Saturday, December 28, 2013

Chop Wood Carry Water

Warning: This essay may contain philosophical material that some may find unwarranted.

I'm sure as humans, we all find ourselves at times questioning decisions we have made and, probably at times, the nature of our existence itself. As a dweller in a modern industrialized society with access to a plethora of technology and the illusion of infinite possibilities, I find it strangely difficult to sort through all the input and dig my way down to the bottom line. What is important to me? What are my values and is my day to day life reflecting a practice of cultivating those values? It's a bit embarrassing to admit it, but I find life in our world at times downright confusing.

I'm probably just overthinking things, as I am wont to do.

Let me provide a little context to my philosophical rambling: The check valve on my ram pump gave out on Christmas. It cracked in 3 places, possibly due to the temperature dropping into the low teens on Christmas eve. When I returned home from my sister's on Christmas afternoon to check on the house and water and such, I discovered no water in the house. Thinking the pipes had frozen, I exclaimed, "shit" to myself and crawled under the house. When I discovered balmy temperatures and unfrozen pipes under there, I proceeded to the next stop, ram pump system. I walked up to the ridge and opened the lid to the 600 gallon buried reservoir, and to my surprise the reservoir was empty. Guess what. I said "shit" again. Sorry, baby Jesus.
I gandered down, down, down the hill to the pump itself to discover the pump still pumping, and with every hit, three sprays of water squirted every-which-a-way from the plastic casing of the check valve. All around me lay the enchanting sight of 600 gallons worth of icicles, glistening like Rihanna's diamonds in the late afternoon wintry sunlight.
Eat your heart out, Rihanna
I am a lucky girl to have a very accomodating and helpful ram pump man, HL (he built the pump), who called me on Christmas Day within minutes of receiving my email. We talked through it, and he was willing to get two spare parts for me in the priority mail the next day. What a guy. These parts are custom built for these specific pumps, which HL builds as a business, and, dare I say, a labor of love.

Flash forward to the day after Christmas. I spent the day with a loved one, helping her with the gory details of a stomach virus likely contracted at one of the many small town Christmas events which were attended by many. I came home late, feeling tired and queasy, and set to work splitting enough kindling to build a fire to warm my house to a comfortable temperature, since I had been staying away for 2 days. I had enough water in the house for drinking, tooth brushing, and morning tea and washing, due to the bucket I carried up to the house after having discovered the 600 gallons of icicles. This morning I woke, still queasy from the resistance of the norovirus, with the first task of the day on my mind- carrying more water up to the house for the next few days. I figured I would need 5 gallons for drinking/ cooking, 5 gallons for a bucket bath, 5 gallons for toilet flushing and an extra bucket for whatever.
I set to work and spent a good part of the morning scrubbing out grimey garden buckets with grit from the spring in order to clean them enough to haul water up to the house. And then I carried several loads of buckets, by hand, up the hill to the house, with a queasy stomach and a tired body. I have to admit, I wondered, somewhere along the way, ' is this worth it?'

Blue barrel marks the location of the spring. The house is that brown thing up that hill in the distance.
Not just the effort of carrying the water to the house while feeling gross, but the non-electric water system that needs periodic (but intensive) attention, and, while we're at it, the life style in general. The rural remoteness. The acreage. The big garden. The piecemeal income plan. The hiking in and out when the driveway is frozen solid. The woodstove. The firewood. The physical and theoretical quasi-separation from modern American pop culture at large.
Are my daily tasks reflective of what's important to me?
I had to sleep on that one. This morning, the light is fresh, and the ground is frosty. The house is warm and cozy from wood that I cut and a fire I have kindled. I am drinking tea from water I carried up the hill. My hair is clean from that same water. My answer is yes.
The ram pump water system meets three goals:
1) To carry a portion of the righteous and abundant water of this watershed up to my house
2) To position my personal reservoir in such a way that overflow can be shared with neighbors
3) To keep the branch wet so as to protect the sweet diversity of branch life below the spring.
The pump only pulls 10% or less of the spring water up the hill. The rest splashes back out into the branch for the salamanders, crawldaddies, snakes, deer, coons, pole cats and water loving plants. The pump is powered by water and gravity. It provides cold clean water to me, my next door neighbors and sometimes even the next neighbors down. It is free of charge to operate. It pounds like a heartbeat. It is, in essence, a song and dance of the elements, and I am bound to this dance by the nature of its function in my life here.

Yes, this dance is reflective of what is important to me: for the duration of my life on this planet, to marry myself to the laws of its elements, to commune lovingly with members of my own species and others, and to foster generosity whenever possible.

The fruits of labor: water for washing heating on the woodstove
This is but a tiny window into the musings of one earth dweller's thought process. Of course there is so much more to consider than one's water system of choice. Like what to wear to the Grammys. Speaking of which, I would absolutely love to read Rihanna's discourse on her personal water system.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

night hike, full moon

silence much louder in the dark
rustle of beech leaves an announcement of a breeze not felt
shooting star and great horned owl a welcome home
no light needed

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The day my sister read my mind at the river

The day my sister read my mind at the river

Many things have been lost and gained in the last ten years since her traumatic brain injury. Some things remain untouched.