22 August 2014

Here I Am

Ian and I spent our annual summer vacation last week on Orcas. It was a different week than the blazing hot, incandescently bright, gloriously rural summer week I spent with Spackle in July--because for one thing, it rained. A lot.

Rain is, in general, a welcome thing for a day or two in the summer, in part because endless balmy sun is hard for Seattlites to take, but mainly because plants get dry here in the PNW, where we let our lawns go dormant and water our gardens with carefully placed and monitored drip hoses. We have water everywhere, at least in Western Washington, and we're still conservative with this important resource (to a neurotic fault, Ian might say about me, at least in the context of travel dog water).

Rain was welcome for us on Orcas last week for the above reasons, and it also gave me a chance to make sure that Orcas, even with less-clement weather, is where I want to live out my life.

It is.

There is no question.

In fact, I had an interesting psychological experience one mid-week evening last week. I had gone to the outhouse and was sitting musing (among other activities), looking through the open door at the deep, bluish-gray clouds wisping up Crow Valley and over Turtleback Mountain, and marveling at the quiet, twilit beauty of it all, when a vision washed over me. In my vision (which was very true to life), I was in a small, cramped room looking out through the open door at Life, in all its glory and wonder and capacity for boundless joy; and all I needed to do to become one with that glory and wonder was to step with intention through that door and into that Life. Oooh! I though, excited. Okay! Well, what do I want to take with me to my new life? What do I want to leave here??? I finished my business as I dithered, not wanting to enter the new Life with any old Problems, but as I was standing to go, the door suddenly began to swing shut. My hand shot out to stop the door, my heart pounding with adrenaline. "No, no!" I cried, leaping outside and raising my arms to the heavens. "Here I am! Here I am! Here I am!!!"

Here I am.

Here, I AM. 

It's such a simple phrase, three words, corpulent with meaning. Already I AM, I am MYSELF, on Orcas Island. My body feels full of fizz, just thinking about it :-).

I stood and drank in the moist indigo salt air for some time, arms outstretched overhead, repeating my phrase over and over. I finally went back inside, aglow with delight and belonging, and related my story to Ian.

"Wow!" he said. "Sounds like quite the exciting trip to the loo!"

Anyway, new title for the blog, but I thought I'd give you all a break and keep the same url. As I will be "here" wherever I am in the world . . . I may end up tying Dilettante Traveler in with this blog, too.

Enough chatter: Look here for more pictures added to the album, beginning with the one below (note: somewhat misty photos of men actually at work, after solo goose, are from Burke the Builder's iPad, and are somewhat in order, but not with the rest of my pics).

Seriously, we are racing along with this house-building thing.

Status right now: septic drain field installed; footings done; foundation walls completed and waterproofed; slab prep going on (probably be poured next week); backfill happening when foundation walls are dry/cured. Burke the Builder keeps sending us snaps from his iPad, and I'm getting more and more jealous that I can't just wander up and meander through after everyone's gone home for the day.

05 August 2014

A Perfect Day

(begun last Thursday evening on Orcas)

One super-happy dog :-)

There are many perfect days.

There is the day when just you and your dearest partner hike until you’re beyond exhausted and covered in sweat and ancient dust, treaded on for thousands of years, and you crest yet another rocky, prickly hill, and there, right before you, is the hamlet you promised that dearest partner WAS there. It was the best Sprite either of you had ever tasted. Together you ordered three.

There is the day that all your nearest and dearest gather together on a cold, rainy, raw November night, for the sole purpose of celebrating you, and the great presence you’ve been in their lives. It’s the best, isn’t it???

There is the day when you are one small exuberant, elated voice in the international, literally earthshaking, roar when your team wins the big game. Go Seahawks! (they’re the ones, right???).

Today was none of those communal perfect days though; today was a primordially solo perfect day. I went hither and thither as the wind blew me, doing exactly what struck me as right at any given time, and stopping when I felt like it.

Wednesday was a big day of internal foundation building—very emotional. Today was a big day of physical work, tending my fields and forests, clearing and shaping the place where I will live out my days, however many they still number on this earth—very hot, sweaty, dirty, and full of thorns. You see? Perfect.

 It began first thing this morning, as soon as I was up and had thrown on a skirt and shirt and nothing else in preparation for running to the bathroom for my first piddle. (To digress for a moment: one is loath to go in the night, when one has to climb barefoot down a ladder and run across several yards of bone-chilling dew.) Before I made it half way to the outhouse, I was being beckoned up the hill to check on, coincidentally (and yet about 15 months before it will actually be useful to me of a morning), the location of a the septic drain field, which was changed yesterday afternoon. As the move is universally beneficial, I was able to nod, have drain fields quickly explained, and rush back down to get down to business.

Fortunately, it has been my whim this week to take care of tedious householding chores as well as exhilarating lumberjack chores, so after coffee and yogurt and fruit (me) and Wild Buffalo Grill with Avoderm Lamb Formula croutons (Spackle), I took out the filthy rug that covers a large part of the Dacha floor, shook it, and left it in the sun to sanitize, then busted out our Dust Buster (charged by the sun) and removed dead flies, grass, and dog hare from the Dacha corners.

It takes a long time to do things when camping. The dishes pile up and must be washed by hand in a dishpan, water having been brought down from the roadside tap in 40-lb bottles. The cooking takes place on an outdoor camp stove—either the large, Cabela’s-purchased hunting one, or the small traditional Coleman (or, as the case was the next day, both, as the propane had run out of the big bottle fueling the big stove, right in the middle of bacon frying). Even just making a sandwich to pack for lunch takes four times as long, because the refrigeration consists of endless Buying of the Ice for varyingly competent  coolers, and you want to keep things as chilled as possible when the days are 90+ in the sun, and occasionally almost 90 in the shade.  

It was blazing hot and I needed to get ice, and as I tidied up around camp I planned my tasks and errands for the day. I stopped by Island Hardware for a hand-held sprayer for tansy (it was way too hot to put on the backpack sprayer), then Spackle and I got ice at the marina, circled through camp to re-refrigerate things, then took off on our offensive against noxious weeds.

I’m very glad we haven’t had the bulk of the land mowed yet, because there have been tall, garishly yellow blooms taunting from various patches, and—joke’s on them—giving themselves away to me and my plans for full annihilation. The numbers hadn’t seemed so great as I’d been bumping in Nublu slowly up and down the land, parallel to the road, but once I was on the ground, I was quickly sobered by the extent of the infestation, particularly just around the perimeter of  blackened, dead, previously Rounded-Up, circles of vegetation. Digging tansy up—year after year after year, until you finally win—seems to be the only way to really get rid of it, but this is absolutely the wrong season to try (early May, maybe), so what I did was cut off all the blooming stalks that I saw and stuffed them in a contractor bag for the landfill, then used my hand squirt bottle of Round-Up to spray several sprays directly on the roots. The prairie grasses are so thatched together here it’s hard to get at the roots from very far above.

Spackle, relaxed and happy in his waning days, was conked out in long, moist green grass in the shade under a roadside willow, but I was in the 90 degree full sun in work pants and heavy boots and gloves, as if it were November. Hot, flirting with sunstroke or, at least, mild delirium, I lopped off the rest of the blooms that I saw and tossed them in my bag (foregoing any more herbicide), and then Spackle and I bumped slowly down to the Woodlot to float in the hammock and eat lunch: sandwich on Roses’ olive bun with cream cheese, salami, honey mustard, and thin slices of tomato and cucumber (me), and lie on a bed near a water bowl, and look kingly in the dappled light (Spackle).

After half my sandwich and a whole (2 serving—it was hot) coconut water with pulp (an error I won’t make again), and a cool, quiet moment or two swaying lightly, gazing into the depths of golden-green alder leaves (branches forming a hexagon high above my head), swirling with the hay- and sea-scented eddies in the air, dancing in the clear, blue depth of an inverted sea . . . I returned to the present and decided that I would like to do at least a little work in the Woodlot, starting with the long-dried pile of heavy blackberry cane and porcupine-dense roses, lying directly under where I’d hung my hammock yesterday (the day of internal work and external oblivion)—perfectly placed to drop me not only roughly on the ground, but into a lacerating heap of debris as well. Fortunately, I and/or the hammock are very stable, and I cleared the pile away with relative ease.

It was while clearing the larger, blackberry-canier, wild-rose spinier piles that I hit upon an idea—drag a tarp in, transfer the pile to the tarp, then drag the tarp out and roll it onto one of the exterior piles (we’re going to have a bonfire, out of necessity, late this fall). This worked once, with a relatively benign pile, but the thorns stuck into me, the tarp, and the ground, and strong, desiccated, spiny arms reached out and clung to the remaining alders. A good sturdy garden rake was needed—and so—darn—I’m looking forward to a trip to the hardware store tomorrow.

Spackle and I stopped at a patch of tansy I’d passed by in favor of lunch, then made our way home and had dinner (the other half sandwich: me. What was eaten for breakfast: Spackle).

And then we went for our now-traditional evening stroll, Spackle and I, down Boddington Lane, across lots through the apple orchard at the yacht club, look both ways and across Deer Harbor Road to the county dock and beach stair, and “CLANGETY CLANG-CLANG” Spackle is down the rusting metal-mesh stairs and into the water, standing up to his chest, ears perked, golden eyes fixed tightly on mine. We’re gonna do this, right???

Back at home from our one-mile round trip in the gleam and warmth and sweet-smelling air, I had a shower—cold unheated water added to the scalding Sun Shower—and reveled in getting clean. Even the occasional wafts of rotting shrimp carcasses, firmly (but not hermetically) encased in a galvanized can outside the Banya door, didn't bother me a much as they might have, because I had chosen not to add Dump to my errands that day.

As I was drying off, I mused about smells: that they are teeny particles of the thing you’re smelling, infusing the air; and since I was naked in the wafts, my whole body was covered with a thin layer of long-dead shrimp . . . but only a very thin layer. I came to abruptly, realizing that Spackle, who I’d been idly watching nose around a cleared patch of earth just outside the open Banya door, had shifted from nosing the dirt (Ian had dumped something there the weekend before), to eating it. 

“SPACKLE!” I hissed, in a completely inaudible (to him) tone, because to actually call him loud enough to get his attention, I would have to shatter the evening peace of residents all up and down Crow Valley and throughout the hamlet of West Sound. Spackle is mostly deaf, and Crow Valley echoes. A lot.

I hesitated a moment, then threw one of my newly washed shoes at him, delivering a minor, glancing blow off his side. He looked up, startled, mystified. What was wrong? I glared ferociously, pointed firmly AWAY from the delectable dirt, Spackle took his leave, I dried off and got dressed, and we whiled away the evening with a peanut butter Kong, some Amelia, some writing, and a visual spectacle of water, mountain, sky, boats, and nature so perfectly lovely is was almost unpleasant to look at, like a Thomas Kincaid painting.

My home.