Only a few days ago, I woke up to 27 degrees below zero. This morning it's 32. It will likely rise a bit before the day is over, and that makes 60 degrees of separation!
I’ve been busy in anticipation of adverse weather conditions. Shoveling snow. Scraping ice. Stoking the fire. Getting the fuel oil tank filled. Trying to get snow off the roof in order to minimize the inevitable damage from ice dams. Moving wood. Making endless trips up and down the stairs with multiple dogs so that they can all go out and spend some time in the fresh air before it’s too cold to let them outside very long. Making sure I have enough water and food. Clearing out enough room in the barn to put my car. Getting the furnace fixed.
My fear about the furnace was not unfounded. On New Year’s Day in the late afternoon it started to sound worse than usual. Luckily, I knew whom to call and help arrived in about a half hour with a new blower motor. I knew what to do because I’ve been anticipating this and therefore had asked a lot of questions of anyone and everyone.
This morning I woke up to a half inch of granulated ice on everything outside. The wind blew last night and I could hear chunks of snow and ice slipping off the roof and landing with a thud. I wondered if the tarp I’d added to the wood pile would still be there this morning. It was, but only because the ice held it down. The wood I’d used as weights to keep the tarp on were all on the ground.
There are other implications to the idea of 60 degrees of separation too. I’ve observed that there are a lot of old women living Up Here. A lot of old men too, but more old women. There’s even a women’s social organization called WOW (Women of the Woods) and I’m looking forward to attending the next gathering (if the weather permits). I’d say the majority of the 30 or so women there at my first meeting were over 50; many over 60; some older. I think I’m in pretty good company.
I’m not such an anomaly then after all. Challenges that contribute to separation include the roads which are often long, dark, and slippery, and potentially containing wildlife you really don't want to hit! Trouble while out here driving alone day or night could mean more than simple inconvenience. In the winter cold it could mean life or death.
We are separated by degrees of physical and mental isolation as well as the weather. I’ve mentioned my aversion to leaving my house and I’m sure I’m not alone with this experience. The challenge is to overcome the tendency to cling to relative safety over the longing for connection. To risk. To close the gap between the degrees of separation—real and imagined.