Sunday, December 23, 2007

Was that Only Last Summer?

I've been promising pictures of the sunroom building project for several moons now. Tonight, on the full moon just after the winter solstice, many are gathered under old family roofs, but I stay on alone under my own roof. I am waiting until my church duties are completed before I too gather to the chosen family roof of this fast-passing year, and meanwhile, I am enjoying some quiet and tidying up some loose ends. Thanks to a nudge from Jim, I got browsing through pictures from the days when the newest part of our roof was only an idea awaiting a foundation.

It feels like these must have been taken more than just moons ago - feels more like several turns around the sun ago.

It was June 23rd. Garth and James were off in Calgary, having gathered with family by chartered coach to help celebrate his aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary. I woke to the siren of the town fire truck, cheerily summoning the folk to the pancake breakfast. It was Fair Day in Arcola.

I burrowed back into my pillow, but something nagged at me. I tried to deny it, to pretend it could be something other than what I knew it must be, but finally I sprang from the bed with the mental admission that I was hearing thunder. Fair Day, indeed.

There was a huge round tarp in the garage, left by my Dad in case of just this circumstance. I dragged a rickety wooden ladder from behind the garage and propped it against the eave of the house where the porch used to be, forming a ridge pole for a makeshift tent over the exposed basement stairs. Then I looked at the partly rotted ladder rails, considered trusting them for a climb, but decided a sturdier second ladder was in order.

As I placed it, the thunder was getting louder, and I could see that the black cloud to the southwest was right on track for a direct hit.

Hammer, spikes, and tarp edges in hand, I started the climb.

The higher I climbed, the more weight of the tarp came up off the ground and into reaction against my effort.

Raindrops started slicking the aluminum ladder rungs. Lightning flashed closer.

I pounded on the wall and yelled at my sleeping daughter to come help. With the hammer and nails out of my hands, and both of us tugging, the tarp finally relented and rose the last few feet I needed. I spiked the top in place under the eave, added some spikes lower on the wall to hold the tarp out to the sides, weighted down the bottom edges with concrete blocks borrowed from the nearby fire pit, and retreated inside.

Then I looked out to see how the tarp was doing, and saw all the water from the garage roof pouring, not into the rain barrel that used to sit behind the garage, but instead into the gravel-filled base we had excavated for a new concrete slab there.

It's amazing what functional structures a person can concoct under pressure. That's a sawhorse supporting a piece of plywood, with various bits of recently removed eavestrough and downspout and connectors balanced and wedged until they conducted the bulk of the water away from the slab base... and into the hole where the chokecherry bush (seen lying in the background) had been removed to make way for the coming concrete truck. I bailed that hole out later. More than once.

The garden sure needed the rain. My kitchen floor didn't. (Well, maybe it did.) The porch removal had inadvertently pulled the eavestrough slightly out of position, not enough so you would notice and remember to fix it on a sunny day, but enough so that the roof runoff from a thunderstorm came sheeting down over the kitchen doorway.

Looking out and down from my kitchen doorway, June 23rd.
The black tarp covers the basement stairs.

If there was any south wind with a storm, the water came sheeting into the doorway, and pushing in under the rubber sweep I had added to the bottom of the door, which was only an interior door after all, and was never intended for keeping out such elements. More than once a hapless family member shuffled into the kitchen during or after such a weather event and found the river with their feet. It crossed the whole kitchen and disappeared under the electric stove, but nothing electrifying happened. We tried to remember to keep some rags tucked up against the door when weather threatened, but that was about as successful as our remembering to fix the eavestrough. It did get done, several storms later.

The tarp did remarkably well at keeping the basement dry. Everyone wondered, though, why I had chosen to drag two tarp edges up the ladder, line up the grommets, and spike both edges in place, instead of unfolding the tarp and leaving more of it on the ground. Everyone wondered, including me. I guess I just had it in my head that a half-moon-shaped tarp would be perfect for the job, and didn't realize that a circle would do just as well, with the other half of the moon spread on the ground. Hey, I was about to climb an aluminum ladder in a thunderstorm. I was actively setting aside my intelligence for a while.

It worked, and I got back inside, safe and soggy. I dried myself off and got into my marching band uniform. By the time Ruth and I were on our way to the parade marshalling grounds, maybe six blocks away at the south end of Main Street, the storm was a distant bank of fluffy white in the east, and the sun was softening the pavement. We survived the march to the fairgrounds in our bright blue polyester jackets and felt-look western-style hats, as we always do. This time someone had arranged to have water waiting for us!

Ah, water. We do need it.

And the garage slab base was none the worse for waterlogging. As my Mom said, it's a good thing concrete likes water.

To be continued...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Of Form and Substance

Dad and I are building again, after a couple of weeks off for other things. Dad had to put in some ductwork in his house to get his ground-source heat pump working properly, and I had to catch up on neglected stuff like housecleaning and rest. I focussed on the second one.

Today as I surveyed the interior of the new walls, plump with yellow fiberglass insulation, and mentally reviewed the tasks yet undone, I realized how different this project is from much of my activities. This project involves substance. Often my creations are only form, only words or musical phrases, passing things that take shape only for a moment in the mind of a reader or listener and then pass away again. I can work away at the shaping and polishing of these forms, and if I never present them to anyone, they simply cease to be.

But when I stop working on this building project, it still sits there, substantial, unfinished, real.

I like this.


Speaking of the building, it's high time I posted some more pictures. Nudge me if I don't get some up soon.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Meet kmoo

Or is it k moo? Anyway, he left this poetic gem tucked away in the comments on "Mindful Milking," and I didn't want you to miss it. Check out his blog, too, there's lots more...

A wise old sage once told k moo
you can be a swami too
this is what you have to do

Books and workshops can clutter the mind
and shackle the conscious to space and time
empty the vessel and you will find

Boredom rears it's ugly head
loneliness leaves a sense of dread
ignore these feelings they'll soon be dead

The answers you seek are deeply hid
noise and activity must be rid
I guess that's why gurus don't have kids :)

There's a funny thing, though, kmoo -
I think most of my gurus do.