Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Day Loch Heilan

A pause in the weather after yesterday's battering. I thought I'd enjoy the sun --while it lasts up here. Nearly noon and the sun is only one finger's width above the horizon. This is the season of the lazy sun, but we have passed the solstice, the longest night, and we are accruing more minutes of daylight with each day. I set out for Loch Heilan, my favourite walk in my 'back yard' as I think of this little patch where I've landed.

The ducks, the geese, the gulls have all taken flight long before I get to the Loch, but the  swans have simply moved further into the loch, eyeing me warily. I stand on the road. I can feel the wind freshening already, but I decide to walk the lane down toward the loch.

This deeply rutted path is muddy and mucky. I pay attention to my feet and my camera and only as I look through my lens to my right do I notice that the 'will I won't I sky' has made up its mind.

 The wind was full in my face and halfway home the small rain started. I was relieved to see Morris coming in the car to rescue me. Even so I would not have forgone those golden moments.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Boiler Blues

The sun is up at last. A bright pink--Lido Pink--the kind of colour of Brigitte Bardot's bikini or a young girl's most coveted new lipstick-spreads out around her edging into high viz orange. No matter how tacky she looks, I'm glad to see her. Everything looks better in daylight.

Except our boiler.

Sitting limp, as limp as a piece of steel can look, but definitely embarrased in a puddle of water at her feet. Last year about this time, she blew her pressure relief valve--a common enough thing among hard working boilers and she was up to scratch and perky until recently. She kept forgetting to keep her pressure up--or perhaps it was just too much effort. We turned the switch to give her more water, a little reminder of her role in life--our lives, at any rate, and we all limped along until this morning.

A phone call to the shaman--or plumber. And I think of Plan B--how to keep warm if we have to wait for parts or a new boiler or any of the other things. Oil filled radiator. Gas-fired ersatz fireplace in the sitting room, localised heaters for hot water in the shower. Of course we can make it. It may even be an opportunity for developing gratitude for all the things we take for granted--like hard working boilers. Perhaps that's all she needs.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Dark, Dust, and Doves

Dark, like dust, accumulates in the corners of my imagination. For half the year up here, I have to contend first and foremost with the winds (See my previous post re chicanes in the latest battle against King Wind.) For the other half, darkness, absence of light, the other side of the coin, however you choose to call it, is the chief nemesis. And King Wind plays second fiddle.
After a sweltering week in Philadelphia where sweaty rebels turned parliamentatians had hammered out a compromise constitution for the fledgling nation, Benjamin Franklin assured a doubting collegaue that the motif on the back of a chair was definitely a sunrise rather than sunset.  So, Yes, the photo above is a sunrise. That is the good news. The not so good news: this is taken out my back door at a little past 9am. Way too late for my midwestern brain to take on board. And these too long dark days over the years (a dozen now on the edge of the Pentland Firth) have accumulated like dust in the places where things should be clear. 

So I am back to piling words on top of each other in the hopes of clearing the dust-dark and making sense of who/why I'm here.  And on cue, here's a dove. (No, my city friends, definitely not a pigeon). Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be the symbol for the new nation rather than the eagle. The wild turkey, like Franklin, was a very canny bird and knew when to take cover. Doves are often used as symbols of peace and the end of travail. I'll take this bird as that kind of a metaphor, but just out of frame is the bird table where he was enjoying a late breakfast (birds don't like the dark much either). And I suspect he was just wating impatiently for me to go back inside so he could go back to breakfast.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Chicanery in the Garden Rooms

If you are not a gardener, look away now. While I was in Yorkshire Roy and Angie--as close to elves as a grown up can expect to find--have added the chicanes and gates to the area that is going to be the main gardening area--at least for veg and herbs next year.
View of chicanes and new gate from edge of house by garage.
'Chicanery' connotes 'trickery', but up here we have to be as wily as Odysseus of the twists and turns not outwitting fate and monster children of the ancient Gods, but the wind. And it takes all the wits of an Odysseus to do it. If you try to stop it, it will mow down any of your sturdiest defences. It has to be cajoled and distracted like a fretful toddler. And so chicanes: netting to let in light and to slow the wind down. Up here we have the extra added challenge that the wind carries salt from the nearby sea. Despite that--foible--we have to be grateful for the sea. Otherwise at nearly 59 degrees latitude North, we'd be as cold as Estonia or Moscow.

OK I made a concession to the netting for a proper fence here (thanks, Roy, for seeing me right on this.) And this gives you an idea of what the chicanes are--almost fences. Room for walking and wide enough for a wheelbarrow, but overlapping enough to stop the breezes. Last year a late season blast from the east knocked the flowers off my tatties and shredded most of my garden. This year we'll be better prepared. It is either hubris or naivete to proclaim that it will not happen again.
The path is made up of the chopped up trimmings of the top heavy willows. That protects them from the wind (See the blue rope on the end of the fence? That's where that willow went down last year in a gale. Probably would be OK on its own now, but just in case, we'll keep it tethered.)

Now with house and garage walls the chicanery defines these outdoor rooms as reasonable working/sitting areas in the pre or post season of gardening. Still work to be done, but so happy with the space, wanted to share it.

Rain in Chicago

My husband would call it a filled in day. There are a lot of them in Caithness. In Caithness, it might or might not rain; in Chicago I can be sure that some time during the day it will rain. By the time I cross the threshold, there is a mizzle--I don't remember the American word for it. Perhaps there isn't one. One breath of the air tells me that there will be thunder.  The low air pressure tells me to be alert to possible severe thunderstorms or 'conditions likely to create tornadoes.' It's not tornado season, but none of the seasons are the same. I have taken all this in while walking the half dozen steps to the sidewalk. Taking it in as naturally as slipping back into a familiar pair of jeans.

I have always loved walking in cities, and Chicago, this neighbourhood where my daughter has lived for several years now becomes familiar quickly within a few days of my return.  Not quite a fortnight and I have come to cherish the walks to the collection of shops called Lincoln Square with their fountains and buskers and mix of ethnic layers. By the time I get to my newly adopted favourite cafe, I am very wet. My waterproof shoes and quick dry jacket have done their job, but they are ready for a dry out. I'm ready for a real bagel--not packaged things available in the stores in Caithness--a baked today one, not as good as watching it being baked and eating it still warm, but baked today will do. I settle in with today's New York Times while nearly everyone else stares at a computer screen.

By the time I've done the puzzle and finished my coffee, the rain has stopped. I head back to my daughter's.

When as in silk my Julia goes
how sweetly flows
the liquefaction
of her clothes.

This bit of verse rattles in my brain as if the shoop shoop of my jacket is as comely as sweet Julia. On a rainy day in Chicago it surely is.