Friday, September 30, 2016

Colorado, redux

He was born in the summer of his 27th year
coming home to a place he’d never been before…
John Denver

It was, indeed, the summer of 1977, my twenty-seventh year on the planet, that I first visited Colorado.  Back then all focus was on Rocky Mountain National Park and a backpack trip with my wife and little Jennifer, age four.  Up Roaring River trail to a couple high country backpack camp sites took us away from park traffic and into the quiet, sublime world of pine and aspen.  Such a good time it was. 

And, if the truth be told, my idea of Colorado for many years had been that ‘north of I-70’ variety: green, lovely, and full of magic mountain peaks.  Then about ten years later my buddy Mark Maley invited me to collaborate on his Geology Field Study summer high school trips to the American Southwest to show kids a broad collection of some of the most spectacular exposed rock anywhere in the world.  The high point of those expeditions were long, strenuous hikes down into and out of the Grand Canyon, though Colorado sites played a role in our travels, primarily Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verdi, and Rocky Mountain National Parks.  

But it wasn’t until I heard the Paul Winter Consort’s ‘Crestone’ album that a new personal vision of Colorado replaced the first.  I suppose my affection for Paul & his musical crew solidified with his ‘Canyon’ album, recorded just about the time of the first GFS three week expedition.  I used cuts from that album for two-projector slideshows to both remind those young ‘uns who went of their adventure and interest other potential trekkers of what awaited them.  But what really got in my head was that Winter & his consort of fine musicians recorded many of their albums away from the studio and out in wild locations where the ambience of side canyons and natural amphitheaters combined with instruments to capture the essence of truly magnificent places.

Their ‘Crestone’ album won a Grammy back in 2007 and caught my attention soon thereafter.  As with all of Winter’s recorded-on-location albums, I wanted to know more about the venue.  Turned out Crestone is an old mining town on the western skirt of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, not in northern Colorado where much is green, but in the dry, sandy southern San Luis valley, a chunk of real estate locals like to say is ‘the size of Connecticut.’  The recording actually took place at Crestone Lake, high in elevation in the presence of a handful of 14,000 foot peaks.  It didn’t take me long to conjure up the need for a new family trip into that mountain state to see just what Crestone and environs were about.  

If you are a regular reader of The Back Porch blog, all of this might sound familiar.  It was summer 2009, a couple years after the release of the ‘Crestone’ album, that wife Cindy and I headed cross country to hang out in Crestone at the Nada Hermitage there for two weeks to soak up what was offered.  I’m pretty sure I wrote an entry in my newly minted blog every day then, reflecting on what felt important. 

Much life and travel have happened since then.  This week marks my fourth venture into the San Luis, my third with Cindy.  One trip included grandson Noah, family friend Adel, and another good buddy and former student, Bruce.  For that trip we stayed in a rental home, but all other visits have been at Nada.  

Since that time, too, I discovered a former high school teacher I was very fond of and husband had retired about a hour north of Crestone just below the Collegiate Peaks.  Needless to say, visits up that way to the Arkansas valley near Buena Vista were in order.  In fact, Cindy & I fixed dinner for Phyllis just the other evening before we sat and witnessed the first Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and He Who Must Not Be Named.  Lovely visit it was, too.  

Still, if we learn anything as an aging adult, nothing is so sure as change.  Early this year Phyllis lost her husband to a nasty condition, leaving her and their good dog buddy, Libby, holding down their fort in the mountains.  And just this week we heard that the good people of Nada — the completely overworked three of them — have decided they cannot continue their ministry.  They’ve been in touch with attorneys to figure out the best way to make their exit.  One more year, for sure, but after that only the Lord knows.

Nobody ever said change was easy, even if it opens up new ventures not anticipated.  Such is true for Suzie, Connie, and Eric, our Nada friends.  Same for Phyllis.  Same for Cindy & me.  

But one thing is true:  Colorado’s geological peaks and rivers will remain the same during our brief lifetimes.  We’ll be back to the Sangres, that I truly hope.  When we do, though, we’ll be looking for new adventures.  I trust we’ll find them. 

Today’s elder idea:   A daily practice of listening, watching, and waiting blesses us and the world we live in. 

Anne Silver
from ‘Playing and Praying Our Way to the Stars’
in Nada’s Desert Call, fall 2016

images:  top:  Fall panorama at Ohaver (O’Haver?) Lake (National Forest campground), accessible via Poncha Pass

lower:  Tom & Cindy at Nada with our ‘little house’ in the background.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Red 'n me

When I was a kid old enough to get a driver’s license, I didn’t worry about it too much.  My folks had one car and with all the comings & goings of a family with seven kids, the odds of my getting the Mercury Comet for a football game or an evening to drive across town with my girlfriend to see a movie were slight to none.  Thanks to good-buddy classmate Bob Kesler for providing dependable wheels back then.  

Truth is I’ve never been too jazzed on cars.  A couple friends had to have high performance Chrysler products, but when I acquired my first car the sole decision was if I could afford to run it and pay for insurance.  Fast and beautiful cars seemed like a world away for me.  Maybe it was being one in a big family that did it:  there was never much to go around, and what did go around was enough.  We all had decent clothes and nobody ever went to bed hungry, but my fixating on an expensive car for me was something beyond my comprehension.  

I finally got my license the summer after senior year.  Or was it junior year?  Can’t recall exactly, but it didn’t make any real difference until I started taking the bus every day to Wright State.  From the time the bus pulled out of the Fauver Avenue bus loop and dropped me off downtown for a transfer out East Third Street to the WSU connection, at least 45 minutes had passed.  Waiting for that last bus and actually getting to campus took another 20 minutes minimum.  As much as I celebrate public transit, the time spent in making all those connections twice a day took its toll on my impatient self.  By October of that year I was in negotiation with a disabled neighbor I had helped over the years who had a car I knew she would never drive again.  She eventually agreed to sell it to me for $375. 

And, I don’t mind saying, that car was damned cool:  a 1956 Chevy Bellaire.  Sweet and classic, not that I was all that aware in 1968.  Acquiring the car was a real personal challenge, that’s for sure.  My mother was not in favor and my dad reluctantly agreed, I had the sense, because he figured I had come of age.  Truth was, I was making the biggest investment in my life to date under the watchful eyes of parents who questioned if it was the right decision.  Nah, no pressure.  :-/

And, as you might have guessed, the car drove me to the poorhouse.  The twelve year old Chevy had only 24k miles on it, spending much time parked in a garage.  That meant, of course, that gaskets, belts, and other expensive systems had run their life’s course and were ready for replacement.  Just about then my bank assigned me a brand new product — a bank credit card — not a credit card from Rike’s or Elder-Beerman or Sears.  I could use my Master Card anywhere, most frequently at Parson’s Gulf at the corner of Smithville and Wayne.  You getting the picture?  

In any case, I had a great deal of fun in that old Bellaire.  My girlfriend back then still remembers how cool it was that you had to lower the back taillight to access the gasoline tank.  The car had bench seats, too, and I have to tell those of you who have only driven in bucket seats, bench is far better on a date.  Trust me on that one.  

There’s an Infinity commercial out now that professes the only way to judge is car is by how it makes the driver feel.  Again, I’m not sure I agree with that completely, but it does get me to thinking about how cars I’ve owned have somehow helped shape how I feel about myself.  I don’t know how far I’ve driven in my life, but my guess it’s been about half a million miles.  That’s a lot of time, my friend, for developing a relationship with a constructed device that has the task of protecting you and family and getting all safely to your destination.  One doesn’t forget flat tires changed on interstates and cars on garage lifts changing stripped out oil plugs or toasted alternators.

I’ve kept the last few cars assigned to me successfully on the road for ten years each.  They probably could have gone farther, but ten years seemed okay with me.  By that time in the family financial cycle Cindy’s car would be paid for and it would be my turn.  

First off I have to say I feel more connected to cars now than I used to.  It has been a personal progression.  Now the vehicle doesn’t just cover one of the prime loves in my life — travel & seeing places — but also the entire music genre I own.  If you know me well at all, you know how important by music collection is.  I still have four cases of vinyl sequestered in boxes in the closet across the hall.  Can’t get rid of ‘em. 

 Now, however, with all of my music available on a mobile device, one of the prime selling features I was looking for in a new car was very friendly iPhone compatibility.  I needed a moonroof, too.  Never had one except in Cindy’s old Accord, and oh, what fun that was.  I narrowed my focus to the Ford Escape (since mine had treated me pretty well), the Nissan Rogue, the Honda CR-V, and the Subaru Outback. 

I liked the Rogue because my niece’s husband works for Nissan in Tennessee.  I liked the CR-V because it ranked well with Consumer Reports and like Cindy’s Cruze, is assembled here in Ohio.  But I was most interested in the Subaru.  Years ago when my buddy Mark and I took kids to see the American West from a geological and humanities perspective, we joked about how Subaru must be the state car of Colorado.  It seemed every other car on the road was a Suby.  And loving visiting Colorado as I do, Subaru had risen to the top of my buying hierarchy. 

So upon that first test drive at Wagner Subaru in Fairborn, a company I preferred dealing with due to it’s commitment to public radio & tv & the local park district, I was hooked.  If they didn’t have a car on the lot that suited me, I am confident I could have walked away.  But there on the lot was just what I was looking for — radio and moonroof and all — in a Venetian red Subaru Outback.  A very nice sales guy took care of me and I drove it home that afternoon.

Just last Sunday I got back home from my first solo trip in the Suby:  all the way to Hog Island in Maine; then a week in Amherst, Mass., Emily Dickinson’s hometown; followed up by attending an important memorial service in New York.  Over 2.5k round trip.  Along the way everything worked as specified.  The radio was great, able to play anything on the phone still in my pocket, along with offering a zillion channels on SiriusXM satellite radio.  The ride was the smoothest I recall in any car I’ve owned.  All good. 

So I was thinking maybe I ought to give this car a name.  I mean, if we are going to have a long-term relationship, it’s best to make it personal.  I had been thinking of a few names, but nothing was sticking.  Then I got a call from my LA buddy, Will, who asked how I survived the trip with my new 4 wheeled pal ‘Red.’  

Red?  Why, sure!  Perfect name.  Thanks for that, Will.  

Next trek up in Red is with Cindy Lou to Colorado for a couple weeks at the Nada Hermitage in Crestone in late September/early October.  As the Wagner sales guy said, ‘Taking good long trips are the way you are supposed to treat an Outback.’  That’s a damned good thing.  

And so it continues in this latest chapter of my life:  I suppose it will be new adventures with Red ’n me.  

For the record:  Car’s I’ve owned:  ’56 Chevy Bellaire, early 60s VW bug (yellow convertible), ’72 Ford Pinto sedan (new), ’72 Chevy Nova (used), late 70s Ford Fairlane wagon, a couple new Nissan kid mobiles, Basil Fett’s old Honda Accord with killer sound system, then my SUVs:  First was a used GMC Jimmy, then the Ford Explorer, then the smaller Ford Escape (all used).  Now, the brand new 2017 Subaru Outback.  

Today’s elder idea:   Love — it’s what makes Subaru a Subaru. 

advertising slogan

imagesabove:  The Chevy shot on my old Kodak Instamatic.  Note the date on the frame.  below:  Red at the Poetry Walk trailhead at Edna St. Vincent Millay’s place, Steepletop, in Austerlitz NY.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

My friend Donald

 It’s amazing how quickly time passes sometimes.  

If you made it through my last blog posted back in January, you are aware of my Kentucky buddy, Donald Brown.  When the snow got deep and my power went out, Donald invited me to stay with him for the duration of the outage.  During that time we got to watch University of Kentucky basketball on television which was, frankly, the highlight of that weekend.  Hanging out with various members of his family who came to tend him in his illness was special, too. 

But by February’s end, my sequester was up and back home I had to go.  Before I headed north, I stopped in to see Donald and his daytime caregiver, Betty.  He was having a good lunch that she fixed and I heard another couple stories of how life in the Kentucky hills was for them growing up.  

I told Donald I hoped to be back sometime in the spring to help with some yard work at the Lakeview house.  But as I bid both goodbye and closed the front door, I wondered if that would be the last time I would get to shake his hand.  

Indeed, it was.  

Just a week after I got home, Cindy Lou and I traveled to New Orleans to be with family as her sister, Anita Cooke, celebrated the opening of her gallery show at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery on Julia Street.  As we drove through Louisville, the town where Donald had withstood his cancer treatment regimen, my thoughts were with him and I gave him a call on my cell phone.  No answer.  Concern?  Surely.  But I also know he has doctor’s visits that gets him out of the house on occasion, so I tried not to worry.  

When I called again a few days later and still got no response, I was more concerned.  I then shot a text to our mutual friend, Shannon, thinking she would know more.  She did, indeed.  Just a few days after I left, Donald complained of unusual stomach pains.  Turns out when he left for that emergency room visit, he would never make it back home.  

Donald Brown died Wednesday, 16 March, just hours following his transport back from Louisville to a hospice in his hometown of Monticello, Kentucky.  We buried him last Saturday.  The family invited me to read a new poem I wrote for the occasion.  I offer it to you today.   


for Donald Brown

Last evening as I sat on my back porch
under a warm, cloudless March gloaming
for my first Nature watch at Wild Grace this year

I wondered what last Earth sounds
my friend Donald was aware of —
  he who 
had just been transferred from hospital to hospice
in his personal battle with nastiness. 

I thought how much I wanted to share 
those late day moments of the earliest Spring
with robin and wren singing their hearts out
while chickadee and woodpecker finished their day 
feeding on sunflowers and peanuts just above my head. 

‘Hope is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul - ’
  wrote my Emily. 

I couldn’t help thinking what a good time to die it was — 
in the early spring in Kentucky with daffodils popping 
and the willow’s green leaf haze and white pear blossoms erupting — 
not just promise, but the Truth of Love and Life —

such a time in space 
to release a faithful Soul to take 
his place in the eternal circle of All.

Today’s elder idea:   
When we love, we have, at most, this:
to let each other go; for holding on 
comes easily, we don't have to learn it.

Rainer Maria Rilke

images:  Donald on his Massimo 4-wheeler, checking on me during a snow in winter 2015; the flower spray on his casket.  Look carefully for the deer in the middle of the spray.  :-)

For more on Anita Cooke’s amazing work, see:

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Dad & Jonas

A week ago today I was forced to leave my very cold house at Lake Cumberland after winter storm Jonas dumped a half inch of ice then about 18 inches of snow, leaving plenty of weight on trees to break off limbs and cause havoc on utilities.  In my case, it was full-fledged white pine that toppled over onto the power line.  

It was an adventure I am not eager to repeat.  By the time it was over and power was back on, I had lost three and half days of work on my book, but also realized I had not communicated my plight to my grown daughters.  What follows started as an email, but grew into a full fledged narrative.  I thought you might enjoy the read.  

Yo, Jenni & Kelly -- 

I wanted to let you know about a lifetime experience I had this last weekend.  Who knows, it could happen again, but odds are this was the One.  Sorry I didn’t text along the way, but I was preoccupied with other things, as you will see. 

I am sure you heard plenty about winter storm Jonas that buried the East coast in a couple feet of snow.  Kentucky got the first devastating punch Jonas was to leave.  I was paying attention to weather reports, trying to determine how much snow the storm would dump, but data kept changing for the Lake Cumberland area from 1 to 3 inches of snow to 15 or more.  Plus a little ice to start things off.  I figured we were in for a good old good one, but I like good snow storms and my writing desk is right here by the window.  I wasn’t going to miss a thing. 

When I got up around 7:30 or so, snow was heavy.  Looked pretty gray out over the lake.  Shinbone cliff was not visible all day.  Like during all 9 hours of daylight.  Add to that the early start of freezing rain.  When I got into the kitchen, I noticed the microwave clock was flashing and Direct TV was on.  The computer told me I had done a bad thing by turning off remote drives without shutting them down first.  Sorry.  We had had a recent power outage but all was well and the power back on.  I sent out a few emails and was getting into my day, when at 9:45, the computer screen went black and the house silent.  I uttered a four letter word very loud.  

About five minutes later power returned for 2 minutes but failed.  Same thing for 5 minutes about 45 minutes later.  That was it.  Dad was without power living in all-electric home with no fireplace on a snow covered hill in southern Kentucky that his car could not climb even if it had to.  And the day was getting colder.  I wasn’t going anywhere. 

I was concerned right away because I knew power makes this house tick.  I was immediately concerned about my phone and computer.  Phone was at full charge, but when I lost it, charge would be gone.  And I knew the computer wouldn’t go for more than a couple hours on its own, so I just turned it off to conserve power.  It wasn’t going anywhere without wifi anyway. 

How long would my iPhone charge have to last?  Didn’t know but understood I should be careful.  I contacted Cindy Lou immediately by text to report my predicament.  Shannon, our good friend who owns this house, had just texted me earlier at my computer to see if I had power.  I did.  Our good neighbor down here, Donald, who is deep in a battle with cancer, had lost power earlier that morning in the storm, and since he and Shannon share all kinds of conversation, Shannon, who lives in Lebanon, Ohio was aware of his power loss.  Having power for Donald seemed essential.  I was trying to figure how to get him over to my place just about the time my power went out. 

By noon I was trying to be patient but wondered how Donald and his place were doing.  Shannon texted that power had returned for Donald and she had assumed the Lakeview house was back up as well.  Not so, I replied.  She said she’d report the outage to the local power company.  And if I needed to get out of there, she invited me to pick up the key to her cabin down the road at Donald’s, crank up the heat, and make myself at home.  

When the power came on briefly that last time, I checked the thermostat to learn the house had lost only a few degrees in the 45 minutes the power was out.  I wondered how long the heat would last.  I knew the storm wasn’t going to get terribly cold, like in the low 30s.  I figured the house could withstand those conditions for a couple days.  Pipes should be okay.  

By afternoon I couldn’t stop thinking about the refrigerator.  Hmmm.  I didn’t want to open the doors to check anything for fear of losing the cold.  True, I could always put cold stuff in the snow, but that didn’t seem practical.  Plus I didn’t want to tempt any neighborhood four-leggeds.  

At sunset, the house got very dark.  I brought one candle and one flashlight.  I figured there wasn’t anything I could accomplish anyway, so might as well climb into bed.  Besides, if the house was going to get really cold, being covered up was the best place to be.  My nose would get pretty cold, but other than that, I was toasty.  But concerned.  

By Saturday morning, no power yet.  Snow pretty much slowed down, but still light flurries.  Shinbone visible.  Refrigerator now a bigger concern.  I decided to take the ice out before it melted, bag it in ziplocks, and keep all on the refrigerator side.  

As the day went on, the house got colder.  Maybe into the low 40s?  Didn’t have a thermometer to check, but I put on my heavy robe which is the warmest this I have down here.  Still got colder.  Spent more time in bed.  

I finally knew it wouldn’t be wise to spend another night here in a very cold house when a warm place was available down the road.  I would pick up the key from Donald, visit a bit, then head next door to Shannon’s place.  Sounded like a plan.  So about 1 pm, I packed up my computer and phone and a little food, very aware of how hard this walk was going to be.  The only phone charger I had with me was my night stand music player.  That would have to come along with my Mac. Didn’t have a day bag, so I loaded up my cloth briefcase, strapped on my hiking shoes, grabbed my baseball cap, and headed up the hill in 18 inches of snow.  

Indeed, I stopped about every 25 feet or so to catch my breath and remembered very clearly that good old neighbor Wilbur Helstern had a heart attack on the night he shoveled heavy snow off his driveway.  I wasn’t worried, but I knew if I had a problem there was no one around to help, including Cindy Lou, Shannon, or Donald.  Not many live back here in winter, and I wasn’t in any condition to walk even farther to knock on a door.  

At the top of the first hill a pretty good sized tree limb was down covering part of the road.  I couldn’t worry about that.  But as I stomped not much farther, I was met with this:  

I knew then power wasn’t coming on any time soon.  There was lots of snow in the area and I figured my rural roost wasn’t going to be on anybody’s priority list to send out a service truck.  And, yes, I had to crawl through the tree.  I was confident the tree was not electrified and wouldn’t zap me as I passed.  

Not too much farther up the next hill, I came to the grove of pines where I’ve always been amazed at the number of turkey vultures that roost in late afternoons.  Must be a hundred or so.  Really cool.  As I got closer, I could tell there were buzzards there, but they were on the ground instead of the treetop.  Seemed odd.  Then I realized they were iced up.  They were probably sitting in said treetops when the freezing rain began over night.  By morning, they were frozen over.  I was able to approach a couple for pics, but I knew they wanted nothing to do with me and I didn’t want to stress them any more than they already were.  

When I got up to the ridge road, I was relieved to see it had been plowed.  Walking on a flat surface, not plunging down into a foot and a half of snow with every step, was a relief.  I made it to Donald’s in no time.  Donald, by the way, had never seen or heard of a turkey buzzard getting iced and flightless.  I was pleased to add to some proud mountain story tellin’.  

I didn’t take an iPhone pic of Donald’s cabin on that first trip in, but this was Shannon & Sabrina’s place next door: 

Donald’s place was nice and toasty and he and his weekend caretaking granddaughter & her mom who had driven up all the way from Alabama just for the occasion, didn’t mind a stitch that Donald and I enjoyed watching a University of Kentucky basketball game on cable.  They were nice enough to feed me a hot dinner, too.  Good folks indeed.  I decided to forego Shannon’s offer following Donald’s invitation to stay with him.  He had an extra bed and it seemed the neighborly thing to do.  I accepted.  

Shauna and Stacy fixed us all a nice breakfast, too, of scrambled eggs and biscuits & gravy.  I might add during the UK game, the girls went out, scooped up some fresh snow, and mixed up a batch of snow ice cream.  A little snow, a little vanilla, a little milk.  Did we ever fix that when you were kids?  If we did, I don’t remember.  But do tell!

About breakfast time next morning we heard by text that Shannon was packing up her chain saw and car towing straps, and with all 9 of their dogs, was heading down from southern Ohio.  As always, she would do whatever she could to help whomever she could.  And about the 9 dogs?  Common practice for her and Sabrina.  It’s what happens when moms go to the lake.  

For me, I felt the most immediate need was to check what storm clean-up progress, or lack of, had been made overnight and needed to confirm water wasn’t wreaking havoc in the Lakeview house.  It was a sunny return walk the day after the storm and I wished I had packed along some sunglasses.  

When I got to the ridge road and Lakeview Drive, I realized there was nothing new to report.  The road was not plowed and there were no tire tracks. In fact, the only tracks in the snow were mine.  Still, I needed to check on the water and plunged back into the snow.  I tried to follow my own trail in reverse, and maybe that helped a bit.  I didn’t seem as winded as the day before.  No other humans out, but plenty of critter tracks in the snow. 

The house was now uncomfortably cold and I was glad I had opted to spend the night with Donald.  Refrigerator was still holding ice, so I figured I didn’t have to throw any food out yet.  Cold water still flowed along with hot water from in the well-insulated tank.  I put on my new heavy robe for the warmth and sat at the lake facing window in the master bedroom and thought how gorgeous the winter wonderland actually was.  

I mean, you know?  Cold or not, who else in the world was going to see this?  Truly, truly Naturally beautiful.

I could NOT get my feet warm, though.  Still cold from the walk, I wrapped ‘em up in a blanket, but no effect.  Still not knowing when the power would come back on, and knowing I had a return walk, I had another task that required attention.  I needed to collect & haul out some resources from my Nature’s People library to use for my Aullwood talk next Sunday.  Again aware of weight issues, I selected only a half dozen books and packed them in my duffle bag.  Wasn’t too heavy, so I added the thawed shrimp & cocktail sauce that foyer forget about eating when they were down last week, and thought I might be able to add something to my second dinner at the Browns.  

Tough trudge up the first hill.  Again, mine were the only tracks.  But at the top of that hill, where I had found the first downed limb the day before, the road had been plowed. I again wondered why the driver would stop at the top of the hill, as I had witnessed after other snowfalls on other occasions.  He had come down the hill all the way most of the time prior.  Why stop today?  In any case, hallelujah!  Progress was evident!  

That good feeling didn’t last too long when just over that crest I came upon that same pine tree pictured earlier: 

The plow driver had cut the pine off the road, but removal from power lines would obviously be a power company issue.  Seemed fair to me, but after having researched outages on the South Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation grid, I found there were hundreds of customers out in a half dozen scattered communities. Again, I did not know how the local municipality handled largely summer communities like this.  Surely other areas would have priority over the few of us living in our little neighborhood above the lake.  

But at the crest of the next hill, I was very pleased to find and chat with some RECC line guys.  I told ‘em I was so glad to see ‘em!  I asked how many hours they had been working since the storm hit.  The guy in the bucket said they would probably get 100 hours this week.  I told ‘em to enjoy the overtime and thanks so much for what you do.  

Turns out the guy in the bucket was a joker.  I asked about how long he thought it might take to restore power down the road.  He smiled and said, ‘Oh, maybe three or four weeks.’  I looked as pained as I could and said I sure hoped not.  Then he got serious and said after they fixed the spot where they were working, power should be good.  I told him of the pine on the line down the road and he said they’d get down there next then.  I thanked them once more and trekked on.  

I might add that when I came up on the service vehicles, a couple of the guys were working on getting one bucket truck out from being stuck in the 18 inches of snow. You just have to respect the heroic work the line crew puts in following something like this.  Really amazing.  And let me tell you, our life experience loses a whole lot of quality we have become accustomed to with the loss of electricity in our personal space.  There was a real vulnerability in my experience.  

I knew it wasn’t the end of the world, but I kind of felt like the kid from William Faulkner’s ’The Bear.’  The protagonist kid, on his search to find a real live bear on his own in a Southern coming-of-age manhood thing, ends up first losing his walking stick, then his compass, then his canteen, then his everything -- before he comes upon his bear face to face.  My bear was 18 inches of snow.  

Shannon reported in that not all major roads were clear.  Some more heavily traveled Kentucky state highways, in fact, were not as clear as our state highway ridge road.  In some places she texted she could only drive 25 miles per in 4-wheel drive because of the slush and feared black ice.  When she finally got to us, she showed pics of amazing ice formations oozing out of limestone formations along one of her roads traveled.  

By that time later Sunday afternoon, Donald, his day caregiver brother Joe, and I were still talking about Denver beating the Patriots.  The Costco pot pie I suggested Shannon pick up in Lexington went into the oven, and just about halftime of that next playoff game, snacks were broken out and plates filled with yummy chicken pot pie.  Donald had a nice sized piece.  

By quarter ’til 8, we encouraged brother Joe to head on home.  Shannon and I could surely hold the fort down until night family caregiver younger brother Rick arrived a little later.  We thought it better anyway for Joe to vacate the snowy parking area in front of the house to give Rick a space he wouldn’t get stuck in.  

Just after Rick arrived, Donald said he was tired so he hit the sack.  In the only living area in the Brown cabin, Shannon, Rick, and I turned the television down and talked in hushed tones and hoped we weren’t disturbing Donald. 

Turns out Rick is retired from the State Department and was posted in China like Cindy Lou’s Auntie Jeannie.  Found his wife in Chile on another tour.  Turns out Donald didn’t hear anything and had no idea who won that second football game.

Monday morning I didn’t care about breakfast and wanted to get started early back to Lakeview.  I hoped power had been restored Sunday night and that all was well.  Still, I didn’t know the extent of storm damage on the lines and if the crew had everything they needed.  This time when I got to the ridge road and Lakeview, I noticed a new downed limb in the middle of the road.  It had to have fallen overnight.  

When I found a second new limbfall I had to pull off the road, I began to doubt if the power was, indeed, restored.  I couldn’t tell by looking at the few residences I walked past if power was on.  Then I heard a heat pump compressor from the trailer of a couple I had talked to yesterday.  They lost power early in the storm, got it back for some of Saturday, then saw fireworks come out of a transformer when an different iced-up limb fell onto it and the trailer was out again.  But now, Monday morning, all was well with them.  

And sure enough, the big icy pine on the line had been removed by the power rangers. Emily Dickinson says ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’ and I noted all the turkey vultures had made it back into the air.  I felt more hopeful. When I saw a mercury lamp lit at a neighbor’s trailer, I knew power had gotten that far.  I finally thought I could relax a little, with the odds power was now back on just over the next hill.  The plow had returned late Sunday, then, and finished the job.  Thanks to the Monticello road crew for their efficient work, too. 

On that final approach to the Lakeview house I was trying to be careful not to break my neck on black ice that had formed after yesterday’s short thaw.  I had had my only fall on any walk all through the storm and after just minutes before.  Blacktop looked good amid some fallen pine branches in the road when my left foot skidded off when I didn’t expect it to.  I crashed down on my right knee, getting some pine stain -- not grass stain -- on my new white painters paints, dang it.  But I guess I just officially initiated said painter’s pants into winter life at Lake Cumberland.  

Finally I made it down that last hill.  As I rounded the house to the front door, I could see a light through the front door and I knew all was well inside.  And, indeed, it was.  

Through all of this I have a feeling that Jonas has wed me to this place in winter.  In any case, I wanted you to know about my adventure.  

Feeling better, thanks.    :-)


Today’s elder idea:   ‘One can never be too sure of things.’

Spoken by ‘the man’ who is about to freeze in the Alaskan wilderness in Jack London’s short story ‘To Build a Fire,’ one of the short stories that impressed the heck out me in high school.  As I told Shannon, it’s one of the pieces of literature that made me think I could teach English.   

images:  All mine, all the weekend of 22-25 January 2016.