Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sunshine at my back

Recovery of a window in my dining room has had more impact than I ever could have expected. The light is different throughout the entire ground floor, all four rooms in this simple and traditional Vermont farmhouse.

As I sit in my new most favorite place, I can see out windows in all four directions. First, I imagine eyes in the back of my head, looking across the porch to the dawn. To my left are two majestic maple trees and a wide expanse of pasture, the old dairy barn in the foreground. Ahead, I glimpse the crabapple, which seems to bloom only one year in three, periodic victim to harsh Vermont winters. Beyond the crabapple, the forsythia, even more sensitive, and beyond that, the valley stretches down to the village. To my right, perhaps the most fraught, a single small window looks to the maple grove and the northern wind. Vermont farmers knew how to build, windows few and small to the north, many and expansive to the south.

I could sit in this spot for years, analyzing portfolios and answering correspondence. Puppies at my feet. A pot of tea at the ready. Taking breaks to run to the raspberry patch or the vegetable garden. Perhaps I’ll get a chicken or a few.

The downside of my new profession is that I must, must, must make calls to people I know little or not at all. If the payoff is sitting with the sun at my back and German Shepherds on my feet, I’ll hit that bid all day long.

Monday, August 18, 2008

German Shepherds on my feet

As I spend more time working from home, my contentment in this house grows. I find myself tweaking furniture placement, finishing up construction projects, opening the curtains wider to better enjoy the views. To the east and south, the Nebraskas lie beyond wide vistas of pasture, forest and valley. Out back, old Mr. Trombley’s prized maple grove still stands. The trees are enormous and very old. Nobody taps them now, and every now and then one falls. Except for half a dozen, they stand on my neighbor’s land, and none is near enough to threaten my cozy nest. There is only one window to the back, not a very large one, the winds of winter coming from that direction, but I can see the maple grove from here.

My dining room, where I now sit and type, is all new since yesterday, the culmination of a project to remove a clumsily placed closet and put in its place my large breakfront cabinet, formerly in front of a window. There are now three windows in this room, and the entry way is more graceful. From the porch, you have a welcoming view right into the dining room, or at least it is welcoming to those already acquainted with my two German Shepherds. And from the dining room, you can see out to the porch, orange and gold nasturtiums perched all around the rail. Sunrise happens through this window, and before today I had never seen it save from the porch.

I’m working through what it means to work from home. Do I have my office-office and my home-office in the same space? Will I really allow clients into my home? Do I try to create an upstairs space that is psychically extra-personal? How do I feel about cluttering the dining room with laptop and files? All of these are good and intriguing questions. In the winter, this room with its three windows, two interior doors and one exterior door may be chilly, but right now I sit with the dawn at my back, views to the outdoors on every side, and toasty German Shepherds on my feet.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

August morning

On Sunday, my friend shook his head sadly. He travels throughout the region, and already he was seeing leaves—just a few—changing on the trees at elevation. Surely, I rejoined, it must be only stressed trees. We were only a few days into August. And we scarcely feel we have had a summer, so much rain have we had this year.

Ten inches one week. The farmers despair of their hay. Children are whining, and so are adults. We are missing the opportunity to soak our bones in intense summer sunshine, to pack away remembrance of warmth during the proverbial two weeks of Vermont summer. We specially need warmth now, as we face winter with unprecedented fuel prices.

Today as I walked to my car, I could no longer deny the signs. Not one colored leaf, but many. True, I don’t see them in the branches yet, but all over the front lawn lies confetti of red and gold. August 7. Usually, we get another week or even two before a certain chill turns the air, and we know. Winter is on the way.

Life will speed up now. There are kids to get ready for school, insulation to wrap around pipes, wood to stack, vegetables to freeze. Once we see those first leaves and feel that first chill, it’s time to get busy.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Counting blessings

Much to my surprise, the evening news played “Happy Birthday.” After a moment’s surprise that my quiet celebration had national coverage, I realized that Barack Obama shares my birthday.

In accordance with long-standing tradition, I took the day off. I believe my birthday should be a holiday. After many years of more success than error, I am careful what I choose to do with the day. The most memorable birthdays are the least planned, but the most carefully engaged. My birthday is a day when I am likely to get in the car, head for the bottom of the driveway and only then decide which way to turn. Sometimes I get promises for my birthday; I still owe myself a kayaking lesson from last year. And one day I will collect.

Today we started with a good, long swim in the Little River. The dogs splashed, swam and attempted to herd several Golden Retrievers and one prim, immaculate little pit bull girl. It was raining, sure, but after rain every single day in July—ten inches last week—we couldn’t wait any longer for swimming. Last year we went swimming twice a day.

A nice lunch, a glass of wine, a nap, and a trip to the raspberry patch took up most of the afternoon. A few household chores. I may be almost to the end of the laundry backlog. A thought of cutting some grass in the afternoon, but the mower refused, and I took it as a sign. A good book. A short walk down to see Cassie’s best friend. Most of all, a staunch refusal to think about messy details of life and work. Today is not a day for worry but a day to savor all my blessings.

Dinner over, I stepped out to consider the pile of wood that still needs to be thrown into the cellar. The work is soothing, even meditative, but I am careful not to overdo. I threw a few logs down cellar, then stood still for a moment, enjoying the rainbow over Mount Elmore.

Across from my house are two spots rainbows are almost certain to occur after a bit of rain and the sidewise slant of Vermont light. Sometimes the two are connected by one gigantic bow, often double, even triple rows of color. They are stunning, gorgeous, predictable, yet wholly a gift, just perfect for a watchful birthday girl counting her blessings.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Stacking wood

The decision to purchase more wood is easy. Finding a seller is easy. Then starts the hard work of getting the wood in.

Over the last two years, mostly last year as my confidence in the wood furnace improved, I burned almost two cords of wood, primarily on weekends. Circumstances have altered, and I now expect to be working locally two to three days a week, so I can burn more wood. Certainly economics would suggest more wood and less oil. So I ordered six cords.

Mind you, it took me months to get the last wood into the cellar. The delivered pile was just slightly downhill from the wood chute, requiring an intimate relationship with the wheel barrow. Load, move, drop into cellar, move, stack.

This year’s deliveries are a little closer, and the outside work is easier. Still, it’s drop, move, stack. Then do it again. And again. Great exercise—aerobics and weight lifting all in one. And the work is highly, highly meditative. Just what I need as long as I’m careful not to overstrain my fifty-ish un-athletic back and knees.

My professional changes are much the same. It’s easy to make the decision to go from a marketing role to a sales and business advisory role. It’s easy to make lists of people to call, and I have a strong enough network of past relationships that many people will do me the courtesy of seeing me. Just like it’s easy to order the wood. The challenge will be to see if I can keep doing the daily lifting.

By the time winter closes in, I should have some idea if I can stay the course. Sure hope my wood is in by then.