Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cabin Fever

The days start to blur together like my vision at the end of the day as I peer blearily at yet another page of some random novel as the light fades to gloom.

Those big January projects that have accumulated for years spend another winter neglected as I crouch in front of the ancient woodstove shovelling more damp wood and huffing another cigarette while trying not to ignite the latest paperback in the other hand.

The laptop has even taken up a semi permanent home a mere two feet away from the stove, waiting for pages to load on a backwoods dialup connection, kept company by a teetering stack of disintergrating cookbooks.

Butter for that days baked goods softening on the shelf behind the stove-bread, cornbread, peanut butter cookies, scones, oatmeal cookies with dates or raisins, sugar cookies. The creeping cold creating havoc with the metabolism, causing cravings for carbs, sugars and fat to remain unfullfilled no matter the volume.

Finally last week a few days cracked the freezing mark, and I emerged with the 100 foot cord and the power drill to spend several hours putting 12 taps into the nearest sugar maples.  The trees took advantage of the break in the weather, too, and every empty jug suddenly became filled with beautiful clear maple sap.  I started burying jugs of sap in the huge snow banks, no way could I keep up.  I spent two days and eight hours reducing four gallons of sap on the gas kitchen stove, the house smelling of sweet sugar.  We promptly devoured half the hot syrup on a double batch of homemade griddle cakes, mixed with jumbo fresh eggs from last spring's chics, now just starting to lay with efficiency.

All good things come to an end, another twist in the jet stream has plunged our lows around 0F and our highs won't top freezing for the foreseeable future.  The sap is frozen solid in the buried jugs, frozen in the collecting buckets, and frozen mid drip in the taps.

Even afterschool sports have come to an end for the Firebird, who participated in indoor track this winter, his first.  I think his teammates that had encouraged him to join were kicking themselves after he beat their times in high hurdles and their distances in long jump.  He qualified in all three of his events for regionals and placed well, but not enough to qualify for states. Still an amazing performance and quite an athlete.

So now he is riding the bus home in the aternoons. Not really home, since the bus drops him off a half mile down the road.  I decided that Peko and I could use the exercise to work off some of those accumulated cookies, and started hustling out the door to meet the Firebird at the end of the road.

The first day Peko and I were trucking along, well not really trucking.  Peko came to us housebroken but not exactly leash trained.  His idea of a walk has me at a half jog, until he finds somewhere interesting to sniff, and then we come to a screeching half while he manages to squeeze two or three drops of urine on whatever it was he finds worth smelling for three minutes. Then we're off again.

On this particular afternoon, we were well along the wild wood zone.  We have two neighbors between us and the end of the road- one practically next door and the other at the end of the road.  The rest of the stretch is home to the turkeys and rabbits and deer and moose and squirrels and the occasional bobcat or coyote or fox- if they have managed to escaped the locals that like to run them down with dogs.

We have very little traffic, and it is not usual to make the walk up and back without encountering any vehicles on the road.  Anyhow, I spotted a silver SUV coming towards us, and I thought it was the near neighbor, an nice older lady that I had been meaning to visit.  I peered nearsightedly at the windshield as the vehicle approached, and at the last second I realized that it was, in fact, not my neighbor, but some good-looking young man that appeared half my age. My eyes went back forward and the mismatched battered work glove on my left hand came up in the standard, "Hello stranger, I see you" greeting that I employ in such cases.

The SUV passed, and Peko and I kept going, me half jogging and stopping and proceeding until several 'have to drip pee on this spots' later, I thought I heard an aircraft overhead.  So while Peko was sniffing and trying to summon forth the obligatory drop of urine, I swiveled my head like a turkey in a rainstorm trying to locate the source of the sound.

Then I spied the silver SUV coming back towards us.  In the intervening span since it had initially passed I had realized my personal appearance.  I was wearing a pair of size 12 Kamik snow boots of the Firebird's that were so large I had to put on a pair of afghani slipper socks to keep my feet from sliding around in them.  I had on a pair of jeans I had been basically living in.  The aforementioned mismatched tattered leather work gloves.  Several rattie hoodies topped with an old navy blue goose down nylon snowcoat, which had suffered enormously from contact with bits of pasture fencing and was shedding feathers and down like a goose caught in a weedwhacker.  And my hair hadn't seen a comb and I think my head must have resembled the fur on an orange persian cat that got too friendly with the strand of christmas tree lights.

So I did what any self respecting woman would do in such circumstances, I stuffed the unruly mess of hair into one of the battered hoodies, wiped the drip forming on the end of my nose on the back of one of my gloves, turned an about face, gave Peko a yank. and kept going.

It seemed forever for the SUV to come up behind us, perhaps I was really building momentum in my horror of the situation.  I could suddenly hear the bass speakers thrumping along, and as the vehicle came abreast I hazarded a look out of the corner of my eye to see the passenger window half down and the driver leaning over.

Then I heard the music.  LEd Zeppelin, Whole Lotta Love, Robert Plant in the midst of belting out, "I just wanna make LOOOOOOVVVEEE to you!"

Well, the driver must have got a good look at my face, perhaps it was my smirk or maybe I had cookie crumbs stuck to the snot on the end of my nose, but he then accelerated to the end of the road and turned left.

I guess Cabin fever only goes so deep in February.