Thursday, June 5, 2014

Operation Airdrop

Caretaker’s Log, Monday, June 2, 2014

I get up at 8:15. As I’m coming down the stairs there’s the whirring buzz of a low flying plane. It makes one pass. Two. It practically rattles the roof. I try to see it out of the backroom windows. Who in the world is giving a tour of the Darwin at this ungodly hour and scaring off all the wildlife? Who is low-buzzing the house and disturbing my final days of solitude? In my mind, I shake my fist at the air, at the plane.

Downstairs, I stick a cup of coffee in the microwave and check my email. There’s one from Karen telling me that “weather permitting” Greg (her husband) and Paul (the owner) will be doing a fly over this morning at 8:30.

Yep. Weather’s permitting. That explains it.

She adds that they might do an airdrop (because they like them) and that she’d suggested a box of red wine since she knows I like it and my supplies are probably depleted.

Funny how quickly my attitude changes from irritation to excitement.

I grab the binoculars, my camera, a pair of socks, and my rain boots. When the plane buzzes by I throw up my arm and wave. The plane whirs over the west field and vanishes behind the ridge. I put on my boots and head toward the east pasture, thinking they must have already dropped my wine.

Engine whir turns to roar and there they are again. They skirt the east pasture and come to center. A flash of black and red. There’s my care package, dropping from the sky. It hits the ground and, like a water balloon, bursts with a tremendous red-purple splash. The grass is going to be really drunk. I wave with cheerful exuberance at the plane as it roars over me, and go to collect my box. It’s pretty well empty. I sit up on a fence post and watch as the plane comes by again then passes over the east mountains and is gone.

I take the box inside and cut through the black trash bags, the tape, and the bubble wrap. The box itself is soaked and tattered. Split on both sides. There’s enough pooled wine in the bottom to get one small serving. I pour it into a glass jar. There’s maybe two inches of wine from a 5 liter box. I think about measuring it with the rain precipitation stick. This makes me laugh.

I take my coffee and my wine and go sit in the sun. I’m having chillable red wine in the morning, kids. One drink with my coffee in honor of my first airdropped package.

First things first. Breakfast and one cup of coffee down. Then, I can’t stand it, I have to measure the wine. I can’t not. It’s too much fun being precise. I take the glass inside and pour the liquid into a smaller container. I have two containers that are the exact same size. In the second container I pour water until it matches the level of the wine. Then I pour that water into the precipitation measuring tube. Then I measure the level. 0.12 inches of wine. That’s what I’ve got.

I’ll take it.

It has a toasted, buttery flavor. Perfect for breakfast wining.
Later, after the excitement has worn off, I’m a little sad about the lost wine. I could have had a party. With myself. I could have drunk the heck out of that five liter box. But, there’s no sense crying over spilt… well, you know how it goes.

A bumblebee bumbles right into me.

It’s too nice of a day to sit still. So I put on my hiking boots, daub on some sunscreen, grab my survival gear, and get outside. I start across the pasture in the direction of the airdrop site, heading the way of the dam. But as I go, I keep on eastward. I’m going toward Bacon Ridge. Bacon Ridge is called Bacon Ridge because (prosaically) it looks like a slab of bacon. I prefer to think of it as Kevin Bacon Ridge because this (to me) is hilarious.

I’ve been part of this way before. A long time ago when the snow was still deep. I’d followed a moose’s tracks over a hill. Maybe I’ll go as far as K.B. Ridge today. We’ll see what happens. I have no agenda really, just the desire to be out and moving.

There’s a pool lying at the feet of some trees that reminds me of the Wood Between the Worlds in the book The Magician’s Nephew. I stand and listen to the frogs sing. I stand and listen to the birds join in the chorus.

Then I go on.

Over one hill and then another. I pass through marshy areas and the mosquitoes gather with glee on my sleeves, trying to pierce through my clothes and find my blood. I brush them off again and again. A crow flies overhead. The frogs call out a symphony. Bacon Ridge is still off in the distance. I had no idea it was so far. I’m wandering slowly and I have no real desire to make it all the way there. So I head for home.

Back at the Lodge, I de-gear and then since I’ve still got my boots on, I go up and check Industrial Park to make sure the fuel tank isn’t leaking. It’s not.

A can of pineapple chunks is my afternoon snack.

I wash up and launder a few items of clothing.

Karen emails to say the plane crew reported that the roads looked good from the air and that I can expect them to arrive to The Darwin on Thursday.

I eat kitcheree for dinner.

Then I have to buck myself up about the lost five liters of wine. I haven’t really lost anything, I tell myself, but a treat. I still have my own rationed out wine to fall back on. It should last me a few days more.

Some rain comes at 6:00. There’s only a trace of precipitation in the bucket. Not enough to measure. Not even 0.12 inches.

I build another fire and cozy in. Warm for the night.

Caretaker’s Log, Tuesday, June 3, 2014

“Porridge today, Gromit. It’s Tuesday.” That’s what I’m thinking when I wake up. The line is from the Claymation series Wallace and Gromit. I don’t even know why I’m thinking this… I’m having granola for breakfast, Tuesday or not.

I talk with my grandmother.

The sun is out briefly. Then a long layer of clouds takes over. This is kind of good. The clouds free me from the temptation to laze about all day on the front porch.

From 10:40 to 4:20 I clean. I take a break to eat a snack and to talk to my mom. The seemingly never-ending task of thoroughly cleaning the kitchen is almost to an end. It’s starting to look really sparkling. I clean the upstairs bathroom. I vacuum the loft bedroom. I vacuum the music room and the living room. I start to collect the things of mine that I’ve left out to use—with the mind to packing them up. That’s all the cleaning I can stand.

Now the sun is out and I go find a patch of sunlight. The cat winds herself around my legs, around and around. The bald eagle is roosting at the top of a tree near the waterfall. The osprey is not happy about this at all. She keeps diving at the eagle trying to force him into flight, and away. No such luck.

Tomorrow is my last solitary day. I’ve been here sixty-three days. I haven’t seen anyone for forty days, tonight will be forty nights. Sounds terribly biblical.

It’s so lovely when I go check the weather and do my evening walk around that I take my dinner (more kitcheree) to the sauna porch and sit looking over the river while I eat. The sun—the much loved sun—is warm on my face. The water twirls, dances from bank to bank, rushing by me with burbling satisfaction. A duck flies in. Why are ducks so funny?

This is the kind of weather that tempts me to remain outside forever.

Caretaker’s Log, Wednesday, June 4, 2014

9 weeks today. I’m up early. Almost an hour earlier than usual. It must be the impending descent of the summer crew that’s got me moving out of my usual habit. The sun is out. Nice start for my last solo day.

Today marks a year that my friend Matt went missing at sea.

I sew up the pants I ripped by the simple action of sitting the other day. This country calls for tougher clothes.

The eagle is on the tree by the waterfall again, looking dignified and important against the backdrop of green.

The red tailed hawk is out.

I bag up the recycling and mark it so that’s it ready to be taken out and recycled. I take the trash to the trash bin. It’s ready to be taken out and thrown away. I burn the burnable trash in the incinerator.

Melody, Loring’s wife, calls to tell me that Loring, Karen, and Kathy will be switching the winter phone number to the summer phone number and asks me to stand by from 1:45 to 2:30 while they test it. A bit later she calls back to say they’re running a little behind and could I stand by from 2:15 to 3:00 instead. I stand by. While I stand by, I make cookies. It’s the best I can do in my upcoming and short lived role as hostess.

It rains for about ten minutes.

I talk to Michaela.

Sometime between 2:15 and 3:00, Loring calls. The number switch was a success. He hands me over to Kathy and she tells me that they’ll be at the ranch tomorrow around 3:00.

I have another twenty-four hours of this place to myself.

I eat the last of the kitcheree for a late lunch out on the porch. The cat stands up with her paws on my leg to smell the bowl and acts like she’s going to jump in my lap and start eating. I put a piece of spinach on the ground for her and she eats it up. Crazy cat.

Some clouds move in.

I go in and take a bath, wash my hair. I’ll try to be presentable for company.

A bit of sunshine in the 7:00 hour. Why does the day become perfect just in time to turn to night?

I build up a fire and pretend it’s not my last night alone here. There’s no time (and not enough wine) for sentimentality. All things come to an end. All things begin again.

After all this time, I finally take my Edmund MAG 5 Star Atlas outside with me and gaze up. Didn’t Loggins & Messina (or The Carpenters, depending on which group you have playing) sing, “I see Virgo Rising is a very good sign”? Or are the words, “Pisces, Virgo Rising is a very good sign”? That would make more sense. Also, I mishear things all the time. I like to mishear them to fit my occasions. This occasion I really do see Virgo rising (at least I think I do. If I’m reading this map correctly) over the southern horizon.

The Big Dipper, The Little Dipper, those are easy. Cassiopeia, I know her. It’s the others I’ve gotten out of touch with. Bootes, Coma Berenices, Corvus, Crater, Libra. I put my thumb over my phone’s light—turning the beam red so that I don’t lose my night vision. I brought a piece of red cellophane with me to put over a flashlight so that I could study stars at leisure and never used it. How is it that I’m just now getting serious with the night sky? A satellite (the ISS?) goes south to north. A second moving point of light goes north to south. Like ships passing in the night… sky. Then I see another one tracking west to east. No, we are never ever really alone.

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