I live in the snowy mountains of northern Montana, surrounded by miles and miles of pristine forest. People around here like to go snowmobiling, backcountry skiing – and the regular kind, too, at our local ski hill – snowshoeing and even dog-mushing; anything to get outside into the crisp, clean hills during the cold months. I like back-country skiing, which is like cross-country skiing, only you use heftier equipment, so you have a better range and can go in rougher country. One cold day my friend Bonnie and I decided to make a ski trip that would take three or four hours and offer us wide, sweeping views from the ridges, deep powder in the bowls and pleasant interludes of kick- Continue reading
Back in the day when I lived out on the treeless prairie I had a friend who used to say you could always tell when the winter wind was out of the north even without trees bending in the breeze or snow showing the way, because all the horses face away from the biting north wind. Today you can bet that every horse’s ass in the county is pointing north, because it’s brisk out there, compadres. It’s minus 25 right now and the wind is coming straight from Santa’s house, briskly. We got enough new snow for me to test out my new snowshoes, so I bundled up and headed out. It was fine traipsing through the forest where the wind is blunted, but when I got to the valley floor where the wind had nothing to stop it but me, it made no difference what the temperature was; all you needed to know was how many seconds it was between exposure and frostbite. My guess is 37.
Lucky for me I’m the kind of person who, after spending a certain number of years repeating experiences like being exposed to cold under various circumstances; I learn. It only took ten or fifteen years before I wised up and began to carry something warm to cover every portion of my body every time I leave the house. I have no need to pretend the cold doesn’t affect me. It does, but I like to think that being a sentient being makes me smarter than it. Certainly I’m a lot smarter than all those people who went up to the ski hill for opening weekend, where it’s even colder and windier than here. I did my little outdoor adventure, and then settled in next to the wood stove with a glass of wine and a movie while they keep flirting with hypothermia high above the slopes, clinging to the chair lift as the killing wind howled through them. It’s something to think about while tossing another log on the fire. It used to be that you’d only ever find me with a glass of wine and a book before said fire, but on one of those dark, dark mornings I stumbled out of bed and straight into my TV, sending it crashing to the floor. No tears were shed, since I don’t have any TV reception anyway and can always watch movies on my computer, but now I’ve got a new TV, thanks to my friends Mary and Duane.
It’s the cutest little thing – seriously, no bigger than a bread-box. Back in 1976 it was state-of-the-art, but now it looks so anachronistic you have to wonder if you need to light the oil lamps behind the screen. At first I thought it was unusable because it didn’t have an auxiliary jack to accept input from my DVD player, but then Duane reminded me that these things used coaxial cables. Remember back when they were da bomb? Just saying “coaxial cable” was enough for you to get an honorary membership in a futurist club. Nowadays children are surprised and charmed when they learn that your analog wrist watch does nothing but tell the time. From this vantage point it seems like coaxial cables were around when the Earth’s crust was still cooling, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that Lo! and Behold! my DVD player even has a coaxial jack! Who knew? It’s like finding a tethering ring on the front bumper of your car just in case you find a need to tether it in front of the saloon while you clatter in through the swinging doors to down a shot of rot gut while listing to the player piano.
Will my great good fortune never end? Pop the popcorn, because its movie time! Its such a treat to have time off just when the weather begins to impugn. Most times I’d swear that she has a direct line to my appointment book, so she can throw down a blizzard on the very day I need to travel somewhere. The only time its sunny and sweet is, in my experience, the day I have a mammogram scheduled in a busy office where the wait is long and chilly. But for today, at least, the curse has been broken. Today I can just let it snow and blow every single btu out of the county while I sit snug in my underground mansion, watching films with subtitles. What more can I want? Oh yeah; money. Send money. Why does everyone ignore that part?
Who, exactly, knows what it is like to be normal? I’d like someone to point out to me a normal person, and allow me to pose a question or two. I’d like to know what its like to be normal, but imagining what that would be like is like trying to imagine what it would be like to be smarter than you are. Besides, I don’t think there is one single human on this planet that is normal. But still, if you’ve never had a brilliant notion just pop into your head, I don’t see how you can ever really imagine what it would be like. People asked Einstein how he came up with the idea of the time-space continuum, and he said it just occurred to him. The kinds of things that occur to me are much more likely to be that I need to buy peanut butter or that if bats really do sleep upside-down their fur must get all ruffled and itchy, since it would be falling ‘against the grain’. Those are the things that occur to me; not relativity. So I can’t really imagine what it would be either exceptionally brainy, nor what it would be like to be normal, but my day today was a smidgeon more normal -normal for me, anyway – than any Continue reading
Looking out my window at clouds so low it felt like you could touch them just by raising your hand the way you would to ask a question in class, I was struck by the fact that I could. Not only could I touch the clouds, I could just stand there and look. I could stand there and look, and ask questions. There was no, one nagging thing that it was just about getting too late to do, no other thing that was haunting me with how good it would feel to –finally, at long last – get done and no other thing that was ringing my phone or knocking on my door, so I just stood there, looking out on the sodden world. The clouds had been low all day, and where they dipped down over the forested mountains and into the valleys they deposited rime on the trees like Christmas scenes in a department store window. I could picture a little toy train choo-chooing its way down through the mountain across the way, sending a plume of cheery little-engine-that-could smoke up to blend with the clouds. And with the cold, damp, cottony, almost-frozen stuff of the universe settling in, it occurred to me how much I like winter.
In summer you can’t stand there and look, wonder and ask; Continue reading
Whoever said “let the world be your oyster” was definitely a man. No woman would wish upon the world that it be encased in a stoutly guarded shell which could only be opened by killing the occupant, and that upon being opened one would find a briny, slimy, gag-inducing piece of innards. Of course it was a man, man being used to conquering his food, whilst women spent their time in the garden. A woman would much more likely say ‘let the world be your Lycopersicon lycopersicum!’ Women like to be specific. But that doesn’t mean that there is a more lyrically perfect fruit than a tomato. Oh, peaches definitely have their fuzzy, sticky-sweet charm, as do simple apples and exotic star fruit, and there’s no reason to underrate the tomato’s natural partner, the cucumber, but for all-around versatility and taste, let the record show that tomatoes, should they be grown in a home garden, of an heirloom stock (god forbid we include those pink baseballs you get at the store, grown in the fruity little forced-labor camps cum assembly-lines that is commercial agriculture), can not be beat. What other fruit, I ask, can star in such disparate and iconic dishes as spaghetti, gazpacho, Continue reading
As luck would have it, this year Columbus Day, a day which Posties get to have off, while the rest of the rational world works, fell on a Monday, which was just after the Thursday of our Postmaster’s meeting, and it so happened that my ever valiant, capable and willing replacement Betty wanted to work, so after attending the six hour garroting that is our annual convocation I had Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday off. I was free, free, free!! for the next four days. I fully intended to spend my time squirreling away firewood and getting it covered up, putting the finishing touches on my siding and generally getting my outdoor duties squared away before winter. I even had a list. As it turns out, my list was trumped by that of The Universe, The Goddess of Nothing or whatever powers-that-be you care to believe in, for promptly upon my return from the bacchanalia that is our annual p.m. meeting, complete with charts and graphs covering (lack of) revenue generation, helpful hints concerning the proper completion of forms and the resurgent need for honing our rubber-stamping skills, it began to snow.
Snow, snow, snow and more snow. I’m sure that there is an Continue reading
Its been a wild week in Neihartium, my home base, to oompha-phrase The Man from Lake Woebegon. After a summer-long search for someone to put up my siding, and for someone to fix or replace my totally useless heating system, I got answers. Acclaimed author Annie Lamot says that God always answers your prayers, it’s just that sometimes the answer is “no”. My friend TC has a different take on the issue; he says that there are “strings of chance” that ensue upon making a decision to do one thing or another, and if you make the “wrong” decision, you could end up with a huge pile of stinking bad luck. For him the rewards and punishments of life are like shooting the rapids in a kayak. You’ve got to suss out the most likely place for rocks and holes to be, and then spring forward and hold on. He counts himself very lucky in this life, so maybe he’s on to something.
His method of “sussing” out the situation has two predictors: first you should never choose the path that anyone else told you to take, whether that be in the form of an actual exhortation, or just in Continue reading
It wasn’t until I’d started to develop liver spots and hot flashes that I got to know my father. It wasn’t that he was absent in my childhood, he was just very, very quiet. My mother has a strong personality, as do some of my siblings, so they took over the show in my emotional development. A couple of siblings have expressed exasperation at my father for being “absent” even though technically, he wasn’t. I can see that. For my part, though, I never saw him as distant except in the best possible way: someone who was not badgering me, even though he knew me. Most people who knew me felt compelled, it seems, almost without the need to draw a breath- to remind me day by day, hour by hour of my shortcomings. Dad left me alone, and I really, really appreciated it. In retrospect it probably was borderline neglect for a parent to just sort of not notice that his teenage daughter and her friends were home at mid-day on a school day, and that the basement reeked of bong hits, but really, how bad were we being? It wasn’t like it was mid-day heroin shooting – junior high is spectacularly boring, and a natural result is a few snatched bong hits during lunch hour, after which the kids get back to school on time, to sit through English Continue reading
It’s with a heavy sigh and an ever-hardening heart that I have to report that my hard drive crashed for the third time the other day. Not in one day, mind you, but in the two years I’ve had it. Thanks to my computer-saavy friends, it was determined that my hard drive has some bad sectors. Bill, frowningly, suggested strongly that the damage was consistent with having thrown the computer down from a great height while it was running. I have no reason to lie to him, or you, and I maintain that it never happened. As a matter of fact, since replacing the last hard drive, the computer has, for the most part, stayed at home on my desk, waiting – possibly impatiently, possibly resignedly – for me. Bill reports that he once was shown a computer that was used by a tractor mechanic, who complained that it didn’t seem to work right. Bill surmised correctly that it might have something to do with the tire-track slashed muddily across the top of the laptop, for the mechanic had indeed driven over it – but the hard drive was not damaged. Unlike mine.
This just a day after I got my second replacement satellite radio, after waiting a month for it because no one believed it could have died so young. Of course I still have no heat, since the third Continue reading