Sunday, March 10, 2013

a pea picklin’ diary: March 9 to 4

Saturday, March 9
6:45 a.m.

Delivered candles to the co-op yesterday, got chocolate at Donckers, picked up my new glasses in the old frames—now everything is too clear—and stopped at the gallery. Went back to the antique mall in Ishpeming to get that wooden ironing board and ended up browsing. Last week, I missed the second floor. Up there, a whole stash of teapots. I was looking for a two-cupper, and even though I found what I was looking for, I insisted on buying something else—a ceramic chicken labeled a “vase.” It might be a creamer. I am trying it out as a teapot. That just proved ridiculous, because it doesn’t even hold a whole cup. I was hoping for at least a cup and a half. And to think, I’ve been tested as having good spatial perception.

It was sunny, and by the time I got back home temps were in the low 40s. Soft snow underfoot, melted snow drizzling off the porch roof. At the gallery, Ryan was working and we got to talking about how it’s maple syrup season—time to tap the trees—and since he actually does that, he was remembering that stretch of hot weather last year that wreaked havoc with the sap flow and hence, syrup production. Now that I think of it, I am a lot like sap. I prefer days with temps above freezing and nights below. This time of year, anyway.

Thursday, March 7
7:15 a.m.

Two small candle orders are ready to mail, and seven of the twelve Buddhas are done for Olive 54, the store in New Jersey. Still need to make the Buddhas’ peace necklaces. Also, the co-op order is complete. A good week in the candle business.

Cold, grey days continue. I should make more lip balm. 

Wednesday, March 6
7 a.m.

I was bringing in wood yesterday after lunch when Julie walked up the drive. O, solitude busted! It being a cold, grey day, I closed the door behind me as I carried in the last of the wood, and when Julie reached the porch she stayed out there, so I went out, and I asked her how she was. She said, “Not so good,” and began fumbling with a tattered red notebook she was carrying, trying to open it at a specific spot. I did not know what to expect; she was so visibly upset.

There was a newspaper clipping tucked in the notebook and once she got the book open I could see the clipping and recognized it as one of those ads of available dogs at the shelter, though it also struck me as an obituary. Anyway, I kind of understood her dog had died, and then, with her face crumpling, she said, “My dog died.” She kind of hugged me and I hugged her. Julie’s head comes just about to my shoulder and her body is so slight it felt for a moment as if I were holding a child.

I told her to come in and we had tea and she told me about it and we talked of other things, too. When I was telling her about the day Buster died, Elliott jumped into my lap and stayed there a while, purring. Eventually I gave Julie a ride home, as I was heading to the post office, and she was talking about going to the shelter for a new dog, one to swim with, one who’d be okay with cats, one who wouldn’t chase chickens or be afraid of cows. The dog who died, who was nine years old and didn’t have a name—Julie explained it once: she knows who I mean—was all that and a jolly sort, too, a big, grinning, white and black-spotted girl.

Not so cold this morning, but a light snow falling. Rather than being upstairs with me as I drifted awake, Elliott was downstairs scratching at the chair, digging in his nails and ripping, loudly. Also, meowing, so I had to get up and let him out. A serious sign of spring.

Tuesday, March 5
7 a.m.

Smelling a skunk this morning. Another sign of spring.

Cleaned a bucketful of ash from the wood stove and now a quick, hot fire to help us warm up.

Last night as I closed the curtains, Orion in the southern sky.

On the porch again late yesterday afternoon, in the sun, without the wine, thinking of the number of days now without seeing another person—three. Sometimes I have to think about it, because I lose track of time. I start out the day knowing it’s Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday, but at any given moment during the day I may be unsure. I had to think about which day it was that I had last seen anyone—Friday—which day it was now—Monday—and then count. As I counted, a blissful feeling, in the sun, on the porch, listening to icicles drip.

This morning I snuggle back into that feeling. I have so craved solitude in my life, and yet been so afraid of it, so wary; always in the back of my mind my mother saying: You don’t want to end up old and alone.

No, I don’t want to end up old and alone. Being alone, we are told, is oh so bad, in oh so many ways. And, as human beings, we are just not cut out for it. We read about it in every book, see it in every show, hear it in every song. Every study of every academic discipline tells us that we are social beings. I have been told that I am “anti-social,” and I have taken it to heart, and I have wondered: Am I an aberration? But I have come to believe that trying to fit in, trying not to be alone, has taken me down many wrong paths.

Somewhere along the way I must have found support for solitude and for being alone, found inspiration, found someone—some human—who helped me to understand that maybe, for some of us, being alone is okay, is natural and fine and good; surely there have been those who have helped me to believe that if I sought solitude I would not be walking off a cliff, falling into a canyon of misery and insanity, wishing fervently that I had not taken that last step. I think of the man in the documentary “Alone in theWilderness,” whose name I don’t remember, who at some age like 52 dropped down in the wilds of Alaska to build himself a home, filmed it, kept a journal, did not, as far as I know, go crazy.

So many things I’ve been told about this “loner” business. Mostly by those who have no experience with it. Maybe part of the bliss of it all, this feeling I have of wanting now to snuggle into my solitude and enjoy it, is the realization that over the past few days I have forgotten how it feels to be lonely.

Monday, March 4
6:45 a.m.

Such cold mornings we’re having—clear and cold. Five below zero today and yesterday, though yesterday afternoon’s temps rose to 35 and with the March sun came warmth. But this morning, rime bristles on every branch of every tree. The struggle for spring has begun, and I begin to realize that one should not judge this northern spring by its southern counterpart.

Late in the afternoon I sat on the porch enjoying the last glass from the second bottle of wine I bought after Buster was gone. That part of the grieving is now over. The landscape was so very still and bright! Icicles were falling—their crashing freaked out Elliott, sent him scurrying inside. Water dripped from those desperate holes Jill and I made in the gutter two Junes ago, when I believed the gutters were holding water and incubating mosquitoes, and there was a pleasant plunk and plinkity plink as the drops hit the puddles carved into the snow.

Read last week’s post, or listen to it.


  1. Alone in the Wilderness ---Richard Proenneke. Had his original book...loaned it...lost it. Have his Videotape, just watched the sequel on PBS. Really like his photography and journals, and love of being alone there. One of my daughters, too, is building a life alone, at least for now. As she says, 'I had a husband once and I'm not sure I want another one!" Glad I saw you while you were in town.

    1. First saw "A in the W" during a TV13 fundraiser. Just learned about the sequel - may have to purchase. I've had two marriages (yikes), so maybe it's one of those things I'm just not very good at. So. Onward. Good to see you too!