Sunday, March 29, 2015

Off the Beaten Path

Caretaker’s Log, Thursday, March 26, 2015

After all the morning stuff is done and the generator is running to recharge the batteries, after a breakfast of granola and one banana, after I post a blog, after I walk around on the perfect snow with the cat following behind, I put on the skis and go up the old road toward, and then past, the dam.

I see an eagle and those silly geese. Lots of coyote tracks. I go on and on. I go far until it's fun and I'm exhilarated in the high altitude air. I get off the beaten path and ski to gain a better vantage point of the north. From up here the mountains are more visible in all their snow tipped glory.

Going down is full out fun.

At the lodge, I sit with the cat, check the generator, eat an apple, take a bath, and put some laundry in the sink to soak.

I write.

In the late afternoon, I turn off the generator. I wring out the clothes and hang them to dry.

I eat nachos on rice crackers for dinner.

At seven o'clock, I record the weather and do my walk around with the cat. It was warm again today. The snow is down another two inches. Down to a total of 16.

The owls are out. More than one tonight. The clouds move fast overhead. I go in and write.

I hear coyotes yipping and rush out to stand on the porch to listen. But they're done. Just owls carrying on and a brief interlude from the geese.

I write. I have a glass of wine and watch a show. The days go so quickly by.

Caretaker’s Log, Friday, March 27, 2015

As I'm making coffee the phone rings. It's my almost 4-year-old niece. She's about to have yogurt and honey for breakfast, she tells me. I tell her I'm going to have bananas and tahini. I tell her about the snow, the moose, the geese.

"Maybe I can come see you there sometime," she says.

"That would be fun. You could sit on the porch and the cat could sit in your lap. That's her favorite thing."

"Is your cat pink?" she asks.

Unfortunately no.

I have my breakfast, work a crossword, read a little. I'm feeling lazy. I take my book and go sit on the porch. The cat joins me. It is her favorite thing. But laziness won't work on a day like today. It's too amazing.

I remember to put on sunscreen. I get my gear, grab the skis, and head toward the treacherous bridge. I cross it and ski over the field. It's like skating on ice, easy as pie, easy peasy, fun. I skirt the river and startle four geese. One moose is eating red willows in the far east. I can’t see his brother. I make my way through the willows, taking off the skis once to clamber between the tall bushes so that I can go up the hill toward Sportsman's Ridge. I crest a rise and look out over the plain, broken up by the river, and bookcased by red rock ridges.

I work my way over to the old horse trail and follow it part of the way down, make my own path the other part.

I arrive to the downhill slope I'd tried to descend with such frustrating and disastrous falling results weeks and weeks ago. Today though, that hill is mine. The snow conditions are absolutely perfect. I go up and down four times. Speed is so much fun.

Then I ski back over the plain and to the bridge. Take off the skis to cross, and then zip across the east field. Not quite done, I go up the dam road to the first fence. Sit for a moment there and then come down with what feels like grace, speed, and skill. As a final bit, I go up my bunny slope on the new road and that's my last downhill thrill for the day.

I ski across the yard and am back at the lodge.

It was a perfect run.

Today feels like a vacation day. I don't really know what that means, but that's how it feels.

I say hello to the cat. Sit for a moment in the sun. Then I go get cleaned up.

I call my grandmother.

I make green chili eggs—one of my mom's recipes—for dinner. It hits the spot. I have a glass of rum and apple juice as I sit down to write.

I write.

At seven o'clock, I record the weather. Down another inch of snow. Only fifteen left. The owl and the geese are talking over each other.

I find a Wizard of Oz piano book on the shelf over the piano and play a few bars of Over the Rainbow.

I write.

I drink a couple glasses of wine, eat cookies, and watch one show.

Then I read for a bit on the couch.

The stars are out. Goodnight, Orion. Goodnight, stars.

Caretaker’s Log, Saturday, March 28, 2015

I haul out a 30 pound bag of cat food and refill the bin outside on the cat’s porch. Between almost thirteen weeks of her own meals and all the sharing she does with the mice the bin was empty. The cat is curious about all this activity and then glad.

I get the generator going.

The wind is fierce today.

After breakfast, I finish up another Swedish detective story. Much of it takes place in Motala, the town where I stayed a month with my friend Pontus and his family. I’ve been to many of the places the story mentions. I look at pictures from that time and reminisce.

At 12:30, I put on skis and head out and up the dam road. The snow is too perfect to waste. I go past the dam, past my farthest point, and through the trees. I'm as far as the snowmobile road. The first time I’ve been here. It's wide enough for cars, groomed down smooth. I go a little ways in both directions, and then head back down.

The clouds today are fantastic.

Down is fast. Down is fun. It's perfect snow and it makes me feel like I know what I'm doing.

What a good run. The hardest part is crossing the east field with the wind pressing hard into me, trying to push me back up the road.

I get cleaned up.

Phinehas calls.

I turn off the generator.

I eat a portion of green chili eggs for my first dinner. I eat a couple cookies.

A mouse has chewed a good chunk out of the side of one of my apples. I store the uneaten ones in a sealable container. Nothing is safe, nothing is sacred.

I call my grandmother.

I eat the last of the green chili eggs for second dinner.

I write.

The cat and I do the evening walk around and record the weather. The warm day has melted snow into pools at the low ground spots. Good thing I have rain boots. I’m gonna need them.

I write a little bit longer. My character is finally up against the bad guys. The question is will he be captured or will he slip through their fingers and turn the tables on them. I’ve got to use clich├ęs here so I can avoid that in the book.

Snack. Wine. Show. Bedtime.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Men in Orange

Caretaker’s Log, Monday, March 23, 2015

12 weeks today.

Again, I'm up before eight o'clock.

When I go out to give the cat fresh water and food, I hear the yipping bark of coyotes. I can hear but cannot see them. The geese I also hear but do not see. Blessed are they that hear and do not see, I think to myself, rephrasing a bible verse.

I have my coffee, work a crossword, start the fire, and check the generator shed. I'm just finishing with posting a blog when I see Porgy and a second snowmobiler arrive. It's Porgy's friend Kip. Porgy has brought me more food, apples, bananas, rice crackers, cheese, tuna, and coveted cans of coconut milk. It's feast time again.

I serve them up some coffee and the banana bread—with disclaimers on the bread—they say it's good. While we’re sitting around, I show them the pictures of the wolves I'd seen. And they pop my wolf bubble by saying they look like extremely healthy coyotes. "You see a wolf," Porgy tells me. "And there'll be no mistaking it."

Then we go to the bridge to take the measurements that Porgy needs in order to build the new bridge when spring comes. I'm tasked with taking pictures and writing the measurements down.

Soon enough it's done. We walk around on top of the snow, hard as solid ground, to look at the way the river runs. "I wish the snow were like this all the time," I say. It's perfect for walking, for skiing, for snowmobiling.

Snow clouds roll in and it begins to snow. It's a perfect day.

Porgy is pleased that they are so far ahead of schedule. With so much time to do so many things, the guys are great enough to help me change the oil in the generator. This means Kip and I stand around while Porgy turns the valve to empty the oil out. I hand over tools and a container to catch the oil, find a new air filter, and get out paper towels. Whenever it's time to turn the generator on to heat up the oil and check the level that's also my job. Changing the oil in the generator sure is easy when someone else does it for me.

When that's done we go in and eat some lunch. These guys are perfect guests and have brought their lunches with them. I eat apple, cheese, and crackers.

While we're sitting there, I see the cat food stealing mouse out of the corner of my eye. I'm finally quick enough to get a picture of it.

After lunch, we go up to the dam on the snowmobiles. The guys hack and pound and hammer and shovel the thick ice away from around the valve’s rod and base. They had stopped on their way in and tried to turn the wheel valve. Porgy told me they weren't able to do it. "I hate to say this," I’d said, "but I'm glad you couldn’t do it." With all this ice, it's no wonder. There's no way I could have won out in a strength match against however many pounds of weight and freezing grip that is. "This is no job for a little girl," I say jokingly, perfectly content to watch and take pictures as they work chipping ice away.

"Just step back, ma'am, let the men in orange take care of this job," Porgy says, also joking. "We're manly men."

Once the space is free of all that ice, the wheel turns no problem. They get it opened up all the way and the water drains out of the intake pond. That's two big things crossed off my To Do list. And I got off easy. We walk all over the ice and then get out of there. On the way back, we stop off by the Tame Hydro pit and look at the area where the leak in the pipe probably is. There's an erosion path in the dirt. "When the rest of the snow melts this will point us right to the leak," Porgy says.

Then we go back to the Lodge. As the guys are putting away the hammers and chisels and bars, I say, "If you guys have another thirty minutes or so, I'll go inside and make up some cookies." Porgy had mentioned the cookies once or twice to Kip.

"We couldn't say no to that," Porgy says.

I go in and whip up a batch of cookies while they pack up their gear, put up all the tools, and then come in and relax for a bit.

Loring calls to check in. A bit later, Jessie calls.

"No wonder you can’t get anything done around here," Kip says. Only half kidding, I had mentioned how busy I was earlier when Porgy had teased me about not starting up the sauna or taking more trips across the backcountry up towards Sportsman's Ridge.

At 4:40, after coffee, cookies, and conversation they get up and leave.

I'm grateful that they came to visit.

There are dishes to wash, emails to send, pictures to upload, grandmothers to call, sisters to call back, and dinner to make. I don't sit down to write until almost nine o'clock. I put down 300 words and call it good for now.

I drink some rum and apple juice.

To wind down, I read for a while and then head upstairs.

It's been a good and full day.

Caretaker’s Log, Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I laze around in bed. No visitors are expected today.

I get the morning things going and head out to start the generator charge. It's snowing. A beautiful, snow globe shaken snow. I love it.

After a breakfast of banana and tahini, cheese and crackers, I go out and ski for an hour. The snow settles on my face and melts in six-sided uniqueness against the heat of my skin.

The cat is acting extra crazy. More rashly than usual, she darts in front of my feet nearly killing the both of us.

I take a bath. Wash my hair.

My mom calls and we catch up.

I go outside and check the generator. It still has a bit of time to run.

My dad calls and we catch up.

I turn off the generator.

I call my grandmother and we catch up.

It's still snowing.

I answer some emails.

It's already dinnertime. I eat the last half of spiced up cauliflower as a first dinner.

I'm watching the snow as it gusts by at the encouraging hand of the wind. Suddenly, the wind stops dead and the flakes hover, still, like coming out of warp speed. And then the wind starts up again and we're off.

Weather time is at seven o'clock. 0.3 inches of snow.

I eat eggs and beans wrapped in lettuce and topped with guacamole for my second dinner.

I write.

I read in bed until my eyes protest. Then it's lights out.

Caretaker’s Log, Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I'm in bed about to get up when the phone rings. I grab my socks and clamber downstairs, but by the time I get to the kitchen they've hung up.

As I'm boiling water for coffee, the phone rings again. It's Loring checking on the weather, wondering if he and Dave will be able to come in tomorrow. Their trip is still dependent on if Dave is feeling well enough.

"Did you try to call earlier?" I ask.

"I did. But then I felt guilty about how early it was. For all I know you could stay up all night writing and like to sleep in."

He's pretty close on that, but I neither confirm nor deny my habits.

There are coyote tracks all over the yard. The morning clouds, thick with snow, are astounding. A gentle, friendly snow falls. It's as if it's falling more for aesthetics than anything else. I see an eagle, four geese, and a blackbird.

I have two cookies with my first cup of coffee. This was a good batch.

I sweep and mop the living room. While I wait for part of the floor to dry, I eat bananas and tahini for breakfast. I mop some more.

Michaela calls.

I finish cleaning the living room area. Get it all dusted and put back together again.

Then I sweep and mop the kitchen. While that floor dries, I change the sheets on my bed and get the dirty laundry folded up to take out to store in the summer laundry room until the washing machines are hooked back up.

I finish reading The Locked Room.

Jesse calls. She may have a summer job at the same ranch where I'll be working. She'll know in a couple days.

I finish the kitchen cleaning. Wash up the dishes.

I eat an apple, cheese, crackers, and cookies for a snack.

Phinehas calls. While we're talking the call waiting beeps. It's Loring calling to say that Dave is still not well. They will not be coming tomorrow. Next chance for a visit will be Monday. That is, if scheduling works out and the weather holds.

I go outside and walk around. In my boots. The snow is hard and perfect for trekking over. I feel like the world has opened up with possibility, with ease of maneuverability. I can go anywhere. The cat comes along. We explore the river’s edge, walk the way the coyotes had gone, follow the fence line, skirt the partially frozen Kinky Creek. The cat walks along the fence when she can. She follows behind me in the snow, meowing, when she can't. I needed the fresh air and to get out and stretch my legs. The cat needed it too.

We sit on the porch together when we get back. The cat curls up in her house. She's exhausted.

I take a bath.

Phinehas calls again.

I record the weather.

I make tuna for dinner. As I'm setting the table I glance out the window and see the two coyotes crossing the field. The fence is no barrier for them and then they disappear into the red willows.

After I eat and clean the dishes up, I sit down and write. Finally getting past the point I've been stuck on for the past two days. That's progress.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Where Have All the Mooses Gone

Caretaker’s Log, Friday, March 20, 2015

I take my time with the coffee and my other morning things. It's ten o'clock before I go and start up the generator. I almost used up all the power.

I sit on the porch in the morning sun and listen to the birds. Woodpeckers? Crows for sure. The cat loves this. She starts to get feisty and I have to tsk tsk her when she plays too rough.

I eat granola for breakfast.

It's a lovely day.

I take my book out and read with the warmth of the sun pressing on me through my coat.

I take out the trash, bag up the recycling, bag up the stove ash, and put it all in the incinerator shed. I burn the burnable trash.

I make salmon and rice for lunch.

I research some weather info for my book.

I finish the sixth book in the Martin Beck series. In between paragraphs I doze a bit.

It's a lazy day.

I turn the generator off at four o'clock. I'm all powered up.

At seven o'clock, I do the walk around. There's an owl somewhere nearby.

For dinner, I eat the Romaine salad pack that Todd brought me with the vine ripened tomatoes and half an avocado. While I eat I read through one of the National Geographics.

I write.

Phinehas calls.

By this time it's late. For the millionth time, I save my document and then head up to bed.

Caretaker’s Log, Saturday, March 21, 2015

I wake up feeling more or less rested. This doesn't happen very often.

The three geese are out. The woodpecker is knocking on wood. The cat wants to play.

I eat apples with tahini for breakfast.

Porgy calls. He may visit tomorrow to get some last-minute bridge measurements. Or he may not. The road conditions are starting to become unreliable especially for snowmobiles.

About 11:30, I put ski boots on and ski up the road to the big gate. I haven't been up that far in a while. I'm there in thirty-eight minutes. I'm down in fourteen. I fly down, tucking the ski poles under my arms and leaning into the hill.

Then I chop three sledfuls of wood. I’d gotten down to about a six-day supply. Now there's maybe two weeks’ worth. I don't have the energy to chop more than that.

I eat the last of the quinoa for lunch.

I call my grandmother.

I take a bath. Wash my hair.

I make a loaf of banana bread using the gluten-free flour mix.

I wash up the day's dishes.

I write.

The oven runs hot and I over bake the banana bread. Blast it all.

I eat three scrambled eggs and a piece of slightly burned banana bread for dinner. I read while I eat.

I record the weather. The cat and I do the nightly walk around. Battery level is at 35%. Snow depth down to 17 inches.

I write a little more.

Loring calls to see if Porgy has visited. I tell him maybe tomorrow. Loring may come out with Dave, an electrical engineer (among other things), to try and fix the Wild Hydro sometime next week if the snow holds.

I write. I watch a show. Drink my wine. Run the water through the pipes to keep things from freezing overnight. Say good night to everything and go up to bed.

Caretaker’s Log, Sunday, March 22, 2015

Porgy might show up early. He also might not. I wake up at 6:47 and then doze lightly until just before eight when I get up. On the off chance that he does come by, I get to the computer early. I write after I've heated up my coffee, worked the crossword puzzle, gotten a fire going, given fresh water to the cat, watered the plants, had some granola, and started the generator charge.

Loring calls to say Porgy plans to come tomorrow and to see if I know of Dave’s plans to come out. All I know is that he's not coming on Monday because he has a meeting. Loring and I promise to keep each other in the loop. I tell him I'm not going anywhere, not for a while, so I'll be around if anyone shows up.

I write for a few hours.

Michaela calls. She’s seen a whole pod of killer whales.

I cut up a head of cauliflower and decorate it with olive oil and spices and nutritional yeast and agave nectar. I eat about half of it for lunch. I read for a little bit.

I write some more.

After the generator charge is done, I go ski across the field and up the hill a ways. Then back down. Up again. Then down. Up again. Down. Up one more time. Then down and back to the lodge. I needed to move, to stretch my legs. Thirty minutes isn't much, but it's something.

I haven't seen a moose for days. I miss them. All of them. I think the wolves drove them away. Or better eating somewhere else enticed them to move on from this little valley.

For a late afternoon snack, I eat two pieces of banana bread. It's not as great as I imagined it would be. I don't think I'll make it again. And if I do I won’t over bake it.

I sit on the porch with the cat. After a moment, I go inside and bring out my book and a short glass of rum and apple juice. The cat falls asleep in my lap.

It's cloudy and there's a wind coming in from the north. I get chilled and go inside.

I sweep up. As I bring the broom into the living room and glance up out the window, I see the fearless, incorrigible, and bold mouse sitting on the cat’s blanket with a piece of cat food in its little paws. It stares at me with a wide-eyed, hand in the cookie jar look and then darts away before I can get a picture.

I wash the dishes while I cook rice. Call my grandmother while the salmon broils.

As I’m finishing up my dinner, I hear a coyote yipping. I'm outside in time to hear an owl asking its nightly question. The geese are protesting somewhere in the northeast part of the reeds and river. A distant sound I don't recognize, a bird? A frog? I haven't heard the sound of a frog in a long, long time.

The sunset is tangerine and orange and melon.

That’s the end of the day. Goodnight.