Life In Progress

I will not confuse my career with my life.

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Crunchy snow

It’s frustrating. This winter, I discovered a past time that amuses me greatly: making snow sculpture. Just a budding snow sculptor, I have made only three entities: the Snow Goddess and her consort and the Snow Buffoon. But each of these have felt like real beings. Well, real in the sense that they exude personality like crazy. Parts of my personality? Probably, yes.

The frustrating part is that our snow this year has been mostly of the powdery persuasion. I’m sure it’s been great for skiers and it’s been mostly a breeze to shovel. But it’s not been conducive to packing and shaping. I couldn’t even make a simple snowball this afternoon. My third snow person, the Snow Buffoon, stands solitary sentry in front of the goat barn. I know he wants company. Tomorrow, rain will drip down his rather extravagant nose and he will melt.

Thankfully, there’s always Photoshop for when raw materials are reluctant to cooperate. Making a mandala always brings a surprising depth to the subject; almost always some kind of spooky face emerges. In this case, the face was spooky enough to begin with and the resulting mandala makes me just a little queasy to peer at closely.

Winter’s got a way to go here in Maine. In past years, we’ve gotten significant snowfall during the month of March. I don’t want to make any enemies, however I hereby voice my humble petition to the forces of nature for some nice, heavy, sculpture-friendly precipitation.

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The Snow Buffoon

Unlike my high expectations, the big Friday storm dumped nearly a foot of non-snowman-quality snow. Driving in it was a wet mess. Shoveling it practically dislocated my left arm from its socket. So, naturally, I was psyched for a little outdoor snow sculpting today: threw on my jeans, fleeces, gaiters and snow shoes and clomped excitedly down the yard to my formerly imposing snow friends (reduced to spindles by now) to investigate the packing characteristics of the fresh white stuff.

Dammit. The snow just wouldn’t hold together enough to repair the Snow Goddess‘ honeycomb neck. Her head snapped off as I tamped in additional snow to reinforce it. After heaving her icy spike of a  head into the yard, I accepted the Hefeweisen that my husband Will brought for me (which improved my mood immensely.)  I reconnoitered.

We clomped north across the yard to the Goat Barn. Sadly, no goats inhabit the Goat Barn these days, but that’s a story for another day. Will brought his snow rake along and scraped down the heavy snow he could reach on the barn’s porch roof. Hmmm: This snow seemed a little more cohesive. Not the best snowman snow, but it’ll do in a pinch. I started shaping, nothing in particular. Then I noticed the direction. A decidedly dorky head and shoulders emerged from the roof snow. Exhibiting a slightly medieval aura, this newest figure cast a decidedly stubborn profile.

The Snow Buffoon must be my inner village idiot. God help me if he’s an expression of a past life! Spit was utilized to keep his nostril snow in form, so I guess he is partly me now. I’m trying to ignore the plaintive voice in my head: I believe he’s afraid to guard the goat barn alone in the dark; he’s so close to the Mountain Division Trail with all its roaring snow machines. Can’t blame him, the snowmobile exhaust alone is probably coating him with dirt.

Tomorrow afternoon, I will conjure a friendly companion for him. Maybe something with eyes to keep watch in the dark tomorrow night. They will likely only last until Monday, when the forecast calls for 1 to 2 inches of …rain.

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Painted fire

Chitra: Make. It. Warm. Now.

“Words are only painted fire; a look is the fire itself.” — Mark Twain

This morning, the house was cold. The boiler was just about to trigger on. I put the kettle on to make tea and realized our girl cat, Chitra was crouching on the kitchen rug glaring at me reproachfully. She darted away toward the living room when I approached to pet her. I followed. There was a faint glow at the hearth, really just a few glowing coals from the fire Will started when he got up this morning.

With our earlier supply of maple tucked in the barn, I could revive a pile of coals like that with a stick or two and a good log. Or maybe just the log. But we’re down to that stash of punky yellow poplar that we avoided burning last year. It had been stacked in the woods too long. (Seasoning — right…) The logs look good but they don’t make for a satisfying burn. I must have picked up one of those yellow poplar logs this morning, because for about 20 minutes all I succeeded in making was a copious amount of billowing smoke. I poked and rearranged and was generously rewarded with a face full of smoke. Then flames finally leapt up. Ah, here we go.

After another 20 minutes I realized the cat was still glaring at me. Fire. Not. Hot.

Crap. Tending the fire this morning has been a struggle. At this point in the winter, it should not be too difficult for me to keep a fire going. Not that we burn wood every day, but I have assisted with keeping quite a few fires going this season. I’ll admit, there is a knack to it, but it’s not exactly rocket science. However, to get a good burn, you do need quality fuel. We’re down to the second-quality section of what is stored in the barn.

A couple of weeks ago, I went out to the Mother Lode woodpile behind the spruces to probe for some more of that maple. I brushed off the crusted snow and removed a few loose ice-covered logs from the top layer. I grabbed ahold of a tempting log. Stuck tight. The entire huge pile seems hopelessly fused together with ice. After we got the barn filled with as much wood as we had room for, the thought occurred to me to tarp the woodpiles outside. Yes, it did. Did I act on that thought? Of course not, the barn was chock full of dry wood! We couldn’t possibly burn all of that! Brilliant.

So, where’s Chitra right now? She’s curled up in the bright winter sun on the dining room rug. Where it’s warm. Maybe I’ll put just one more log on before lunch, trip the thermostat and abandon the living room for the sunny side of the house.

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Snow So Sublime

"Victoria and Albert" in their embarrassing state of dishabille.

The stately couple continues to sublimate. Strong sun and high winds for several days have eroded and evaporated them wickedly. The Queen Victoria figure still retains a glimmer of her former curvaceous glory. Her unfortunate consort, who was not finished except for his bald head and Princess Leia earmuffs, disintegrates slowly beside her, stoically holding space for his Queen.

2″ to 4″ of snow are forecast for tomorrow — not exactly a plowable storm, but after I shovel, I will suit up for a little strategic backyard snow operation. There must be something I can do to improve the view from the kitchen until the sun melts the snow piles where the bulbs are planted. Winter still rules in Maine for the foreseeable future.

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More disturbing snow people

As I watched my strange snow creations in the backyard sublimate over the past few days, I realized I had to let them go. Yes, the snow seems like good packing snow again but do I really want to venture out into wild turkey country and plump up the snow bosoms? (The turkey shit that is uncovered as the deep snow melts is unspeakable.) Not so much.

To mourn the irreparable changes in the goddess and her consort, I started looking at photos of other snow families I have created. Last year, all I made were small families. The above photo is a disturbing rendition with a filtered face I snagged from a daguerrotype. These snow peeps look spooky, grumpy and cranky… me, me and me. (I was listening to Norah Jones while I made this composite, ha!) This year, I’ve made several actual snow families of various sizes. Some of them had cool icicles spiking straight up out of their heads.  Some had bottle cap hats and the snow was so dry I had to use spit to anchor their heads onto their torsos. And finally, just like all snow creatures, they either melted or just slowly disintegrated into debris.

Tomorrow I’ll digitally document the decline of the busty snow goddess and her bald partner. Snow is forecast for Monday: there will be a bit more winter to enjoy. Who knows? If the snow packs, this could be a case for reincarnation.

Discarded snow person limbs litter the bench. Check out the drooping orange "carrot" toothpick that once served as a nose...

Icy Spire Choir.

These three were stumbling into the side of the house in the throes of their altercation. Can spring be far with action like this going on?