It’s 8:45 a.m. on Saturday.
Peter and I should be snuggled in bed together, wrapped up from the morning chill and planning our weekend—or doing those fun woodtick checks missed from the night before.
At any rate, we’d look like a comfortable pair of new shoes in a shoe box, undisturbed and quite content just to be.
Instead, he is there (sprawled across both sides of the bed pretending my pillow is me and watching music videos and eating Corn Pops in a bowl much too small to hold the Jethro-sized portion of breakfast cereal he prefers) while I am here, 140 km from home watching a perfect summer day arise outside the window of the little village of solitude that has become my writing pad.
I’m on my fourth cup of java from a cup picturing the red, bulging eyes of a green tree frog asking “Got Caffeine?”
As I crank out my column, my peripheral vision spots the amphibian and the sight of him drives me to pour another cup.
The resident chipmunk I’ve named “Ray” has spotted me through the kitchen window. I think he remembers the dessert trail of chips from my last visit, as he is sitting on the picnic table using all of his staring powers to get my attention.
I wonder if chipmunks have cholesterol issues.
Cheerios seem a much healthier option than chips this time around. He pokes them in his cheek pouches without hesitation, and I feel better until I realize I have initiated endless expectations from the little rodent.
He returns every 10 minutes in search of more.
I miss my husband and I wish I hadn’t come here alone. There are no phones and I can’t even call him to tell him that. But then again, if Peter were here, there’d be endless fun and I’d get no writing done.
Scents of other village people’s bacon-and-egg breakfasts waft through my window. I’d give up chocolate to have my one and only here to enjoy a meal like that with me.
Alas, it’s fruit, yogurt, Cheerios, and another visit from Ray.
It’s 10:30 a.m. and my writing mind wanders to what Peter is up to in his parallel neck of the woods.
If I know anything, the bed is unmade, the dishes are piled in the sink, and he’s flew the coop to hang out with the other woman in his life—the old red barn—where he’ll spend the day tinkering with this and that in his ongoing passion to lead her back to life after countless years of disrepair and solitude.
My grandfather would, with deep pride, understand that passion.
Here, there is no breeze and the temperature inside has gone up almost 10 degrees since I woke up. I toy with moving my writing station outside to the picnic table, but Ray has brought back-up “munks” to move more inventory and I change my mind.
Two children on bicycles fly by like race horses, followed at heels by their barking family dog, sending “Ray and Company” scurrying for cover under the wood pile.
Dog takes short cut over my patio, stops short to eat Ray’s cache on the edge of the picnic table, and then moves on.
I drink in the slow motion of a weekend away. I haven’t been here in 21 days. Is it just my imagination or is time really attached to a rocket ship bound for outer space?
This particular summer has been busier than an ant hill disturbed by a shovel, and like the ant, I cannot move fast enough before the shovel comes down and spreads my goals for these warm months across acres of time and space.
I think twice about the shovel.
I’ve been using one quite regularly these days. In mid-July, for instance, I took on the hardy task of digging up and flattening dirt from a 30-foot long, lumpy strip of earth left over after our new well line was laid in the ground there in the late summer of 2006.
We weren’t supposed do to anything with the big heap of dirt for two years.
Ever since, I’d been mowing around it, walking over it, and watching the weed forest grow on top of it.
When the two-year alarm finally went off, I ran for the phone to book the local landscaper to flatten that eyesore. Then my wallet screamed a plea of mercy and my DIY-self kicked in. Besides, how hard could it be?
If my grandparents could excavate a basement by hand all those years ago, surely I could do this one thing.
The 950 sq. ft. home we live in was once an old schoolhouse in La Vallee and it was transported here in the early 1940s when my grandparents bought it.
Not much has changed in 65+ years, save the roof being lowered and a small addition in 1967. As far as I know, the original slate chalkboards still exist in the walls of my kitchen (once the classroom).
The house has two connecting basements—affectionately referred to as the “old” and the “new.” The new one was built in 1967 to support the addition.
As the story goes, the old basement was dug out from under the house in 1944 by my grandparents, Joe and Florence, who took shifts carrying pail-fulls of earth up a steep flight of stairs to dump outside.
I have thought about that feat, and I’ve been driven by that feat for the last three weeks as I’ve dug up the heaping trench and dispersed the countless wheelbarrows of dirt.
I’m not done yet—and sometimes I think I’m crazy for not ordering up a machine that could have picked it all up and flattened it with one swipe.
On days like that, I stand back and take it all in, and I’m reinforced by how gratifying it is to at least try to live up to old digs.
It was now 12:30 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon in this little village of solitude that has become my writing pad—and where I was supposed to spend the entire weekend.
“Ray” had moved on to other village eateries, and the world was lonely and quiet.
If I pack it in and go home unannounced, what might the consequences be?
For starters, time will take to a rocket ship and then I’ll find the bed unmade, potato chip crumbs and Corn Pops in the bed sheets, dishes piled high in the sink, laundry to do, and the remaining heap of dirt just where I left it.
But the fine-looking man who’ll walk out of the barn with a big smile on his face at my early arrival will make all of that worthwhile.
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