Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Road Goes Ever Ever On

Caretaker’s Log, Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I wake up refreshed. This is nice.

The baby moose is grazing on the grass next to the propane shed. He moves off when he catches sight of me through the window. His mom is nearby. Together, occasionally stopping to eat, they move up the slope and into the trees.

I don’t start a fire first thing this morning. Even though it’s snowing, it’s 30 degrees out and it feels warm inside the lodge. Too warm for a fire.

The cat is in a feisty, rambunctious mood. She rolls around in the snow, chases after me, claws the porch fence post, and play bites and swats at my gloves when I reach to pet her. Purring the entire time.

The clouds this morning are fantastic.

I start the fire at 12:20.

The snow stops. The sky clears up to a brilliant blue. New clouds sweep in.

I read through half of what I’ve written so far in my new book. I read it out loud, testing the story and working my mind around the holes and plot points to build upon later. The trick with a first draft is to ignore self-doubt and keep on writing. There’s no time to worry that the story is boring or riddled with clichés (because of course it is). Those things can be edited out later.

As I do once a month or so, I check my bank account and balance my checkbook. While I’m at this type of work, I save the incoming emails I’ve received with tax information into a new document folder so they’ll be easy to find when I decide to file my taxes.

I look up moose facts.

Baby moose are usually born in May. They are thirty pounds when born and can grow to be 800 to 1000 pounds as adults. They stay with their mothers, their protectors, for the first year and then they’re on their own. The site says, “By some standards the survival of a calf is miraculous, by any standard it is against the odds.”

Way to go, baby moose. Keep it up.

I eat a snack.

I read the rest of my novel out loud. I’ve got a lot of work left to do.

At five o'clock, having been inside pretty much all day, I decide to go walk around for a bit. The clouds are shadowed and spectacular. The cat follows me around, rolls in the snow, and inspects everything. Not quite exercised enough, I come in and do the 5 Tibetan Rites.

The phone rings. It's Michaela calling from Mexico. They've completed the first leg of the sail. She saw a whale today.

Time for the weather.

I write.

Phineas calls. He calls the phone call his vacation. It's really the time between when he's gotten off work and when he goes to bed. But I'll help celebrate just about anything. I like vacations.

I work a bit longer. I'm up to 60 pages and 19,265 words. My character has been listening to Chopin, gotten kicked out of an assisted living facility, and been threatened by a menacing man with a gun. So that’s something.

Caretaker’s Log, Thursday, January 29, 2015

I wake up from a restless sleep.

There are moose in the yard. The nearest one doesn't mind me at all. She only looks up, once or twice, to make sure I'm not coming over to eat her snow buried grass. The cat wants attention.

I make Scottish oatmeal with a maple syrup, coconut oil, and fruit topping. It's sweet, but it's good.

I ski up the road to the main gate and go beyond. The road goes on. The road goes ever ever on. I remember to put on sunscreen before I leave this time. There are moose, coyote or wolf, deer, rabbit, and possibly mouse tracks crisscrossing my entire route. So many tracks. So many stories I can't read very well. At least not yet. I sit on the gate post and eat a snack before I head back down. It's a two-hour outdoor adventure. It's a good day for it.

Back at the lodge, I put away the skis, bring in some wood, take a bath, wash my hair, wash some clothes, and drink a lot of water.

I talk to Grandmama.

I talk to Jesse. We talk about the possibility of a summer trip somewhere.

The sunset is layered pastels--like a litmus strip.

I write.

I eat rice noodles, artichoke hearts, broccoli, olives, and mozzarella cheese sticks for dinner.

Heavy headed and tired, I hope I sleep well tonight.

I write.

I watch a show.

I read.

I go to bed.

Caretaker’s Log, Friday, January 30, 2015

January is coming to a close. Time always goes by so quickly. I've been here thirty-three days already.

8:22 seems to be my new time to get up.

It's -4.5 degrees when I look at the temperature recorder. One moose is far away in the west field.

My coffee tastes extra good this morning. Just the right everything.

The day warms up with the sun, the temperature pressing into the 30s. The moose is still far away in the west field.

I spend some frustrating time looking for summer airline deals. Travel expenses and food are my main money eaters. Stretching a dollar as far as it will go is a trick I always try to work to my best advantage.

JoAnn calls.

I work on a blog.

Marie calls. She's telling me about a friend of hers and says, "She's fabulous!" just as Shea, my three-year-old niece, walks into the room. "I'm not fabulous," Shea says. "I don't play basketball." Marie tries to tell Shea that she's fabulous even without basketball, but Shea is not having any of it.

I take a walkabout outside. The cat follows me. This is her new thing, such companionship. The far mountains have turned a navy blue that I can't quite capture with my camera.

I add some wood to the fire. I get ash in my hair. Not for the first time.

I write.

The west field moose is joined by its friend. I watch them jump the fence and come closer in the gathering dusk.

The cat is curled up in her house for the night.

Soup for dinner.

And the evening slips away.

Friday, January 30, 2015

For My Mother #2

January 30, 2015
This morning as I was running the water in the downstairs bathroom to keep the pipes clear I was thinking about how lucky I am. This life of mine is like the retired life (well, a retired life without a pension or time on a golf course, but I’m okay with that). I have a short list of chores to keep track of, I have things to watch out for, but then I have the time to do whatever else I want. Flashing back to my past, I remembered myself sitting at the reception desk of the job I had, the place where I first dreamed so vividly of freedom, and then I looked out the bathroom window at the banks of snow, at the evergreens and barren trees, and the furrowed paths made by hungry moose looking for their next meal and realized the freedom I have.

The days speed by. I get up every morning and do the same chores. I drink my coffee and work a crossword puzzle. At night, after whatever kind of day I've had, whatever work I've done, I settle back with a glass of wine and wish that that decadent time were longer, that bedtime didn't come so soon. For the months that I'm caretaking here in the wilderness I have peace, I'm here, I'm now, my life has the security of a "long" time in one place. In these moments, all I have to think about are what meals I’m going to make and which direction I'll go when I head out for my excursions.
These months are when my lifestyle meets its reward.

All the moments of scraping by, collecting pennies in proverbial jars, wondering what will come next and how I'll make it happen, all those moments don't matter while I'm here.

Because to tell the truth, there's no other place in the world I'd rather be right now, for now.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Warm Spell

Caretaker’s Log, Sunday, January 25, 2015

I'm up at 8:15. I get downstairs and only run the water before I call Michaela. She's at the airport about to fly to Puerto Vallarta.

Morning chores. Coffee. Cat. Fire. Bulk charge.

There's at least one moose in the foothills next to the road.

I water the plants. They don't need much to drink today.

I almost finish Streets of Laredo.

I eat breakfast.

I go for quick thirty-five minute ski, up and down the road’s first hill. The downhill goes faster each time. The fresh air is nice. The weather is warmer with less chill of a wind than yesterday.

I take a bath. Wash my hair.

I finish Streets of Laredo. It didn't end as gruesomely as I had feared.

I take a cue from the cat and stretch out on the couch and close my eyes. She's in her house also napping.

I eat some tahini and apricots.

I call Phinehas. He's at some friends’ house and not free to talk.

Hungry, and not interested in the soup I made, I go out to the storeroom and look at all the food supplies. I find a bag of gluten-free pancake mix. There’s a score of recipes on the back. I make scones. The lodge now smells delicious. The scones taste delicious.

Scones are dinner, right?

The sky turns pastel, pink and blue in the east. In the west, a neon orange-pink. Quite a show.

I end up eating some of the spicy sweet potato soup for dinner. I don't know that I like it.

Phinehas calls me back.

I write a little bit.

I Skype with Tim about his book.

I continue to write. Now the intrigue is picking up. I'll edit out the clichés later.

Caretaker’s Log, Monday, January 26, 2015

It's a frosty morning. Ice glistens off the edges of all things, buildings, trees, willow shoots, fence posts, the cat’s porch screen.

I'm attempting to train myself to get up a little bit earlier. Not for any particular reason. Just because. Today I do get up about thirty minutes earlier than usual.

I'm excited that there are scones for breakfast.

Four weeks today.

While doing a crossword puzzle, I hear a small plane or helicopter. But by the time I’ve got my coat, hat, and gloves on and gotten outside it's not in sight, if it ever was. I hear the sound fade away to the northwest over the mountain ridge. Faint, fainter, and gone.

I write.

It's forty-something degrees. I decide to go and ski. I'm ten minutes out when I hear the sound of snowmachines from the east where the snowmachine road is. I go back to the lodge in case I end up with visitors.

But, not in the mood to be idle, and since the ice and snow around the incinerator shed door are melting in this heat wave, I hack away at it until I can get in. I bag up the bag trash, and then burn the burnable trash in the incinerator. Then I chop wood for two hours. I don't need my coat or a hat. It's way too hot.

A moose picks a spot on the slope just below the cabin named Spruce and sits down in the snow presumably to watch me work. It must be a good show. She stays put.

The cat follows me back to the woodpile as I'm putting things away to check out what I've done.

Then I'm starving. I eat a bowl of soup, two mozzarella cheese sticks, and some dried apricots for a pre-dinner snack.

Then I take a bath.

I do some things online.

Record the weather—today’s high was an amazing 46.5 degrees.

Venus is bright in the west.

I write.

Dinner is another bowl of soup, one mozzarella cheese stick, and a scone.

I write some more.

The moon is nearing half-full. Good night, Big Dipper. Good night, Orion.

Caretaker’s Log, Tuesday, January 27, 2015

There is one moose down in the field. Good morning, moose. The mama and baby are in the front yard. They move up the slope and paw the snow for the grass underneath. They’re wary of the field moose. The field moose has a close eye on the baby and mama. The cat and I watch them all. There's a fourth moose over with the field moose. That's probably the brothers Jake and Jim.

It's going to be another warm day.

I'm depleted from all the work yesterday.

Breakfast is two scrambled eggs and two scones with organic strawberry spread.

I call my mom. She's out in the country. She'll call me back. I call my grandmother. She's at the store. She'll call me back.

I'm not up for much of anything strenuous today.

I write for an hour.

I go sit outside in the sun. It's 48 degrees.

I start to read White Oleander.

My mom calls.

From inside, I hear a small plane. This time I get out in time to see it. Off in the distance. It makes a circle and then it's gone. Out of sight, out of sound.

I read some more.

I talk with my grandmother.

It's been clear and warm all day and then suddenly, the clouds roll in bringing snow. Wild flurries. I record the weather. Trace amounts of snow in half an hour.

I make rice spaghetti with artichoke hearts for dinner with a side of broccoli.

I cozy in for the evening. The fire has heated the room so hotly that I have to take off my socks. And then eventually, like all nights, bedtime comes.