Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Winters Day, In a Deep and Dark December

Hopefully, S&G will forgive my channeling of their moody song and excellent title.  It just feels like a deep and dark December.  It started feeling that way for me when the snow and unseasonably cold weather came and landed on us on or about 5 December.  Yes I know, it's winter, and what did I expect.  I expected that it would kind of lead into the bitterest cold over the course of a few weeks.  Now near the shortest day of the year the weather is moderating and we even had a little rain last night.  The ground was so cold that it immediately turned to ice, but still, it was rain.  Somehow that little bit of warm and the knowledge that after Saturday the days will start to get a little longer, and in a few weeks the trees will start to bud, and we will see a early robin trying to get a bite to eat with some snow still melting in the deep places.

We have plenty to keep us busy.  It is easy to say that we are packing and painting and throwing out a lot of the accumulation of our 28 years here, and our 39+ years of penny pinching frugality.  It is both easier and faster to say.  Saying it is a little bit like reading those verses in the scriptures where Abram departs out of Haran with Lot and "all there substance that they had gathered and the souls they had gotten in Haran....".  And you know that even for a nomadic people, this was quite a big deal.

Saying it is not doing it.  Everyday I look at what I did that am disappointed a little.  Disappointed not really with what I accomplished but maybe dismayed by how much there is left to do.  I spent a whole day emptying out water storage jars.  It just takes a while it seems for them to empty and they are all in the basement, so I lug the water upstairs to dump it in the garden...I guess I could fiddle around and get a little pump to pump it out but I think I would spend more time doing that than I would doing the actual work.

When I was in my teens we lived near Golden Colorado.  The nearest mountain to climb was North Table Mountain.  Volcanic rock that was covered by cheatgrass, cactus and yucca, it wasn't really that wonderful.  But it was forbidden as it was all posted private property, so there was the thrill of that.  It rose about 1500 feet or so from the plain below and was really pretty steep.  Like a castle, the top was guarded by cliffs of from 15 to 50 feet high and when you started up the hill, those cliffs looked a long, long ways away.  The funny thing about the climb was the optical illusion of where you were on the climb.  Once you had gone just a little way up, and you looked back  you realized that you had indeed made progress.  The cliffs still looked pretty distant, but you could look down the valley after climbing just a few hundred vertical feet and feel the accomplishment.  Then there was a long stretch where the cliffs and the bottom of the mountain looked equally far away, and finally, as you neared the top the cliffs got really tall and the rest of the mountain dwindled in comparison.

This move is like that I think.  Somewhere in the process we are going to realize that we are more than half way, and it will feel pretty good.  I'm thinking that day will come in early January, about the time we can look at the sky and realize the days are getting longer....and that will be a happy, hopeful feeling.

On this next trip we will be taking a new (to us) pickup.  Earlier this fall as we were coming back from Salt Lake we hit some black ice on a stretch of highway that is always in the shade.  It was night and it had been a foggy day, and apparently the fog condensed in Eureka Canyon to ice.  We knew these curves well, and we weren't going very fast, but when we hit the ice the truck started to slide...I tried several course corrections but we drifted across the other traffic lane and then the drivers side front tire caught on the gravel and the truck pivoted around it  and smashed the passenger side of the box and back wheel into the mountain.  We were only going about 30 mph, but this produced a sort of crack-the-whip effect and pounded the truck pretty hard. You can click on the pictures for a bigger version, but at left is the scrunched box (right rear), and at right is the right rear wheel and axle - note that the axle was snapped cleanly.

Stepping back a little from this Deep and Dark December..... the fall was actually pretty good.  I retired the last part of August.  That has been very nice.  I keep waiting for someone from work to call and tell me I am in a lot of trouble, but I think they are getting along fine without me.

The next week after retirement we flew to North Carolina and had a great visit with Mike and Jenny.  We spent  several days in seclusion in the Smoky's.  Very pretty country.  Comfortable cabin and house, and delightful company. It was a fun week. 

 With barely a moment to catch our breath from the North Carolina trip, we hopped into the truck and

drove to Boulder to help Mutti with various house problems that she was having.  There was a lot of work in that trip, but we did get to spend some time with Katie and Conor, and with my mom as well.  Katie and Conor and the kids were busy with school and work, and we were busy in Boulder , so we didn't have a lot of time to play, but we made good use of the time we did have.

 Again, and this seems like it is becoming a theme, we were back in Delta for only about a week before we loaded up the truck and trailer and drove to Riddle.  This trip also had a lot of work in it, but
was somewhat more relaxed too.  We painted, and fixed and got some storage cupboards and a bed from IKEA, and got as much work done as week could.

It wasn't too long after we got back from Oregon that we had a very nice Thanksgiving Day hosted by Ashley and Daniel.  Becky, Travis and Teo came down, as well as Janet and Scott.  The weather was very nice and the company was wonderful.  We had a great day eating, talking, giving thanks and wrestling with the little ones.

Last but not least are the two new additions to our nest.  There is a saying that 'nature abhors a vacuum', and I think that could be paraphrased to 'nature also abhors an empty nest'.  While our nest is empty of children we have spiced up our days a little by welcoming in Luna Lovegood, and Phoebe II.  Katie gave us Luna, a little blue parakeet that provides endless entertainment and bites our necks and ears - HARD.  Phoebe II is a little short hair kitten with markings very similar to a mamma cat that we had years ago.  We still have Hobbes as well, but he is pretty quiet these days.

All in all it has been a nice fall.  It was probably the busiest time that we have had in our married life, and probably just in our total life.  We are a little tired, and I am a little tired of the cold and the dark.  It might be still cold in January and February, but as the days get longer I know that Spring can't be that far away.  And that gives us all a little hope.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Unemployed in Greenland?

'......Friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless....unemployed in Greenland..." I don't know why these words keep echoing in my mind. Coincidence I hope.  

August 29 was my last day at Intermountain Power, and I suppose that there is a mixture of uneasiness mixed with the happy thoughts of not having to get up at 5 a.m. unless I want to get up.  Ever.

The uneasiness I think is a little like when you get out of a bus, or de-plane at a strange were tired of the ride and wanted to stretch your legs, but now you have to find the baggage claim and find your bags, the rental car place, or who ever is meeting you, and often you go out and sit on a bench and wait for a while.  Sometimes you wait for your bags, and sometimes for your ride...After a while things become clearer.  Hopefully, that will happen here as well.

We came to Delta in January of 1986, and ever after the thoughts of the power plant have been pretty central to my life, and to my familie's life.  The checks always cashed, and little mouths were fed, little body's were clothed and kept warm.  So it was a good thing, and a good place to be.  More over, it was a safe place to be.  

But the Little One's grew up, and left the nest, and found their own mates and made their own nests, and we are deeply grateful and thankful that this has happened, and that our children and their families have been blessed as they have as well.  No shortage of blessings here.  Just a change in the weather of life.  Kind of a snap in the air. (And a lot of aches and pains in the morning now....  )

IPSC has nurtured me and my family financially, and educated me in many facets of engineering, chemistry, law, and social dynamics  It has been a good thing, and I have enjoyed many friendships, many good times in my work life.  But as the days marched on, I couldn't help but feel that a lot of what I was doing was to some extent a waste of time, and to put it another way, a waste of my life.  When I woke up and realized that I was now 60 I also realized that 70 wasn't that far off..... there seemed to be not as many days between 60 and 70 as there was between 30 and 40.  This realization made so many normal ways of doing business in a big company seem to be an irritating waste of life.  It was time to turn the page..  

So we turned the page, and pulled the plug.  Not according to a long thought out plan, in fact in direct contradiction to many of the plans and tenets that I thought were essential to successful retirement.  Not only didn't  we have all of our debt paid down, but we had bought a new (to us) home in Oregon.  We bled money paying the taxes for the down payment, taking that out of our 401(k).....neither of us has applied for Social Security yet.  We are leaving a comfortable home and people that we have become close to in our little town to go to a home that will take a lot of work, and to live in an area where we have only a few friends.

I have thought about this madness, if it is madness or some other thing, and tried to explain it in a way that made 'sense' .  I haven't come up really with anything that you can put numbers to, and get a pay off, or a pay back..  This whole experience came to us so un-looked for, so un-sought that to try to explain it just makes the whole thing sound silly.

I like spreadsheets.  I really do.  They are powerful tools and can help you to model complex and difficult problems.  You can get your algorithm dialed in - get all your formula's lined up and it can tell you about numbers - money, length, height, weight, speed, density.... you name it.  You can find out present value, net present value, averages, sums, you can round, make conditional branching statements....the power is amazing. But in the end, I'm not a 'spreadsheet guy'. That kind of a construct can tell you a lot of tings, but it can't really help you to find what will make you happy.

In spite of the seeming  ill-logic, and impulsiveness that seems to be a big part of these changes in our lives, it feels right.  I know very well what I'm giving up as far as money goes by leaving now rather than later, but what I don't now, and what we can't know  -ever- is how many years we will or would have together, and when you put a day with Annie on one side of the balance, I don't care what you put on the other side, it won't be enough.  

When you are dying, and your organs are shutting down, your feet and arms getting cold, your nose turning blue, you can't say -  'Hey, I think I made a mistake, and I'd like to try to have another year or so - somethings I still need to do....'   You have to take the time when you have it, and live each day to the fullest.  I guess that is what this is all about.  Trying to live up to my son's admonition to 'Seize the Day!!  Carpe Diem!!'  Ever After.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

More Random Dreams

Looking back on a lot of dream history, I have to believe that school left indelible marks, if not scars on my subconscious.  Here I am, a grandpa many times over and still dreaming about school.

Like most of these dreams, in this one I had come to the realization that I had blown the professor and assignments off all semester, and now the Day of Reckoning was coming.  I couldn't believe I had done this AGAIN.  I don't remember who I was with, but it was near graduation time, and without this class I wouldn't graduate, and it was perfectly obvious that since I had turned in no assignments, taken no quizzes or tests, and written not papers, attended no classes, I was not going to graduate.

So I'm explaining this to someone and walking across a big courtyard and I see a familiar figure - here comes my mom and she is moving briskly along.  In the dream she is probably in her late 60's, and full of energy.  I'm still trying to explain this epic failure when I realize that I'm 61 and shouldn't be giving school a thought (you're 32 Joe, 32......), and the dream kind of came to a halt with a realization of how, even though our bodies age, we are ageless in our spirit.

That realization shot me back to when I was about 4 or 5 and my mom would put on her makeup before church, and I thought - wow,( she was the same age as my daughters are now).  I thought she was movie-star beautiful (and she still is.) and (I know this is a very busy dream) I thought how interesting it would be to know and visit with her and Dad as young parents.... and then thought that is how it will be when we are reunited on the other side of the veil.

I'm not sayin I'm ready for that yet, but how interesting it will be to visit as peers with Grandpa Wall, and Grandma Skaggs, Great ;Grandpa Starck.....people that I never really saw as people I could relate to because of the difference in our ages. All age and generation difference washed away.  I'd love to hear stories of how they worked the fields, trained their horses.  I'd like to hear how they worried about their kids as they grew up, married, went to war.....all the scary stuff of life that at the time, you just don't have any idea how it's going to turn out, or what will happen, but looking back on history is it summed up in a sentence: "Jack was joined the army in 1912, was wounded in France in WWI...." Those are the kinds of sentences we find in histories. But I would like to know the back-stories.

I guess that is all.  It was just a funny realization...a window in the mind opens and light shines in dark corners and you find a small treasure.  Sleep well, and dream.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Picking Raspberries

Becky and Travis came down and spent the 4th with us.  It is always fun to have them here.  They are mellow and low maintenance and we sat and talked and played with Teo quite a bit.

They weren't able to come until after work on Wednesday, so they got to Delta fairly late and then we talked until it was really late (for me....medium to easy peasy for real Night Owls).  In the morning we were all stretching and getting the kinks out, and I thought I would take a bowl and pick some raspberries for our cereal.

I was a little slow getting out there, so I don't know if anyone actually go to eat them on their cereal, but it was a beautiful summer morning.  It hadn't gotten too hot yet, and the morning still felt fresh.  The birds were still singing - all in all, it was just about perfect.

So I went out with my bowl and started picking.  These are black raspberries, and they must have some kudzu genes spliced into them.  They truly are a thicket.  I had cut back most of them clear to the ground, but that group of fresh canes is almost 5 feet tall now.  I was picking around the edge that I hadn't cut (as most raspberry varieties form fruit on the 2nd year canes).

There were really quite a few berries.  I was surprised.  I picked from West to East and then when I was at the East end, I looked back towards the West and found that I hadn't gotten even half of them.... and so I went back West, picking away.  When I got to the West, I started lifting the canes, and found another treasure trove of berries that I hadn't seen the first two times.  Sometimes I had to reach and stretch, and hold onto the thorny canes to keep my balance.  My arms had more than a few scratches on them by the time the last of the ripe berries had been picked and put in the bowl.

As I was picking, I couldn't help think of a friend whose wife recently died in a car accident.  They had just come back from visiting their son and his wife, and seeing a new grandchild.  In order to make a quick connection he had left his car in Leamington, drove up and back with her, then picked up his car, and a companion and went to a Home Teaching appointment.  His wife never made it home.  It was a devastating catastrophe, not only from the loss of his wife, but that it happened so suddenly, and after such a sweet trip.

Our whole community is in shock.  Not every single person is related to someone in the valley, but for the most part we have lived here so long that it feels like losing a family member when something like this happens.  But when I went to the viewing, the family was composed - saddened, but supportive of each other.  I asked my friend how he was doing - mentioning that without the Gospel, this would be the end of the world, and it was pretty close anyway.  He agreed, but said that he was going to be OK, that he had received some tender mercies that would get him through it.

So as I picked the raspberries, I listened to the birds, but those words echoed in my mind the whole time.  Tender Mercies.....hmmmmm......  Well, if he had received them, then he would know.  But I thought we probably have to look for these tender mercies that a loving Heavenly Father puts in our paths.  We can walk down to the berry patch and find a few berries, but to find them all, we have to look under the leaves, and try to get a different perspective than the one that is easy to have when we are standing on the sidewalk.  We have to leave the path a little bit, and probably stretch and get a little off balance, and we probably will get scratched up by life a little bit in search for these treasures. But blessings are there, we are not alone.  We need to keep looking for blessing in our life all the time.  Some of the blessings are probably just blossoms, some are like green berries, and in time they will ripen.

That is all. It was a good morning.  I got a bowl of berries and some comforting insight right in my own back yard.