Saturday, January 29, 2011


Only seventy days, perhaps by now it's sixty-eight, until spring training. It's not that I'm a fanatic baseball fan, but I am anxious to greet spring. Spring, the season of no ice dams, no leaks in the closet. Today the electrician dismantled the fixture in the closet, capped the wires and left us to our drip. The steady drip came through two of the screw holes that once held the fixture in place. Arranged in a disorganized manner, the plastic buckets on top of plastic garbage bags caught the accumulation of drops.

"Do you think the steady drip drip slowed down?"

How do you measure the number of drips per minute? How to quantify the number? Staring at a drop making its way from the ceiling to a clothing rod and then to the bucket , a mesmerizing trek for a small droplet, does not qualify as a measurement of increase or decrease of a leak.

I've timed many things so I simply set the timer for one minute, turned it on and began counting drops. After two run throughs I established a procedure—only count a drop when I heard the ping. The advantage of this procedure is that it promises the possibility of success—even if that success means one drop less. But in this world one must deal with duality. Suppose my counting resulted in an increase of drops?

Duality, pairings. Good, evil, Short, tall. The yoke, the dyad. "Two points determine a line" and "Two lines determine a point."

Dry, wet. Believer, nonbeliever. What are all the permutations in between? Damp, wet, sopping, dry, arid, drought.

For the moment I want to stand on the side of believer—
Gideon asked for a sign ...he spread fleece on the ground and when he examined it —after it remained in that spot for an entire evening — the fleece was to be wet, but the ground dry. Then when that happened he asked for another sign. Now he wanted the fleece to be dry and the ground wet. Granted Gideon wanted an answer to a weighty question.

Our local meteorologist indicates two more "snow happenings". The last one left us with twelve inches. How about a little dryness on the interior?

We've had enough of the wet part of the duality. I know in the scheme of things ice dams and leaks are minor variations on the theme of persnickety annoyances.

Look at the world in crisis, look at ice bergs melting—
Look at the loss of floating ice—

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Not This Time

Life, unpredictable and often capricious, has decided to throw several water leaks from ice dams our way. I expect that if I lived close to the ocean I'd worry about high tides exacting command over beach front property. Two months ago several homes twenty-five miles away were practically taken out with the retreat of the tide. In one area tons of sand were dumped on an eroded beach to protect houses. Then there are mud slides, flash floods, earth tremors, tornados, beetle infestations, drought.

I've taken this tack as a way to steel myself to the next stage of how to deal with leaks. Having traveled this way before I know that a water mark knows no boundaries. At first you think that that oval shape has reached its zenith, but then it moves beyond the pencil mark shape. It creeps and I draw another shape—as if my mechanical pencil lead exerts an authority over the present contour.

"Is the rug damp?"
My first response, "It's just cold."

I know that the response is an aversion to the truth, but if I can hold off the reality for a few moments more to give me time to accept a truth—water spreads slowly but with a tenacity that brooks no interference.

As Ecclesiastes said, To everything there is a season... In New England this is the season of ice dams.

I'm not a student of architecture; however, I've noted that once the builders of houses made peace with the weather. When I see an old house with a sharply angled roof allowing the snow to peacefully slide off instead of piling up on roof edges, I wonder what happened to that concept. I often see folks fumbling with keys while standing under dripping icicles as they attempt to open the door without being pelleted with water?

The icicles over my door are both long and thick—stilettos hanging like stalactites on the roof overhang. Nothing offers protection from their incessant drip and given the cold weather each drip adds itself to the previous drip. After several hours a substantial mound of ice collects on the stoop. This glacial mound refuses to dissolve even with copious handfuls of ice melt.

Ecclesiastes continues, and a time...

Time, how do we measure time? Universal, Greenwich? By zones? Time lost in procrastination? Time past? Metaphysical constraints? Simplify. I'm thinking of the days of the week. Some days are more auspicious for ice dams. The weekend is not one of those days. And Saturday is better than Sunday.

"We will be there on Monday."

Another spot is now wet. At this point the stains are in the closet, but I can feel their hunger for the larger space. Cajoling with an insensate force doesn't work.

So we'll use our hair drier to fend off the wet and hope that the evening and the colder hours will stem to trickle.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Precarious Shelf

My stack of books grows with each new book challenge I enter, with every book review that reaches my mailbox, with the suggestions of newspaper reviewers, bloggers, and friends. Then there are the books to read for my book club. I keep a notebook with me to write down the books I want to read. Sometimes I defer even looking at the Wall Street Journalthe day my favorite "book" reviewer lists some of her favorites. Often she reaches backwards to other decades to resurrect the name of someone I either don't know or always wanted to read.

I entered the Eastern European Challenge because I wanted to expand my reading to include some newly translated books; however, I forgot that many libraries are painfully remiss in including translations save for the tried and true writers. What's a girl to do, but find some used books. One package arrived yesterday with two books—one for the meager price of $1.25. The condition was excellent. In fact the book's binding appeared in pristine shape. The original price—$12.95. These books are often not best sellers, in fact they may not move off the shelf and when they move it may be with a bargain sticker and onto a cart with other books also relegated to "other" status.

As a country we're woefully behind other countries when it comes to encouraging translations of books from other countries and cultures. Is it that we don't think that we can learn from these "other" writers? Yet our writers revel in the thought of being translated into dozens of languages and media people love to report that "his books have been translated into sixteen different languages."

Go to any bookstore and there are a number of Scandinavian mystery writers with their newest books translated into English. The writers in those countries discovered a lode of gold—snowy landscapes and mysteries. Writers with names that are difficult to roll around my tongue introduce audiences to bleak scenarios and gothic settings. Detectives mired in introspective moods set out to find killers who often disappear into wilderness settings where darkness is a way of life. In last year's Scandinavian challenge I sought writers who didn't pen mysteries and discovered Per Petterson. Isn't it a sheer joy to find a writer who you instantly enjoy and realize that there's a shelf of books to explore?

I added the two new books to a stack on one shelf. After the additions the stack leaned perilously to one side. What book should I remove? Do I read a book for each challenge , four in all, in a rotating order? But when I went to the library last week I found a memoir written by a woman who, although born in Utah and descended from a lineage that stretched back to Mormon ancestors who traveled in wagons that made it through the famous Hole-in-the-Wall, couldn't quite fit into the community she chose in San Juan county, Utah. The book is part memoir, part history—both family and Mormon—and part about being the outsider.

Before I even allowed myself to think about her relationship with her boyfriend, with the locals, or with herself I recalled how much I enjoyed Terry Tempest Williams books—another writer from Utah. In a notebook I keep of passages from books, I find this from her book Red.

Can we learn to speak the language of red?
The relationship between language and landscape is a marriage of sound and form, an oral geography, a sensual topography, what draws us to a place and keeps us there. Where we live is the center of how we speak.

From the same book I copied these words:

Wilderness is not a belief. It is a place.
And in Utah, we know these places by name.

What follows is a litany of names—like a biblical roll call.

With the book on my lap I wandered back to the bookstore in Moab, Utah —Back of Beyond Books . It was there I first discovered some of the wonderful writing of those writers who lived in and among the wilderness areas of Utah. Many of the lesser known writers remain west of the Mississippi. Their books don't seem to migrate eastward— at least not to local bookstores or small libraries. It was in another small store in Torrey, Utah that I found one of my cherished books. An artist and a poet collaborated to create a small gem about the desert.

That's the way with reading, one book propels me off in another direction—maybe a small tangent—and suddenly another book is added to the stack of owned books and library books.

Suddenly the orange and red canyons lured me to my sketch book and I wanted to replicate the canyons I walked amidst in Utah. I recall one in Capital Reef National Park where, according to the stories, Butch Cassidy evaded the law by disappearing into the recesses of the canyon. Today if you hike the Frying Pan Trail you hike right past Cassidy Arch .Now instead of the law looking for Cassidy the rangers remind hikers that the canyon is prone to flash floods --" be aware of the weather and the sky and carry enough water."

I remove one book from the stack before it topples— The End of a Family Story by the Hungarian writer Peter Nadas. Several weeks ago I read an article he wrote for a Hungarian magazine:

I was born in the Budapest Jewish Hospital on the day when the entire Jewish population of the recently occupied Polish town of Mozicz was herded into a nearby stone quarry. On that Wednesday morning, several thousand people were stripped naked and shot. Every last one of them. It happened on 14 October 1942.

October 14 th is also my birthday, but I was born in the Bronx on a warm fall day. My father tells me that it was sunny that day.

The stack appears stabilized, for the moment, until I add more books— which is inevitable.

Saturday, January 08, 2011


When I read a poem in this month's Poetry that spoke of loss—the loss of people who you won't see again, I thought of a recent NPR show. Actually it may not be recent. It may be a retread, a story that genders a fair amount of interest because of its subject—dogs. Since I turned on the car radio half way through the program I'm not certain of the lead. The first words I heard, "holding a dog in a frozen state."

Within a few minutes I realized that there are dog owners who, not being able to part with their dog, resorted to keeping their pet in a state of deep freeze. I expect that these folks hope that science eventually—after it tackles other thorny medical dilemmas—will turn its antennas toward discovering how to resuscitate those frozen bodies. Until that time these dog owners will foot the bill to keep their beloved pets ready.

Then the conversation turned to cloning. While there aren't any labs cloning dogs in the United States there are labs outside of the states. I don't know the country or countries because my reception went out along a stretch of road that is notorious for its high trees and dips and turns. When clarity returned I heard the interviewer ask, "How much would it cost to clone your pet?"
"One hundred thousand dollars," was the response.

When Alexander's great horse Bucephalus died— he founded a city, Bucephala.

There are the huge losses—the losses the poem speaks about. The realization that the loved person will not return.

What about the losses that only register on your personal tally sheet. I rue the day I lost my last skate key. Why save something that no longer had any value? Did I know at the age of ten that someday I'd recall daredevil runs down city streets? Did I know that in my recollections the dangers on those streets, the pot holes lurking at every turn, made me into an intrepid seeker of thrills, an adventurer? Several years ago I found a skate key in an antique store, but I knew it didn't carry the same wizardly powers.

Once upon a time I owned a wand with a sparkling star at one end. When I waved the wand some of the sparkles flew off and wandered about in the air for a few seconds before setting down—usually on my sleeve. Not wanting to lose all the sparkling silver and gold I waved the wand gingerly. Not knowing any spells or incantations limited my powers and reduced me to a benign wand owner. When alone I used the wand to conjure up a multitude of characters who peopled books I read and then I acted all the parts in scenes from their books. Of course I knew that I didn't need the wand to bring the characters into my bedroom, but the wand, I thought, added to the drama. And who really knew the latent powers of a wand?

One day when most of the sparkles were gone and their loss revealed silver paint, I took more liberties with waving the wand. Thrusting, parrying and moving about the room in my attempt to dislodge a fire spitting dragon from guarding the entrance to a cave—not just any cave , but the cave inhabited by a princess—I lunged right into an upright wooden cabinet. The cabinet withstood my attack, but the wand's star broke and fell to the ground. With the loss of the star I soon put away the remaining wand piece—a twelve inch dowel.

I now know that the magic went beyond the sparkling star. The loss of that star didn't diminish the power of the wand.

Today I pick up the newspaper and read of houses lost to foreclosure, acres flooded by water and mud slides and fires gutting homes. I read of the loss of lives in natural disasters, of people whose lives became derailed, of the homeless, of the loss of jobs.

I drive from my town to the next town and start counting the yellow ribbons. Almost every tree, telephone pole, mailbox has a ribbon affixed. Two weeks ago a young man who grew up in the town lost his life in Afghanistan. Actually he didn't lose his life, his life was taken. The town brought him home with a bouquet of yellow ribbons.

Residents lined up on a cold windy day, paying their respects, as the car bearing his coffin wended through the town, slowing up at the places of importance to a twenty-one year old young man. The loss is palpable.


We have settled into winter. The cold bites, the wind burrows its way through jackets, and I wear more layers. The loss of warmth, of a sun that penetrates into my bones, will stay for a few months.

Then an assurance—spring.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Posting Once a Week Challenge 2011

Because I love challenges
Because I want to blog more consistently
Because a friend told me about your challenge
Because the rules give me latitude to select my own topics
Because you also provide prompts for those times a topic is elusive

I've decided to sign up for the once a week posting