Where one leak seemed fixed, another springs up. Well, isn’t that the way it goes? Stained wood, stained mattress. Damp kitchen, scary room.
Stove going. I was in the dirty attic. Three-legged chairs, canceled checks, dauber nests by the hundred. I go up there because the attic is my place to intercept the rain that finds its way through the farmhouse’s old, fallible roof. Like me, the rain keeps returning, keeps coming back to this remote piece of cattle country in the middle of the state.
A mist rises from the pasture, hangs there like a cloud. Above, the sky is clear. There is, thank God, no wind. It is still. I can hear nothing but the nothing that is, the nothing that once will be everything. If you would be so kind as to scatter my ashes here. If you would allow me to play the part of the sandstone, to let the water through.
The mice are back. Two traps, old cheese, picked clean. Leave the droppings where they lay. Wise rodents. Re-bait, try again.
Alone in the kitchen, music going. A few drinks. Getting dark early these days. If they catch me unawares, well. At least I died dancing.
Ain’t no puzzles gonna solve this riddle.
Can I get somewhere from here? If not, where do I have to go to get somewhere from? Ohhhh, OK. That place doesn’t exist? That place is here? Then how do I—
MTV at 40. Harry Reid, John Madden dead. Go to sleep with the Senate; go to sleep with video games in your head.
Chilly, cloudy, and windy here. A dreary morning but shut my mouth at least there is light in the sky and I’m awake another day. Water on the electric hob. Spot of instant coffee, methinks.
Burning down below. A large limb came off of the big cadaver tree standing dead above the spring shed. Some say the tree is an oak, some say an elm. The fallen limb sported a virtuous fork without which I could not have dragged its corpse-weight to the fire.
It’s fueling the fire down there now, wish-boned over the blaze. Wet and rotten on the outside but holding many hard, future coals within its heartwood.
When my hands are too cold to write. And the place I could get warm, down by the fire, is not an option because it is raining. And rain upon the page would mean the sky was doing the writing, not me.
I retreat inside, fire the stove, open some books, play some music, and plot the course for an early trip to bed.
Up around six a.m., walking into the dark, into the mist. Fine particles of water, droplets, in my headlamp beam. A sheen of dewy mist on everything green. Certain clumps of grass looking metallic, silver-green, the turf of some other dimension revealed here only by this rare foggy dew, in the dark, in headlamp light, near the end of the year.
Putting away, tidying up, packing. Many little things. Breaking my indoor camp.
Goes away my bite guard, into my backpack, after a rinse. Goes away a small battery charger, which I use to recharge headlamp AAAs, into the front pocket of a vest I leave here but rarely use.
Doug’s chair goes back into the main bedroom aka the scary room. I lugged this chair down to the fire yesterday but then the rain began. It’s a reclining, zero-gravity chair that Farm Party stalwart Doug knowingly left behind one year after a fall Farm Party. I’ve been using it ever since. I often set it up in the kitchen, reclining a little as I enjoy the warmth of the stove-heated room. Goes away the bedpan, after dumping it outside, giving it a rinse.
Coffee break. I heat up water in the electric kettle then open an instant coffee packet, emptying that into a travel coffee mug. Public radio from CoMo. All the items I need to put away call for my attention. The water begins to sizzle and pop.
Unlock the car. Keys on top of the fridge.
Goes into the car: a wine bottle; a plastic tonic water bottle doing a second act as a whiskey flask; and, two empty cans of ale.
A small electric heater goes back into the main bedroom. I stash it there behind a chair. I used the heater for an hour or two, on low, in the kitchen when I came back into the house after yesterday’s rain began. It was cold in the kitchen and I didn’t want to start the stove yet.
Two packets of green tea go into the coffee tin. One of two headlamps goes into a side pocket of my bookbag. The other headlamp I will use to look for wasps wintering in the pump room, and to assist in the sweeping process, to help me see the dirt. A pair of reading glasses I leave here. They go back into their case and I leave them on the table in the penultimate bedroom.
Goes away the small chainsaw, which I did not use. Whether I use it or not, I bring it in from the car to the house lest a tramp come by in the dark to have a look in my car, break a window, take a saw, worth a couple hundred bucks. At least to me.
Goes away my ax, which I used to split seasoned stove wood into even smaller, thinner pieces. Because that’s what the stove likes. That’s what makes it bright with flame. Though I’d be remiss if I did not mention that such pieces, while burning hot, also burn quickly. Last night I got distracted, took my focus off of the stove for twenty minutes or half an hour, lost the flame, would’ve had to do a restart. Went to bed instead.
Goes away an empty plastic tray that held two mornings’ worth of raspberries. A simple, nutritional breakfast. In raspberries are a surprising amount of vitamin C and fiber and smaller amounts of vitamin B6, magnesium, iron, and calcium.
Goes away a pack of cigarettes. I smoked two and a half cigs over the last two nights. They are a terrible pleasure. In a short story I read recently, the main character referred to them as “coffin nails.” I think about that but I find them useful as fuel to stay awake. They keep me occupied while I talk to myself, and they are a good reason to be outside. Really, I am usually hoping that cigarettes will deliver me some magic inspiration, which they never do but I remain hopeful.
Go away two empty plastic zip-top bags, which recently held holiday cookies baked by my wife and by my mother. My dessert each of the last two nights. Goes away a battery pack charger I use to charge my phone at night so I can keep it close to me, because there is no outlet by the bed.
Talked to Kevin Carmack about weather, fire, the damp, crippled cows, antibiotics, the mandatory 45-day hold on cattle after an antibiotics dosing, hay vs. silage, fescue, brome, clover (red and white), lespedeza, and red-topped timothy. Kevin is the cattle farmer who rents the pasture on this property. As long as he doesn’t have anyone else with him, he is happy to shoot the shit for a few minutes. He comes by to check on the cattle. Here and then further on down the road.
Go away my old boots, the pair I leave here, which fit me perfectly but are now run-down, their soles melted and mangled because I inadvertently stepped on some hot coals while wearing them. More than once, it seems. I leave them in the main bedroom, atop the disc golf basket in there, a perch from which they might stay free of mice and spiders.
Goes away an empty, rinsed soup can and lid. Amy’s French Vegetable, dumped out and nuked in a blood-donor-freebie ceramic mug. Tasty soup. Beans and mushrooms and spices. I had started to heat the soup up last night on the warming shelf atop the wood stove but I didn’t really need to eat it. I had already eaten salad and snacks and cookies. So the soup became part of my breakfast twelve hours later.
Leaving two packets of instant oatmeal.
Goes away dirty clothes, a fitted sheet, a pillowcase, and a neck pillow. All to be washed.
Goes away an AM/FM radio with aux cord and 9-pin iPhone adapter still attached.
Goes away a hardcover copy of David Berman’s Actual Air. It is now, apparently, back in print. I have a paperback copy, which is worth a little bit of money, or it was. Its price spiked after David hung himself at age 52 in 2019. The publisher, Drag City Books, went out of business years ago, meaning more copies of the book would not be made. Now Drag City Books is back, pumping out hardcover copies of the book. This makes me curious. Who revived the publisher? Could it have been Berman’s nemesis, his own father, Richard Berman, a renowned DC lobbyist, doing one last favor for his uber-talented, gone-too-soon son?
I texted Phil last night. My friend of twenty-something years. I could not muster the resolve to call him. I asked him by text if he was up for talking. He did not reply. He’s got a tumor in his throat and I haven’t talked to him in a couple of months. The last time I talked to him was from right here in the Farmhouse. We only talked for a short, short while. The tumor makes it difficult and painful for him to speak. I told him that I loved him. There wasn’t much else to say.
Time now to clean out the stove. Last night’s ashes, what’s left of Wednesday, of the wood that lit it, kept it warm. O Wednesday, will you come back next week? Wednesday says, Yes, yes I will, as long as I don’t have anything else planned that day, let me check my schedule.
Cleaning the cutting board, wiping the countertops with split lemons.
A kingfisher cries out with a rattle from the creekbed down below. Winter rains move the creek downstream, fish swim again after last fall’s drought. The kingfisher dives into a chalky blue pool, emerging fed and clean.
Goes away split wood I brought into the house last night but did not burn. The wood could stay inside until next time, in the ash bucket at the foot of the stove. But I know that when I’m here next I’ll want an empty bucket with which to fill with shards, slivers, and other kindling to start the fire anew.
Goes away the cardboard box I call the house box. As I prep for an upcoming trip to Farm I look through this box with six divided compartments; an old liquor box repurposed. It holds things I might want for use inside the house. Once I’ve got it in the house, and I’ve taken out what I need to take out, I either take the box out to the car, to get it out of the way, or I let it hang around, to receive whatever I might take out of the house on the current trip either because I don’t want it here anymore or as a reminder to stock up again for next time. I might add an empty bottle, a torn wrapper, or a note to myself. As I write about the box with one hand I hold the box snug in my other arm, against my hip, leaning in such a way, as if what I held against my hip were not a box but a baby.
Goes away the black enamel metal cup, which property co-owner Patrick Vaughan once said he assumed was mine but it is not. I don’t know where the cup came from. As far as I know, it was always here. I use it almost every time I’m in the house. Coffee, water, wine. I like to think the cup once was Harry’s, the friend of the family who played this role before I did. Harry Bueltman, deceased a couple years back. He was friends with Garvin Lee, Patrick’s grandfather. As John Helm tells me—Helm being another of Garvin’s grandsons—Harry was an easygoing guy who liked to stay in the house and drink coffee while his friends and family were out hunting. Maybe he drank his coffee out of this cup. Harry, the old-timer. I never met him but I’ve gotten to know him a little bit here, over the years.
There’s not much else for me to do at this point. Floss, brush my teeth, sweep, turn the water off.
Goes away two rucksacks full of bedding, to the car. Time to empty the kettles, to close the stove’s flue, to empty the hand held vac that I use to vanish the piles of dirt I sweep together.
The water’s off, the pipes are bled. I’ve got buckets positioned to catch leaks, if any remain.
Time to put the tarp up over the window, to roll the stone into place. Time to go away.
Late December 2021