Thursday, December 29, 2011

Picture-less postcard

Dear Readers,
As the end quietly meanders toward its calendar ending, I find myself far from my wintry mountain home, in a flat land of mild temperatures, abundant sunshine and vast views of blue sky. The city of Austin (Texas) is as oasis of (relative) moisture and liberalism in a wider zone of arid republican terrain, with the Colorado River flowing through town and the abundance of music, arts and hip-ness creating enough of a political current to vote Donkey in an impossibly conservative state. Driving out into the country the other day, my friend Meg, the reason I am here, described the countryside as "inhospitable," with its dry heat and scrubby brush. I imagine that for most of the year it is so- the temperatures exceeded 100 degrees for a record 100 plus days this year, and wildfires uncomfortably close to the city threatened the collective psyche the general population here with the ancient elemental fears of this desert region.

But mid-Winter in Austin greets me with moist earth, pleasant and mild days, and chilly but manageable nights. Coupled with the good home cooking and familiar laughter of a life long best friend, I find this place more than hospitable. Days filled with trips to the park and Botanical Gardens, fun family yard work, Zumba at the Y, shooting at the Austin Rifle Club, and strolling around the weirdest and nastiest zoo in Texas are the perfect way to spend the last week of the year and what will be likely be my biggest solo vacation before the end of the Mayan calendar. The deep satisfaction of a lifelong friendship is nurturing and awesome beyond words, and I can relax here- away from home- and take comfort in the hospitality of this dear soul. God bless Texas and this gal who lives here.

I have some good pictures I will try to post soon.

Yours,
Dana

Saturday, December 24, 2011

House update in photos

I didn't move in before Christmas...(Still residing in the Airstream):




The house is steadily advancing toward its final inspection:House underpinned with a "skirt" of tile backer board (to be stuccoed by me early January I hope):

Kitchen cabinets with awesome 6 ft long sink:

Laura and Eddie's Vermont castings "Vigilant" stove connected with stovepipe to the out-of-doors:

Upstairs bathroom nook:

Fuel:

Stovepipe creatively exiting through the wall and edge of roof:

Stairwell of ash and walnut from the land, milled on site by none other than Carl Rice:

I end the year with gratitute for all the support I have from loving family, friends and neighbors to carry this creation of a home through.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Let us not forget our mortality

A recent brief but memorable conversation with my neighbor the other day left me pondering the winter season and our modern cultural relationships with the seasons of the year. This friend, RM, and I were discussing the winter holidays and noting the highly intensified stress levels we modern westerners seem to experience this time of year. Family dynamics often explode with lifetimes of festering subsurface funk, dormant human-feeding viruses wake up and feast upon the tired and cold among us, we break our banks buying stupid crap to give each other, and the widespread cultural expectation to be cheerful peers around from every corner, mercilessly laughing in our faces.
I expressed that it is absurd for our major holiday season to be held in the darkest, most difficult time of the year. RM explained that the original reason for these winter holidays was for that precise reason. She said that the dark season awakens very old fears in us, and that the holidays were intended to band people together to provide extra support for each other during the coldest, roughest time of the year.
Very old fears. A chill runs down my back, and the fears, buried shallowly beneath my modern illusions of invincibility stir and grumble. Fears of cold, of sickness, of starvation, of perish, of the icy fingers of death itself. These are indeed age-old fears; they are the same fears that drove each generation of ancestors to survive year after year, through whatever trials each season unveiled. They are old fears, but they are not irrelevant fears.
The lines between health and sickness, thriving and perishing, life and death are thinner than I like to be aware of. We are organisms among many on this earth, and despite our desperate desire to believe there is someone out there (who favors our type of organism) controlling it all, the bottom line is we are just as subject to the laws of nature as our cavemen ancestors, as the birds and the four-leggeds, and as the viruses that we try to kill with antibiotics. We are eating and being eaten, and we will ultimately perish at the benefit of someone or something else.
Let us not forget our mortality.
RM and I wondered whether we modern westerners have the skills to make the holidays what they were intended to be- to improve our collective strength by banding together in the toughest time of the year. I think we do. And if we don't, we ought to make it our business to remember what is surely as basic and ancient in our human psyches as the fear of winter. Let us remember how to find collective strength in the darkness.