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Always a New Crossroad

This photo is from Ocean City. I like the crossroad of land and sky and water. There’s an old couple who struggled together up the dune to look. They, too, are at a crossroad. I like to imagine they have come to the ocean for years on vacation and played in the surf. Now they stand and remember.

I’ve often stood at a crossroad. Usually, it reads STOP on the side I can see, but the destination, written on the reverse in ink fated to remain invisible for an unknown span of time, is hidden. I stop, reconfigure, and head off somewhere, not knowing where or why I’m going, trusting I’ll eventually understand.

Cleaning

I am on a cleaning spree. My husband says I always do this when I’m about to start a new writing project. Goodness knows, after a three year stint of writing this last book and editing and revising it and revising, etc. etc. etc. about the only thing I want is clear space. Both in my head and in my writing room. Ergo, I’m cleaning and tossing.

However, I also had to clean out my laptop. That was not my plan, but it seemed, instead, to be a joke from the Universe in the guise of a new backup program which had bought out my old backup program which I’ve had for, oh, goodness only knows, but I’ll say fifteen years, give or take.

It was a process, as they say.

But new back up is installed and all files are restored (well, I’m not completely done because there’s also files in backup that need to be cleaned out to say nothing of Dropbox which also has files, but I digress. As is often the case these days.)

But what led me on this rant is finding and reloading Trello. Which I’ve had not as long as the previous backup program but long enough to have a lot in it. Trello is really built for groups to work together on projects and add thoughts and changes etc etc and has as many boards as one chooses to have. I have several. The file backup program does not save programs oddly enough so I had to once again download Trello and magically, all my files were still on it.

My reason for Trello is to save the random and overwhelming bits and pieces of paper and Post-Its on which I place random thoughts, seemingly, it seems, that I think important.

Here’s one for you: “Mothers laughing with their children on their backs. And he had come to believe that all men were meant to be wanderers, like them, like Saint Francis, and that by joining the Way of the Universe you could find the Great Spirit everywhere–in the smell of bracken after rain, the buzz of a bee in foxglove, or in the eyes of a mule, looking with love on the blundering movements of his master.” The Way of the Universe. On the Black Hill, Bruce Chatwin.

If you’ve never read Bruce Chatwin, I recommend him highly. He was a wanderer. And I, being a wanderer, appreciate his voice. He died young, at age 48, in 1989, but his voice remains. The first book I read by him was In Patagonia. I have several others in my bookcases.

Here’s another piece in the Memoir board – board is what the separate spaces are called in Trello but I don’t know why except they probably relate to work each group is doing. I’m not a group.

“The Sunderland men, uncles, brothers, grandfather, would circle, telling stories. Dad told stories. Women’s stories are often relegated to mystery. But my mother, against that grain, told stories. I expect the women around the quilting frame with Grandma Sunderland told each other stories, but to each other. Not to us kids. The men’s stories were loud enough for all of us.”

A memory to put into whatever memoir piece I write one day. Maybe, for example, right here, now.

And now I must return to my previous task of gathering the loose bits of post-its and scraps of paper on which interesting thoughts are written or printed. I also, like my mother, have a habit of cutting out bits of newspaper stories – and just found, in this cleaning spree, the story printed in a newspaper of my mother being in the Kansas City Union Station when the Mob shootout of about 1920 happened. I knew that story but now I have the newspaper article, too, although a bit chewed at the edges from long storage.

Mercy.

Maybe I’ll write it up so you have it, too. But not tonight.

.

Shuffling into Spring

While it is, technically, spring, the scene out my window is somewhat dreary. Yes, the oak is leafed out and the Texas bluebonnets are blooming in the front yard along with tulips. In the backyard, the redbud tree is blooming and on previous sunny days I’ve seen errant honeybees in it. That gives me hope. They say, they being the nature people who count these things, that bees are declining. It’s true there aren’t many, but any at all gives me hope for our chemical free yard.

But today is overcast and dreary. Yes, I’m grateful for rain…farmers are always grateful for rain. Well. I’ve just realized I need to amend that statement some as the farmers north of here whose fields are muddy and ugly from the late winter floods and who may not be able to plant in those fields for another two to three years, might just as soon not see rain. And this particular overcast sky is supposed to bring more rain up north than down here.

Over the Easter weekend, I corresponded with a blogging friend, Rambling Rose, in Sri Lanka. And after an Easter day when she wrote about the church bombings, she’s gone dark. I’ve read the authorities have closed access to all social media outlets.

It is an unsettled world.

I remain grateful for our lives and our home even though it’s still suffering from winter storms and needs a new roof…like NOW. But that’s not going to happen “now” I expect. We have spread out big plastic garbage bags in the attic and stationed various old pots and buckets under the worst leaks. When a winter storm dumped over a foot of snow on the willow branches, weighting them down, they leaned over the electrical wires and pulled out the window ledge where said wires were attached. And broke off the new weather-head on the new electrical wires that go to the outside new electrical box which go to the new electrical panel in the basement. Thankfully, that’s repaired and the rain won’t go dripping down and short us out again. We did, however, need to severely trim my beautiful and much loved willow. It is, I’ve seen, recovering and putting out new shoots. I’ve given it food stakes to help it along.

This is getting to be a rather grim post, I’m realizing. Probably it’s the gray and cranky scene out my window. So here’s a bright point. When the window ledge which said wires weighted down with snow pulled out, it also took a chunk of stucco with it. So, to protect the wall from further damage with snow/rain/etc leaking down the wall behind the stucco, I filled another handy garbage bag with an old, flat pillow to keep garbage bag from flopping around, hung it outside over the broken spot, and secured it with the window sash. Good thinking, I thought.

Obviously, a sparrow thought so, too. She decided behind the plastic bag and in the space left from the pulled out window ledge was the perfect and warm place to build a nest. So each morning, as I sit in my rocking chair at that backyard window and journal fragile morning thoughts (this window in front of my computer is in the front of the house), baby chicks peep and cheep and call for mother who flutters back with something or another, the peeping gets louder, she flies away again for another round of whatever she’s feeding them, and that goes on for a good while until babies finally sleep. Or whatever baby birds do once they are fed.

Well. Over the years, while creating the backyard gardens, I wanted a bird and butterfly refuge. I guess it worked.

..

Enter Winter

A blogging friend, Rambling Rose, asked me to write a post on our debilitating winter storm. She wrote, “We in the tropics only hear about such weather on news channels.” Ah, to be so fortunate. Although I have lived in the tropics from time to time, I do not now. Now I live in the middle of the Continental United States which is prone to storms of magnitude and ferocity. This is what two days of a winter storm of magnitude and ferocity looks like.

It began on a Friday night. And actually, was quite beautiful. The forecast had said it would begin with light rain turning to ice. It did. The shiny streaks are the ice crystals, picking up light as they fall.

We brought in stacks of firewood and lighted a fire. Watched television, especially the weather channel, looked outside from time to time. The ice crystals finally turned to snowflakes but there was no wind so we went to bed.

We slept soundly under our feather comfort, sort of like Mr. and Mrs. Claus at the North Pole after the Christmas Eve run. We did hear a thump in the night and got up to see what it was. Between snow and dark, we couldn’t tell but the thump seemed to come from upstairs. Not a good sound. The last time we heard a thump in the house signaled a complete attic to basement rewire. The next morning was still and silent. It had snowed all night. No wind. Just snow and snow and snow.

In early light, at my upstairs window where I sit each morning, I discovered the thump. If you look at the bottom left corner, you will see a lump of snow sort of lying on something. That something turned out to be our window sill, pulled loose by the weight of the snow.

It kept lightly snowing. Two guys came by and offered to shovel our sidewalk for ten dollars. We said okay. Only the front bushes were so heavy with snow, they bowed over the sidewalk making any walking passage or shoveling impossible. So the guys shoveled a bit along the driveway and the front piece of sidewalk. As if that would make any difference.

Cliff took a photo of the back patio before he waded out  to measure: 12″ of snow. That’s a lot of snow.

The sky stayed cloudy and the snow stopped. So did the cable television and the electricity. We built another fire and turned on the gas stove to warm up the place. But first we had to remember how to light said stove since it has electric sparks that catch the gas. Ah, yes. Use a striker. It worked. We did not, however turn on the oven as we couldn’t figure out a way to do that without exploding the place.

But being a farmer’s daughter, I put pots of water on the stove top burners and kept them steaming. It helped a little. We managed to feed ourselves although I can’t remember what we ate. No doubt something simple. Cliff kept putting logs on the fire. I stayed wrapped in a blanket and slept in my clothes that night because I couldn’t face getting undressed.

This was the thump in the night. Snow had pulled wires loose and along with the wire, the window sill and the window covering around it. You can see in a previous photo how the willow was bending over wires from the weight of snow. Why anyone would attach a cable to a vinyl window covering is beyond me, but they had. And the weight of 12″ of snow on our graceful and beautiful willow had weighted them down. With the wires.

At some point Sunday mid-morning. electricity came back on and the furnace and the hot water. We, husband, son, and mom, took showers and went to a neighborhood diner for breakfast.

Monday, I began the task of calling insurance company and contractors. We’d also developed a leak in the upstairs ceiling, so son and I climbed into attic, spread out some big garbage bags and stationed pots and buckets under the leak.

The following days/weeks passed in a blur. An insurance adjuster called, said he’d be in the next day and would call to set up an appointment, but as he was in Wisconsin and a big storm passed through there after here, I don’t know if he came…or was perhaps sent out somewhere else. Many people had a lot more damage than we did. I called the cable folk and asked someone to come out and reattach the cable; called the electric folk and they put a “temporary” (whatever that means) re-connection to the electrical wires. Called the electric installers and they came out and gave an estimate for repairs.

You may remember the rambling post I made about having our entire house rewired. Well. One of the things pulled loose and damaged was the new tubing and weather cap around the new KCPL wire running into the new KCPL box. And if the weather cap leaked, the water could not only short out the KCPL box, but also the new panel in the basement. My son who knows these things, once being an electrician, went out and saran-wrapped the weather head back on the pipe, thus sealing the house against another catastrophe with wiring.  The company who installed the electricity gave me a $1500 estimate for full repairs and re-connection.

I also now have a contractor who will come out, replace the window ledge and repair the stucco, and the window company who will come out and re-wrap the window once the stucco is done. Downside: the stucco can’t be done until the weather warms up. And I’ve engaged a roofer who will come out and re-roof, but again, not until it’s warmer.

I have yet to see an adjuster. The insurance company calls from time to time, but there’s been so much damage to so many houses, not just in Kansas City, but across most of the Midwest, and especially after this latest storm which largely left us untouched, that I expect we may boggle along this way until spring.

The cable person re-attached the downed cable to a spot above the window, hopefully he found a stud, there must be sturdy studs in 1924 built houses, and maybe especially in 1924 built houses, and my son leaned out the top window with his trusty wire cutters and released the mesh wires (mesh wire holds the stucco in place) attached to said window ledge, so it dropped to the ground and is no longer banging against the house. And we, meaning my son using the chain saw and Cliff and me trundling cut up branches to the front curb, severely trimmed the damaged willow much to my sadness. I planted that willow as a baby 9 feet tall, and it now reaches some 35 or so feet. The bees love it in the spring when it buds. I will give it generous food stakes once the weather turns warm. One of my monarch butterfly bushes is damaged and another, in a trellis, is leaning on its side.

It’s Imbolc, the festival of light, midway between winter solstice and spring equinox. The sun returns (yes, Rose, I know you don’t see that rising and falling sun much where you live) and the groundhog, oddly enough, didn’t see its shadow this year. We pray for an early spring.

Light a few candles. It’s not been an easy winter for many. Rejoice in the light.

J.

What else? I don’t know.

I was somewhat surprised to see my last post was in early October. In thinking back to October and November, oh, and also December, and which, in the case of memory, is an iffy project, I have no idea what’s happened.

I know I’ve been culling books and have taken three trips to Half-Price Books to unload extraneous volumes from our voluminous bookshelves; we bought a tree and decorated it; however, a small tree as I wasn’t up to the whole take-out-years-of-ornaments and hang thing this year. And I’ve written and sent book proposals to two reputable publishing houses after my several-month search for an agent proved fruitless. Oddly enough, when I’m writing, I’m able to focus and thoughts and to-dos don’t go dashing through my head.

What else? I don’t know.

Having kept up with journal posts, I could dig them out and see what I did when. Or if. Nothing very remarkable as near as I can remember. But then, as I said, memory is not one of those things that’s working well these days.

For a while, my husband worried I was developing dementia. Well. Being demented comes in all sorts of ways. Demented I can agree to, but I don’t have dementia. Just a rattled head with thoughts dashing past that if I don’t note down on the copious bits and pieces of note pads stacked around, I can’t remember. But I’m not repeating myself, although that might actually help me stay more or less on track.

My solution, instead, was to print out my current astrology chart and to discover, thereby, that all the transiting planets are hitting my natal planets in unseemly ways. Over and over. I showed said chart to husband and said, “See? It’s astrology.”

This, too, shall pass. We hope. However, many of the big and slow moving planets are not going to move out of the picture soon.

When you think about it, however, even in bits and pieces that refuse to stay connected, one can easily see this year, in particular, has been, well, odd is perhaps a non-judgmental way to put it. Nuts is another.

However, the furnace is keeping us warm; we have a supply of wood for fireplace evenings; the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners are planned and shopped for (yes, we have two festive meals) and for the most part the to-dos are done.

Now it’s time to open the wine.

So here’s to you my online friends. May your new year bring you joy, healing, and great bouts of laughter. Thank you for being in my life and bringing your life to mine through your words. Even when I don’t respond, I do read your posts. So, thank you, again.

Happy Solstice. Happy Yule.

J.