Archive for August, 2010
These past few days, it feels like summer is racing past and will soon be gone. Seems like it wasn’t all that long ago that I arrived and spent the next two or three weeks tripping around buying ladders, a bar fridge, and a few other things to make it possible to live and work here at the old house. Now, I’m thinking in reverse. What needs to be done in order to close up the place and get back on the road for the autumn and winter?
Last week, I began working on what I regard as communication issues. The past couple of years, I’ve used a blackberry for email, and then relied mainly on wifi hotspots for using the laptop. I used modem sticks a little last year too – and have continued to use one here at the house this summer. However, my laptop suffered some damage last winter and only works when it is plugged in – it can’t run off battery power anymore. I was looking to replace it and decided to buy one of the new 3G + wifi enabled iPads, thinking that might work out to be a good solution and perhaps even replace the blackberry in time. I bought the iPad but have had quite a time trying to get the 3G enabled. Fortunately, I’m fairly patient or I would have thrown in the towel on the weekend. Anyhow, it’s still not set up, but I’ll just keep working away at that over the next few days during those times when I feel like I can handle a little frustration. However, today doesn’t happen to be one of those days.
I’m not much for keeping track of dates or even the time of day anymore. In most of my past lives, the time, dates, and deadlines were a big part of my world. Not now. With just the dogs and myself, structured time is almost meaningless. Instead, time has become an abstract thing considered only in terms of the weather and what can be done that day — morning walk, make breakfast, wash and hang up laundry on clothesline, repair and paint siding, afternoon walk, work on a trail in the woods, bring in dry laundry, make evening dinner, talk to my mom on the phone, answer email, do some mothing, and so on. All days are both the same but different. However, regardless of the sameness, I am very aware of the passage of time. I don’t need to look at the calendar buried under a stack of books in order to know that the angle of sunlight is changing, or that goldenrod and asters have replaced daisies and fireweed in the garden. Gone are the warblers, to be replaced by the coarse shrieks and screams of several families of Blue Jays and Crows hatched in the springtime in the woods surrounding my house.
I may not know the date, but am acutely aware of where I was two years ago, and then last year, at this point in the summer. For the rest of you, early September may hold some significance as the time of year when your children return to school, or you to your teaching job, or when you begin to think about closing up the cottage, or freezing the last of the green beans in the garden. For me, this is the time of year when my thoughts turn to my last days caring for Don and saying goodbye as he departed from what had become, for both of us, a world of pain. It’s the time of year when I sold our farm and gave away or put our belongings into storage, then packed up the van and traveled north, then west, then south. To many of you, two years may seem like a long time. To me, it seems more like a long day, or perhaps a fleeting week, since I held Don in my arms as he departed on his own journey. The clock has ticked onwards, but my thoughts are frozen in a place that exists outside of any clock or calendar. For me, there is only before time, and after time, and now time. It is now time where you might find me on most days, standing upon a ladder as I re-nail and paint siding, or plaster walls here at the old house. And now time is that place where I stop the van by a lake, set up the camp stove to make our dinner and rest for a day or two. Although I may seem to be here with you now, I am in another place that you cannot see or know.
In any case, I continue to work away here at the house. Progress has been made over the summer. Below is a paired photo of the house as it looked on April 23rd, and another as it looked in mid-August (click on all images for larger views). Since the latest photos, most of the exterior has been given its final coat of white paint — yes, I decided to go with white after all! Being a modified Greek Revival, it is in the style that was usually painted white to give it the feel of a Greek temple. After working on the place for awhile – well, it seemed to be asking to be painted white. Over the next week or two, I’ll be shifting from finishing up the summer work, to closing up the house for winter. Already, I have begun to pack the gear and belongings that will be needed for many weeks of camping and travel, and for a winter spent in the south. For me, this is an odd time, filled with memories of past years – some good, some extremely sad – as before time and after time converge with now time — as we make ready to depart this place and travel wherever our road may lead.
Work continues at the house here in Nova Scotia. Repairs and painting of the exterior seems to have reached a tipping point. In spite of frequent interruptions by heavy rains, I do believe the job will be wrapped up by the time I’m ready to bug out of here sometime in mid to late September. Part of me continues to contemplate the day to day stuff, trying to figure out how to solve each problem as it arises. However, another part of me — maybe 45 percent (?) — is already thinking ahead to life on the road this autumn, and of the coming winter in Arizona. Which route will I take this year? What will I do differently? How can the van be made more comfortable or efficient for this year’s trip? How can I cut costs further by finding free or cheap places to boondock during my travels? What will I do once in Arizona? Will I see about doing volunteer work this winter? What about next year? Should I think more about starting a business? In case it isn’t apparent – yes, I do always have a lot on my mind even as I quietly work on this old house each day.
The past couple of weeks, I’ve made more than my usual number of trips to Annapolis Royal. In July, I made an appointment to take both dogs for their vaccinations. The veterinarian suggested that Sabrina might benefit from laser therapy for her arthritis, so I decided to give that a try. Why not? We scheduled six half-hour appointments spaced over the past two weeks. This morning was the final treatment. Although it’s difficult to be sure, I think Sabrina is getting around better and probably feels less pain. She’s been playing with Sage a lot more this week – their canine form of sumo wrestling where they push each other around the garden. She has managed to climb up on the bed in the back of the van unassisted – something she has not done in months. One thing I do know after spending the spring and summer here in Nova Scotia is that the higher humidity is playing havoc with our arthritis (mine and Sabrina’s). I can tell you that I’ll be very glad to go from the moist air of the Atlantic coast, to the arid environment of southeast Arizona. It’s been wonderful to be here by the ocean, but will be equally wonderful to be back in the desert this winter.
Yesterday, I took a break from working on the house, and spent the morning hacking a new trail down to the river. This one descends closer to the house. It’s steeper, but emerges on a section of shore with granite cobbles and a bit of coarse sand. I’ve already nicknamed the tiny sandbar, The Beach, and will walk down to it with the dogs at least once or twice a day. The uphill grade will be good for Sabrina, helping to strengthen her hind leg muscles in preparation for the walks I hope we’ll take during our travels. These weeks of hot, humid weather have sent both dogs fleeing for the shade. It’s hard to get them interested in walking anywhere, but both of them seem willing to scrape up the energy to visit the river.
But for a few conversations with neighbours, and with staff at the veterinary clinic, I’ve spent much of this summer in absolute solitude. Occasionally, I speak with people in the hardware and grocery stores, but otherwise, most days are spent silently sanding or scraping wood, or brushing on paint. However, for four days in late July, I did share my place with an unexpected visitor. About three weeks ago, I realized that my profile on couchsurfing.org was outdated and still showing me as living at my farm in Osgoode. Although I don’t have a place for anyone to stay, I thought I’d better update things a bit. Much to my surprise, a few days later, I was emailed by a young man from France who is traveling around Canada on a one year work visa. He asked if it might be okay to pitch a tent in my garden for a few days. I emailed back to say that would be fine so long as he understood that things were rather primitive at the moment. He replied to say that was okay with him and that he’d arrive in a couple of days.
As it turned out, the visit was quite fun and interesting for all concerned. Antoine was a very willing worker and a great help around the place. One morning, while on the way to the local lumber yard to buy kiln-dried pine, I asked Antoine if he had any experience building furniture. He said not much – just assembling flat-pack furniture from Ikea. When we arrived home, I asked if he’d like to try his hand at building a new bed frame for the back of my van. He was keen to give it a go, so I described the changes I would like to see. He listened intently, then went to work, creating a frame that is a little different but much nicer than what I’d had in mind. At the end of the day, we were both quite pleased with his handiwork.
Of course, it wasn’t all work. On one very hot day, I suggested that we take a break and drive down to Mavillette Beach on the south shore. We loaded both dogs into the van and took off for the entire day. The breeze off the ocean was cool and refreshing after the heat and humidity of the past week. Antoine took Sage running far down the beach, disappearing into the mist. As I watched, I could not help but think of my last trip to the beaches of the south shore in August 2007. Don and I had decided to make a trip to Nova Scotia to get away from the heat and pollen at the farm. He had been bothered by a persistent cough all summer long. We thought the ocean air would be a good change, and in fact, it did seem to help. Of course, the problem was far more serious than anything we could have imagined, but we weren’t to learn that for another three months. For us, it was one of the last truly happy times together.
Waiting for Antoine and Sage to reappear from the mist, I thought of how strange it was to be sitting on the beach with Sabrina resting beside me, watching a new dog running with a visitor, instead of Don running with Sabrina. In less than a month, it will have been two years that I’ve been alone with my dogs, and three years since I walked the beaches of the south shore with Don.