A letter posted two days ago and it is already pressing that I begin another - life in Maine is simply fraught with possibilities. The need to report on them burns. I have long felt that all the years I spent in SoCal were time lived in a sort of enervating bubble. (I'm ok. You're ok. The weather is ok - and something here drains the life from us via wounds too numerous to see.)
Yes, it's the weather - there isn't any... You call the warm, always warm, rarely too hot, rarely too cold, days heavenly, but they leave ashes in your mouth. Sucker-punched by complacency. The endless pleasant sameness corrodes. Paradise is not, and never will be, a place where things continually go right, the sun always shines, windshield wipers seldom have aught to wipe - a tonguing of fog maybe flicked aside, and bugs don't exist, and snow shovels aren't owned - perhaps rented once in fifty years for the four inches that paralyzes a civilization. It all leads to a deadening that starts on the ever-warm surface of the sun-kissed skin and gradually eats down into the bones like the heavy metals of ennui. A loss of contrast is as deadly as mad cow disease, just more insidiously slow. You don't know you are sick until you fall over from the weight of the utter sameness. You are so happy you forget to learn new words.
People who live in 'paradise' don't realize this. They lack the joy that spring brings with the last snow melting off, the rains coming, the ensuing mud, and the blackflies emerging from their lairs in hell; the swarming, hungry black angels - tiny beasts that come almost with the first rain of spring and leave enraged, itchy welts on your own private body as if the torments of Job had dropped in for a chat and a chafe. It is by such contrasts that we thrive. Without the sour the sweet is difficult to appreciate. Four seasons are not a bother; they are the stuff that makes us alive. When life is too easy we fail to love it properly. Marriage begets divorce which begets another sort of life-after; Job says 'hi' and leaves you to clear up the mess. Thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Man is made to problem-solve; this is our highest calling. It is why we do crosswords and watch Jeopardy. It is what makes us vibrate inside. At some moment in your life you will be like a well-tuned piano, and it won't be because life was easy.
I urge everyone to flee the faux-succor of soft places and go where life is harder.
You don't buy it, do you? Nevermind. It is just my spin on thinking about going to NoCal for two weeks in a few days. Was there ever a more dismal place than what the promised land of California has become? A false promise of shallow delights where everyone owns the year-round lawn chair and sits in it on every Sunday to drink beer and eat BBQ and talk sports. And I confess I never would have left there, Napa Valley, if I had not felt so distressed by the vast hordes of humans everywhere surrounding me there. The good weather wasn't really all that bad. The crowding was deadly. We moved on.
New Mexico was a taste of the many shades of grey that make life's colors more vivid. Maine has shown us clear and distinct black and white framing the visible spectrum. life is good when it assaults. Does the Arctic call next? Nah, probably not. I grow old enough to find the blacks and the whites of this clime all the work I can handle. And the greens of spring burn my eyes and I am ready to die on the spot. I have gone from soft and feckless to older and stiffer and slower, and it is all apples and oranges. It is all one life, just different days.
Speaking of growing things I am distraught. Yesterday I worked for hours in a light rain with temps in the forties, actually rather pleasant, trenching and planting my newly-arrived 50+ Purple Passion asparagus. They should go into a well-drained site the planting instructions informed me. I duly put them into the best drained part of my entire garden. My trenches were as right as my reading about how to trench could make them. The roots were spread on mounds and the crowns lightly covered. Happiness was thinking that in 15 years I would still be eating from these rows. It rained the rest of the day and all night. Today I go to visit my passionate purple amigos and find that the trenches now appear as moats. Water, standing water that no longer percolates downward, fills the trenches. Aieeeee! I can hear the little roots crying out "we rot! we rot!" I do hope they will do well where I have placed them. Life is never ideal, I tell them, encouraging them to thrive. "There will be mayonnaise-days" I say.
Much of Maine is somewhat of a bog. When, in a few years, the rest of the world runs out of fresh water we, in Maine, will chortle knowingly. And then, of course, 'they' -the insidious 'they', will come with pipes and court orders to get our water and send it someplace south. I am sure perfidy is just around the corner, but then I have a somewhat low regard for human intelligence when placed in the service of community; national-intelligence is an organism, or machine, that eats us whole and defecates for the 'greater good' and says productivity has increased and we are all better off. We are a people with short term goals foremost in mind. Asparagus beds, plants that will feed for maybe 20 years, would seem an archaic concept to those in high places of planning and leadership. I don't think keeping a garden and raising chickens will really save me; these men will roll over me and bury me.
The next day and life is brighter. The sun comes and goes and the moats have properly percolated. I have gotten the storage shed on the western side of the chicken coop framed up and sheathed in scrap plywood. Now comes taking apart oak pallets for siding boards; yes, I am cosmetically inclined in this instance and do it for the 'look'. Pallets are no pushover. Large hammers, crowbars, power tools and much determination are needed to dismantle them. (Add Motrin to the list as the day wears on.) Were our furniture as well made as our pallets we would nevermore need to repurchase couches and chairs and chests. Pallets are too necessary to a society that ships everything to remotest points for them to be cheaply made.
Sunday morning. A quiet Mother's day; Pat will carry the phone around with her waiting for calls from various kids. I am sitting down to read the paper and have my jar of java when a largish thump rattles the house. Has rapacious-cow returned to have it's way with the mailbox once more? I could only hope so; the sound is peculiar to metal changing shape under sudden duress. I go out front to find a smoldering Chevy Blazer in my front yard. Nasty smelling smoke oozes from its crumpled front end.
A young woman is standing near it holding a beautiful little blond child. Her own private mother's day is obviously slipping quickly into chaos. "My brakes locked up; I don't know why they did that - they just locked up." She and the child are both in tears; I put my arm around her shoulders and usher them into the house; her eyes look hollow.
On going back outside I see that she has nailed Snooky on his left front wheel and shoved him about 5 feet sideways. Later she tells me it was the neighbor's dog out in the road, and she swerved to miss him. She doesn't live far away and one phone call into a return to order relatives begin arriving by the truckload. Neither the young mother nor the young baby-god seem to be hurt. Waldo and Shay are giving him the velvet-tongue facial; he thinks this is fine and shares cookies with them.
Snooky was parked and empty. He almost looks ok, but I fear internal damages; he took a hell of a wallop on that wheel. Talking to the officer and dealing with insurance companies on the phone seems endless. Everyone wants to know some detail I don't know; I am in perpetual motion following a grim faced man who seems continually to slide away from me as he circles his daughter's obviously totalled vehicle. He frowns and his answers are short, like a prisoner of war he spends bits of personal detail grimly. Name, phone number, policy number - all are his very last pennies and he has a family to feed; he gives nothing up lightly. I feel like I am baiting a large and angry animal, but phone-women encourage me - "just one more thing, if you don't mind...." Of course I fucking mind! I want to yell but comply with good grace. We all do, more or less. How much more difficult this scene must be if blood has been spilled.
Everyone is gone now, with the exception of our canted Snooky and the two utility trucks fixing up the broken electrical pole the young woman met before arriving in the yard.
I have to make calls now about estimates, etc. I am sorry Snooky got hit as mechanical things are never the same, it seems, once they have been damaged and repaired. Auto repair is an amalgam of work, hope and allegation. I am glad the hollow-eyed girl and her lovely blond child are allright; he probably won't really grow up to be the god he looks like becoming, but will break his mother's heart, because that is what sons do. I am glad they have all gone someplace away from this house.
This page was last updated: May 30, 2009
2nd letter of May - and still without a name.
Sorry about the pics. I cannot seem to locate my editing software so cannot crop them, alter the contrast, etc.
The first three pics show how stuff is growing; I go out there somedays and it looks like things have gained an inch. I am keeping a diary so next year maybe I can hit June first with plants of a good size to go outside. Some of these may just be too big to transplant by June. The broccoli and kale are planning to attack Tokyo, I feel certain.
The coop pics show my roof-wings added to each side. Under them are 3" concrete pads 3'x8'. Between working in knee deep mud, or 3 feet of snow, I was stymied as to how to keep the poop-pit cleaned out. That is on the right side of the coop and the compost bins are just at hand. Under the left hand wing I put a storage bin for chicken accoutrements. Chickens probably shouldn't be allowed to have accoutrements but they just love to shop...