Friday, October 3, 2014

A Report on Thursday

I loaded new music into my CD changer in the shack this morning. I put Pat Metheny (with a touch of Lyle Mays and others) back in their cases and away into the cardboard jazz box after a good two weeks of play and brought out my Bach CD’s. A friend gave me all six Brandenburg concertos and another miscellaneous Bach disc saying he thought I needed more Germans in my line up. My CD player holds five discs so I added Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and threw in a classical Indian sitar CD for good measure. I should know the name of the Indian artist but I don’t. It’s in the changer and Bach is playing so I can’t look right now.

YMCA’s yoga sessions gave me a hankering for the sitar. Good music is part of the practice there. I think of the sitar as an Indian version of the pedal steel guitar. Indian music is wholly different than Europe’s. When the sitar and those great drums come on it gives me an entire change of pace. The Indian CD came free, glued to a package of microwave papadum I bought somewhere in the city.

My kids make gentle fun of me for not going digital with my music, downloading everything and forgoing all the Compact Discs and albums. I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m computerized enough I think. I even bought a turntable for myself at Christmas. These past weeks along with the Pat Metheny CD’s I also unlocked the warm vinyl grooves of one of his best albums “As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls.”

I should be playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons given the sudden change of season. It seems like it happens all at once but of course it doesn’t. The autumnal equinox, when there is an equal amount of day to night, was twelve days ago. Already in Ottawa’s zip code we’ve lost a lot of daylight since then. The sun is rising at 6:54 a.m. and setting at 6:34 p.m. for eleven hours forty minutes of sunshine. That and the angle of the sun dropping in the sky, not shining as strongly or directly on us, translates into cold weather. It can’t help but happen.

I have got a lot to do before winter arrives. 2014 has not been my most productive year project wise. I got a lot of writing done but I neglected the place in many ways. My shack woodshed project, started as soon as the snow melted, is still not done. I’m a little stumped on the details of the roof. I want to get a wood box for the shack porch done along with it but that may have to wait. I won’t bore you with all the stuff on the list but it’s considerably long. I have to steel brush and polish the wood stove, get a little painting done, pick my peppers and make chili paste and jerk marinade. Do up the horseradish. Duties at church.

I fully realize this to do list is nothing like the one I used to maintain at work. Few if any much depend on its completion. Building or not building a wood box will not affect anyone’s paycheck, nor result in a lack of service for any family including my own. It’s not an urgent to do list mind you, but it’s a list all the same. It still fills my head in idle moments.

Yesterday I got away with my wife. Thursday is her day off from a job she’s taken helping students in a credit recovery program operated by our local Superintendent of Schools. Young people wind up, due to an amazingly wide variety of circumstances, close but short of the credits needed to graduate from their high school. The credit recovery program allows them to finish those credits and earn a diploma from their community school rather than a GED, by attending a flexible and individualized program at the IVCC satellite campus in Ottawa. Colleen helps them through math on a computer program. Lots of kids really hate math. Colleen reduces their fear, slows them down, and convinces them they can do it. Most of them do. On Thursday the annex is full and the credit recovery program is not in session. We use it as a day to do stuff.

Yesterday we bought a tree. You know what they say about trees; the best time to plant one is twenty five years ago, the next best is today. We hope to plant the ginkgo we bought yesterday next week, in the spot where our Japanese cherry tree now stands. Seems as though the cheery tree has lived out its life, perhaps shortened by last winter’s awful weather. Rather than digging the hole myself I’m having a guy come do it with equipment. With any luck he will agree to transplant the nice little burr oak sapling that is growing as a volunteer in my asparagus patch. We want to move it to where one of the big oaks used to be. When it gets there it may have some asparagus spears sprout next to it in the spring but no matter.

We have giant old oaks that cover our back yard. Losing one was like a member of the family dying. Not really, but it feels like it at first. It just seems right to replace the old oak with a new one sprouted from an acorn probably buried by a squirrel. It’s like a kid taking over for an old person, an oak sapling taking the place of a mighty tree. When I walk to the shack these days I crunch acorns with every step. It’s a banner year for nuts. The squirrels should be rejoicing. Maybe they are. I wouldn’t know how to tell.

We had a tree guy (arborist?) visit and check out our ash tree in the front yard. He thinks it’s fairly healthy and can be saved, prevented from the blight, with treatments, so we’re trying that. Ash trees you know are being wiped out by a little emerald borer. Who knew in the eighties when we chose an ash we would be in jeopardy of losing this nice big tree that shades our house from the afternoon sun? We’re keeping our fingers crossed.

While we were at the nursery, outside Millington, we checked out some other trees. I like the look of Japanese Maples, especially the ones with the feathery little red leaves. My God but they’re expensive. I think one would look good by the shack, which is near power lines. Because they don’t attain much height a little tree like that would be a good choice. I’m going to have to figure something else out, or buy a really little one, maybe a seedling
This tree planting thing, given our age, gives us pause. We’re not exactly buying them for ourselves I guess, because this ginko, three inches around the trunk, nine feet tall, will take a long time to reach maturity as will the little burr oak. Slow growing trees last the longest and are the best. But they will probably take longer to grow into adult trees than my wife and I have left on earth. So we may be planting them for the next people. What’s wrong with that?

Our trip to the nursery took us to Millington so we drove around. Nice little town off Rt. 71. We also got off the highway and drove through Millbrook and Newark. Good places all. Back on 71 we stopped at the Norway Store in Norway. I buy sardines there. Sardines on soda crackers are a staple for winter snacks in the shack. It’s hard to find the good King Oscar sardines elsewhere, the little guys double layered and packed in olive oil. You can find the big rough sardines almost anywhere, but King Oscar is the standard of sardines. They have all the King Oscar lines at the Norway Store, sardines packed in mustard, tomato, hot sauce, even the new one with sardines packed in spring water. I’m not sure I’m going to like the water packed guys but I bought some to try.

They just oiled the floors at the Norway Store. They do it twice a year. Like my Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Harry’s grocery store in Danvers, they have the old unfinished wood plank floors. I’m pretty sure Uncle Harry used to do them up with creosote, which had a pretty sharp smell, and probably violates some kind of public health regulation these days. I asked the guy at the lunch counter what kind of oil they used and he thought it was an edible vegetable oil.

“You know, these floors are over 140 years old,“ he said seriously. I don’t doubt him a bit.

The Norway store is pretty unique. You can get all your Scandinavian supplies there, your lingon berries, your lefske, your potato dumpling mix, your pickled herring and all. You can get about anything else there too, as it serves as the local mercantile and grocery for the little town of Norway and nearby Wilderness campground. Fill your tank with FS gasoline, buy a lottery ticket, and stock up on beer to go with your herring as well. If you are feeling shaggy there is a windowless barber shop in the back of the Norway Store with an old time barber. At the lunch counter try the pie. They bake them right there. I had the banana cream a cup of coffee. The coffee was not outstanding but the pie was. My wife had the fish sandwich and proclaimed it good. It made a nice afternoon that much better.

That was yesterday and today is a new day. I plan to swim at the Y in just a little while so I’ll close. Wagner just came on the stereo, the sun came out, and I’ve got things to do. Talk to you next week.

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