After the storm, after the slow start that led to so many social media posts slamming and demeaning meteorologists, after the quiet, steady, falling snow, after the winds whipping drifts five feet high, after the trees were firmly and politely bowed with their cold burden, after all that… Comes the crisp, clear, pure sky, the dazzling contrast of white against azure, the sun valiantly shining but futile in melting, the silence of usually busy streets disrupted occasionally by the clinking roar of a plow, the creaks and plops of those trees shedding dollops of snow, the woman wading through the depths of an alley to free her Bungalow from its magical slumber….
Daily gratitudes: That I’m strong enough to shovel myself out The beauty of undisturbed snow A dent in our drought levels A warm sunset in a cold sky Hot baths and good books
Quote of the day: “The snow fell as softly as a poet’s tears.” — Kevin Ansbro
While I am accustomed to charring things accidentally in the kitchen, I’ve never actually killed an appliance. I did accidentally destroy a china monkey hanging from the ceiling in the Cottage during the Great Smoke Detector Debacle of 2010. And when I moved out of the Cottage, my landlady inquired as to whether there had ever been a fire in the oven — I had to hesitate because there had been a fire or two ON the stove, just not exactly IN the oven. Yesterday, though, the microwave died.
In my defense, the microwave was old. At least 11 years old. So I’d prefer to think that I was its Death Doula (part of my future career plan), and not a murderer responsible for its demise. I thought it was having a glitch three days ago, when I put a cup of coffee in it and after a minute and a half, it came out cold. Later in the day, I tried heating soup, and it came out warm, but not hot. In the Bungalow, there are a myriad of eccentric electrical systems. For example, when I plug in the television in the living room, the ceiling fan comes on, but the television doesn’t. So I just assumed it was another transient house quirk. Those happen all the time.
Yesterday, when I put some soup in the microwave for lunch, there was a startling POP as it started running, but it ran for its required three minutes. And then it died. The soup was lukewarm. I checked that the breaker it was still on (that’s been an issue before). Walking into the bathroom, which shares a wall with the location of the microwave outlet, it smelled like an electrical short. I made sure the wall wasn’t hot, hoping there was no fire smoldering in said wall, and the scent of burning wires dissipated. The microwave was finally gone. It was a good appliance and served me, and Niece 1 before me, well.
I was raised in an era when microwaves did not exist. When you wanted to reheat something, you put it in a pot on the stove, or a dish in the oven. I didn’t have one through college either. But now (decades later), we are a society that can’t wait for things to heat on stoves. It has to be hot in minutes, when we want it, without delay. Shifting back from that mentality is a challenge, and one I’m fully prepared to admit that I didn’t want to face, partly because I don’t have a dishwasher and hate doing dishes. Who wants more dirty dishes?
Fortunately, I had been banging around in the garage just before lunch, in search of M’s and my Blue Willow china to take up to the Retreat, and had come across the microwave that I had when I lived in the Cottage over a decade ago. What perfect timing! Digging it out from behind the bicycles, over the ottoman, and off the shelf from underneath empty moving boxes, between the heavy bag and the BMW, I had hope. It was tucked up in newspapers, with its little round tray intact (the whole unit is a tiny thing, especially compared to its predecessor) and when I plugged it in, it was perfect. Not as strong as my old workhorse but completely serviceable.
The nicest thing about this experience, aside from the fact that my need for immediate food gratification can continue to be fulfilled, is the newspapers Li’l Wave was wrapped in. At first, I crumpled them up to put in the recycle bin, but then a headline caught my eye. A near drowning at a public pool that no longer exists in a nearby town. No victim named, and the three-year old girl was already well on the road to recovery when the paramedics arrived, but this was still the small town newspaper headline. Next to it, was a large, lovely color picture of a mare and her new foal, with, essentially, a birth announcement from a local farm. All ten years ago. I wonder what those horses look like today? That little girl is in middle school now. Does she remember?
I am unfolding the packing newspapers to look through them to see how things have changed, for a glimpse back to what was a simpler time, even though it was only a decade ago — not that long. It was a time when I was trying to rebuild my life and I had a lot of hope. And Spring was coming. The world doesn’t look at all the same now. My life looks very different, and it’s a happy different. The snow is blowing outside the picture window tonight, and I’m cuddled up and warm. It’s all good.
Daily gratitudes: The older gentleman’s shock and joy at the price of asparagus Beating the snow home Talks with K A good night’s sleep Wind chimes
Quote of the Day: “A trip ends. A journey doesn’t.” — Mr. Boehmer
I’m likely talking to most of the U.S. now. It’s cold. Here, right now, it’s 0 degrees and the sun is starting to set, which means it’s just going to get colder. Being a woman of a certain age, I keep the house cold anyway, so cold that K and M both feel like they’re in a meat locker when they’re here. It helps me sleep because I can get super snuggly and toasty warm. During the day, however, when sleep is not an option, I’m working under two blankets, my feet encased in Muk Luk fuzzy socks, and my insides warmed by mugs of tea.
That’s the standard for the Bungalow. Today has been an exception. In defiance of my upbringing of keeping the house cold, I’ve turned the heat up to (gasp!) 64. That’s kept my hands warm today, so I haven’t had to resort to fingerless mittens for computer work, as I did yesterday. It will be a challenge to keep the Retreat warm, because the ceilings are so high, but we’ll manage somehow.
When it was bitterly cold on Friday night, the Black Angus cows were covered with a coating of frozen snow, clustered together for warmth. I could almost hear them wishing that they were allowed in a house (not a barn) to warm up. My original Colorado house was across from a small ranch, run by a single little old woman named Charlene. I wanted to K to grow up with cows and horses visible from the big front window, and I succeeded. Charlene passed away a few years back, closely coinciding with K’s departure for college, and the HazMat crew was called out to demolish her small house. Apparently, she was somewhat of a hoarder, and I know that she would occasionally take her winter calves inside the house to hand raise. them. That’s what all those cows the other night wanted…to be hand-fed into front of a toasty fire in a warm house.
My Facebook memories are rubbing my nose in the cold today, as usually M and I are somewhere tropical and warm at this time of the year. So I keep seeing images of Belize, of Abaco, of Cozumel, of Costa Rica, pop up. I’m grateful that I’ve had those times, and we’re happy that we’ve dodged this kind of weather well the past four years. It’s worth it to be here as we continue to shift to the Retreat.
Stay warm, my friends. Here’s the dreaming of tropical beaches.
It is a cold and unfriendly day today, gray and snowing. Champagne snow, as opposed to the big chunky, happy flakes that seem more like someone up above is pouring them from buckets in the heavens. Those kind of snowflakes remind me of the ones we used to cut out from folded paper as children and hang in the windows of our classroom. Or, in the case of childlike adults such as myself, on the windows of my downtown office building.
On days like today, I try to warm the house with soup and broiled brussels sprouts, for which I have just developed a fondness after a lifelong distaste. And after work, a sherry glass of Creme de Violettes and Wilke Collins’ ‘The Woman in White’ on Masterpiece Theatre.
This kind of weather makes my hands ache, a precursor to the arthritis which my Mother had. When I moved to Colorado as a younger woman, I wanted snow. Growing up in the South, it was such a lovely rarity. I lost some of my excitement for it when I lived in Boston, as the city turned the snow dirty so quickly. Even here in the West, I’ve never warmed to winter sports. I’m not a fan of downhill skiing, though I enjoyed cross-country skiing (is that the old term for it?) occasionally, and snowshoeing the one time I tried it. We may pursue the last activity in the woods around the Retreat, where we will surely get more snow.
I’m particular about my snow preferences – it should either be feet or none at all, not just an inch or two that makes the roads slick and requires a half-hearted effort at city-mandated shoveling. Give me all or nothing. Go big or go home.
Tonight, I’m cuddled under blankets on the couch, Mr. Man at my side, watching the day dim from light to night, feeling a little blue. I look forward to snuggling with M on nights like these when we’re both established in the Retreat, and we can help each other see the beauty that I know is hidden in winter.
I am not much of a singer, being very shy about my voice, which is something that a therapist would no doubt have a great time unpacking. I actually think I have a pretty nice singing voice, judging from my enthusiastic performances during The Drive. I especially like it when I have a bit of a cold, because then I get my sultry 900-number voice and sound like a torch singer. Only once in my life have I ever done anything like karaoke. It was in Dallas, on top of a grand piano, after much alcohol, and the evening ended with the police recommending that I leave town and not return (though not because of my singing).
If I sing in someone’s presence, it means I trust them with some deep and sensitive part of me. I sing in front of M, which reflects the strength of our relationship. And I sing unconsciously in the kitchen when K is home, because I’m happy she’s there and I feel I can be completely myself with her. I hope she remembers when she gets older that her mother used to sing incomplete versions of The Lumberjack Song, among other ditties, in the morning as she lay in bed. I usually add my own lyrics when I forget the actual ones. My Mother also sang snatches of songs in the kitchen. That’s where a lot of my kitchen songs (and ones I used to sing to K in the car) come from. They’re all old songs, and when I say old, I mean from the 1940s. Think Fred Astaire movies and Cole Porter tunes. My Mother had a lovely, sweet, singing voice
I sang to K at night when she was little, as my Mother did to me. Every night when I was small, my Mother would sing Rock-a-Bye Baby to me. If I had bad dreams, she would cuddle me in the big rocking chair and sing to soothe me. My two favorites were “I Wonder as I Wander” (fitting for the little wanderer that was me) and “The Cherry Tree Carol”. I’m sure there were others. In fact, decades ago, my Mother made me a tape of herself singing my favorite lullabies. Even though I treasure it, I have had a very hard time keeping track of it. But I know that the tape will reappear when I need it most. Of that I am certain.
The songs I sang to K were not the same as those my Mother sang to me. My favorites to sing to her were “When Halley Came to Jackson”, “Down in the Valley”, “End of my Pirate Days”, “Go to Sleep my Zoodle”, “Go Tell Aunt Rhody”, “Meet Me in St. Louis” (which is a song that saved her life when she was very tiny because she had been crying for six straight hours and I was home alone with her and called the doctor because I wanted to drop her out of the second story window into the snow and I discovered that singing this song to her over and over made her stop crying), and a lullaby that I created when I was pregnant called “Go to Sleep, my Little Love”. Again, I’m sure there were more. She doesn’t recall the songs too well, but I think that’s a factor of age and where she is in her life. If she has a child, she will remember my singing to her, and find her own songs to sing to her wonderful little person.
I’d love to know what songs you sing (or sang) to your children, and what songs your mother sang to you. I have a dear friend who is having her first child in May and I’d like to put together a little collection for her. She and her husband are exceptionally musical, so I know they won’t be shy about singing to their little guy who will, as so many children before him, feel the love in those songs.
One thing you didn’t know about me: I love driving. LOVE IT. Which is a good thing, because I married a car guy. And I mean a REAL car guy. I won’t tell you how many cars he has, but I did put in our marriage vows that I would never ask him to sell any of them. I have also named most of them, and each has its own personality. One of the perfect things about the Retreat is that it has garage space for nine cars, so he’ll be able to tinker with the fleet to his heart’s content. That makes him happy, so that makes me happy.
The first time M drove up to my house, he had no idea I lived so far away from where he lived. In reality, it’s only 40 miles, but the first few times each of us drove those 40 miles, it felt more like 100. We definitely had some issues with balancing who went to whose house for a few years. I admit he came north more often than I went south (and for that, my love, if you’re reading this, I’m grateful.)
Now that we’re finally preparing to shack up together at the Retreat, it’s a drive for us both — about 170 miles from my Bungalow, and 130 miles from his house. This drive is different than driving to one another’s house because every time we take it, separately or together, we’re winding up in OUR house. And it’s a nice drive.
Have you noticed that when you drive a route regularly, particularly if it’s a longish drive, you create waypoints for yourself? I’ve found routes that keep me off of the interstate through the main part of the city, which makes for a slightly longer, but much more soothing drive. A long section of this interstate-avoidance takes place along what I call the “magic road”. For one thing, it’s lovely. Two lanes, rolling hills, ranches, livestock. But it’s magic because sometimes it feels like it’s a twenty-minute drive and other times, it feels like it takes an hour. M and I have decided that it’s some sort of a time vortex. But with goats and yaks.
After the magic road, there’s a stretch of interstate through an city, but the next waypoint is the Love’s truck stop. Years of being a road warrior for work taught me drink any kind of coffee, but my favorite coffee is truck stop coffee, and my favorite truck stop coffee is Love’s. Besides, who can resist the name?
Another 25 miles or so, and I catch my first glimpse of what I’ve come to think of as “my mountains”. The Spanish Peaks, whose outline looks remarkably like a lovely set of breasts, are off to the south a bit, and my mountains are off to the west. They edge the sky with a fitting craggy gentleness, growing larger as I drive closer. The Retreat is at their feet. Coming off the interstate is like diving into a valley, dry and brown in winter, deer cavalierly dining at the side of the road. Our tiny town has four churches and a post office. No stoplights. The turns to the Retreat sink us deeper into ranchland and scrub oak. And then we are home, snug in the pines. The sun sinks behind the mountain just after three, leaving a lazy, lingering light that fades to a soft dusk. I look forward to many sunsets there.
The title of this post is, once again, something that could take any number of paths, but allow me to clarify. One thing you didn’t know about me: I am an animal person. I love almost any animal — monkeys and mice are really the exceptions to that statement. My love of animals has evolved significantly over the years. As a child, my interest was rather ordinary (with one exception, to be revealed at a later date). We didn’t have dogs or cats when we were growing up. We had two turtles for quite a long time, and two gerbils. And once a cat wandered into the house. That was it.
Our neighbors had a wonderful little black puppy when I was about seven and if I was well-behaved, I was allowed to go over to their back stoop to play with Gremlin, and occasionally, the Jack Russell terrier (whose name was Ethelred and he could perfectly imitate the sound of an ambulance, always doing so when one passed by) on the other side of the duplex next door. I reached out to the lovely former neighbor a few years ago, finding her through some internet sleuthing, and she said they’d had other dogs, but never one as special as Gremlin. It warmed my heart that she still remembered the little girl next door, many moves and half a century later.
My house is full of animal-related objects, some cute, some bizarre, but all adorable in my opinion. Others might disagree, and focus more on the bizarre aspects of what I like to think of as my cabinet of curiosities, though the collection far exceeds the boundaries of any standard cabinet. I also have a skill as an animal communicator, which many people may think is a total crock, but it’s actually a thing. I have some training as a shaman, and for whatever reason, that training has resulted in a deeper connection with animals.
I tell you all of this because in future posts, I’ll explain my connections, deep or shallow, with many and varied species of animals. I look forward to sharing and I hope you look forward to reading. I leave you tonight with an image of Clyde in a rare moment of semi-serenity. You’ll have to wait to hear his story.
It’s been a long day, and as I needed a change of scenery, I drove down to the Retreat and worked there today. Leaving ridiculously early means I had almost no traffic and caught a lovely sunrise, but — one thing you didn’t know about me — I’m not a morning person unless I have a plane to catch. All this means that I’m tired and feeling singularly uninspired (apparently, my muses don’t like getting up early either). Not wanting to break the posting streak quite yet and wanting to be a good friend, I’m giving you my Pumpkin Spice Bread recipe. It’s so wonderful that you’ll want to eat the entire thing in one sitting. (Go ahead. No Judgey McJudgeboat here.) And if I can successfully bake it, anyone can. I can’t take actual credit for the recipe itself; it came from the Junior League of Wheeling, West Virginia. Yes, I do read Junior League and church cookbooks to de-stress. As the daughter of a proud West Virginian (see all the things you’re learning about me today?), I feel certain that whatever lovely Mountaineer woman created this recipe wouldn’t mind my sharing. I encourage you to bake this on a cold, dismal day, as it will make your house smell amazing and your mouth extremely happy.
Pumpkin Spice Bread 1 stick of butter 1 1/4 cup of sugar 2 eggs 1 2/3 cup flour 1/4 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. baking soda 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 1 3/4 tsp. ground ginger 1/2 tsp. nutmeg 1/2 tsp. ground cloves 1/2 tsp. salt 1/2 c. water 1 c. canned pumpkin puree
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch loaf pan. Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time. In a smaller mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the 1/2 cup of water, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the pumpkin. Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (that was 1 hour + 10 minutes for me). Cool in the pan for 10 minutes , then turn out onto a wire rack or cutting board to cool completely. Makes one loaf of deliciousness.
Oh, I also caught the sunset driving back from the Retreat.