Tis the season
Saturday, December 14 2013
Gretchen was making another of her quichesque breakfasts this morning when Ray called saying that he and the crew would be coming over to get this year's Christmas tree(s). His crew today was unusually large and included not just him, Nancy, and the dogs Jack and Bruce, but also Ray's older brother Kim, our friends Mark & Lynne, and their daughter Vivienne. When they arrived, I immediately went with them down to the septic field mound where the White Pine saplings grow taller every year. Some are as much as 15 feet tall, but the ones that interested us were closer to six or seven feet tall. Since the trees are thinner and spindlier than a proper Christmas tree, Ray typically gets two and zip-ties them together. This year he got three.
Immediately after that, Mark wanted to go into the greenhouse first floor, his favorite of the various spaces I've created. He hadn't seen it since I'd done the recent wave of excavation, so I was eager to show it to him. Kim (who had never actually been to our house before) was also interested. But the unusual cold coupled with increased humidity in the greenhouse (from that large surface area of standing water in its basement excavation) had frozen the door solid in its frame. Initially it seemed like we weren't going to be able to get in, but after wiggling and pushing and kicking the damn thing it eventually busted loose. I can't say Mark really knew what to make of the absurd new void in the west half of the first floor. In a way he missed being able to simply walk over there to take care of horticultural business on that end. But who can deny the beauty of a hole hewn into bedrock, leaving a rugged indoor cliff of bluestone and shale? When asked by Kim and Mark what my eventual goal was here, I explained that I wanted to dig down to a softer layer of shale and then tunnel sideways. It's a crazy idea, but it seems to intrigue everyone who hears of it.
Tis the season, so there was marijuana to be smoked from three different sources, and I had a six pack of Red Dog floating in the flooded excavation hole. With temperatures outside at around 13 degrees and a layer of clouds blocking the sun, it was was cold in the greenhouse, but by that I mean in the 40s, which felt positively balmy when coming in from the outdoors. I turned on the tunes, passed out the beers, and Mark retrieved a very long "peace pipe" from up in the greenhouse upstairs (where conditions were much colder). We hung out down there for at least a half hour, though it's hard to say because of the time-distorting effects of cannabis. Kim left somewhat before we did, after I'd first shown him the greenhouse upstairs. After he was gone, Mark asked me darkly, "You heard about Kim, right?" I had. Kim was recently diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer, and though all hope seems lost, he recently underwent several rounds of chemotherapy (after first proving to his insurance company that his condition was not pre-existing). For a man whose prospects are grim and who just went through chemotherapy, he seems surprisingly cheerful. At this point he's allowed to take large amounts of morphine, which can make a man on death row feel okay.
Though temperatures continued to hover in the low teens, most of us took a walk with the dogs down the Farm Road. It was great exercise for the dogs Ramona and Jack, who ran after each other at full tilt through the forest almost continuously. Mark showed up on the walk a little late, carrying the last beer from the Red Dog six pack. After fretting momentarily about the fact that I'd just been handling my penis (pissing) when he'd intended for us to pass the beer can back and forth, he saw that I was carrying a now-empty coffee cup. So that solved all our problems.
On the walk back home, I noticed that Eleanor was keeping strictly off-trail, walking either through fields or forest about 100 feet to the west of the rest of us. This is something she always seems to do when there are large numbers of us and it suggests some sort of instinct related to the division of labor within a wolf pack. (When it's just one of two of us, she usually brings up the rear.) I get the sense that she is deliberately deploying herself in precisely the spot where she fears danger for the group is most likely to be lurking. Amusingly, Eleanor's desire to move parallel to our group came was thwarted at the point (41.92907N, 74.108491W) where the Farm Road began running along the base of a steep escarpment just to its west, and from there on she was in amongst the rest of us.
The large number of people hung around for hours and eventually Gretchen had to whisper something to Ray to get them all to leave. There's only so much hosting one can do when a crowd so large descends at the spur of the moment. Still, Gretchen had managed to feed everyone and she even bought a box of thin mints, the closest thing to vegan cookies being sold by the Girl Scouts of America (whose members now include Vivienne).
Not much later in the evening, Gretchen had me make an enormous pot of chili while she and Sarah the Korean watched The Heat (which Gretchen considers a completely original form of feminist comic cinema).
Perhaps because of a snowstorm that came a bit earlier than expected and continued throughout the day, Sarah the Korean had decided to postpone driving on to western Massachusetts (where there is a house belonging to her late mother that needs to be checked in on periodically).
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