Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Secret Petroglyphs

Caretaker’s Log, Saturday, April 25, 2015

I dream there are seven or eight mice in the bathtub. I'm trying to get them all in one container and they keep escaping. My sister Jesse shows up and then my dad is there also to help make the container breathable so the mice don't suffocate when I take them half a mile away.

In real life, I wake up. There are no mice in the tub. The little guy that was stuck last night somehow escaped—whether on his own strength (perhaps aided by the sugar in the raisins I left him) or with a little help from his friends, I don't know.

There's a frosted covering over the land. Last night’s snow.

The Hydro is working the way it should.

I post a blog.

I make pancakes for breakfast. Top them off with strawberries and a dash of maple syrup.

I read a little.

I talk to Loring. He wants me to look for some documents that he can't seem to find anywhere at his home.

I can't quite decide what I want to do. Which is bad because it can mean I end up doing nothing at all.

I clean up the dishes, report in to Loring that I couldn't find the papers. While we're on the phone he tells me how to find the petroglyphs because I’d asked him about them in an email.

"No one is supposed to know about them," he says, "but since the cat is already out of the bag."

I assure him I’ll keep their location secret and will do nothing to destroy them. I tell him that Todd had told me about them and that he had said one of the previous caretakers had added a tepee to the rock wall beside them which had made Loring furious. Loring says, "I don't think that's true. I don't remember that. There was one guest one summer who went around drawing Mickey Mouse on everything. Maybe the stories got jumbled up."

"I guess I can't believe everything I hear," I say with a laugh.

"But if it makes a good story," Loring says. "There's no reason not to keep on telling it."

"Even if it's fiction," I say.

I call and talk to my grandmother.

Then I clean the mouse droppings from last night’s mouse out of the tub.

After that's done, I put on my hiking boots and head out to an undisclosed location. Following Loring's flawless directions I find the petroglyphs. The etching is a human figure carrying a trident riding on some kind of animal. I have no idea how old this work of art is. I think about the artist and wonder if as he'd been etching these figures into the stone if he’d thought, "What I wouldn't give for a canvas."

I leave the secret location and hike back to the lodge. I take my time. I'm not in any hurry. It's a nice day out. I'm glad to be outside in it. I spend some time with the cat on my return. Bring in some wood. Take a bath. Eat the small remnants from my breakfast.

The day gets away from me. Soon enough it's weather time.

I write a little bit.

I read.

I watch a show.

I head up to bed.

Caretaker’s Log, Sunday, April 26, 2015

There's already 2 inches of snow on the ground and more falling when I get up.

I water the plants first thing. Empty the leak bucket, clean out the ash in the fireplace, make coffee, take the cat fresh water and add food to her food dish, refill the diesel dust bucket, work a crossword, get some information off one of the systems in the generator shed to send to Loring, and send a couple of emails all before breakfast.

I see a coyote in the west field trudging through the snow. Then it vanishes into the trees.

I have an omelet for breakfast and use up some of the precious spinach.

When the afternoon brings warmer temperatures, the snow, although it's still falling, melts into the ground. So much for any accumulation.

The ground squirrels are more chummy with each other. I wonder what they're up to.

I'm out with the cat when I hear a bizarre buzzing like a giant fly or a bee. I look around puzzled. Then the swans come trumpeting in to view. Buzzing and trumpeting. They stand out so white even against the inconsistent snow.

I'm in an odd mood, wistful and a bit, not quite lonely, but feeling distanced. So I do as my mom once told me and write through the emotion. I work on a short story all afternoon.

I talk with my grandmother. My grandfather has been released from the hospital and they will be heading home at any moment.

I write.

Outside the snow falls. Stops. Comes again. Although the ground accumulation has already melted with the above freezing temperatures and the snowboard shows nothing more than a damp trace the precipitation bucket will give a big number tonight.

I do an hour and a half yoga workout.

I take a bath. Wash my hair.

At six o'clock, I go walk around in the snow-rain with the cat. We’re at the Hydro pit when a goose comes flying in. It puts down its landing gear and slides across the top of the water to a splashing landing, making an "oh my God, I can't stop," kind of noise. But then, suddenly, it collects itself and settles in the water. It says, "Honk honk." As if pleased with its performance. I laugh out loud, but try to keep it low enough so as not to offend that silly goose.

0.18 inches of precipitation.

In the lodge, I settle in on the couch and read. After a while I watch a show. Then it's bedtime. No mice in the tub tonight.

Caretaker’s Log, Monday, April 27, 2015

The phone rings at 8:10. I get downstairs and pick it up. One ring too late. All I've got to hear is a dial tone.

17 weeks today.

The morning is like a Carpenters song. Take your pick as to which one.

I work a crossword. Drink some coffee. Sit outside and read until the sun disappears behind a giant cloud and the morning breeze chills me.

I work the edges of one of the new airdropped jigsaw puzzles.

I read.

I have a spinach and fruit smoothie for breakfast.

The geese are active this morning. There are several pairs flapping about.

Again, I'm not feeling like doing anything. So I gear up and go for a hike. There's nothing like fresh air and motion to ward away ennui.

I walk to the dam, going through the willows and trees rather than up the muddy road. I hear a bird, two birds tapping trees. I assume they’re woodpeckers. I finally see one of them. At the dam things look fine. I get some pictures of the wood pecking bird, possibly both of them, on my way down.

I hike about an hour and twenty minutes. It does me good.

Back at the lodge, I take a bath.

I find out that the birds are not woodpeckers but probably yellow-bellied sapsuckers. Which sounds like a really mean insult.

I check my email and discover my mom had tried to text me and call with no response from me. I email her back and then call her. She's glad I haven't fallen off the cliff where the petroglyphs are hidden.

I call my grandmother but she has company and will call me back.

I eat the very last can of tuna for dinner with the last of the Monterey Jack cheese. I have a can of sliced pears as a side.

My grandmother calls back and while we’re talking the call waiting beeps in. Eventually, I get over and it's Michaela. Tomorrow is her birthday. We talk for a little bit. Finally, I call my grandmother and we get in something of a conversation. It's all so jumbled that for the first time since I've been caretaker I'm late in recording the weather. Twelve minutes late.

The cat and I do our walk around. I give her more food since the ground squirrels have cleaned her out.

I work on the short story I’d started yesterday.

The evening turns dark and eventually I go on up to bed. Another day for the books.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

No Mouse Left Behind

Caretaker’s Log, Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I'm lying awake in bed thinking about my dream in which I’d been hanging out with President and Michelle Obama. I’ve just decided to get up when the phone rings. It's Marie. I ask if I can call her right back. I run back upstairs to get dressed and brush my teeth. There's a mouse in the bathtub. I run downstairs for the mouse collecting bucket, get the mouse, take it outside, wish it well, empty the leak water bucket in the entry room, and call her back. We talk about an hour. When I tell my niece about the seven moose I had seen the day before she says, "Well, maybe when you come to visit me you can bring one with you." She makes it sound so simple.

Then I get the other morning things in. I check the generator shed, start a fire, give the cat water and food, drink another cup of coffee.

I work a crossword on the front porch with the cat’s help.

The phone rings. It's Michaela.

I make breakfast. Post a blog. Then I start on the inventory of the storeroom food for Kathy. After a couple hours, I take a break. Add wood to the fire. Open a multi-green Kumbucha I’d brought with me. Read for a little bit. I do some more inventorying. Then I take a walk outside. It's 59 degrees!

I start the generator at four o'clock. I'll let it charge since it was getting low again. While I'm in the shed I hear a strange sound. A strange cracking noise. I go outside to hear it better and am just in time to see a tree fall on the north slope.

I make salmon and rice for dinner and have a can of sliced pears as a side. I clean up the dishes. Record the weather. Check on the generator shed, the charge is still running. Talk to the cat.

Back inside, I see a mouse sneak in to get some of the cat’s food.

I write a little of this new short story I'm working on.

Check the shed again. There's a beaver swimming around. Then there are two. They stand on the bank working together. A third one joins them. I sit on the Wild Hydro pit's roof and watch them for a while.

Caretaker’s Log, Thursday, April 23, 2015

There are two mice in the bathtub. They’re huddled in the drain catch together. As I'm collecting them in containers, I set one on the edge of the tub, but it jumps out the top and runs off in the blink of an eye. Damn. I should have known better than that. Hey, mouse, I think after it, whatever happened to no mouse left behind?

I take the second mouse about a quarter to half a mile away and let it loose. It looks scared and I feel badly. I would have liked to have set it free with its friend alongside.

There are two moose heading up the slope. Then they're out of sight. The swans fly across the way and settle in the water over to the northeast.

Then it's time for coffee and a crossword.

I'm in the kitchen getting a refill when I see the two moose galloping down the slope and across the field. They disappear into the willows. I like to think they encountered the mouse that I relocated, lifted up their hooves, cried, "Eeks!" and then fled away in the opposite direction.

It feels like a storm is coming in. I can feel it in the inexplicable bad mood and the pain that I'm experiencing.

For breakfast I make quinoa tortillas and have egg, potato, mushroom, spinach, refried bean tacos with fresh made guacamole and grated cheese on top.

I clean out the mouse droppings in two of the cabinets in the piano room. I clean out the mouse droppings in the bathtub and scrub and disinfect it.

I take out the trash. Bag up the recycling.

I finish the inventory count for Kathy and type some of it up.

I feel gross. Unclean and covered in dirty clothes. I go take a bath. Wash my hair. As I’m getting set to leave the bathroom that escaped mouse peeks his head out, sees me, and disappears again. I imagine I'll see him in the morning.

I put some laundry in the sink to soak.

I walk around outside. The cat comes with me.

I wring out the laundry and hang it to dry.

At 6:39, the storm I've been feeling all day finally arrives. It's rain! I go outside and put my hand out to feel it just to be sure. It's rain not snow.

I eat the leftover breakfast stuff for dinner.

The storm lasts for all of twenty-four minutes and then it's gone. Outside, the earth smells of water, the land looks brighter, the birds sing.

JoAnn calls.

I finish up the inventory document and send it off to Kathy.

It's already nine o'clock.

I write a token bit.

I watch a show and drink a glass of wine. A mouse runs by. Watches me from under the desk where I do my writing. The impudent little bugger.

There are frost imprints on the skylight that look like fern leaves.

The moon is a crescent.

The bathroom mouse pokes his head out again when I come to brush my teeth. Is it the same one as from downstairs? I don't know. There are just too many mice.

Caretaker’s Log, Friday, April 24, 2015

There are no tub captured mice when I get up. I'm glad to have a break from them. At least for now.

I see a kingfisher on the fence.

I start the generator and then make coffee. I work a crossword with the first cup. I check my email and the Internet while the fire gets going. I take my second cup of coffee and go sit on the front porch. The cat loves this. The clouds occasionally block the sun which makes me sing the Elton John song The Way You Look Tonight because one of the lines is, "I was feeling like a cloud across the sun."

The wind makes the trees hum every now and then. The birds add some harmony.

I pick out some of the little burrs that collected all over my boots yesterday morning when I was relocating that mouse.

I walk across the yard and do a little inventory of some of the things in the root cellar. While I'm there I get a jar of prepared horseradish and some cans of cubed pineapple.

I take the bagged recycling to the incinerator shed.

I finally stitch the hole in my coat that has been leaking white feathers all over the Gros Ventre Wilderness.

I call Loring to ask there's any reason not to start the Hydro up again. I'll do that after the generator charge has finished.
I eat tuna for lunch.

I stop the generator at three o'clock. Turn the Hydro back on at 3:15. It's all powered up. Now to see how long it'll last this time. I check in with Loring one more time to make sure the gauges are all reading the right numbers.

Clouds are moving in over the Valley. The storm rolls in just before five o'clock. The mama and baby moose dash across the field trying to beat the snow which is already falling. First it snow pellets. Then snow. It falls in pretty, thick flakes. I go out and turn my face upward. It's magical and wintry and I love it.

I go in, sit at the table so that I can see the snowfall, and read.

Just that quickly, the storm passes. Barely thirty minutes.

I read a little longer.

At seven o'clock, I gather the precipitation bucket and measure what’s there. 0.02 inches.

The clouds hang thick over the east mountains.

I write for a little bit.

At eight o'clock, it starts to snow again. This time earnestly.

I watch a show. I go upstairs.

There's a mouse in the bathtub when I go to brush my teeth. "You'll have to stay there all night," I tell him. "Sorry." I give him some raisins to sustain him. His buddy is lurking nearby. He comes and sits on the faucet but I know I'm not stealthy enough to trick him into falling in. I'll have to hope he does that on his own while I sleep.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

From a Great Height

Caretaker’s Log, Sunday, April 19, 2015

I'm up before eight o'clock because there's a possibility I'll get an air drop this morning. I'm tired. I dreamed I was taking a full college load and had missed one of the research paper deadlines. Because I was blackmailing the professor into letting me, I had four hours to make up the final in order to not fail the class. To top that off, I couldn't read the assignment. Every time I looked at the page it was blurry. Not exactly a stress-free dream.

I don't get an air drop. No email either. I guess it's off. It's a windy day. That's okay.

I take my coffee outside but only sit for a while. The wind is too chill.

I make a Mexican pizza for lunch. I read a little. Work on the short story I'm writing. Call my grandmother.

Somewhere around five o'clock I go outside. I check the generator shed and sadly, the red Failsafe light is on. I try four different times to reconnect the system before I call Loring. No answer. I try it one more time then call Karen to ask if I should shut things down and drain it all. She consults with Greg and they say yes. It’s easy peasy to do that. I know how. Also all the snow is practically gone which makes things even easier to get to.

As I'm getting set to put things away out by the Wild Hydro pit, I hear a sloshing water sound. I look up to see a mama and new baby moose wading at a trot through the river. They head right at me in the river’s straightaway and then turn with the bend. They follow the water until they’re out of sight and sound.

"That was awesome," I say out loud to no one but myself. I don't think they even saw me.

I send out an email to update everyone concerned on the Hydro system. I eat the leftover Mexican pizza for dinner. I just want to sit and read in the time I have before bed. But I make the mistake of updating the software on my phone after I plug it into my computer to transfer some pictures. That makes relaxing and reading not so relaxing. I have to keep checking and approving the changes. Finally, it's done. Nothing too hateful changed with the update and I'm glad for that.

I read a little bit more then go to bed. I'm tired.

Caretaker’s Log, Monday, April 20, 2015

16 weeks today.

I've got no warning as to what time the airdrop will be. Karen had told me it was scheduled for today when we spoke on the phone yesterday. So I get up early. And it's a good thing. There's a mouse in the bathtub. The bathtub is turning into quite the mouse trap. Effective and humane. I collect him and take him outside to the trees. The cat follows lazily behind. "Fare thee well," I tell the mouse as I leave it.

There are four moose on the slopes.

Back inside, I clean the mouse poop out of the tub. Pour a lot of bleach in to soak.

I'm bringing down my notebooks and water bottle from upstairs when I hear the plane. It's only 8:05. I'm glad I've been up for a while and I'm already dressed. I even still have my coat and boots on. I grab my hat, gloves, sunglasses, and camera, and rush outside.

I wave as they buzz the house a second time. Then they drop package after package in the east field. The first one I see hit the ground is a box which explodes with a violet purple cloud on impact. Ah, wine, I muse. The moral of the story is still that boxed wine does not airdrop well. There's not a drop to salvage from the container. I hadn't requested any, I still have a supply, but they had kindly thought of my wine likes and included it just to be nice.

What I do get is: three jigsaw puzzles, a jar of honey, one cauliflower, three avocados, some button mushrooms, a container of spinach, one ball of mozzarella, one stick of Havarti, some rice crackers, three small cans of tuna, a new pair of dishwashing gloves that are actually small enough to fit my hands, and three bars of soap for hand washing in the bathrooms. It's a treasure trove.

By the time I've brought in all the boxes and opened them up it's 8:35. Karen calls to see how things went and to find out how far the guys are away from them.

I eat a very delightful veggie omelet for breakfast.

I clean up the dishes.

I call my mom. We talk for an hour. Then I put the skis on and go up the main road. It may be the last time. Good portions of the road are devoid of snow altogether. I skirt the sides of slopes where the snow still stands. Once or twice I tread lightly over mud. Only once do I take my skis off and that’s on the way down.

I go up past the main gate and go until the snow is too soft and I begin to consistently sink in ankle deep.

I turn around and head back. It's fun and a bit tricky. I avoid the mud patches and fallen trees and slushy snow and still managed to have some good downhill runs. All in all, it's a good hour and twenty minute excursion.

The yard snow is almost all gone.

I take a bath.

I call my grandmother.

I sit on the couch and read. It's what I had wanted to do all day yesterday.

Phinehas calls.

I read a little more.

I eat an apple as a pre-dinner snack. I'm not sure what I'm in the mood for. Nothing sounds good. Eventually I settle on tuna, of course. I use one third of the first avocado.

There's an eagle being chased off by ducks. It settles in a tree. I go out to try and get a picture of it in the gathering dusk. The cat comes over to say hi. We do the walk around. It's 6:45 and the battery level is low. I had thought it would last until the morning. I debate on whether to run a charge now or go ahead and let the power go completely out sometime during the night. I choose the latter.

Two eagles dive and soar over the east field. I can’t tell if they’re friends or foes.

I go in, finish my dinner, clean up the dishes, tweak the short story I've been messing with some, and start a new one.

Then I shut the computer off and read for about forty-five minutes while I have a glass of wine. This second Kurt Wallender book is better than the first one.

I can hear the owls.

It's only 9:30 when I head up to bed. It's been a long and busy and good day.

Caretaker’s Log, Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I'm awake around six o'clock. I can't go back to sleep. So at 6:20 or 6:30 I get up. I've got power on the mind. Surprisingly, it's still on. I'd been sure I would lose it around 2:00 AM. It's not the end of the world if the power goes out. Not for short periods anyway. Starting things back up is as simple as turning the generator on.

I get outside. The sun is just about to rise up over the mountains. The clouds are long and white and cotton swab soft.

There are seven moose on the slopes. Three pairs and one loner. I think at least two of them are new babies. They get big so fast.

I start the generator at 7:01 AM.

The birds are out and singing.

The cat is surprised that I'm up this early but she'll take attention at any time of the day or night.

The ground squirrels are having territory chasing battles. Mikey and a new squirrel named O'Conner get into it, tumbling together in a wild wrestling match during which Mikey grabs hold of the back of O'Conner's neck. I almost step in to break it up, but then they separate and run away to their home bases, panting and eyeing each other. I roll my eyes. The ground squirrel life is a wild one.

I have my coffee. Work a crossword.

A bird makes the mistake of flying into the netted porch where the cat’s house and food are. She can't get out. The cat sneaks in waiting for her chance to have a feathery breakfast. I can't stand it. I go out to lend aid. After a bit of chasing around I get the bird out through a slit in the netting. It flies away with relief. The cat is sorely disappointed.

I read.

The phone rings. It's my sister Jesse.

Then Marie, my sister-in-law, calls.

I read some more.

The phone rings. It's the owner Paul checking in and talking about yesterday's airdrop. While we're on the phone a random storm blows over. It snows for something like three minutes and then it’s gone.

The generator charge is still running. The power had gotten very low. After seven hours it's finally finished and I shut it off. The silence, well, silence broken by geese, ducks, Sandhill cranes, mountain bluebirds, all the ground squirrels, and the cat, is lovely.

I read some more. I've almost finished the second Kurt Wallender book. It's better than the first but I'm still not bonding with the character. Maybe I will on the third.

I talk to my grandmother.

The cat and I walk around. I feel like I've been on the phone all day. Inside all day.

I have tuna for dinner.

I answer some emails. Kathy, the owner, warns me that workers may be coming here as soon as May 20th. I can't believe the time is getting away so fast.

I record the weather. I go out for one last walk around. The cat comes too. It's a lovely evening. A pair of geese is in the river. Ducks are everywhere. As we’re watching, two swans rise from the lake over to the northeast and fly in front of me, trumpeting like pages in a Walt Disney movie. It sounds so comical that I laugh out loud which makes the geese annoyed at me. So much so that they fly off to another part of the river. I guess not everyone has a sense of humor. Silly geese.

I write a tiny bit.

I settle in for the evening. I’m sitting on the couch reading when a mouse walks by. It goes from the door to the far wall and then back again as if it’s doing its nightly constitutional. Then it darts into the kitchen and I go after it. I want to catch it. I’ve got a full on catch and release program in motion for all these mice. But it’s too clever, too quick. It gets by me and disappears in the piano room. Goodnight, mouse.

I go up to bed.