leave old job....leave old home...enter new home...engage new life...maintain what matters

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Problem is NOT a Problem

How am I going to get him here?  My 14 year old nephew Thomas---coming to the Land to help design my novel’s cover---is due at the airport in 1 hour, yet our driveway is now ice.   It’s amazing how much I don’t know about living this new life, like the capability of rainwater to seep between, and to the tire-grabbing top of, each and every gravel rock, then freeze to a perfect speed-skating straightaway (complete with hills for added excitement!).  I’ve just solved one problem: driving the slick highways to Minneapolis, by reserving him a seat on the Go Rochester Direct shuttle van.  But the ultimate problem remains, how am I going to navigate the first (and last!) quarter mile of the trip to Rochester to pick him up, in the thin-tired Prius!?  I'd just waved good-bye to Linda in the 4-wheel drive CRV. 

An hour ago I test-drove the CRV, doing OK until the last downhill toward our house.  There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sliding in a large vehicle.  I’m a kid again, sitting in the passenger seat next to dad, turning a fantasy steering wheel and pumping fantasy brake.   Except I have no dad---no driver at all actually---to keep the car from turning sideways, which it did until  a tire left the road and grabbed some crunchy purchase on the lip of the ditch.   Straddling lip and road I managed to find the bottom where all I could do is ponder the possibilities of the Prius, of which two seemed quite likely.  Either I’d fail to make it up the hill (and strand Thomas in downtown Rochester)  or I’d pirouette downhill and drop over the culvert (with wide-eyed Thomas aboard).   If only this driveway had a little grip, like the far-steeper, yet navigable, Calico Hill Road, upon which the township had sprinkled a little fresh gravel.   A little fresh gravel!  That’s what I need.  But who’s got spare gravel just lying around?

And finally I see it.   The solution.  Gravel!!!   There at the driveway's far edge ran of little ridge, like an inverted mountain range with snow clapped sides and rocky peaks.  And those rocks were gravel, which until now, I hadn’t notice.  How could I be so blind? 

Because, until now, that gravel had been a problem, a tiny yet always irritating, thorn in my side.  We’d hired Excavator Steve to keep our driveway clear.   He does a good job!  Except….except maybe their blade shaves a little too close sometimes, scraping gravel off the driveway and onto the snow mounds.  And when I’d gaze upon those mounds all I can imagine is the April hassle when the lawn is strewn with gravel.    And this perceived problem---a creation of my own mind---had done what the label “problem” always does:  builds a ice-box around possibility.   What to do?  Just as I’d done to the thin ice covering the solar panels, I shatter that box.  “The gravel isn’t a problem,” I shout to The Land.   “The gravel is a solution.”
Compared to that epiphany, the work yet to come is as nothing.  Shovel.  Wheelbarrow.   Gorilla mindset.  Soon I gaze upon the sprays of tire-gripping gravel and laugh the old lay.  “The problem is not the problem.  The problem is my attitude toward the problem.”   To which I add my learning.  “The problem IS NOT a problem.  The problem IS a solution.”   Silly me!  How many times has Linda smiled---thinking me half crazy---when I said,  “Everything’s a resource.  Even those cedars overtaking over the pasture.”  One day, perhaps, I’ll actually believe what I say.    

But right now, thanks to nothing but an ice-shattering change in attitude---to see the mountain of solution---I have the prize.  Nephew Thomas is here! 

I’m a lucky man.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Day in the Life

Awake!  Check status:  -8F outside.  65F inside.  91% battery capacity.  97F solar hot water.
Enjoy 1st Breakfast:  homemade yogurt, roasted nuts, maple syrup.
Do dishes.  Start fire.
Enjoy 2nd Breakfast:  8-grain hot cereal with plenty of butter.
Retrieve filtered water from Big Berkey in cellar and pour into Red Wing crock in kitchen.
Chai tea and coffee with Linda. 

Gawk at sunrise.  Read Wes Jackson’s Consulting the Genius of the Place.
Wave bye to Linda as she drives off to work in Minneapolis.
Check status:  -6F outside.  68F inside.  96% battery capacity.  Solar hot water pump ON.
E-mail Solar Connection for help with extending battery capacity from 2 days to 4 days.
Solar Connection called!   Make plan to address battery capacity issue.
Put potatoes in masonry heater oven, now at 350F.

Haul bucket of wood from garage into house.  Scratch arm.  Curse elm!
Let cat out.
Let cat in.
Check LP gas status.  35 gallons remain from the 110 we received last March.
Take pint of Land-picked blackberries out of freezer (cooler on the yoga loft porch).
Check status:  -4F outside.  71F inside.  100% battery capacity.  98F hot water. 
Haul full toilet buckets from garage to Humanure Hacienda for dumping and cleaning.

Measure specific gravity of battery acid to verify 100% charge.  Pretty good.  SG = 1.260.
Enjoy lunch:  two fried eggs over baked potato.
Learn from Jackson that glacier created soil that created prairie that created corn belt.
Check status:  -1F outside.  73F inside.  100% batter capacity.  108F solar hot water.
Avoid finishing first novel by working on second.
Cut dead and dry boxelder from hedgerow and haul to shed.

Stuff hay into bottom of sun-dried toilet buckets and haul back into garage.
Check status:  3F outside.  72F inside.  100% battery capacity.  114F solar hot water.
In shorts and t-shirt enjoy afternoon tea:  spelt toast with plenty of butter. 
Follow inner child as he explores north ridge, precipitous 400 foot drop to Whitewater River.

Return home.

Shower and shave in luxurious sun-heated water pumped by sun-sparked electricity.
Check status:  2F outside.  70F inside.  100% battery capacity.  113F solar hot water.
Pour 1 gallon jar of raw milk into ½ gallon jars.  Enjoy a creamy, frothy glass.
Make multi-grain cornbread
Enjoy dinner:  Linda’s leftover black-bean sweet potato chili over cornbread.

Sip Shell’s beer with neighbor Lonnie in front of the evening fire.
Enjoy supper:  Same as dinner.
Over phone, solve all family and world problems with brother Gary.
Watch Star Trek episode where captain learns his purpose is a spiritual quest.
Snuggle with Kirby cat in bed.  Give thanks.  I'm a lucky man!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Addicted to a Lie

I’m trying.  I’m trying.  I’m trying to resist.  I know he’s going to do it.  He’s going to lie to me.  Like he did yesterday.  Like he did already this morning.  Like he’s done so many times before.  And…and…and…here’s the really sick part:  he’s so transparently obvious, that I’ll know immediately if he’s lying or not.    I’m not talking about some radio personality who could be a bald-faced liar or a guru depending on who you ask.  I’m talking about a lie that everyone agrees on.    Not that your opinion here should affect my behavior.  I believe he’s lying.  I know he’s lying.  And still the temptation to listen is…well…overwhelming.   Stronger even than the proverbial pull for that second potato chip.

I’m wondering, do you do this?  Is there someone who you know lies---and you perceive precisely when they are lying and when they’re not---and yet you feel compelled to listen to them anyway?   Someone who’s lying about something important to you, something that really matters.   And if you can’t help but listen, do you get as upset as I do?  I mean really upset, like I did this morning when Linda heard me scream. 

So who is this terrible liar?   Please stop me from clicking the button.  “Ahhhh!”

No liar always lies.  In fact, the worst liars mostly tell the truth.  No actually, the worst liars are like, they mostly tell the truth and don’t know even know when they are lying.    I have more respect for a bald-faced liar, at least they’re honest with themselves about the lie.  They’re just using the lie as a tool to manipulate me.  Lots of folk try to manipulate me.  An unconscious liar is more frightening, like a futuristic sci-fi talking head that babbles on and on, droning propaganda and advertisements, unable to assess validity.  But I digress. 

This blog is not about the liar.  This blog is about me and my addicton to the lie.    Perhaps I’ll understand my addiction better if I drill down into the lie.  So here it is.  Here’s the lie.

The lie is NOT the forecasted temperature or precipitation.  The lie IS the forecast of sunny.    Yesterday, at 7AM, forecasted sunny for every hour of the day.  At 9AM clouds rolled over the prairie, veiling the sun and at 4:30PM, just before sunset, they were still rolling as they had all day.  This morning, again the 7AM forecast said sunny.  Again the clouds rolled overhead, this time by 8:30AM.    Why do his forecast matter to me?  At 7AM I decide whether to light a fire or not, and if so, how big a fire?   Too small a fire and we’re chilly.  Too big and we not only overheat but spew unnecessary smoke.  Yesterday, knowing guests we’re arriving to tour the house, I built a small fire.  When none of the forecasted sun arrived, we all ended up a little chilly.

You might ask, why do I call this a lie.  Isn’t it merely an inaccuracy?   Is there a difference?  Yes!  Inaccurate means errors are equally likely in any direction.  But this is NOT the case.  Its common for to forecast sunny and it turns out cloudy but the opposite almost never occurs.  Though I have no formal data (not yet!), I can scarcely recall a forecast of cloudy that turned out sunny. 
Pictured as an example of a SUNNY day

Of course, I’m hyper-aware of sun.  Our electricity, our hot water, our heat---not to mention my very disposition---all depend on the sun.    A year ago I had no such awareness.  Home the Land Built does that to you.   So I understand why doesn’t stop their sunny lie.  Few people care, I mean really care, about sunshine. Now if they lied about precipitation---constantly forecasting rain in the middle of a drought---they’d soon be out of business. 

So why oh why do I keep pressing's dreaded “Hourly” button then stare at the Sun icons in WX column?   Do I seek hope for sun, false though I know it to be?  Do I seek hope for, that they’ll repent of their ways and stop over-forecasting the sun?  Do I enjoy getting upset, enough to shout?    Perhaps I simply enjoy feeling so right, so self-righteous.   “See, they did  it again!  They said it would be sunny and look at all the clouds.  What did I tell you? ”    We’re getting closer, but I think it’s worse yet.

I think that my ego----who is really much, much bigger than I would like to admit---actually takes the lie personally.   “See what you did to ME!”   As if there’s some dark lord who, from the top of his radar tower, blazes forth his sunny icon to thwart me.  “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” 
It’s pathetically laughable really, little old me perched upon some ridge-top in the heartland, the dark lord’s target.  They say we all need a villain, an enemy to keep us sharp and strong.  But do I really need to make one up?  And even if I did, couldn’t I make one up that’s slightly more interesting, relevant and thwart-able than     Maybe not.   

I’m beginning to learn that the enemy isn’t who I thought he was.    I’m talking about the enemy of my new life.  The enemy who’s trying to prevent me from living in The Connection.  My ego?  Yes, definitely yes, that enemy.  But also and most especially,  his enabler, the invisible, omnipresent feeder of my ego.    The enemy who wants me to live in separation.  The one who will die if I do, we do, Connect.  And that enemy is….he is….he is…ah-h-h-h be continued

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Daring to Face the Light

Why did I wait so long to face the light?  And why the heck am I pondering such things anyway?  I can’t seem to help it.  Linda’s gone. 

Two months and a day after receiving two new tantalum hips, Linda closed the car door and drove away.  It’s our ritual.  Before the brutal surgery, she’d done this every Tuesday morning since we left our Minneapolis home on 1 August 2011.  She works, overnights at Doug and Monica’s, works.  And on Wednesday night I wait.  For the crunch of tires on gravel.  For headlights in the hedgerow.  For the screech of the garage door.  And finally, through the windshield, her smile, tired and coffee-inspired as it is.  I’m so happy to see her.  Anxious to touch her.  More so, I think, than she is me.

But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the boy’s time.  That would be me and Kirby cat.    I hauled 3 week’s worth of wood into the garage.  Created a spreadsheet of trees and shrubs for our blank-canvas yard.  Schemed with nephew Thomas about designing my novel’s cover.  Watched Fellowship of the Ring (for the 43rd time).  Sipped my lousy blackberry mead.  And all the while I did the most Mike thing of all. 

I pondered. 

Except pondering sounds so heady.  I’d like to feel more like this morning’s wind, now running, now walking, now racing as he ponders the shape of the hill, the bend and bounce of the Indian grass, the sharpness of the ice-crusted snow, his own whoosh upon the steel roof, and me, flattening against the yoga porch wall to avoid his slap upon my face. 

And so I ponder the light, the light that heroically lifts the fog, pierces the clouds, beams through the south facing bank of windows and finally---gloriously---warms my home and my heart. 

And, perhaps because Linda is up there, I pondered 4140, our wonderful old Minneapolis home.  Of all the tens of thousands of dollars we devoted to improving our home, why did we never even consider removing a couple upstairs west windows and add a couple facing south?  Those darned west windows, hot in the summer, cold in the winter.   I’m good at spacial relations. I must have realized that our south overhang, or a simple awning would have shielded us from all summer sun while inviting the low-angled winter beams to slip beneath.  At the same time, no overhang---no matter how cleverly designed---could accomplish the same in the west, or east for that matter.  Nothing to do but draw the shades, eliminating the only point to a window. 

I probably didn’t realize how much heat we could gain.  On a sunny day, the slanting beams provide half our heat.  Today, like yesterday and the day before, I’ll skip the morning fire and wait until evening.   50% reduction in heating costs on sunny days!  For free.   We have no more glazing than 4140.  All we did is face the glazing toward the light.  And oh what that light does for my heart, my winter-weary soul.  In the days of darkness---October through March here at 44o N latitude---the sun lives in the south.  Rising in the southeast, running across the south, to set so quickly in the southwest.   This I knew.  This I always knew.  Yet we never turned 4140 toward the light.  Why?

I’m not sure.  But I’m beginning to realize the magnitude of the seduction, the brainwashing, of my grid-tied home, my grid-tied world.    Yes, I struggled to perceive off-grid solutions, such as respecting solar orientation.  Yet the seduction didn’t end there. 

I’m afraid that I was afraid.  Afraid to so publicly proclaim my affinity, wild as it was, for the light.  It’s a crime, of sorts, a crime against the grid.  The grid, after all, is the provider of all things.  Heat.  Electricity.  Food.  Education.  Health care.  How dare I seek elsewhere? 

Ok.  I’ve gone far enough.  See what happens when Linda’s gone!  In that space, in that darkness, I perceive a light.  A light shining so brilliantly through our south facing windows.  A light that was always there.  All I had to do was dare to face it. 


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Best of 2012

#7           House completed.  Oct 2.             Dear friend Doug skims finishing touch of American Clay onto masonry heater.  Victory declared!

#6           Solar Home Tour.  Oct 6.               Welcomed 45 (or was it 145?) into our off-grid, photovoltaic, solar hot water, rainwater harvest, composting toilet, masonry heated home. 

#5           Move in.  Mar 17.                           After the earliest 80 degree day in history, we slept our first night in Home the Land Built.

#4           Grand Celebration.  Sep 22        120 family, friends and neighbors  bless our home with laughter, singing, eating, hiking, sawing…

#3           Finished Novel.  Mar 31.            Written every morning since 2004---same year we bought the Land---the characters of the Corridor finally confessed all.  Editing and publishing in progress.  Easter???

#2           Prairie grows up.  2012               Apparently rooting down, down, down since seeded in 2007, the prairie finally raised itself sunward.   Acre upon achingly beautiful acre.  

#1           Linda doublehip replacement.  Nov 7     We moved here to engage the Land.   Her arthritic, bone-on-bone hips stopped her.  No more!!!