"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Colors of Standard Time

Everyone writes about the sky. But this morning it seems particularly beautiful. Maybe because the sun is up at 7am as it should be. Maybe because there were traces of pink behind the silo on the hill when I first got up, ribbons of amethyst between the granary and the milkhouse and light reflecting off the steel beams connecting the grain bins . . . on the hill. We live on the downward slope and the old farmstead rests on a hill, as it should. When my ancestors walked in from Detroit one hundred and eighty years ago they were clever enough to select the high spots. Our ancestors had enough sense to know you shouldn’t build a house in a floodplain or in a wetland. But see how I wander? About the sunrise. Yes, even as I type the colors fade and the show is over. And now I’m typing through sunspots on the page because I had to check on the sun’s progress. What dummy looks directly at the sun, even in its diminished state? I’ve noticed it doesn’t come up over the barn as it was, even a month ago, shining through my kitchen window and directly across my laptop to blind me. Sure I could move, but I like routine when it comes to writing, and I’m a squinter. (Farmers squint and so do writers.) Now the sun rises towards the south, and now I can type in the early hours without squinting.

I love early morning and if I didn’t have that other tedious job, I could write all day now that the garden is going to sleep. I'd participate in NaNnoWriMo. A 50,000 word novel in one month? Shoot, that ain't nuthin! But one has to “earn” a living. Cathy Essinger, the creative writing teacher who set me on the path to novels, once told me that phrase had always irritated the hell out of her. “Why should we have to earn a living?” she asked in the car when we were coming back from a poetry reading, after I told her I couldn’t enroll for the fall quarter because I had to go back to work fulltime. "As if we weren’t born on this earth to Live." It’s a shame not to use our God given talent and when the rules of society interfere with people doing what they were born to do, that society is in trouble. As Ernest Hemingway said, “I can do many things better than I can write, but when I don’t write, I feel like shit. I’ve got the talent and I feel that I’m wasting it.”

Here's an update on our outdoor wood furnace experiment. It was installed a week ago and looks like a cute little Hansel and Gretel house with a ten foot high smoke stack. The prevailing winds are from the West so we situated it just to the north of the house so the folks won’t get wood smoke in their bedroom window. The boiler automatically maintains a temperature between 180 and 190 degrees. The damper is controlled by a magnet and when the temperature falls to 180 it automatically opens. All we have to do is keep wood in it (no splitting because of the large capacity) and if it’s full, it’ll burn for 36 hours. It heats the old farm house and at 89 years of age, Mom and Dad like heat. It also heats their hot water. It’ll heat our greenhouse if we ever get the plastic on. Oct. was a miserable, rainy, cold month and slowed progress in many areas. We’ve already had more sunshine in November than we had in the last two weeks of October! Cleaning up the garden last week, pulling the last of the beets and cutting the last of the cabbage, I caught an occasional whiff of wood smoke. It warmed me in a way that is hard to explain,as if the smell of buring wood sent signals of perceived warmth to my brain, the way the smell of freshly cut hay triggers a rush of childhood memories. They say that memories are triggered more by the sense of smell than by any other sense. Is there a certain smell that triggers memory for you?

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