Sunday, April 28, 2013

stratified snow and the stages of grief

Written two days ago.
Sixty degrees with bright sunshine, about 5 p.m. Friday, April 26. This time a week ago, we had a blizzard. The last blizzard. It came on a northwest wind and again today a northwest wind but a milder northwest wind. Much milder. Balmy, even. It wafts across these old fields of snow, lands softly on my cheek, and the sun warms my whole left side as I walk to the river.

Snowshoes, still. Tried it without, but my feet sank and icy granules poured into my low-cut muckster boots, melting quickly, dampening my socks. Snowshoes make it easier. But lifting them off their peg on the side of the cabin, I feel their weight. For the first time in months, I feel their weight.

So what does snow on a 60-degree day with sunshine in late April look like?

It looks like this.

A small herd of deer came through the other morning, and they left deep hoof prints in the snow. Now, melted snow pools in the bottom of these little wells of prints, and just above the water, the snow is clear—maybe it is slush? Ice? I peer into the hoof prints, look at the stratification.

I sit in the usual spot on the usual blanket looking out over the usual river, and I realize how good I am at sitting and thinking, sitting and thinking about things like snow. How old is this snow? How old is the bottom layer that is two feet under? I cannot remember the last time there was not snow on Lookout Point, the last time these fields were bare ground. Perhaps it was January.

I scoop up a bit of snow, hold it in my hand, study it. It is made up of small grains of ice that sparkle like diamonds in the sun. I squeeze it, and all the snow gets squeezed out. It becomes a lump of ice.

Taking snow in hand.

I catch a few grains of snow on a stick and hold it up to the sky.

It looks like this.

There had been a slight setback on my way to the river. On the far side of a small group of spruce I  noticed the corner of a box poking out of the snow, the box that Buster is in, waiting to be buried. My head—filled with the pressing glory of spring and all the things to be doing—slammed up against that box, and it knocked me down. I fell to my knees, crying. It lasted just a minute. Then I thought, “Damn. What I have to do is, bury Buster.”

Such is spring.

Written yesterday.
I went to the planned grave site to clear away snow. Elliott followed. Birds were singing, geese were honking, woodpeckers hammered away. The sun shone lightly through a haze; it was about 30 degrees.

Grief is messy, no doubt, whether you wear it on your sleeve or keep it close, and supposedly, or maybe surely, there are five stages, but as I dug through and cleared away about eight inches of wet, grainy snow, making a circular depression about four feet wide, I could not remember what the stages were. I was thinking about the stages because this burial was happening in stages. The ground I was uncovering was frozen. Maybe not frozen deep, maybe not frozen solid—I could hack at it with the shovel and make small indentations—but it’s hardness stymied me, and I knew I would wait until later in the day to figure out what to do.

While I was shoveling, Elliott disappeared down the river bank. He reappeared when I was done. The snow, by the way, was the same consistency top to bottom. We walked back to the cabin, Elliott and I, and I wondered which stage of grief I was in.

It became a hard day, too warm, too bright, nearly 70 degrees without a breeze. After lunch, the ground was still frozen, so I stuck my spade in a spot that had been bare of snow, about 10 feet to the east, a beautiful spot at the very top of the riverbank with the partial shade of a spruce and a view of the river. The spade sank into soft, sandy earth. I dug a grave. I hauled Buster over to it. I buried him. I walked back to the cabin, pinched the stem of the crocus that had bloomed that morning, walked back to the grave, made a snowball, put it on top of the grave, and stuck the stem of the crocus into it, as if it were a vase. I sat there quite a while, not wanting to move.

Buster, 18 years ago, just
a pup in the daffodils.

Written today.
So far this morning, I have opened the door for Elliott, letting him in and out too many times to count—I don’t count. I have filled his bowls with food. Opening the door once more, I complained: “All right, all right, come back in, I’ll let you back out whenever you want. I’m just your butler. Yes, your breakfast is ready. Guess I’m just your waitress, too. Your butler, your maid, your waitress, your gravedigger.” And it became a little song. Now Elliott sits on the raised footrest of my easy chair, next to my feet. He has the hiccups.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

an endless winter (interrupted by chickadee tv) takes a walk

Friday’s blizzard started with rain Thursday evening. Thursday was a day that started with snow, preceded by rain, maybe a wintry mix, I don’t know, but before that, rain, and snow. There was a day this week, I’m sure, when it didn’t rain or snow, when nothing happened except predictions of snow, and rain, and wintry mixes, and that was the day I noticed the crocus, once again, shooting up from the ground near the cabin’s front porch where the deep snow had pulled away briefly, like the tide going out. But that evening, before the blizzard—rain. A dark and mean and nasty rain, whipped into a frenzy by a stiff northeast wind. The sound of rain on snow is a sizzling one, like cool water on a hot griddle.

The blizzard came on a northwest wind in the middle of the night like a rollicking pirate. It beat back the rain; it buried the crocus. It snowed. And it snowed. And it snowed.

April 20, 2013. The day after the blizzard.
But now, the day after the blizzard, the dawn is calm and clear with a pale blue sky edged in yellow with one pinkish cloud. I shovel a path to the garage, and the sun gets a bit too warm on my back. It feels like the first day of spring, all over again. Snow melt trickles down the east side of the roof and soon chunks of snow break free from the roof’s nearly flat top, making the long slide down to the snowbank below. The snowbank, less than two feet from the cabin, grows and shrinks, peaking today at about four or five feet. After all the dripping and sliding, I will shovel out the snow and slush that gets caught between the snowbank and the cabin because if I don’t, when it melts, it might seep inside, dampening the floorboards, like it did a few weeks ago, in that one spot, now dry.

But that’s later. First, I must take a walk. It’s about 25 degrees. There is a brisk north wind.

With each step, the snow caves a bit.

:::::: We interrupt this post for a report on Chickadee TV. ::::::

Lately, Elliott has been amusing himself with Chickadee TV. He lurks at windows, dashing from one to another chasing black-capped chickadees and yellow-rumped warblers. The little birds are chasing the #*$#!! cluster flies that emerge from somewhere every day, thinking, I suppose, that it’s a fine spring day whether snow, rain, or all mixed up. With a dash of sunshine, the flies really go wild, dropping on their backs, spinning like break-dance boys, waggling their legs in the air. The flies hover around the house, inside and out, and the chickadees and warblers swoop close, picking them off, chowing them down. The cabin has large windows all around; Elliott watches them all.

Chickadee TV South.

Chickadee TV West.

Chickadee TV Lower West.

Chickadee TV East.

 :::::: Now back to our post. ::::::

The snow is free of animal tracks, an unbroken white except for the scrubby brown tops of bushes that poke through making scrubby grey shadows. As I approach Lookout Point, I flush only two deer from the opposite bank of the river. Both hesitate before loping eastward, following the river’s flow. I am sorry to have startled them as the snow cover in the woods surely is making it harder for them to eat, and the south-facing bank of the river looks like a good place to browse. But nonetheless. I drop my blanket in a sunny spot and plop down, sinking into the slightly crusty, slightly soft snow that gives way, like a bean bag chair. This proves mighty comfortable. I settle in.

Lounging at Lookout Point.
The high, brown water of the Otter River moves swiftly, swallowing islands and fallen trees; Fisherman’s Island has disappeared. Overhead, blue sky, a few puffed up clouds. Snow free-falls from the trees, pushed by the breeze, loosened by the sun. Small bits float in the air, swirling around like downy feathers. Larger blobs fall straight down, like bombs, like snowballs, making pockmarks. Off to the east a bald eagle soars in slow, broad circles over the river, over the woods. He disappears. Three ducks pass by, drifting down river, and a bit later they return, flying silently overhead. Their bills are red, their markings black and white. Maybe they are mergansers. Except for the rippling of the water, it is quiet. The sun is warm. The air is cool and fresh. The absence of scent is so acute it can only be described as the scent of snow, the scent of fresh snow on a cold, sun-warmed, April day.

It is easy to stay put, with nothing happening, and waiting on nothing.

Back home, the icicles on the west side of the cabin are three-feet long, dripping like crazy. Soon they will break off, begin anew.

Here are the answers to last week’s quiz: 1-G; 2-I, 3-B; 4-C; 5-K; 6-A; 7-F; 8-H; 9-L; 10-E; 11-D; 12-J.

Thanks to Big Sis for “chickadee TV.”

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The First Great & Only “Many Uses of Beeswax” Match Quiz

As April progresses and spring storms continue (read: snow), I look forward to May and the start of the summer market season. Already that wonderful question rings in my ears: What do people do with it? Meaning beeswax, of course: What do people do with beeswax? And I wonder, shall I answer the same old way? Or shall I make up a fun little quiz and say: Glad you asked, I just happen to have this fun little quiz I’ve put together about the many uses of beeswax … Ta da!

The First Great & Only “Many Uses of Beeswax” Match Quiz

Original Use: Honeycomb.
Can you match the people, places, and things in Column A with the uses for beeswax in Column B? If you’re into scores and ratings and things, here you go:
  • All answers correct, consider yourself Queen Bee for a Day—go lay some eggs and be fawned over.
  • Half the answers correct, you are a Good Worker Bee—keep working.
  • Less than half, but at least one, consider yourself a Baby Bee—keep an eye on the workers, you’ll learn.
  • Zippo? Nothing? No answers correct? You are a drone. Service the Queen, then leave.

Column A
1.  Dentistry
2.  Mummies
3.  Bob Feller
4.  Didgeridoo
5.  Holy Thorn Tree
6.  Wolfgang Laib
7.  South Africa
8.  Pea Pickle Farm
9.  Honeybees
10.  Tent
11.  Crayons
12.  Sticky drawers, frozen nuts

Column B
A.  So many artistic uses for beeswax—try smearing it on walls.
B.  To make sewing easy, lightly coat your thread with beeswax.
C.  Beeswax helps make beautiful music.
D.  Beeswax helps with making it colorful.
E.  Expecting rain? You might want a little beeswax.
F.  Interested in spear-hunting?
G.  Some people get their teeth into it, or is it the other way around?
H.  Beeswax makes the best candle.
I.  Please don’t try this at home.
J.  But if you do need a little help around the house ...
K.  Beeswax heals wounds.
L.  Beeswax makes a home sweet home.

Most answers can be uncovered via the links at the bottom of the Beeswax Page. Or check back next week for the answers.

Read last week’s post.
Or read about April on an upper peninsula journal. (includes audio!)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

perhaps like the moon, we wax and wane: a diary

Saturday, April 6
2:30 p.m.
Today the snow arrives on a light breeze from the south. It is mild. The snow is damp. There is a winter weather advisory.

From Lookout Point, looking northwest.

Yesterday I tried walking to the river without the snowshoes but halfway there I was breaking through, sinking nearly to my knees, so I swore softly and turned back for the ’shoes.

Every once in a while I head to the river by reversing my usual loop, as I did today. This brings me to Lookout Point from the south, across the fields, rather than from the east, along the bank. I noticed a deer as I approached, but he had already noticed me, and, as usual, mostly what I saw was a big, white, furry underside of tail, raised in a salute of “so long.” As soon as I reached the point, I saw three more deer, on the other side of the river, down a bit, but again, they saw me coming, or at least two did, they told the third, then all away, a trio of tails.

Looking down river.

Along with rabbit tracks, I have been seeing deer this week, or should I say, seeing deer tails. Except for one, a kindred spirit, who I watched yesterday as he made his way slowly along the bank. He was down river, on the other side, coming my way, each hoof punching through the snow up to his knees. He paused to stare at me, or so I thought—me sitting on a blanket on the snow, enjoying the sunshine. Then he turned away from the river, plodded into the woods, swearing softly at the crusty but relenting snow.

Friday, April 5
5:30 a.m.
Obsessed with an upper peninsula journal. Don’t know how it got started. I redid the layout and now, adding labels, "topics," to the posts. Also, accidentally deleted two or three posts.

Thursday, April 4
7 a.m.
I have been waning all week. Mental lassitude as much as physical—the past two days I have walked either to or from town, made the river loop, worked on candles and around the house, getting the front door painted. But this morning, despite sleeping deep, I am physically tired.

Elliott, on the other hand, has spring fever. As soon as we get up he is scurrying around the cabin sideways and tearing at his scratching post (the chair). I let him out. In a few minutes, he dashes in. He eats. Then, back out. In a little while, in. Then out. And so it goes. Through the day.

Later, after nuzzling then inhaling a catnip leaf, Elliott rests.

Wednesday, April 3
6 a.m.
A quick, hot fire and up early. Does this bode well for the day? Coming back from yesterday which, despite getting a fair amount of work done, deteriorated into feelings of having failed at something, at anything, most everything. Too much dwelling on comparisons and financial pictures and tattered clothes I can’t give up.

“But it takes time to build a business, Rosie.”

Energy sapped; energy waned. Which is it? Does energy run low and spirits follow? Or do sagging spirits become a physical anchor? Or maybe it’s the moon? The price of tea in China?

I made candles and took photos, adding the floating sun, the floating bee-on-a-flower, and the votives to the Etsy shop. I have info on two festivals in L’Anse in June that I plan to sell at.

The van spent the day at Jerry’s for an overdue oil change. The walk home was pleasant; Julie joined me, updating me on the kitten trapping across the road, which was just about complete. With all those cats now spayed or neutered … well, the spring kitten season approaches. It will be interesting to see how her efforts play out.

All day the northwest wind blew cold and hard. The sun was out, the icicles dripped, but that is all, and it all seemed so very harsh—the wind, the sun, the hard-packed snow. I walked atop the snow to the river and over to the pine grove. I snipped a couple of red twig dogwood branches to add to the piece of Guatemalan quilt that is now a wall hanging in a red twig frame.

My Easter cactus shows no sign of blooming, but the impatiens, brought in last fall, has a bud.


Last night a dream of massive road work in both city and country settings. I walked alongside, making my way somewhere, going from countryside to city via a door that someone else opened for me. It was daytime in the country; nighttime in the city. Many people working, lots of machinery, trucks.

One of the week's projects was chopping up beeswax.

Tuesday, April 2
6:30 a.m.
Every cold morning now inches toward the last. I sleep well with the upper deck door slightly open, waking shortly before the six-o’clock alarm to close it. Then, if I don’t pull up the extra cover, the chill keeps me drowsily awake.

Usually just before or after I close the door, Elliott gets under the covers, snuggling alongside me. I’m on my left side, and he stretches from my chin down into my belly, purring. He will knead my left arm, gently pat or lick my face. I put my right arm around him, occasionally rub his belly or scratch his head. When the alarm goes off, or just before, he leaves.

Monday, April 1
6:30 a.m.
There was a moment yesterday evening when the snow was coming down so thick the kitchen window over the sink was white. All day, the north wind kicked. The snow came and went in moments. Sunshine peeked through. Saturday, it rained all day, and there was a south wind.

April Fools indeed.

Read last week’s post, or listen to this featured post from an upper peninsula journal.