or something like that.

So here I was, getting a bit smug about how set I was, how ready I was for winter. And then I go downstairs to the unfinished basement to do my bi-monthly filter work (either changing or washing the filters in the complicated filtering system), and I found liquid dropping on my head. 

My first thought is, what the hell is leaking in the living room? I don't have plumbing there -- what the hell did the dogs spill.

(Umm, yeah, that thing about not just being a hat rack? Ummmmm.)

Oh, and did I mention I have no tools? That's an entirely different long story right now, but suffice it to say the only -- and I mean only tools I have right now are in cute little pink tool set I got for free when I did a magazine subscription around 10 years ago now.

Yes, I did say pink. 

So I look at these two drips falling from the floor beam above my head and think, crap. And then say it a few more times for good measure -- because if something is going wrong, one cannot say crap enough times.

In fact, let me amend that by telling you a little story. I grew up with a mother whose absolute favorite word was "Shit". Truly. 

To the extent that in our guest half bath on the main floor -- the one that Senators, Congressmen, Supreme Court Judges and Ambassadors used when attending dinner parties at my house used -- had a lovely poster of a huge locomotive having gone off a destroyed bridge and hanging into the abyss, with a one word description: "SHIT!"

To the extent that when I attended a very small dinner party at the White House as my mother's guest (my father was out of town) she used it in conversation there. Oh, it gets better. This is when George W. Bush was president, and shortly after he had gotten in trouble by having a microphone catching him saying "shit". This is when my mother was already seriously ill with cancer, so looked radiant, but thin and with a bright scarf covering her bald head. We were being introduced to the President and his wife, with the outgoing Catholic Archbishop of the Diocese of Washington and the incoming Archbishop next to them, and my mother grasped the President's hand and said: "You know, I thought it was an excellent choice of words. Sometimes the situation does not call for anything else." The President looked startled and laughed, and said, "Well my mother certainly did not approve." And my mother replied, "Well, this mother certainly did!"

So yes, I have been brought up in a firm tradition of expressing one's self. Loudly if possible, but appropriately. As there are "rules" for swearing -- but that is another blog post.

Back to the leaks: I couldn't manage to tear down the plywood nailed up to the beams, but was able to shove the insulation around enough to discover that my heating system had a leak or two. The cabin has radiant in-floor heating -- this means lots of tubes snaking around the floors carrying a heated liquid that is a mixture of water and gylcol. And one of those tubes was clearly punctured, and dripping this water-gylcol mixture all over my head.


This is when you have several choices:
a) Cry
b) Pour a drink
c) Call for help
d) Proceed with what you were doing
e) All of the above

The correct answer is (e) of course. But not necessarily in that order.  In fact, for me it was: a, c, d, c, a, b.  If you can follow that!

My regular plumber was unfortunately MIA. My general contractor from my other renovation was not. Thankfully, once again he proved to be the White Knight -- not only recommending an excellent plumber, but also calling the plumber himself to let him know the issue and to expect my call.

So perhaps I should point out that "A" with a Capital for buying a remote place? Find a few really really good workers who you can not only trust to do great work, but can call in emergencies. I have been blessed with a few, and especially with this aforementioned GC, who is my hero from SO many occasions... 

And, most importantly, his help meant that yes, "b" could finally take place. Which is why a White Knight is so important.... they enable your drinking. 

Of course, the plumber could not come till Monday. And of course, when I finally heard from him Sunday morning he asked the most obvious of simple questions: did you put buckets under the leaks to recapture all the gylcol leaking out?

Really. I swear it is more than a hat rack. Really. 


Then Monday happened. If there were a sound track to my life -- and I really really wish there were one, as foreboding music could really help me avoid a few of these problems and mistakes, I'm sure of it -- this would be where the foreboding music would start. The slow, drum-beating kind. 

As, of course!, I woke up Monday to snow. And not just any snow, but 2 inches on the ground by the time I got out of bed, and then double-digit winds making visibility virtually nonexistent. Great. Not only do I not -- repeat NOT ... any one up there listening? -- want winter yet, but how the hell is the plumber going to make it down my steep drive in this storm?

Lucky for me, mountain folk are used to this sort of thing -- and he simply parked at the top of my drive, and walked down. I then served as go-fer and ferry driver, ensuring he could get back and forth to his truck, and therefore his tools and supplies, as needed throughout the process.

I won't bore you with the details -- and once I can download the photographs from my camera, I will enlighten you with the pictorial details -- but suffice it to say that the task was of course not easy, and in fact one of the more difficult ones the plumber said he had dealt with. I ended up having to move all the furniture in the living room above around, pulling up sections of carpet, and tearing out tack strips and the damn nails responsible. 

Thank you to those who installed the carpet and used nails that pierced the sub-floor and were able to hit the flooring tubes. Because yeah, why bother thinking that through if there's radiant in-floor heating....

~ sigh ~

But, three hours and several hundred dollars
later, I had a repaired heating tube. 

The lessons I learned?

Never ever EVER bet against a Sicilian when death is on the line, my mother was right: say Shit often and always, and always ensure your bourbon bottle is full.

Tid bits (to buy time!)

Murphy's Cabin has struck again, so I am a bit behind on posts, but hope to catch up soon. In the meantime, a few tid bits to tide you over....

A lovely quote:

'Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term. Yet, as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece.'
-- Letter to artists, 4 April 1999, Pope John Paul II

And a beautiful recent photo from the mountains, when it snowed on Monday...

Perhaps not the best quality, as I took it on my cell phone while out for my morning constitutional, but it speaks to the beauty of the area...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Living Half Alive ... or ... On Philosophy

When I was a child, I could never imagine not living life to the fullest at all moments, in all ways. This is not to imply being reckless or careless, but just in that idea of seizing the day.

Somehow though, we seem to lose that joie de vivre as we get older. I have thought a lot about it, and I do not believe it is a matter simply of having responsibilities, of work, of being tired. I think it is a loss of the sense of wonder.

I was inspired to think about this again today -- and to write about it -- by a quote by my mother, artist Karen Laub-Novak. (Her website is here: with a Facebook Fan page here:

Here is the quote:
We too often live out our lives half alive; we may relearn to live our lives with accuracy, excellence, fidelity, intensity…intensity in the small, the ordinary. Intensity in creative knowing and acting.
– Creativity and Children
(You may read the article in its entirety here.)

And here is a lovely photo of me, mom and my brother:

I read a wonderful book as a young adult (it is amazing how, as one gets older, the terms change. When I was in my 20s, I would have considered "young adult" to be 18, maybe 19. Now that I'm older, young adult is most definitely in my 20s...). This book, called "Sophie's World" by Jostein Gaarder (the version I read can be found here -- but it looks like it has been updated and edited, and that version can be found here).

This book is wonderful on many levels, though I will admit it is not "Great Literature" (with air quotes and capitals) -- but as a novel that helps explain the history and details of philosophy it was wonderful -- and also for what it made me think about.

I think my favorite anecdote from the book was a discussion of wonder.

The author notes that if, as a child, you came down the stairs to the kitchen for breakfast, and your mother was floating in the air as she cooked your bacon (or fixed your cereal or whatever it was), you would not think twice -- as a child. For as a child, you still have a sense of wonder, a sense of the impossible is possible. A sense that impossible does not really exist for that matter. So of course mama can float as she makes breakfast. Why not?

As an adult, you would walk into that kitchen, scream and probably faint. Or simply not see it, because it is simply not acceptable. It is, in fact, impossible. After all, you now know all the rules of what is possible, of gravity, of science, of facts, of reality.

In a similar fashion, a friend once posted on Facebook about watching her children play -- how they had pulled stools together, covered them with a quilt, and were now standing on those stools, quivering with fear about the "sharks swimming around their island". She asked, "Remember when we had that sort of imagination?"

Yet that is the question. Not what she asked exactly, but a variation on it. "Why can we not have that sort of imagination as adults?" Why must we lose touch with our sense of wonder, our sense of the impossible?

Why must we become obsessed with, focused upon, trapped by our understanding of the rules, of what is possible, of science, of facts, of reality?

This is not to say one should go spend their life tripping the light fantastic and ignoring basic responsibilities and requirements of well, life. It is simply to encourage remembering the sense of wonder and impossibility.

To remember what it is like to splash in puddles, and sing in the rain. To declare a Dorothy Parker day more often than not. To breathe the air a bit more deeply, and exhale a bit more slowly. To look at a beautiful day, and say life is too short to spend it inside.

My grandfather always used to say:
Prepare every day as if you are going to live forever;
Live every day as if you are going to die tomorrow.

I know lots of people have said similar things throughout the ages. Such as the classic:
Live every day as if it were your last...because someday you're going to be right.

All of those types of quotes are important for a reason -- because they are accurate. We spend so much time, energy, and emotion slogging our way through life. Consider the Dalai Lama quote that spread like wildfire around Facebook recently:
The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, said:

"Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

I will admit that many of these quotes are bleak -- they accurately sum up the present situation, and the negatives and consequences of this situation, but they do not necessarily offer hope for the future, or suggestions.

I am, of course, biased, but that is why I love my mother's quote. To remind you:
We too often live out our lives half alive; we may relearn to live our lives with accuracy, excellence, fidelity, intensity…intensity in the small, the ordinary. Intensity in creative knowing and acting.
– Creativity and Children

She gives hope, and a solution. We may relearn to live our lives, we just must learn to live with intensity in the small, in the ordinary, in creative knowing and acting. In other words, we must embrace creativity, we must embrace childlike wonder, we must embrace the impossible and make it the possible.

We do not all have to live as the Dalai Lama, or even as great adventurers or leaders or wise men and women, or celebrities. We simply have to live as ourselves. Truly ourselves. Well, perhaps ourselves with a bit of childhood mixed back in.

So let us all make that vow now: to embrace childhood again, imagination, possibility, wonder....

To embrace living fully; living every day to its most; living every day as if we're going to die tomorrow....

For some day, we will all be right.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ribs...It's whats for dinner!

It is time to formally introduce my dog. Ahhhh. Rilke. So little to say, so much time.

Wait, reverse that.

Rilke is now just over a year old. We know a bit about his provenance in that we do know for a fact that his mother was a yellow lab. His father..... well, his father is another matter entirely.

The "suspects" (and yes, that is how it was phrased!) we were told were a standard poodle and a wire-haired daschund. You can see which one was the more likely of the two:

My initial vet also suggested terrier, and explained to me (in the perhaps TMI but incredibly fascinating category) that with dogs, multiple male dogs sperm can survive and remain in a female dogs uterus -- allowing each dog in a litter to be from a different daddy dog, and to mix more, etc.

I don't know about all that, but I can tell you that he definitely shows major terrier characteristics. He is also unbelievably (sometimes laughably so!) alpha. Despite his small stature, he believes he rules his kingdom. And yes, he definitely thinks it's a "kingdom" and definitely think it is his.

I used to call that a "Napoleon complex", but I now understand the difference. A Napoleon complex is when a tiny dog (a "drop kick dog" as a friend used to call them) barks like crazy at a dog that will kick its ass. An alpha dog actually backs that up, despite their size....

And clearly his (short) dad had chutzpah. And clearly he inherited that.

That's my boy! :P

Rilke is actually pronounced "Rill-key". But he is named after the German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. Rilke was considered "one of the most significant poets in the German language" with "haunting images [that] focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety."

He was my mother, Karen Laub-Novak's , favorite poet, besides T.S. Eliot, I should note. And I should also note (more like remind, as I have noted this before, but goodness knows why should you remember that!) that my mother died in August 2009, had a profound impact on me, and I "blame" her for my purchasing this cabin.

So really, Murphy's Cabin is all her fault. Because yes, I do believe in not taking responsibility!

So puppy Rilke got his name in honor of my mother, in a roundabout way. Because it is actually an honor to have a dog named after you. Seriously.

But the entire reason I am talking about Rilke is not just because he is a huge part of my life -- my companion and even partner in this crazy adventure -- but because of his special talent. It seems that if there is an animal bone anywhere -- and I do mean anywhere! -- within a mile of Rilke, he will find it.

I don't know if its a good nose, a curious appetite or a personal mission. But it has become quite the experience for me.

Just consider how I felt when I saw this running towards me:

Or got to see this:

And in case you can't appreciate that picture, here's the close up:

A little "collection" of his finds:

Ah, and the fun of seeing this running at you (and yes, that is an entire elk leg, from the hip to the hoof):

And then of course the reason for the title of this post:

~ Sigh... ~

Yes, that is definitely my boy.....


To Sleep, Perchance to Dream...

Yesterday morning I awoke with a start.

Frankly, I'm surprised it wasn't more of a jump or even scream -- for the reason I awoke with a start was because I was dreaming that a bear was attacking me. This is not exactly a reassuring dream when you live in a cabin in the mountains in the middle of a forest -- particularly when there are most definitely bears in the forest around you. Nope. Not reassuring at all.

The dream was rather simple -- and perhaps that is why it was so terrifying: somehow simplicity can seem more real, more scary, more unmanageable. We expect challenges, we brace ourselves for them. We never expect the most obvious. It is why they say we never expect the unexpected. Of course, I think the thing we truly never expect is the Spanish Inquisition.

But that's another story. To the dream....

I dreamed that the power was out (yet again!), and I had to go out at night to give my dog his last "potty break" of the day (yet again). Of course, with the power out, this meant the motion sensor lights on the side of the house are out (yet again).

This time, unlike the night recently when the power did indeed go out, there was no moon out. So the night was pitch black -- nearly impossible to penetrate even after one's eyes adjusted. This meant I could barely make out anything -- the trees, the rocks and stumps, nothing. I would put out my hand in front of me, and not even be able to see it. Total darkness.

The kind of darkness you can only get when you close yourself up in an interior room with no windows or even a crack under the door. The kind of darkness that as a child you would thrill in -- the way it made your heart race, and your palms start to tingle and sweat. The kind of darkness that just begged for a "game" of Bloody Mary.

I did the Bloody Mary chant once as a child. Several friends and I squeezed into our tiny half bath on the main floor of my long-time family home in Washington, DC. It was an interior room, no window, and only the slightest of cracks under the door. We shut the door firmly, turned out the lights, stared fixedly into the mirror, and started chanting "Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary"...

And all of us swore we saw a light flicker on at the back of the mirror and start to move towards us, start to get stronger and larger. Someone screamed, someone scrambled to get the (damn) door open, and after staring at each other pale-faced, we never spoke of it again.

But I digress.

Back to the cabin. Back to the pitch blackness. Back to being unable to see more than a foot in front of me. Back to a small white-gold, even "wheat" colored dog running off into the dark...

Still, I know the area surrounding my cabin by heart now. Never before has there ever been a late night animal sighting. Sure, once Rilke went off towards the back of the house, disappearing for several moments -- and then came running back at full speed, with two quick stops to turn around, bark furiously, and then continue his helter skelter flight towards me.

But that was just that one time. And I saw nothing. So really, I'm sure it was just my dog's active imagination. Because dogs have imaginations too. So really, just an active -- make that over-active -- imagination.

Wildlife surrounding my cabin be damned.

(And no, my neighbors who live a mile away from me as the crow flies are NOT allowed to butt in right now and point out that they see moose, mountain lion and bear at their home regularly. Not a word. NOT. A. WORD.)

Yet, my dream did not acknowledge the reality as I have known it -- it embraced the reality as it (absolutely positively) could be. It embraced the idea that there is wildlife out there....and it is just a matter of time before worlds collide.

I stood in the dark in the clearing next to my house, where normally I would have set off the sensor light, and be bathed in a warm glow from the light, from inside. Instead, I stood in the dark and stared off down the path I have trod many atime that leads away from the cabin and towards the confluence of two rivers.

Rilke, as he has many times, trotted off, nose sniffing and twitching madly, down that path. My eyes had adjusted, so now I could see beyond just one foot to probably about three or four feet. Still nothing compared to the usual night, but more than when I first stepped outside.

Rilke had been swallowed by the darkness, and I stared fixedly in the direction he had disappeared. I held as still as I could, barely breathing, trying to listen as intently as possible.

Silence. Dead silence.

I breathed slightly, and in my dream, time seemed to slow, as did the images and the thoughts. I could see my breath barely escape from my mouth, and hang in the air as the slightest of mists... Hanging there, expectant, waiting, still...

And then I heard a branch crack, off ahead of me and to my right -- off where the trees grew thick. My head swung quickly in that direction and I caught a dark shape shifting, moving... Shadows? Imagination? My mind playing tricks?

Then I saw a golden white blur go flying by me -- it has always amazed me how fast my dog can run on short little legs. I could hear his nails clicking against the occasional stone, and then skittering over the short walk to the deck stairs.

I turned to follow the sound, to stare dumbfounded at the blur bounding up the stairs and disappearing onto the deck. And then the hairs on the back of my neck stood up -- and I actually remember shifting uncomfortably in my bed.

I slowly started to turn back around and spotted green eyes, glowing -- no more like sparkling, no more like burning -- in the dark. Like the light in the mirror, they first appeared faint, flickering, and then steadier, larger and clearly coming closer. It was the steady lumbering gait, which implies an easy trot but instead is a deadly gallop.

Behind the eyes was just that same deep, black shadow. The clear concept of heft and weight while at the same time absolute nothingness. An absence of all.

By the time I had turned square around to face it, the bear was upon me.

I sharply drew in my breath as I fell, and started awake.

I know dreams have deeper meanings, depending on who you talk to, either processing bits and pieces of our conscious and subconscious or representing emotions and actions. I also know that in the past my dreams have foretold happenings, usually not good ones. And yet I also know that to this day I have never been able to figure out one of the most terrifying, yet simple dreams, I have ever had -- a dream from my childhood that I swear continued past when I awoke.

So perhaps others have more insight than me. Perhaps the dream meant nothing, or it meant everything. Perhaps it was simply a dream.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me....

I forgot a critical fact about life in the mountains yesterday afternoon: the time of the sun rise and sun set do not matter; what matters is when the sun is above the mountains. Period.

For example, today the sun rise happened at 7:10 am, and the sun set is scheduled for 6:31 pm. Obviously, approximately those same times would have been true yesterday.

The problem with those numbers when you live in the mountains? Those numbers have absolutely nothing to do with when the sun manages to peek over the tops of the mountains, and then when it disappears behind them again.

This means, in practical terms, that right now the sun does not start shining upon my cabin until approximately 10 am and disappears again no later than 4 pm. (Though for approximately another hour, it is close enough to the top of the mountain that there is still enough light to see.)

So yes, I get actual sun -- assuming of course that is a clear day! -- for only about 6 hours per day.

Yeah. Good stuff.

The problem yesterday? I was so obsessed with my rant about snow falling, and excited about the sun dappling my trees and melting some of that snow, that I completely forgot and left my snow boots on the porch.

I had taken the dogs on a lovely walk earlier, and with how sunny it was, I figured I'd take full advantage of the heat.

As you see, when you are this high of an altitude, the sun is that much more intense. So when the sun is up -- there can be snow on the ground, the thermostat can read temperatures in the 20s and 30s in the shade -- and yet you can be in a t-shirt in the sun.

So I left my snow boots on the porch by the front door to let the sun melt all the snow off of them, and have them nicely heated up for my afternoon walk. Problem was, I completely forgot. By the time I remembered -- that is, by the time I was finally ready to head out for the second walk, the sun had slipped behind the mountains.

Damn those boots were cold!

Of course, damn the entire walk was cold! Having gotten caught up in writing projects, I had also lost track of time -- and left far too late for a comfortable walk.

Still, all was not lost...

On the way home, the older dog, Mika, suddenly stopped on the drive and stared fixedly. This is often a nervewracking event -- after all, exactly what has she spotted? Is it big? Scary? Or small?

Thankfully, both dogs tend to be more fixated by the small creatures. They love to chase and harass the squirrel sized animals. This was no different.

Except that it was. For my first time, I finally spotted a pine martin! And they are seriously the cutest animals ever. It was like a small kitty had mated with a badger, and climbed a tree.

I shall call this one (lovingly of course) "Honey".


Monday, October 10, 2011

Old School

Have I ever mentioned that I am very very traditional? Old-fashioned if you will. Old School.

I realize most of you are already scratching your heads trying to figure out what this could possibly do with a cabin in the woods. Patience, my friends. As it absolutely does.

For the thing is, in my neat little ordered world (cough, cough), things like snow do not happen until winter comes. And winter does not arrive until December.

After all, there are four seasons, correct? And there are twelve months. So each season should have a good three months each, right? So in my mind, it's pretty simple. Winter is December, January, February. Spring is March, April, May. Summer is June, July, August. Fall is September, October, November.

Simple. Straightforward. Clean. Clear. Understandable. WORKABLE.

It appears, however, that the mountains disagree with me. Pretty vehemently. Ahem.

Evidence #1: It snowed six inches on June 20th. SIX INCHES. In JUNE. That is so definitely summer.

Evidence #2: It just snowed six inches. On October 8th. SIX INCHES. In OCTOBER. I am sorry, but that is most definitely, absolutely positively fall.

Seriously -- even the local news had spent the weeks before talking about prime fall leaf viewing periods and locations. Prime fall leaf viewing requires.... well... FALL.

Clearly I need to sit these mountains down and have a serious discussion with them. Explaining to them that we do not go from winter to spring to winter. This is simply not acceptable. Seasons do NOT get skipped. Seasons are called seasons for a reason.

So yes, I'm a bit in a ranting mood today thanks to the weather this past weekend. There are two whole seasons that seem to have gotten skipped this year -- and I am not particularly happy about it.

It's not just that fall happens to be my favorite season -- I love the leaves changing colors, the fact its all about jeans and sweaters, and the reminder of change and transition that fall highlights. Though many think that Spring is the season of discovery, to me, Fall has always been that season.

You notice things when the leaves change colors -- you see new things, and discover things that you missed. As the leaves fall, the views change completely. The starkness is not bleak, on the contrary, it is striking and beautiful. It is silent and hushed, expectant. The crisp air tastes like bated breath, hopeful, impatient, eager. It is as if the whole world is on its toes, excitedly awaiting.... something.

I have often been accused of being naive and Pollyanna -- and I am most like this during the fall. Everything just seems brighter, sharper, different.

So when I woke up Saturday morning to winter conditions of constant, steady snow -- it was beautiful, yes. But I was not / am not ready. I do not want to give up my fall -- give up my eager expectation of change and transition. My sense of crisp, sharp difference. My jeans and my sweaters.

So as I stare out my window two days after the snowstorm at a bright beautiful blue sky, and sun dappling onto hundred year old pines, I can convince myself, just for a moment, that snow is not covering the ground below. I can cross my fingers that winter simply made a special guest appearance, a friendly reminder of the future ahead, not a permanent hosting job.

I can hold onto my belief -- old-fashioned, traditional, old school -- that October is still Fall.....

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Power of ... Power

It is rather shocking, once you're a full-fledged adult -- well, at least in terms of age, God knows I am certainly NOT in terms of maturity -- to be "forced" to bed early. I mean seriously?

Yet that is exactly what happened last night, due to a...power outage. Yep, another one. Clearly I need to get to work on that back up generator idea. Last year I planned to make my family be the "fire brigade" by having them split the costs of gifting me a river pump -- something that you place in a river to enable you to pump water into a hose and use against a wildfire. Because yes, I will be that person standing outside my house battling the fire single-handedly.... Did I not mention I was stubborn to the point of stupidity?

And this year, obviously I should have them all go in on a back up generator. Because those are the fun gifts you get to request!

~ sigh ~

Back to last night though.

After spending the evening moving furniture, reorganizing well...crap, and "kind of" cleaning, I finally settled down to a very late dinner (of cheese, crackers and fruit -- my favorite easy meal) and a single drink (jack and caffeine free diet coke), along with some restful reading of National Geographic magazine.

Two articles and 30 minutes later, the lights flickered. Then flashed completely off -- paused -- and flashed back on. And then shut down completely.

Now mind you, when you live in the mountains and there is absolutely no light pollution, the night is... well, actually dark. This meant that even with my eyes adjusting relatively rapidly I could still see.... well, pretty much nothing.

Thankfully, I am smart enough to keep a flashlight in an obvious place. Still, we hit the problem mentioned in my post yesterday -- not only is my electricity out, my furnace is now out (and I had been too lazy to build a fire earlier in the evening) and my plumbing is now out. I started doing calculations on how much water I had left to get through the night...

Then, I looked at my options. As before they were:
a) Call the power company and complain;
b) Go to bed, because what else is there to do;
c) Take the dog for a short walk.

Despite still being in the mountains, the decision is quite different when its 10 pm. In this case it was:
d) All of the above -- but in reverse order.

So, I bundled up against the cold, as mind you -- it was only 22 degrees outside. And yes, you did just read that right, and yes it is still the beginning of October.

Then Rilke and I boldly went where others fear to tread -- or something like that. I, of course, had forgotten that of course the power being out meant that every single one of my outside lights would be out too. Even with a clear sky and a bright moon -- it is nearly impossible to see more than about 10 feet in front of you at night.

Can we talk scary?

Seriously. Try standing outside in the middle of a forest in absolute blackness, knowing that bears, mountain lions, deer, moose, elk, coyotes and even wolves live around you. And then try NOT immediately fleeing inside. Instead, try walking further out into that blackness....

Yeah. Fun stuff. Let me tell you.

After our quick walk, I headed back inside and started getting ready for bed. Now the earlier water calculations became key. For example, you have only so many toilet flushes when your water pump is down; and only so much water for brushing your teeth, washing your face, etc.

Who knew a bedtime routine could require so much math and effort?!

Finally, having given plenty of time for the power to be restored, the call to the power company. That's always fun as they usually insist I don't exist. While this not only causes much deep philosophical angst, it also causes a fair amount of annoyance. Trust me, I exist; Trust me, you do indeed provide my power; Trust me, the power is indeed out; Trust me, I am not so dumb as to not have checked my panel and my fuses before calling; Trust me....

~ sigh ~

Last night was actually entertaining though: for once I was not the only one impacted; it was not even just me and the closest small town (population approximately 25)! It seems a good portion of the further away but larger towns were out. Now we were talking! I got all excited thinking I was indeed "one of the 99%."

Unfortunately, turns out I was more like "one of the half percent". Even in a small county of less than 25,000 people, the outage amounted to... well, a hill of beans.

The utility representative was thrilled (a little too thrilled if you ask me) to inform me though that I was not the only one. He was also thrilled to tell me that it would take approximately 4 hours to fix -- and he ever so generously offered to call me the moment it was indeed fixed.

Um... Thanks, but I'm pretty sure I will know when the power is restored. Thanks muchly though!

I thanked the gentleman, said "As long as I wake up to power, I'm good", and hung up.

Mission almost accomplished.

As I then had to tromp through the house in the dark, trying to remember exactly what had been on prior to the power going out, turning off (hopefully!) every switch and instrument on, in the hopes of not being suddenly awakened in the middle of the night. I then made a point of using the downstairs bathroom one last time, in order to preserve the upstairs water supply (the weird things living in the mountains requires!), and carefully crawled up my spiral staircase in the darkness one last time.

And so it was that I was forced to go to bed at just after 10 pm on a weeknight.

Bed times suck!