More Than Passing Time

  • So we are open to ideas on how to entertain, educate and occupy the hours of a week with an almost-eight-year-old boy—-our grandson, Oliver. (Please don’t call him Ollie. He is grown up now, you know.)
  • We are situated, thankfully, in what is a great spot for outdoorsy stuff, though mid-March is not the perfect time for building a dam in the creek; constructing a twig fort; or turning rocks and logs for insects and salamanders and the like. But I imagine we’ll do some or all of that anyway.
  • So here’s the list so far:
    1. Make a garden-duff infusion with some barley tossed in. Let it sit in stacking dish of rainwater for a couple of days. Examine under the microscope. Look at moss samples for water bears.
      1. Related: give him his own magnifying glass
    2. find the perfect hiking stick and cut it to the size he will be in two years
      1. wood-burn his initials on it with a magnifying glass (wear sunglasses)
      2. drill a hole near the top and make a boot-lace lanyard
      3. take it to him when he lives in Knoxville
    3. Watch a friend make a wooden bowl (for Oliver)
    4. Watch a friend make a whistle from a piece of rhododendron for Oliver to take home.
    5. Gather pine cones and twigs for the wood stove
      1. watch the pine cones explode into flame in the wood stove. Let him add them one at a time to the front of the fire wearing thick leather stove gloves.
    6. Go visit the neighbors who have two of every farm animal known to man, AND the Great Wall of Goose Creek
    7. Go for a walk at The Other Place so he’ll know something his folks don’t about where we’ll be this time next year.
    8. Connect with a friend who has a five year old son who is not shy
    9. Get him some creek boots
    10. See if great-grandma will tell stories of when she was a little girl (yeah right–see if we can stop her!)
    11. Let him use my camera to take pictures, then write out or record the story that the picture tells
    12. Read to him at bedtime from the books we read to his dad as a boy, and send the book home with him
    13. Hopefully the cat will warm up and be playful. He is around dogs at home but could learn a thing or two about how a cat is not a dog.
    14. Let him use the walkie talkie on the New Road
    15. Give him a journal (pocket notebook) and help him record the things we do, ideas he has, stuff he wants to be sure and tell mom and dad
    16. Find out what his favorite things are and help him dig wider and deeper
    17. Play music on the guitar, accordion, keyboard. Instill interest in music.
    18. Screen Time: Watch selected videos (like the one included in the first comment below) on the iPad or iMac. Use the iPad and iPencil for drawing, tracing, coloring a picture he chooses and send it to M&D
  • So that’s about we got at this point. I’m thinking we’ll probably run through 90% of this the first two days. Yikes! Gargle. Rinse. Repeat. So we are open to ideas from the Peanut Gallery.
  • Oliver has not been away from home before. He knows us only from our occasional and brief visits when they lived in Missouri. This will be a challenge for his adaptability, and ours, even as the house is under welcomed threat of being visited by potential buyers (who will have to overlook the Family Circus.) This too shall pass.
  • We are glad to be here yet. Oliver’s week with us could become an indelible memory; or it may, in twenty years, be one of those vague almost-memories that you “recall” only because you’ve been reminded of them over the intervening years. Those stories of others become what counts for your memories of forts and water bears, boots and long walks, and strangers that tried to make you comfortable in a strange land.
  • Except: you have that stick; those small boots; and a scrawled and worn little notebook and a picture you traced of a cat; and a bowl; and a whistle, and… Yeah, maybe there are true memories, like insects in amber, embedded in the mementos that tie the 2040 Oliver to a span of time and a place where his grandparents lived a little longer, in the spring of 2020.

This Old House

Click the black banner to see our place at Circa

Patina: a surface-film or polish of wood or leather and the like that shows age and use.

I am both comfortable with the not-new-and-shiny and also prefer it. Maybe that is just a sign of my age. Long-loved things around me have co-evolved (or worn out) in sync with my own surfing through time.

Despite the love-hate relationship we have had with old houses in the past, we willingly undertook the chance to save this one from the “practice for the fire department” that the first contractor recommended in the spring of 1999. We gambled that it would come some day to be to us like a favorite pair of slippers that we would wear long enough to fit us–that we would grow, if not old, at least older in.

Now we’ve added the same two decades of wear that the house has weathered, and I have to say it seems to be holding up better than we have. We could add a coat of paint, a new heat pump and move the furniture where we wanted to suit our fancy in the house. But in our own mortal edifice, there is only so much repair, redecorating and painting that can be done.

We hope that the next occupants will share the same appreciation for the history of this house, this land, this neighborhood and larger community that we have come to know. The patina of constant occupancy can be a beautiful thing–in a home or on a familiar face and pair of well-used hands.

Our property-for-sale now is being offered to potential new owners via Circa who, by definition, seek out historical architecture where structure and story have grown older and richer, together.

Please share this with the right new owners, who will know when they see it that this is their future pair of comfortable slippers.

If you have not visited the image gallery (mine is some different from the MLS version) then you might enjoy taking a look at SmugMug.

1020 Goose Creek Run ~ Historical home and 80 acres on two creeks

Home and Hearth

The typical (since 2000) end of winter woodpile

Replenish as you deplete: that has been the Rule of the Woodpile since we moved to Goose Creek in 1999 and spent our first winter in Y2K.

Until maybe eight years ago, this meant extraordinary measures involving me (and oftentimes also Ann) getting down and dead wood to the stacks by cutting and tossing downslope, cross creek, upslope and carry or end-over-end to the truck for way longer a distance than efficiency or good sense would dictate.

Then the time came I realized I could buy a year’s worth of wood for a couple of days work in the PT clinic, and replenishing as depleted only required finding a reliable source of responsibly-cut wood a year or two in advance of need.

My 10 foot runners stacked two stove-lengths deep and five feet high hold 125 cubic feet of wood. A cord is 128. So I knew how much wood I needed to fill the available space; I knew how much wood the dump truck load would leave in Yucca Flats below the house.

And so while there were brief gaps in the wood stacks, by the time wood burning season was passed, the stacks were filled in, drying, and waiting on the inevitable return to the duty of feeding the open maw of a voracious and insatiable wife-heating wood stove for another year.

Today’s withering, vanishing, unreplenished, final wood pile for the Firsts

That was then. This is now. I’ve taken up the empty runners (mostly locust) and stored them near the propane tanks, in case the next folks want to burn wood. And why would they not? We are leaving at least one of the QuadriFire stoves in place and the hills continue to offer windfall oaks, cherries, poplars and hickories–many of which lay where they fell this past winter, since I am out of the wood-cutting biz on Goose Creek.

I can’t tell you the extent to which this wood-centered seasonal ritual has driven my days for six months or more for the past two decades. And looking out on the bare runners; seeing out my office window what might be the last firewood I ever burn grow less and less: this is a kind of trauma of change typical of so many disturbances to our usual ordinary that are the cost of doing business when relocating.

At The Other Place, there is not currently an option for burning wood. But there are seven acres of hardwoods that are reasonably accessible for that purpose. We plan to live there through the first winter with the existing heat pump and gas logs and see if we can live contentedly without wood heat.

I have my doubts.

The Children-Avatars of Goose Creek

It is a fact (barring worse-case outcomes in the real estate realm) that this date a year from now, I will not be sitting at this desk in this room at these coordinates on Planet Earth. But someone will be just about to experience their first spring on Goose Creek.

Who will it be? What will it be for them? How will they become embedded in the local ecology, or will they be “summer people” who simply recreate and vacation here and then go absent–snow birds wintering in the Caribbean?

I try to imagine this house with the enlivenment of other souls than ours. It never has been and never would be OURS, other than in the legal sense. They too will be semi-permanent transients, pretending their own OUR-ness for a few years, a few decades. But what do I want to think their lives will be like, in my most hopeful moments? How might the Whole Ecology of this parcel and square mile of corrugated ridges and forest become home for them?

And the thought that has given me the most pleasure to project across the next decade of new owners here is that there will be children. A boy, Ethan, age 5 and a girl, Brittany, age 8 let’s say. Their parents are educated, adventurous, curious and nurturing for their children’s nature literacy and broadest-possible citizenship among people and all creatures. And it is for that kind of living education that they chose to buy this particular and unique property.

And so, while I have decided not to flesh out this fantasy here in vast detail, I feel certain that it is something I will muse about, before and after the sale, regardless of the childless buyers who winter in the Bahamas.

It will make me smile to “know” that these two children will carry on with my “knowings” of this place; will extend my memories of some of the very same rocks that they will turn in Nameless Creek; the very same fallen logs where they will find perhaps the same Slimey Salamander I found last summer.

They will walk the length of the creek, from the bluff and well past the Fortress of Solitude. (What if anything will they call that tranquil place where so many hopes and dreams once visited an old man?) They will walk in cold kettles up to their waist, in the dappled light of a green corridor of moss and fern, and learn early on how stinging nettle got its name.

Ethan and Brittany as teenagers will delight in inviting their friends here, who discover a wildness here not present even in many places within Floyd County. They will proudly show their visitors where the water snakes sun by the barn; which trees to watch for mountain boomers; and how to find water pennies under just the right creek rocks while collecting crayfish just for fun.

While not many children their age can identify a dozen spring and summer birds by their calls, they will know the Louisiana Waterthrush; they will know when and where the Scarlet Tanagers will build their nests; and they will stop in their tracks (just like I do, I just know they will) any time a raven makes one of a dozen different calls five hundred feet above them.

They will come to know who they are because of where they are. They will be rooted, grounded and placed humans because of what this place will offer to teach them, and because they have willingly and enthusiastically offered to learn and to know and to care.

Their laughter and their music fill my imagination, though they may never fill these heart-pine walls. Even so, I will think of them often, next year and beyond, my avatars who will live forward the life I leave them here. Tend the details and the lessons, and cultivate them, children. And share them in words and pixels. Perhaps someone will listen.

Enter, February: and Then…

Last day of January. A month from now, early March and expectation of a blooming thing. And mud. I will not miss the mud. But I will miss the buds–especially later in March the pinking up of the maple buds, at first just visible in just the right light, early or late, when the reds of morning or evening sun hit the ridges. How that bit of color lifts my spirits after the monochrome of winter!

By then, the sun rises sooner and sets noticeably later, and on the longest day of 2020, we will own RHC. Will we by then live there and someone else live at GCK–in this very room where I sit listening to the ticking of the wood stove, through whose glass doors I see the light flickering off the cat, draped out like an accent of farmhouse decor in its warmth.

We are relinquishing the sense (the illusion) of permanence, of predictability of what happens in a week or a month, living with the risk every day that strangers will come, will purchase our roots out from under us, our foundation, our bedrock routines and habits and familiar navigation in time and space in this place.

And odder, that we want this to happen, that it must happen, given the course we have set for ourselves, dictated by the ticking of the clock, the passing of the seasons through our minds and bodies, leaving less and less to work with as the sand falls through the hourglass. And yet, there is sand left.

I am uncertain. Will it make leaving that last day harder or easier to hold up each view, each memory from the well-traveled places we have sat or stood or walked, of each room in the house, the windows from them that have been like dioramas to the seasons–not just anywhere but the seasons through that window of this house in this lifetime. My life time. Our life time. Should I stand and look again, and remember or walk past, on task and on time for what the move requires of me that moment? How stoic or nostalgic should one be just now?

All this self-absorbed perseveration in my morning pages about the move makes it seem like my life is lopsided and out of balance; like I am obsessing about this imminent transition of necessity ahead of us. And yes, the details, the moving parts require much thinking and deciding and planning.

But my days of late have assumed a better balance, everything inside being in its place now and the only thing to do, at least today, is wait for a showing, and go from there. The house is in order, and the yard, and the details of the sale. And so my own peculiar interests have come back in view, and I make occasional progress digging deeper in one or another subjects that I want or need to know more about. Life is rich. In predictable and irregular spurts.

And I have a new minor and regular duty: to write an occasional column for the Floyd Press. Again. I had a bimonthly column there for 7 years, ending in 2011. The new editor has been in touch, and is lining up a list of writers who have stated a wish to contribute within their interest and knowledge areas, and that will begin soon. I suppose my general topic area is sustainability — which can be very broad indeed. And so I have folder started for FPress Brainstorming. And as it was before, it will not be difficult to create a list of things I want to dig deeper into and now have an excuse to do so.

But with my more private writing, I am trying not to think about an audience for this or any other text just now, and have lowered the threshold and will just put it in a public place–like I have done since 2002–and be glad to share the journey with a very few. I have met so many wonderful people over the years, by simply being honest and transparent and interested in knowing myself better, and others, through words and pixels.