Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Balm in Gilead

Caretaker’s Log, Saturday, May 16, 2015

It's my mom's birthday. Happy birthday, Mom!

I’ve set my alarm for 6:30. But someone is up and puttering around the kitchen before my clock even reads six o'clock. It's too early. Come on, man, I think, couldn't you stay in your cabin until breakfast time?

It's no use trying, I can’t get back to sleep so I get up. It's snowing out. The putterer is Loring. He's got his papers spread out over the table and a cup of tea near to hand. He has a busy day of work ahead of him.

I say good morning and get some coffee going. Regular for me, Porgy, and Charlie. Decaf for Gerry.

I start rolled oats rolling and warm up some frozen fruit in coconut oil and maple syrup. I put out bread for toast and set out butter and jam. Breakfast happens around 7:30.

A new guy, Todd, a surveyor, shows up around eight o'clock. He's already had his breakfast but he takes a cup of coffee.

I sip on coffee as the guys eat, drink, and plan out their day. I don't usually eat this early. I’ll have my breakfast after a while. After their breakfast is done and they’ve gotten wrapped up in discussion, I post a blog. It snows on and off all day long. I clean up the dishes. The guys get to work.

I'm sleepy and starting to feel the weight of the days and the company. There's a craving inside of me for the solitude that I love so much. I need a break.

I bake some cookies. They're out of the oven and ready when it's time to make lunch. I make an easy lunch. Chicken noodle soup out of cans with added rice and black pepper. I broil up some cheese toast, make a salad, wash some grapes, and put the already sliced watermelon on the table. Kathy will be pleased that I'm using up the canned goods.

Porgy and Todd leave shortly after lunch. Gerry was going to go too, but since the backhoe is being rented by the day he and Porgy thought it prudent for him to stay and work. It's a good plan, but I'm a little disappointed. I had begun to anticipate having the lodge to myself again. But I don't let on how I feel. Fixing meals for one person and me is still easier than for four or five.

Loring goes to take a nap, Gerry gets back to work, I clean up after lunch and then go out and sit on the sauna porch. I try to talk the cat down to come keep me company, but she's out of sight and sound. A ground squirrel is curious that I'm sitting on its porch. It stares me down while I try to nap with my back up against the door to the sauna. After a while it fusses at me. "Shush, you crazy squirrel," I say, grouchy with sleepiness. Another ground squirrel comes along and pays me no mind as it eats. The fussing squirrel vanishes under the porch. The sun peeks out for a moment and then another storm rolls in. I give up and go lay down on the couch. Close my eyes. I don't know if I fall asleep or not.

When Loring comes inside I get up.

It really begins to snow.

He collects his things and we go over last minute details. Loring tells me the backhoe tread has slipped off and Gerry is going back to Jackson with him. I'm sorry the machine broke but I'm deeply grateful for the day and a half I’ll have to myself.

Loring packs out some of the trash and all of the recycling.

I wave goodbye and go in to the solitude.

I sweep. Straighten things up.

I call my grandmother.

I make tuna for dinner and remember that I have PopChips that Melody had gotten with the other groceries and that I had hidden away for myself. It'll be a celebration night.

The cat comes around and I go out to talk with her. I'd missed her. Companionship goes two ways, I suppose. She and I do the weather and nightly walk around together. Just like old times. After I've gone back in, she settles in her house for the night and I eat my dinner.

Being alone is like the balm of Gilead, soothing and charmingly perfumed.

Being alone again is great.
The cat darts out of her house and I look to see what she's after. All I see is a fleeting wing, a bird gone. Curious, I go outside. The clouds are amazing. Sifting, creeping over the mountains to hide them, mask them, shroud them.

The cat purrs, winds around my legs. She loves being alone again too.

I go back inside. Wash up my minimal dishes. Catch up on my blog journal. Pour a glass of wine. Open up the PopChips. Watch a show.

As I'm watching, a mouse darts in. Porgy had seen it two nights ago. "There's a mouse," he’d said.

"Oh," I replied, not surprised that there was a mouse, but a little surprised that the mouse had come out with so many people here. I tell Porgy about relocating the mice, about catching them in the tub. He doesn’t give me grief for not killing them.

This mouse forages under the table for the scraps I haven't yet vacuumed up. It watches me and makes its rounds around the room. Then it dashes over by the fire and I don’t see it again. There seems to be a hole in the wall near the stove. That must be how it goes in and out to eat from the cat’s dish.

I finish my shows. Shut things down for the night and go upstairs.

A mouse, maybe the same one, maybe a second mouse, has been in the bathtub. It’s nibbled the edge of my soap bar and left droppings in the tub. I clean up the mess so I can take a bath and wash my hair. I brush my teeth and go to bed.

Caretaker’s Log, Sunday, May 17, 2015

Although I wake up at six and then again at 7:05, I stay in bed until eight o'clock. The lodge is still and silent. Have I mentioned that being alone is nice?

The cat gets out of her house when she sees me come into the living room. She stretches long and lazily. I go give her some fresh food and then walk across the yard to the root cellar to get some spinach. The cat comes along.

Back inside, I water the plants, make fresh coffee, and see a moose with a horse like head run in and out of the north willows.

The bald eagle hunts over the northeast marshes.

It's a chilly, overcast, and damp morning. A perfect morning. I start a fire.

I work a crossword.

At ten o'clock, I check that the bulk charge is running. The cat comes along for that walk as well. It's snowing.

I eat a three egg, spinach, mushroom, cheese, and heart of palm omelet with a side of pan fried potatoes. I listen to music while I eat and watch the geese foraging out in the east pasture. After the breakfast dishes are clean and I've done a small load of laundry in the sink and hung the clothes to dry, I sit at the computer and write.

Snowy days like today are the best for working. I haven't written any fiction since Tuesday and the words are piling up in my head like heavy traffic on a Texas highway.

I write the afternoon away. The cat curls up in her house. The ground squirrels eat her food. The snow falls.

I have an apple for a snack. I’ll never underestimate the value of fresh food. It's a precious commodity.

At four o'clock, the sky clears enough to showcase some spots of blue. The sun, the blessed sun, is there as well. I go out and the cat and I take a walk along the river. The air is damp with moisture, the breeze soft, and the grass slightly greener. We startle a duck and see a small gaggle of geese.

Back inside, I work a little longer on the story. Then I read for a while on the couch. My eyes betray me and I fall asleep for a nanosecond or two. Then I get up and make some dinner. Dinner for one is easy peasy.

I watch the falling rain as I eat. The sun and blue sky have vanished again.

When I go out to get the precipitation bucket and write down today's kilowatt hours, I see elk making their way up the northern slope.

The cat is curled up tight in her house, cozy, asleep.

I work some more. Nearly 1000 words for today's writing count. I didn't think this story would go on so long, but there it goes.

I watch two shows. Open a box of Malbec. Eat cookie crumbs and barbecue PopChips. The mouse makes it exploratory rounds. I'm not quick enough with the camera or with the flash to capture it on film.

I do the evening checks and call it a night.

Caretaker’s Log, Monday, May 18, 2015

20 weeks today.

It's another cloudy, rainy day. Low-slung clouds hover over the faces of the mountains. On the porch, the bluebird of happiness taunts the cat. "That's a bad idea," I tell it through the window. The cat makes one good leap at it and then gives up.

After my first cup of coffee and the daily crossword, I spend some time with the cat while I can. She takes a walk with me and then I go in to make breakfast. I’ve just started on it when I see the first truck come down the road. It's 10:50 in the morning.

The first comers are Gerry and Kip. They seem content to do things outside so I watch them walk around as I finish eating before I go say hi. They come in and have a cup of coffee and a cookie. Then they get to work.

I call my mom. We finish talking as the other guys arrive. It's Porgy, Arnie, and three other men I don't yet know.

They've got here just at lunch time. So I rustle up some soup, make a salad, and set out sandwich stuff. Then they all go out to work. I get the dishes cleaned and have a list of things I plan to do when I go upstairs and discover a mouse in the bathtub. I capture it and start walking to relocate it. I pass by Kip and Porgy. Porgy says they're going up to the dam and I can come along if I want. That's the perfect destination. The dam is half a mile away. A perfect distance for relocating mice. They call me tenderhearted but don't really make fun of me. At least not until we reach the dam and I release the mouse.

"What was his name?" Porgy asks.

"I didn't name him," I say.

"What are you going to tell his wife and kids?" Porgy asks.

"If I catch them I’ll bring them up here too and reunite them all again," I say.

I see a moose on the hill to the right of the dam. I’m so glad to see an old friend. Or perhaps a new one. I love the moose.

It begins to rain as we head back down. There are two impressive claps of thunder. In my haste to relocate the mouse I hadn’t even grabbed a coat. My clothes get damp and my hair frizzy. Kip and Porgy continue to work on the Tame Hydro and I go back to the lodge.

Back there, I clean up the bathtub and take a quick bath. I put on clean and dry clothes. Then I hastily wash the rain wet clothes and hang them up to dry. I don't have a wide variety of clothes in my wardrobe so I have to keep things ready to use.

Then there are a million little things to do. I help clean off the porch for the two young guys, Aaron and Sandy, who are sandblasting the lodge. I move the cat's food and water out to the barn. Porgy had already moved her house there earlier in the day. I walk around and take pictures of all the work. And all the while, I try to stay out of the flying sandblasted dust.

Arnie and Wild Bill are adding wood chinking to the west side of the building while Aaron and Sandy sandblast the east. Porgy and Kip work on the Tame Hydro to see if the fix on the pipe will hold. Gerry starts the burn pile burning and then gets back to digging with the backhoe.

I call my grandmother.

It's going to be a busy week. I’ll have to fit things, like phone calls and computer time, in as I can.

I take out the trash, prep some dinner things, set the table, record the weather, write down the kilowatt hours from the new meter in the generator shed, get some trash bags for Arnie, and prepare my own tuna fish dinner.

Dinner is on the table at 7:30. But I've not calculated the heating up time correctly for a frozen casserole. I'd taken it out of the freezer several hours ago, but foolishly I didn't put it in the oven soon enough. There's enough food in the first casserole for everyone to get a healthy serving. But the sandblasting guys need seconds. I can see that in their eyes. "Only ten more minutes," I say with great apology. I feel as if I have failed. Twenty minutes pass. Then thirty. I bring out some cookies in between the main dish courses, and they’re as happy as clams. "I'll do better tomorrow," I say.

Finished with my own dinner, I go out to put a rock against the barn door to hold it open so the cat will be able to get in and out. I also need some time away from so much conversation. It's all about the bad state of the world. I can only take so much of that. The wilderness is such a safe place. I'm not sure I want to leave. But I also don't want to be here when the summer guests arrive. I hardly want to be here with all the workers even as nice as they are. It's a Catch 22.

The cat is on the front porch when I get out there. We go together to the barn and I show her where all her stuff is. She rubs up against it, claiming it anew, and purrs as loud as ever. We do our evening walk around. The cat stops to smell the new equipment and the new guys’ vehicles. When I leave her to go back inside she looks so sad I almost stay.

Gerry and I clean up the dinner dishes. He's the very best.

I do a little prep for the morning.

The guys drift off one by one to their cabins. Porgy, the last one to go, makes a phone call. "This place is overrun with mice," he calls from the kitchen to me. It’s that blasted, daring downstairs mouse. I better catch it and relocate it before the real summer crew arrives and sets out traps.

I do a little straightening up. Then I get ready for bed. We’ve hit the ground running. The work is in full swing, rain or no rain. Tomorrow will be a full and busy day.

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