Sunday, November 25, 2012

hello, winter. i've been expecting you

And now it is winter. It arrived Thanksgiving night. I was sleeping, waking occasionally to the sound of a wind that slapped the house, rushed around it, even perhaps tried to get in. The National Weather Service had warned of wind and rain turning to snow, so I was not surprised when Friday arrived with the peace of snow-covered fields overlaid with swirling skirmishes, underlaid with covert ice. The contrast to Thanksgiving Day was stark. The sun had peeped through hazy clouds while I sat on the porch, swatting at flies, chatting with friends.

All day the wind blew from the northwest. It brought snow off and on, a total of seven or eight inches I guess, for it never really stops, just takes a break now and then, the wind eventually dieing down, the flakes floating lazily by, taking their time, more like those enjoying a journey than those intent upon a destination. Elliott darted out and back in twice before retiring to the laundry basket. Buster seemed slightly confused by it all, though God knows he’s seen plenty of winters. I scrambled to do that which is useless in the midst of blowing snow—sweeping it away from doors, shoveling through it—and eventually I died down, turned indoors, spent the day making candles. I drew the winter storm close around me, nestling into it as if it were a comfortable, sheltering old cloak.

I continue to read Recovering: A Journal by May Sarton. She often copies into the journal passages from books she is reading, and I am tempted to do the same.
To see a person for himself or herself, not for one’s feelings about them, requires wisdom, and I must assume that it is part of the ascension of true love beyond the initial passion and need. On the way there are frightful resentments and irritations caused by intrinsic differences of temperament and many a marriage or love affair bogs down as a result. How does one achieve perfect detachment? Partly perhaps by accepting the essence of a being for what it is, not wishing to change it, accepting.

Over the course of the week I made more than 100 candles, a half dozen spice bears, 14 spice cones, and one spice owl. There is so much wisdom I lack. If I were 17 again, I would know it all except that it can all be lost.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

a low form of creation

Lately I have been reading May Sarton’s journals. In Recovering she writes:
But I find the journal suspect because it is almost too easy. It is a low form of creation.
Sarton was a poet and novelist, but it is her journals that pull me in. When I moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from Chicago a little over eight years ago, making the move unexpectedly alone, I read Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude and Plant Dreaming Deep. There was resonance.

My journal began at age 15, when I wrote by hand in flimsy wire-bound notebooks, much as I do now. Over the years there have been dry spells, but also there are many notebooks, sketchbooks, “blank page” books, yellow legal pads, reams of typewritten pages and pages printed from a computer filled with words and bodily fluids, liquor, caffeine, ashes, and fly guts. The only commonality is, these pages are for me and no one else, unless I decide to share, like I sometimes do, here with you, online. Sarton, on the other hand, wrote journals intended for publication. What I do is easier. I keep a journal for me, and it has served me well.

This past week I had occasion to dig out the stiff-backed Bienfang 8½-by-11-inch sketchbook journal that contains 100 sheets, wire bound. It is dated 10/12/2005 – 5/21/2006. A recent event had reminded me of a past event, and the more these events turned over in my mind, the more I wondered about the past event and if my memory was serving me well. I went to the journal to find out. It gave me what I needed and a little bit more. As I was turning over what to write today, these pages I found in the 2005-2006 journal sat quietly in my mind. They are three pages printed from a computer, dated November 18, 2002 through May 1, 2003, but taped to a page in the middle of January 2006. If I were looking for these pages, how would I ever find them, but by chance?
November 18, 2002
What to do? There is nothing for me to do here at work except be here, put in my time, so here I am. What else can I do but start to write?
And what I wrote about was my desire to be elsewhere, to be here in the U.P. rather than at my desk in my office at work in the city.
I just want to be there. With John. With Buster, Queenie, and Goldie. And some chickens.
I remember typing those words. It is, at once, a moment that is now and a moment that is past.

Today, a morning that is perfectly still. Clouds stretch like gauze over a broad, pale blue sky, some pulled tight and seamless, others bunched and rumpled. As the sun rises it illuminates a hovering haze. The world is full of dull colors, soft and mild. Buster and I have taken our morning walk to the river. Elliott, who spent the night outdoors, sleeps in what used to be my chair. I am making lip balm, heating oil and beeswax on the woodstove. I agree with Sarton: journal writing is a low form of creation. It is like a base, a foundation, from which other writing or creativity can grow. I often wonder where I would be without it.

{ May Sarton was born in 1912 and died in 1995. Plenty of info out there on the web and in books. Enjoy. Thanks for stopping by. }

Sunday, November 11, 2012

this week’s smorgasbord of beeswax and joy rides, elections and outbuildings, baths and candlelight

Spicy Bear
beeswax + cinnamon figurine

It’s been quite a week with the carport getting built, a trip to Green Bay, and the successful test of just another one of my great ideas—beeswax + cinnamon figurines. Oh yes. And the van got her bum, new-used radiator replaced, and I voted. The little red, white, and blue sticker is still on my jacket. In the end, the noise of the campaigns helped to hone my intention in voting, and the refrain in my head is this: equality of privilege. I need to write it out. If it still makes sense, I’ll send it to those who represent me in Lansing and Washington.

The carport is a balm against the never-ending summer sun. Certainly it will be nice to keep snow off the van, but come summer, to have the van covered, out of the sun, that will be the real treat. (Although I have a garage, the van does not fit through its door.) For now, the carport is just a simple extension of the garage roof, but eventually I will put up walls using some leftover barn wood, creating in the spirit of the upper deck railing. Choose your descriptive: “rustic,” “naive,” folk arty,” “is that safe?” What do you think?

Part of the upper deck railing. Photo credit: Elliott.
I went to Green Bay for beeswax, to use as backup, in case I run out of Michigan wax and cannot get more. It was a fun trip below the tension line, otherwise known as the 45th parallel, and here’s a funny thing—just south of the tension line the two-lane, 55-mile-per-hour highway became a four-lane, 65-mile-per-hour highway. Yes, everything must move more quickly south of the tension line. We were on US 141, going through towns like Iron Mountain, Niagra, Pembine, and Crivitz, and I hope to make the trip again some day, though not all the way to Green Bay, but just moseying along a ways, stopping to browse in antique shops and eating ice cream, maybe turning back before hitting that tension line. Just for the record, the trip took a bit more than eight hours. The menu consisted of carrots, cheese, fig bars, and tea, and Buster had yam.

Buster loves a road trip.
My intention today was to write about a question I am often asked at the farmers market and that always stumps me: How do they burn? Meaning, I suppose, how do the beeswax candles burn, and I’ve written about this before, of course, but lately this question and its lack of a clear answer has been bobbing around on my mind. It stumps me because there are so many ways to answer. Certainly you’re not asking for an academic explanation of combustion? But maybe you do want to know how a candle made of beeswax differs from one made of paraffin or soy? I could tell you specifically about this taper, if it will drip, how long it might burn ... but maybe you’re more interested in the Buddha? Last night I soaked in a hot tub watching a beeswax candle burn, and I wondered how I would answer, How did it burn? It burned in such a way, my mind wandered.

There were other nice things about the week—a jar of fresh local honey from a friend, a new rug for the living room, interesting chats with my mother about how dark the evenings are now, two deer standing calmly in the yard in the pelting rain and rumbling thunder, transplanting a tree—and I hope there were nice things in your week, too.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

celebrating water

Today is the first anniversary of water at the cabin, and to celebrate I’ve just gone to this website to donate $20 to help others get water—clean water.

Home Sweet Watery Home
The difference between my situation and their situation is so vast it’s immeasurable, for although I lived without water throughout the summer and fall of 2011, water was always nearby, never beyond reach. I found it in the river, in the rain, and even behind the post office, where clean, fresh water flows from an artesian well. I enjoyed hot water at a friend’s house and even, on a sunny day, I’d get a few warm gallons at the cabin, from my solar heater, also known as a black plastic bag. And, until I sold my other house, which would provide me with the cash to dig a well on this property and to get plumbing and a sink and a tub and a toilet, I could return there and use its standard hot and cold running water. When that house was gone, I took showers in the women’s locker room at the rec center at Michigan Tech University.

So when I say I lived without water, I say it knowing it’s not exactly true.

What is true is that finding water, when it’s not in your home, can be time-consuming, a little nerve-wracking, and expensive. The round-trip drive to Tech takes about an hour, and then there was the packing of fresh clothes, towels, soap, shampoo, comb, and lotion; stopping at the ticket window to buy the six-dollar daily pass to the facility; undressing and unpacking; luxuriating in a hot hot shower; dressing and repacking wet towels, dirty clothes, the shampoo, lotion, comb, et cetera. Then maybe it was time for a trip to the laundromat ...

Because of the time involved, I tried not to shower more than once every four days or so, and what I found is this: Never mind the aroma, there’s a certain crankiness, anxiety, even, dare I say it, angst, that can creep in with the grime. I suppose part of it, for me, was knowing that water was coming to my home soon, but not knowing exactly when, and being impatient with the process: three days of well digging (gargantuan equipment that clanged and chugged and spit mud in the air as it bore into the earth); another three weeks before the plumbing was complete and cold water flowed from the kitchen tap; then two more weeks before hot water appeared.

So, on November 4, 2011, when cold, muddy water first flowed from a spigot on the side of the house, I celebrated, but I also wondered: Is it possible I could be taking my first hot bath in this little cabin by Thanksgiving? When Thanksgiving came and went I wondered: Maybe Christmas? A hot bath in my own little cabin became an obsessive goal and when the day arrived, two weeks before Christmas, I popped the champagne, filled the tub with steaming water and bubbles, and almost passed out from the heat and the alcohol, which I am no longer used to.

I think of the past week’s hurricane and the people who have water all around them, putting them out of their homes, but no water, at the moment, for life’s practical purposes. And I think of people in places like Rwanda that have, basically, no water at all, no clean water, and wonder, how do they get by? And I wonder, of course, why I should have all the water I need (and then some) while others have none.

{ Just in case youre wondering, for certain practical purposes throughout this time of “no water” I used a sawdust toilet. Marvelously simple and sanitary, but please, I never want to go back to it. One of the most interesting and funny books Ive ever read is The Humanure Handbook. Highly recommended. And by the way, this weeks special at the Etsy shop is one free beeswax turtle with each order! }