Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Right not Might

Caretaker’s Log, Thursday, April 3, 2014

When I wake up at four in the morning my fire is out. The embers burned to ash. I get up and attempt to start a new fire, to no avail. That early, I decide my sweatshirt and the sleeping bag are warm enough to get me through until my alarm goes off at 7:30. I hope this isn’t an omen of what’s to come between me and future fires.

After breakfast, Karen and her family pack up and give me final instructions and then they’re off. I watch them snowmachine out from the front porch. I stand there until they’re out of sight. Their voices drift down to me for a bit longer. Then. I’m on my own.

In my need to claim the space as mine I clean the kitchen and the front room. Then I put out my food, rearrange shelves to accommodate what I’ll use. I unpack my other things and set them out on the table and line them up on the shelf. I hang my coat and jacket. Tuck my few changes of clothing into one small dresser drawer. It looks like home.

Later, I strap on snowshoes and go looking for the root cellar. I want to take stock of my entire food base. All I find is a crawl space in one of the cabins. That can’t be right. My city girl must be showing. I must have missed something. But I pass the blame. Louis L’Amour didn’t cover root cellars in his westerns, how am I supposed to know?

Despite my food finding failure, I successfully keep a fire going all day. I record the weather at seven and check the lights in the generator shed to make sure things are running as they should.

Before I head upstairs to bed I go stand outside. I wrap my arms across my chest and tilt my head up. The sky is clear. The stars—I don’t even bother to try and count them. There’s no light pollution to wash out their shine and I get reacquainted with my favorites. I bid them and the moon goodnight and go inside.  

Not much later, under a thick sheaf of blankets I fall into the sleep of the guiltless.

Caretaker’s Log, Friday, April 4, 2014

It’s 54 degrees in the bedroom loft when I wake up. It’s 9 degrees outside. A halfhearted flurry of snow drifts down as I make coffee and get the fire going again.

When I go outside to get some wood I meet Wild Thing the cat. She rubs up against my legs and waits for me to scratch behind her ears. Her purr goes full blast.

Karen emails me to tell me where the root cellar is. There is an awful lot of canned pineapple.

After breakfast (not canned pineapple) I give myself my first cross country ski lesson. I don’t do so badly. I only fall five times. Finally I find the balance, get the hang of it, more or less. I’ve got my backpack of survival gear on and the bear spray slung across my front. I ski until I reach a daunting incline. I click out of the skis and hike to the top. I’m looking for the Kinky Creek Dam so that when the weather shifts and the snow melts I’ll know how to get up there to clean out the debris screen. I find it no problem.

On the way down when I stop to take a breather I hear a woodpecker. Two crows fly past.

Back at the ranch, I splinter some wood and stoke the fire in the sauna. As I sit in the heat, I think that I may have made it to heaven. A snowbound, cold heaven.

The sun goes down. Mars is bright on the east southeast horizon. Jupiter is in the west with the waxing moon.

Caretaker’s Log, Saturday, April 5, 2014

It’s a warm 12 degrees when I get up. There’s a dusting of snow on the skylights in the bedroom loft and on the front porch.

The coffee is horrible.

I watch some videos for wood chopping tips before I head out to chop some wood. Karen’s family had chopped me a week’s supply as a kindness. And I don’t want that reserve to burn up. 

Wood chopping was the one thing that worried me about coming to the middle of nowhere. My wrists aren’t as strong as they used to be. And I know that I’ll have to use smarts rather than brute strength. Right not might. So I learn some smart techniques. One woodchopper said to “use the natural cracks in the wood,” that, “you don’t have to hack with an ax, all you have to be able to do is hammer a nail,” and that, “wood wants to crack.” I’m not sure about that, but my first go at it is a success. It’s not quite as easy as hammering a nail, but all right, I’ll be all right.

Late in the day, I go check the lights in the generator shed and then go sit on the log outside the sauna. It overlooks the Gros Ventre (pronounced Grow Vaunt) River. It’s peaceful. I remind myself to be still. To be in the moment. Out of the corner of my eye I catch a dark thing trudging a slow way through the snow. Wild Thing? No, this is bigger than WT. As it nears I recognize it for what it is. Holy smokes, a beaver. It has a sprig of something in its mouth which it keeps tight hold on as it slides down the bank and into the water. It swims across and comes to sit on the opposite bank to eat its branch. I watch for a long time, until the wind chills me and I need to move. When I get up to go the beaver doesn’t even spare me a glance.

I’ve been here four days and already I’m used to the isolation. So much so that when an airplane flies overhead I’m almost offended at its audacity.

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