Feb 092010

1. The weather report warned of snow and it looked like we were going to be locked in for the weekend. Dianna decided to pick up vegetables on the way home from teaching 3rd Grade and make a batch of soup. She has owned a restaurant, a catering business, and raised a family; she is a master cook. Although I have never thought that I could like turnip or rutabaga, her soup makes your mouth water as it cooks down. The spices permeate all of the vegetables and make every bite a delight. All three cats wait patiently for their turn at the empty bowls. We know they will turn their noses up at our broth so we open a real people can of tuna and sit, holding hands while we watch them enjoying their favorite meal too.

2. The new snow started falling in the late afternoon, approaching dusk. The huge round flakes drifted slowly down, hanging in the trees and carpeting the leaves on the forest floor. The work of the day was past and there was time to draw breath and pause. The snow clouds had been building all afternoon and it was Friday. Dianna and I stood on the back porch silently watching and listening. Everything was silent except for the subdued burbling of the spring-fed cascade falling down the hill to make its was past our cabin on its way to join John’s Creek.

3. The snow had accumulated deeply at 3,200 feet and, anticipating a slick gravel drive, we had put both cars about 50 yards above the parking area at our cabin. Trying to get Dianna’s car out to the top of the rise, I had, with repeated runs through the snow and slush, managed to get within 200 feet of the rise and had spent the last hours of the afternoon using a 12’ come-along to winch her car another 100 feet closer. I had given up and would call for a tow truck tomorrow. Sweating profusely I returned to the house, removed my coats and fell onto the couch.
Our bowling ball cat, Miss Skitty, has the prettiest pink nose and is a lover. Crawling to the back of the couch behind my head, she proceeded to give me a thorough cat bath. Starting at the hairline around one ear, she cleaned my sweat, including most of my bald head. Rolling my neck to help her find the next spot that needed attention from the sharp rasp of her tongue, I didn’t just allow her attention, but intensely enjoyed the service. When she was done, I leaned back so that she could rest on my chest while I cradled her with my arms.

4. The full moon was up, transforming the darkness of our hole-in-the-woods into a wonderland of shadows. On an impulse, we moved bedding to the pull-out couch in the windowed family room. It sags a little in the middle, but that just snuggles us closer and keeps us warmer. I know that Dianna goes to sleep better before a school day when she has me against her. We called the cats, who sometimes like to camp out on top of us at night, and dropped off to the flickering shadows of moonlight through the trees, the singing of the stream, and the purring of the cats.

5. The wood pellet stove has been shutting itself down. Using the schematic on the back cover and a voltmeter, I dive in and start troubleshooting. It is a tedious and difficult process. There are some errands that need doing in town and I include a trip to Radio Shack where I buy some small indicator lamps and splicing clips. Back home, I install them at vital points in the control wiring, plug the stove in, and press start. I quickly discover that several minutes into the start-up cycle, a forced-air discharge over-pressure switch is opening. It has to be an obstruction in the chimney. Raising a ladder to the roof, I knock old creosote loose from the mesh grating around the chimney cover. Besides enjoying the satisfaction of the trouble-shooting work itself, I treat myself to the pleasure of reading a good book, my feet propped up in front of the warmth and dancing flames of a balky appliance that has fully and readily submitted to me.

6. I attend two classes (Positive Psychology and Creative Writing) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They are both electives and both centered on student participation. Only those students who are sufficiently interested in the subject end up in class, and most all of them are comfortable opening up and contributing. The environment is upbuilding, intensely satisfying, and usually over much too soon. I enjoy being there and feel especially fond of the people with whom I share that time.

7. Last night was popcorn night. A light supper lets us indulge the extra carbohydrates. We chose the movie “Saint Ralph,” which turned out to be better than expected. The plot featured coming-of-age, triumph-over-adversity, and rightness-over-authority themes; it doesn’t get any better. Our routine works like this: It is my job to pick a popcorn moment—that unexpected twist or really quirky event that happens about thirty minutes into the show. That’s when I hit pause, get up, bring back two glasses of water, and make two bowls of fresh (not microwave) popcorn with extra real butter. Dianna always gets effusive about the smell and the taste. We snuggle into our places, restart the movie, start munching, and throw little pieces of corn to the cat that we refer to as Gretta Carbo for the occasion.