Monday, December 24, 2018

SOUNDS of SILENCE


I can’t begin to adequately express how utterly silent it can be here.

My ears are being tuned to a different frequency here. In the vast silence I begin to notice the small sounds when they emerge. The skittering of a mouse in the wall. The tormenting buzz of the invisible fly. The eerie sliding of snow off the metal roof. The hum of the transformer outside as one of my dogs pauses to pee next to it.
The scolding chatter of the squirrel in the early morning light as I try to determine the pitch of the barn roof that needs replacing. The sound of the furnace burner going on. Then silence as it goes off. Then the fan as it kicks into high gear. Then silence.  I can almost hear the house gradually cooling off before another heating cycle jolts the silence. The pop of the stove pipe heating up. I listen anxiously for the crashing sound of my cat bolting through the woods as she comes to my worried call.

In the distance I’ve heard what sounds like heavy truck traffic. Except that it doesn’t vary in pitch or tempo. Yes, there are logging trucks driving by daily here, and that sound is distinctly different. I know when a car versus and truck versus a logging truck is approaching.

I can hear the neighbor’s dog barking sometimes in early evening if I listen closely, then my dogs join in creating a cacophony and my ears hurt from the din. One night I heard howling. Could it have been wolves? My dogs quickly suffocated the sound with their contributions. I love my dogs, but their constant production of noise is often an impediment to my ability to hear the sounds of wildlife around me. I notice the sound of my own voice internally and externally as I become annoyed by the interruption in my hearing experience by the overwhelming vocalizations of my dogs. 

One day I looked up as I was stacking wood because I heard something and saw three contrails high up in the sky. I hear planes frequently. Not low flying small planes, but jets way up there.
There’s more going on here than one might first expect.

And then there’s The HUM. I’ve heard it three times now. Twice near 9:00pm just as I was settling down in bed with my book and once during the day. At first I questioned myself. When it’s very quiet before I fall asleep I can hear my own head buzzing with tinnitus. But it was not the same. I could actually hear both at the same time! It didn’t last long, about 15-20 minutes and then faded. Not like something moving away either, but more like a creepy disappearing act. The HUM wasn’t exactly same the next two times, but similar enough to classify it as The HUM.

I’ve always had a very good sense of hearing. At least compared to my partners who often had hearing loss due to various reasons (mostly exposure to loud music). Really too good. I can often hear things that others would prefer I not hear: conversations, farts, burps…lol

I’ve always felt overwhelmed by too much noise. Crowds make me feel crazy. The overstimulation makes me physically sick. I find I need to find a quiet place to be alone and rest after a relatively short exposure.

I have even worried that I was losing my own hearing and went to have it checked. I have some minor hearing loss, but nothing significant.

And now there’s the silence of not being around people on a regular basis. Granted, I was alone a lot before I moved here, but there was always the ambient sound of the activity of people all around me: kids across the street screaming as they played, teens laughing as they set off fireworks, adults shouting over lawnmowers, our neighbor washing the farm equipment or fixing a motor, etc. It drove me nuts sometimes, but sometimes it was also comforting to know I wasn’t alone. I could walk down the road and talk to someone if I wanted. I didn’t want to and never did, but I knew I could if I did want to. It’s not that way here.

It's going to take a bit of a mental and emotional adjustment. I love the North Woods, and I’m glad I’m here, but there are always unintended consequences to every Ask of The Universe. The sounds I long for are in competition with the sounds of my dogs. The irony is that I've chosen to live where I live in great part due to my commitment to my dogs. 

I still say, “Be careful what you ask for, you may get it!”



Monday, December 17, 2018

What WAS that??

Until last night, things were very quiet at night around here, except for an errant fly or two tormenting me as I tried to sleep.

Last night, that changed. 

For a long time I'd been asking the Universe to bring me to my Victorian (or farmhouse) in the woods. I'd been telling everyone for years that my life's desire was to find this enigma and of course, I wanted it to be on a large tract of land, and I would be fine if it were haunted by a benign entity. 

Well, I didn't get my Victorian house, but I did get an old farmhouse. Check. It's on 40 acres. Check. 

But is it haunted? It could be. The woman who lived here previously died in the home from cancer. She was a lovely soul from accounts that I've seen. 

Her obituary describes her and her husband as loving nature and wildlife; even getting the reputation of being a wildlife sanctuary of sorts. They fed the birds, deer and left all their table scraps out for the "starving" animals which attracted a lot of them to the property. Although I do not feed the wildlife, I see the evidence of their habituation still. I see deer prints all over the yard which must be left at night because I have only seen them once during the day. I'm sure the dogs deter their presence. I see other prints as well: rabbits, squirrels, birds, cats (bigger than my house cats), possibly fox, and rodents. No wolf prints--but I did hear what might have been wolves howling a few nights ago.

Rodents are attracted by food compost and bird feeders as are deer, squirrels, and bears. I did feed the birds one year at my last place. To my horror, the rodents tunneled all over the yard leaving damaged turf. But the really icky thing about it all was that many of the tunnels led right up to the house. Now, I've always had cats. I never did see a live rodent in that house. Or hear one even. But it wasn't because they weren't interested.

But...last night something was jumping around in the attic, right over my head! Naturally, the first thing I thought of was that it must be a ghost! After all, that's what I asked for. The cats also were curious, staring up at the ceiling and trying to climb the wall behind the headboard. The noise would stop. Then it sounded like something had jumped off a cliff and landed hard. Then I heard another noise; the telltale scuttle of rodents scurrying up and down the wall--right behind my head. 

Exactly one month to the day of moving in here before any signs of mice. I went upstairs this morning to look for evidence. I found it. And I learned something I didn't know: mice like to eat candle wax. I had some taper candles in a basket with a textile on top of a dresser. The candles were chewed, but not the textile. I removed the partially munched candles to a sealed plastic tub and tucked the textile into a dresser drawer. I know the drawers won't be safe either. It's just a matter of time before they find their way into them and start destroying the contents therein as well. 

I have a new mission to find a non-toxic deterrent for mice. Yes, the cats do go up there when I'm up there. Otherwise, I keep the door closed to conserve heat. Tootsie did check things out with me this morning. She even went behind the wall to take a look. She came back empty-mouthed. So I suspect the mice are sleeping in the walls during the day. 

The warmer than usual weather has definitely triggered some unwanted activity around here. And because it finally got fairly cold last night--all the way down to 7°F, you can bet there are critters looking for a warm place to check into for the night. I just hope they don't like the accommodations and leave.


Friday, December 14, 2018

The Fly


Does my house need an exterminator? A clearing? An exorcism? 

Frank pointed the flies out to me, not that he needed to. It was unseasonably warm when I came to look at the house I would end up buying. Frank showed me around and took me upstairs to the attic. There were a few flies lazily buzzing at the windows and a few dead ones stuck to the sloping ceilings. He said that the summer was a bad one for flies. The house was pretty darn clean otherwise, so I just nodded politely and tried to ignore them.

Many years ago, my partner Becky and I bought a house in the country and arrived with our moving truck on a beautiful fall morning that was also unseasonably warm. The previous owners had not moved out yet and had all the doors propped open which allowed hundreds, maybe thousands of flies to enter. We waited no-so-patiently for them to vacate and finally we got in and began to vacuum up fly after fly after fly. We were subjected to flies for months after that. No matter how many we squashed or sucked up, there were always more.

So this feels a little like déjà vu.

Was Frank just a little careless in his pest hygiene? Did he leave doors open? Now that I’ve been here a few weeks, I can see that virtually all of the screens need replacing. Yes, the windows themselves are fairly new, but the screens look like they’ve been through bad times. Very bad times. I guess I know where the flies came from.

So on a sunny or warm day, I expect to find a random fly here and there trying to find it’s way outside to the pseudo-summer. When I do, I quickly put it out of its misery (and mine).

What I DON’T expect is the stealthy torturer at night. That isolated, mysterious and often invisible fly that starts to buzz around just about the time I’m drifting off to sleep. I can’t decide whether to turn on the light and try to find it or just ignore it and hope it just dies quietly in a corner.

After lying there for what seems like an hour, I finally turn on the light and look for it. Silence. Nothing. Kinda reminds me of searching for ghosts. I go back to bed.

Just as I’m getting comfortable again, buzzzzzzzzzz! I groan and the cat nestled in the crook of my knees starts to get agitated and jumps off the bed. I get up. I turn on the light. I see it! It’s skittling around like a crazy chicken with its head cut off. This must mean it’s gasping its last. Besides I can’t remember where the fly swatter is, and it won’t even stop for a second. So I crawl back into the covers and wait.

Just when I’m almost convinced that I can sleep with this damned thing bouncing off the walls—it dive bombs me! Right down the little hole in the covers at the front of my neck and down my jammies! I LEAP out of bed shaking and jumping around like a jack-in-the-box trying to get it out from between my boobs.

I can’t find it. It’s not in the sheets. It’s not in my pajamas. It’s not on the floor. It has disappeared. Will it come back to haunt me? Thank God my mouth hadn't been open!

I begin to suspect that I’m sleeping and that this is all a Kafka-esque nightmare. I get my phone and text a friend who is working nights, and I start to feel better. I think. I finally go back to bed. The next day I verify with my friend that I truly did have this experience. I didn’t imagine it. I’m not crazy. I really do have flies. 

As I sit here right now, listening to the evasive yet persistent tell-tale buzz of some insolent little monster, I think to myself, I’ll get every single one of those little bastards—if it takes me all winter. 

I’m not afraid of no fly!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

BE-ing vs DO-ing


I just don’t want to leave my house. 

This isn’t just because I’ve been in my new house for only three weeks and need to organize and bond with the space. I think I’ve been like this for a long time. In all my previous houses, and especially in the last house in which I lived for over 14 years, I felt a similar reticence to going “out.” 

It often seems like just too much trouble to orchestrate an excursion. I tell myself I could do without whatever it was I was planning to go out for. Which is often quite true! In the past, going out for shopping trips was less appealing than going out to meet friends, but even going out to see friends often required monumental effort. Granted, I lived an hour away from the city where most of my social sphere resided. Most weren’t keen about making the trek to my place either. Traffic. Weather. Conflicting agendas. Logistics. Time. Money. Now I’m 5 hours away.

Going out can mean disruption, irritation, being apprehensive because I can’t see well at night, traffic, lines, or even danger. On top of that I do have a couple chronic physical conditions that at times make moving about and going out just that much tougher. Most of the time the pay-off just doesn’t seem worth the trouble. Sometimes there really is no apparent pay-off. Sometimes there is just an obligation, or task to perform.

Yet, I have forced myself to get out.  I have met friends for lunch. I have gone to parties. I have shopped. I have done my duty. in the end, I was almost always glad I did.

However, driving the 4.5 miles now to fetch my mail from my PO Box even seems onerous. It means scraping the car. Warming it up. Organizing the dogs. Driving. To get what? Bills? Information about things I don’t want to know about? I have excuses to not go the local café to eat. (I have food here!) Yet once I’ve done so, I see that it wasn’t so bad--maybe even fun! I usually get to talk to another human being. I love the scenic roads lined with pine and birch.

Maybe I’m just lazy or spoiled.  I feel guilty that I’m complaining about what seems like a first world problem. I’ve also been told that I’m like a border collie: incessantly moving, rearranging, finding projects—sure that what I’m doing is meaningful and important (and sure that others agree with me!) I have a history of political and social change engagement. I’m motivated—sometimes inspired even. That doesn't sound lazy or spoiled, but I’m slowing down.

Basically, I prefer do-ing over be-ing. My be-ing is connected to my ability to do things. My mom was like that as well. In the end, when PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy) got her, she was devastated. Not because she was going to die, but because she lost her ability to do things. She was not comfortable with just be-ing.  Am I like that too?!

Maybe I don’t like going out because it means I’ll have to extend myself. Challenge myself. Push past my comfort zone to interact with other human beings. And frankly, often those interactions can be simply tiring. Other times the apprehension is well-founded.

I had to drive to Hibbing recently to discuss my health insurance options with a state hired broker. There is little between me and Hibbing except a long drive. Upon reaching the outskirts my low tire pressure gauge went on. I managed to limp around until I found a place that would fix my tire. Thankfully I was not stranded somewhere in between my home and my destination on a very cold day!

And a few days ago, I went shopping. It felt like a big deal. I started to ready myself early by making sure the dogs were fed, pottied, comfy and safely contained. I started my car and scraped the ice off. I made the long trek to Grand Rapids and shopped for two hours--at no less than four stores! Then I drove another hour and a half to get home. And I still didn’t get some important stuff. I completely abandoned the window well covers and the ash can. I was just too tired to deal with it.

Yesterday I drove 45 minutes to attend a social gathering of Women of the Woods. It was nice, but after a few hours, I was dead tired and wondered how I was going to make it home without a nap.

I keep looking for ways to keep engaged in the world because I know it’s good for me. Sometimes I think I overcompensate just a little though. People actually get the impression that I’m pretty extroverted but I’m really equally introverted. When my introvert side takes over, people often get the idea that I’m angry or scary (just resting bitch face). No, I might just be feeling drained. Or I just don’t feel like expending the effort to appear the way people expect to see me (or the way I want people to see me).

My environment has become more challenging at a time in my life when my body and soul is calling for more cuddling (or is that coddling?) At any rate, I’ve chosen to put myself in this environment.

Perhaps there is nothing wrong with me at all, and I’m just experiencing the human condition in my own particular circumstances. I can honor both sides of my personality. Both be-ing and do-ing offer valuable survival skills. I guess the trick is knowing which to honor when!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

FEAR


Shit is getting real. Or at least I imagine it could--real fast! 

I don’t know how I didn’t notice before that the firebrick in the free-standing wood fireplace was damaged and/or missing in back and on the sides! Turns out I need to replace several bricks, and the nearest place to purchase those are over an hour away. Plus, they only have one size in stock and would have to order the right size. And, they only have the sand bricks, not the clay bricks that are recommended by the manufacturer.

Well, I bought a few bricks anyway thinking I could replace them myself. Turns out it’s probably a bit more intimidating a task than I expected. I’m going to have to hire a tech from the store to drive up here to examine and replace bricks for me.

The furnace is sounding wonky to me as well. I’m used to in-floor heating, not forced air and fuel oil. I hear squeaks that don’t sound right, and the thing fires and blows on and off constantly. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like when it gets REALLY cold!

My fear, which is not unfounded, is that both my heating systems fail me when it’s really cold outside. The disaster could be monumental. Freezing pipes and water damage. Not to mention how unpleasant it would get for me and my pets!

So it’s paramount that the systems be in excellent working order NOW. I cannot wait until they fail. There is no one around here to “save” me and no one to call on the spur of the moment who is qualified and capable of fixing whatever goes out.

Nothing that money can’t buy. So as soon as I possibly can, I will be preemptively having my heating systems looked at and serviced.

Fear can sometimes be a life-saver.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Whereabouts Am I?


In the North Woods of Minnesota.

Way Up North . Really. I'm not kidding. Very few people have heard of where I live. And even fewer understand why I want to live here. Whereabouts exactly am I? Does it really matter? It's in the Boonies.

I'm familiar with the North Woods. It feels like home on a visceral level. My folks had a lake place for over 40 years just south of where I live now. In their last few years, they had to live in the city in a condo with one of my brothers until they died. It was sad. All they wanted was to complete their days in their beloved North Woods. It was not to be. But even before that, we vacationed as a family Up North at various resorts and friends' places and I always felt a deep connection to the woods.

But why am I, at the age of 63 relocated to a spot even farther north than where my folks lived?

Because I can. Because it's really the only place I can afford. Because I have too many dogs and need to live in a remote enough area where I can keep them and no one will care if they bark. Because I've been asking the Universe to bring me back to the woods, and It has.

Because my husband of thirteen and a half years decided that after several years of couples therapy he wanted a divorce.

I don't blame him. I did too, but I didn't have the guts to go there. I was relatively comfortable in my overly big house even if I was alone too much. It was tweaked just right inside and out to accommodate the dogs. I'd raised chickens, ducks, sheep, hogs, steers, horses, and fostered ponies on our little 5 acre hobby farm without the full enthusiasm of my now ex-husband. I didn't do it all alone by any means, and I'll explain in a bit.

But first, you need to know that my now ex-husband and I had a polyamorous marriage. Not an "open marriage" but one in which it was possible to add members to our relationship. And we did.

I had the help and drive of Nikki, my addition to our family until she decided to hook up with another woman. It was just too much poly for me and we extricated for a while. Nikki and I have a deep bond between us, and our mutual devotion is apparent. She is my hero and help-mate in my quest for a life in the North Woods. Without her, I would be severely hampered in my ability to survive let alone thrive here. Nikki still has her own life back in the city with her partner, but loves the woods about as much as I do.

My ex-husband added another woman to the family but despite my high hopes, it became clear that living together was not going to work out well. Let's just say that the poly paradigm had (and still has) potential, but just didn't work out well with our specific choices--and leave it at that. For now.

So here I am, wet behind the ears, having only moved in since November 16th. So far, despite the challenges, nothing has taken me much by surprise. I kind of knew what I was getting into here. This is what I've always wanted. This is where I belong.

Great big huge grateful THANKS go out to God, or Whatever has designed this existence for allowing me to experience my life's desire.