Dead Calm and Zero Degrees

This morning when I got up, it was dead calm and zero degrees. Actually, a little below zero.

The top window over the sink was so frosty that I couldn’t even see outside. (Fortunately, the frost is on the outside storm window.)

And here is the view from the window by my desk.

With the wood furnace going, it’s a balmy 65°F inside. We might have to turn on the electric heat tonight as the temperature drops further.

The title of this post comes from one of my favorite documentaries, Alone in the Wilderness, in which one man, Dick Proenneke, filmed his experience of living by himself for one year in Alaska. (The documentary is narrated by Bob Swerer Jr.)  During that year—1968—he used hand tools to build his own cabin as well as many other things he needed for daily living. Proenneke’s skill, ingenuity, and creativity are nothing short of astonishing.

Here is a short clip that gives a sense of this extraordinary documentary.

During his time in the wilderness, Proenneke recorded the temperature every morning, and often it was “Dead calm and zero degrees,” just as it was this morning in Maine.

A little brisk, as my Yankee husband would say in his understated way.

Scenes from a Recent Snowstorm

Northern woman that I am, I love the look of the landscape during a snowstorm, the way it is pared down to its essence in color, not quite monochrome but certainly muted. When there is a snowstorm—and to a certain extent in the winter in general—the landscape has a soothing quality that provides me with a much-needed rest from the exuberance of spring, summer, and fall. Yes, by the time dreary March rolls around, I am more than ready for the glorious burst of spring. However, from somber November through frozen February, I am grateful for the quiet that comes in late fall and winter.

Here are scenes from a recent snowstorm:

On a less soothing note…COVID is ripping through Maine, and the positivity rate is 18 percent, the highest it has ever been. (And to think that last June the rate was below 1 percent. Those halcyon days.) The hospitals are overwhelmed, and I’ve heard that beds with patients are lining the halls.

Clif, Dee, and I are hunkering down, grateful we’re in a position to do so. We are well aware not everyone is as lucky as we are. Also, we’re aware there is a high likelihood that we’ll all eventually come down with COVID, which probably will be circulating around the world pretty much forever.

However, we want to give the hospitals time to recover from the onslaught of patients. If I’m unlucky enough to have to go to the hospital because of COVID, I want a bed in a room. I do not want to be in the hall, tended by folks who are completely frazzled. I’m also hoping that sometime soon antiviral drugs will be readily available for an effective treatment. Finally, I am hoping that COVID will mutate to something that is more like a cold, unpleasant but not an unpredictable killer. In the meantime, I’m sticking close to home and wearing my KN95 mask when I go out.

Despite the nastiness of COVID, things could be worse. On a recent episode of the podcast Radiolab, I learned about the year 536 AD, when there was “A supervolcano. The disappearance of shadows. A failure of bread. Plague rats.” Holy cats, that’s a lot of bad things to deal with all together.

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Now, on to something more upbeatNifty posts from some of the lovely blogs I follow:

What could be better than a winter scene? How about one with a sunset and the red splash of a cardinal? On Cimple, a fabulous photo provides all three. 

From Whippet Wisdom, different kinds of listening and music. This post certainly made me smile.

For the biggest, most fabulous sticky bun, check out Touring My Backyard.

Thistles and Kiwis features gorgeous beaches and mouthwatering food. Oh, New Zealand!

Judy, at New England Garden and Thread, makes an excellent case for going south for the winter.

 

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I haven’t shared any music videos lately, and here’s a beauty—Yasmin Williams: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

I’m an anxious person who lives in an anxious world. Williams’s soulful, cascading music never fails to make me feel tranquil, and lately I have started my day by listening to her. Also, note how Williams uses tap shoes for percussion. Clever, clever!

A Lovely, Simple Vacation

My holiday vacation is over, and what a lovely, simple one it was.

Clif, Dee, and I started out on Christmas Eve with chocolate peppermint martinis. (We had some on New Year’s Eve, too.)

With the martinis, we had lots of nibble and nuts, which I did not photograph.

For Christmas, I gave Clif a game, Horrified, which we played every afternoon during our vacation. It’s a cooperative game where everyone must work together to save the villagers from various monsters.  Sometimes we won. Sometimes we lost. But win or lose, we had such fun.

During my vacation, each morning—with a mug of tea—I settled on the couch and read until everyone was ready for breakfast. The books I read were The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff; Harlem Shuffle by the fabulous Colson Whitehead; and Wintering by Katherine May. Three very different books but all worth reading and a great way to end the year.

We watched lots of movies, but the standout for me was Pig with Nicolas Cage. Pig is about a man named Rob and his beloved truffle-hunting pig. When the pig is stolen, Rob sets out in search of her. He leaves his seclusion in the woods and travels to the big city, where he encounters obstacles but also receives help. Part fable, part meditation on love, grief, loss, and forgiveness, this movie touched me in a way that only a few films ever have, and it is my favorite of the year. The movie’s slow, indie pacing won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for those with patience, Pig is a must-see

In the middle of the week, we had a little ice storm, but fortunately we did not lose our power. Clif went out and took some pictures.

And now January is here. It’s back to work for me and the rest of the family. Our restful vacation reminded me, once again, that while it’s good to have purpose and to work hard, it’s also good to take a break now and again.

Refreshed, we can approach what we do with vigor and enthusiasm.

Onward to finishing Book Four of my Great Library Series.

 

En Hiver

In the still, in the cold…

Although I love spring and summer and the lengthening of the days, I also cherish this time of year, this time of giving, this time of rest, when I have tea on the couch at 4:00, and out the big window I watch the sky go from blue to black and the bright shine of Venus, which glitters just above the horizon.

I will be taking a blogging break from now until the New Year. Because of Covid, it will definitely be a staycation, but it will be a luxury to read in the mornings, play board games in the afternoon, and watch Oscar nominees at night. And, of course, nibble on treats.

I know many of you are wondering about Little Green, our trusty electric snow thrower. Clif did indeed find the problem—a rascally rodent, probably a mouse, who not only made a nest inside Little Green but chewed the belt in half as well. A new belt is on the way.

Because I am Franco-American, I wish those who celebrate Christmas a joyeux Noël.

And to everyone a Bonne Année.

Whatever you celebrate, have a joyous and safe time. I hope your holidays are filled with warmth, merriment, and good food.

See you all in 2022.

 

A White Christmas

On Saturday we got another small snowstorm that left about four inches, which is enough to give Mainers what they always crave in December—a white Christmas.

The day after the storm was beautiful, as it often is, and out I went to take some pictures.

Here is our backyard, on the edge of the woods, looking very northern with its snow-covered trees.

Next, a side view of Clif cleaning the driveway. (Little Green conked out, and Clif will soon be doing an assessment to see if the snow-thrower can be fixed, or if we need to buy another one.)

Then, a view from the front of our cozy home tucked by the woods.

Finally, a picture I know you’ve all been waiting for—the trusty town plow. Thanks to the diligence of the people who clean our roads, we are never stranded at our homes for more than half a day, no matter how much snow we get. Note how clear the road is a day after the storm.

This is what you  might call a lucky shot. With camera in hand, I happened to be by the mailbox across the street from our home, when I heard the distinctive roar of the plow. I didn’t have to wait long before it came thundering up the road. After exchanging a friendly wave with the driver, I took a picture of the truck with its sand and plow that is so essential to life in the north in the winter.

The Dog Angel: A Maine Christmas Story

Much of writing involves discipline—sitting at the desk, day in and day out, and working even if you aren’t exactly filled with inspiration. I believe this is called discipline, and it is essential not only for writing but for many other things, too.

However, once in a while a writer gets lucky, and a story seemingly drops out of nowhere, practically whole cloth with only a small amount of fiddling. So it was for me this November with my short story “The Dog Angel,”  with two things coming together to inspire me.

First, there was Aimee Man’s melancholy but lovely Christmas song “Calling on Mary.”

Then there was this ornament, which I featured in a previous post.

Actually, there was a third inspiration, and if you look closely through the glass table, you can see Rumer Godden’s The Story of Holly & Ivy, one of my favorite Christmas tales. Do read it if you haven’t already. Anyway, “The Dog Angel” is a sort of homage to The Story of Holly & Ivy.

In my imagination, I saw a little dark-haired girl and her dark-haired mother, two drifters in the snow, homeless. They were in Waterville, Maine, in the 1970s, in the South End, the Franco-American section of town where I lived when I was very young. Because I like fantasy and folderol, I added a dog angel.

And the rest, dear readers, I will let you discover for yourselves if you are in the mood for a Maine Christmas story. “The Dog Angel” is a free online read available on our Hinterlands Press website. It’s a longish story—about 7,000 words—but it pops along, and you can certainly read it in sections if you like.

Happy holidays to all! May the spirit of generosity be with us not only now but throughout the rest of the year, too.

 

Before and After

This weekend a miserable rain came, melting away most of our lovely snow. I know that for some readers, rain in December is a common occurrence. However, in Maine it is not. Or at least once upon a time it wasn’t. Back in the day, December was a cold month, and when there was precipitation, it came down as snow. This rain business feels weird, and it makes everything look dreary.

Here is before.

And here is after.

To add to the gray, nasty weekend, Dee, Clif, and I had our COVID boosters, and on Sunday, we all felt like roadkill. It was a day for eating Saltine crackers with butter, lying on the couch, and watching easy-to-take shows such as Blown Away: Christmas and 8-Bit Christmas. Although neither show is what you might call hard hitting, they are both fun, in their own way, and worth seeing.

Today, on Monday, we all feel better, and onward, ho to the holidays. Even though I am not much of a list maker, I will be making grocery lists and a cooking schedule. Although my knee is greatly improved, I can only stand for an hour or so before it starts aching. Therefore, planning ahead will be crucial.

Dee has bought the ingredients for peppermint cocktails. I’m still aiming to make a vegan tourtière pie and a tofu chocolate pie.

At our home on the edge of the woods, we know how to party. 😉

 

Of Lemons and Santa

A day or two ago in the mail I received a delightful package from my blogging friend Betsy. In it were lemons from a tree in her very own backyard—how cool is that?—a vintage Santa, and a card with a Nordic design, which, being a northern woman, I absolutely love.

Many, many thanks Betsy!

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