Sunday, February 17, 2013

on strands of thought, left alone

Sundays have become a day for my thoughts to coalesce. As I write, things that have happened and things that have occurred to me over the past week come together. It is all rather ordinary and routine. It is all just another day when candles are made or candles are sold. It is all just another day when I take a walk or sit by the fire. It is all just another day of building those fires, of tending to needs, of seeking enjoyment. Then, on Sundays, I write. I pull together strands of ordinariness in hopes of making something of it all.

But this Sunday the strands do not want to come together, and neither do I want to pull them into something they might not wish to be. They are each as if full of static electricity, standing ramrod straight, quivering with energy but refusing to move, refusing to bend, refusing to entwine and give way to one another. And this is the thing about loss, whatever degree of loss it is, whether it’s death or divorce or a job, whether it’s faith or religion or home, whether it’s devastating or just your car keys, whatever you have lost makes you wonder: how can life go on? How can it go on, now, without this? How can it go on as if nothing has happened? It will, it does, we know that. But for now, for you, maybe not quite yet, not really, no, not now, not yet, until, then, it does.


I’ve lost a dog. A companion of nearly 18 years and my only witness to those years, the only one who was there for the calamities as well as for the everyday, dull routine. And so, my life is different. But all I can tell you is that it was a perfectly ordinary week. And you know what? I am not ready for that. I am not ready for life without Buster to be perfectly ordinary.

I could be writing today about The Great Chimney Raising at Pea Pickle Farm that happened two years ago at this time, on a couple of extraordinary 60-degree February days, and making something of it all because it was, after all, the first major project at the cabin, a step toward making the cabin habitable, and even though after the chimney raising it wouldn’t be anywhere near warm enough on a chilly night without sixteen blankets and one old dog, the chimney raising was, without a doubt, a success.

The Great Chimney Raising of 2011

The wood stove was installed and the chimney was raised two weeks after my cat, Goldie, died in front of the wood stove in the house in Sand River. I brought Goldie out here to bury him next to Queenie, my dog who had died three months earlier, and I pretty much just buried Goldie in the snow because the ground was, of course, frozen. It was a macabre grave and I worried about it, worried about what might happen to it over the next few months and if the cardboard box would hold up until spring, until the ground thawed, but I did not know what else to do, because Goldie had to be buried near Queenie, though not too close, because they really didn’t get along so well, and it was that day that the cabin’s stove was delivered. I remember a bitterly cold west wind that kept trying to push me over as I stumbled through the knee-deep snow on the trail from the cabin to the river, the graves being at the top of the river bank at the end of that trail, and it was just a horrible trudge back to the cabin. Whatever I was carrying or dragging—a shovel? a sled? both?—flapped and flopped in the wind, and I kept sinking into the snow, and I’m pretty sure I was crying, and then the truck with the stove pulled up, and I had to stop crying and be happy that my stove was here. And I was.

And the thing is, Buster was with me that day. Of course he was. Not wading through the snow in a pelting wind to bury his lifelong cat buddy, but in the van, waiting, watching, as I did that. And Buster was there the moment Queenie died. And Buster was there the moment Goldie died. And Buster was there for the chimney raising, that 60-degree February day two years ago. Again, he mostly stayed in the van, took a nap after running around like crazy, getting muddy, exploring, probably getting in the way, and that evening we drove the two hours back to Sand River and returned the next day because it was a day-and-a-half-long project, and after the first day it turned out that I needed to buy more stove pipe anyway and that meant going to the Menards in Marquette. Buster and I covered so many miles together in that van and in the truck that preceded it, and then this week I visited the drive-up teller at the bank and she asked if my dog were with me. I began sobbing.

Buster, February 16, 2011.

I remember arriving here that second morning of the chimney raising and being captivated by the mist rising from the snow, the mist that was mixing with the dawn, a gauzy veil of softness, and this morning two years later it is 10 degrees below zero and the stove does its best to keep Elliott and me warm, but it is a difficult task, and the dawn is harsh and brittle.

On that 60-degree day two years ago I sat on the cabin’s porch, basking in the sun, talking with my friend who was here to help his friend who was actually doing the installation. I told him of this overwhelming feeling that even if this crazy plan to live in this cabin didn’t work out, just blew up in my face in any of the so many different ways that it could, that it would still be worth it. I knew that, because it was worth it right then, and it was worth it right then because it was just so beautiful right there, right then. And since then, there have been small explosions, and I have wondered about it all.

This morning, the cabins shadow.

So all this is supposed to come together today, but it won’t. I spent most of the week working on the east wall of the living room, brushing clean the old barn logs with this steel brush attachment that goes on your drill, and then cleaning up all the dust that made, and then brushing a sealer onto the logs, and then caulking along the underside of the logs and in the cracks in the logs as cold air comes through all these places in little drafts and breezes, and there, it seems to me, is another loose strand. I hope you do not mind that I leave it where it is.