Friday, April 18, 2014

Call in the Cavalry

Caretaker’s Log, Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I stay up until 1:45 watching the lunar eclipse. There are no clouds to mar my view. I sit in the living room and look out through the windows to the east, and to the southeast. I don’t even have to go outside. I watch the blood moon, and it’s surrounded by stars. Moon eaten out by shadow and then released.

7:45 seems too early to get up, but I can’t fall back asleep. Now for coffee. I get the fire blazing. Kindling is the key. Well, that and the diesel dust. 

I eat my breakfast granola with water.

Outside the wind roars like an engine.

My mother calls.

At 3:21 it’s snowing.

I eat pancakes for second lunch or first dinner, take your pick, and watch the snow, as if in some eye of the storm center of a snow globe.

It disconcertingly feels like Sunday all day.

When it’s time to take the weather I get to measure the precipitation for the first time. I measure out some hot water, add it to the metal container holding the snow then pour it all back in the measuring glass, subtract the hot water and there is the amount of precipitation. Today’s was 0.09.

Caretaker’s Log, Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An inch of fresh snow covers the ground, the roofs, the trees, the fence posts, the porch, the uncut logs. The snow glitters in the sunlight, tiny sparkles of purple, gold, orange, pink against the blinding white.

I’m feeling lazy. But I will get out in a while.

Today marks two weeks that I’ve been here at the Darwin. Time goes slow. Time speeds by. Maybe I’ve already been here forever and I’ve never known any other place.

I make another batch of granola. This time I add some of the pure vanilla extract I find in the cupboard.

I dreamed I saw a wolf through the kitchen window. In my dream I scrambled to get my camera and take a picture of it.

I vacuum.

Finally set to get out, I put on my ski boots and coat. I grab my backpack and pull on my gloves. Thus geared up, I go out for my downhill ski lesson. There are big paw prints in the snow along the fence line, by the water. Maybe my wolf dream was no dream.

I ski the flat east field and then choose some gentle slopes for my downhill practice. I also work on turning around. I’m getting better. Not content with my little hill, toes out I climb the steeper slope heading up the way towards Kinky Creek Dam to find a perfect bunny slope.

I find it. A good incline with an opposing slope.

Downhill is so much fun.

Bent knees, body slightly forward, grin plastered across my face, I feel the speed with the wind in my face, and revel in how happy I am in this moment, doing this thing. Up the hill, and quickly back down. Then up again. And again. And again. I fall some and forget to keep track of the number. I fall mostly when trying to turn around on too much of a downward slope. The falls don’t matter today. I’m learning to control the speed, to control the motion, to feel the snow underneath me. Slowly, I’m learning.

My ski lesson goes for an hour and twenty-five minutes. Perfect snow. Perfect hills. Perfect day.

I go back to the Lodge.

I wash my hair.

Later, I check the spot where I’ve laid out a towel to soak up the droplets that are leaking from the back room door lintel onto the wood floor. There’s more than before. I clean up the pool, put a bowl under the main drip, and send off an email to Karen.

Caretaker’s Log, Thursday, April 17, 2014

I sleep in a little bit. Just as I’m getting my computer warmed up to check my email Karen calls.

“Did you get the email?” she asks.

“I just turned on my computer to check,” I tell her.

“Well, Loring sent a very detailed suggestion about what to do. I figure better sooner than later. Read it and feel free to call him if you have questions. He’s got to go into town around noon so be sure to get in touch with him now if you need to.”

Loring is the original owner of the Darwin. He recently sold it but is still available to troubleshoot the systems that he built and spent so many years tending.

I fire up my email and read the instructions on how to deal with this snow melt leak I’ve got in the back room. It involves attic crawl spaces, shoveling snow off roof valleys, hoses and hot water, and prayers to the gods of balance and heights.

When I’ve read through the email and checked to make sure I know where things are, I call Loring and have him walk me through his thoughts. He ends our conversation with, “Don’t fall off the roof.”

I raise my eyebrows, as if he can see that, and say with the heartfelt conviction of a promise, “I won’t fall off the roof.” I knock on the wood door next to me. Can’t hurt, right?

I go up into the attic crawl space and notice the icicles that are dripping into the insulation. Among the flotsam in the attic I find a jigsaw puzzle so I bring it down. I collect some hoses from the crew bathroom and the tool shed. I check to make sure I know where to connect them to the hot water heater if it comes to that. 
To fortify myself I eat some granola and gulp down a bit of coffee. In the event that I fall and break my neck, I straighten up the kitchen. No reason for any rescuer to think I’m a slob. Then I call Karen to let her know that I’m going up on the roof. I check the clock trying to think of what’s a reasonable amount of time for roof shoveling. “I don’t know how long this will take me,” I say, finally.

“Greg, Dustin, and Morgan shoveled off the Industrial Park building roof and it took them quite a while.”
“I’ll call you as soon as I’m off,” I say. “I’m taking the SOS tracker that you left me, just in case.”

She laughs, but I can tell she thinks that’s a good precaution. “If it seems too hard or too unsafe don’t do it. Have you talked with Peter?”

Peter is the guy who brought me out to the trailhead the day I came in to the Darwin.

“No. I forgot to get his email from you. He mentioned something about going to Greenland with his girlfriend, but I can’t remember when.” He’d also mentioned that he and his girlfriend might like to come visit me and do some kite skiing.

“We could bring you some fresh greens or something,” he’d said.

I think about fresh salad. That’d be a good reason for a visit.   

“Well, he could always come out and take a look at things if we need him to,” Karen says, taking the pressure off me.

No need to call in the cavalry yet. What kind of caretaker would I be if I can’t take care?

I put on my snowpants, boots, and coat. I put a ball cap on to keep my hair out of my face and stick on my sunglasses. I walk around the Lodge looking up. The north side roof where the problem is coming from is steep. I climb the ladder positioned there to make sweeping the satellite dish off easier and evaluate the slickness of the shingles and the potential for hand holds. It doesn’t look good.

But there is more than one way to climb a roof.

The south side of the house at the front porch has a flat roof and is accessible to my height via the step ladder I’d used to get into the attic. I lay two shovels and a pickax on the roof and then follow them up. I’m careful. Safety is my middle name.

I find the valley and start digging. The snow is three feet deep in places. I shovel and shovel and shovel. Hours later, exhausted, I wonder if I’ve even dug out the right place. I hope so. It’s an awful lot of work. I wedge my feet into the walls of my tunnel and scrape down to the bothersome ice. “I would have made a hell of a Boy Scout,” I say in between struggled tosses of sticky, clumped weighted snow.

“Don’t get cocky,” I reply. That’s when accidents happen.

“Yeah, yeah.”

Not sure what else to do and needing a break I make my cautious descent. Just as I get inside the phone rings. It’s Karen. She says she’d just looked at the clock and realized how many hours had gone by. “I was just getting worried,” she said.

“I just got down,” I tell her. “I was about to call you. I may have to get up again, but I’ll check in with you this afternoon when I’m all done.”

I eat a snack and then go work from the pile of snow on the ground that I’ve spent the last few hours enlarging. Now, even I can reach the roof from there. When I’ve gotten all I can, wishing my arms were longer, I go up again and widen my tunnel, knock off the west side snow height so that the sun will melt more and more. The sun is already in the western sky. That’s all I’ve got in me for today. If the cavalry came now, I’d make them coffee.

I sit on a secure bit of snow and look over what I’ve done. I’ve uncovered the block of ice that’s been melting into the roof instead of draining off and pretty much cleared the valley. I think my tunnel will create just the drain needed to keep the inside Lodge wood from being damaged and the roof from needing to be replaced.
I throw the shovel off the roof out of my way and then jump into the mountain of snow.

I call Karen and tell her I’m done for the day. We decide to save the hoses and hot water for another day if the sun doesn’t do the work on its own.  

I get cleaned up, eat some soup, and start up a batch of apple cider rum punch to drink as my reward. Boy Scouts drink rum punch, I’m sure.

I do nothing but sit about, read, and eat for the rest of the day.


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