I find myself strangely enervated these days – not depressed; I know well what that feels like. But I feel unmotivated and expectant, waiting for the other shoe to fall. Is it another wave of recession or some attack, or something more personal in the offing? Or just the shorter days, with so much time in darkness? The press of business and emails is so relentless, but ultimately unsatisfying if I don’t feel connected to the projects and the outcomes. And recently, I simply don’t.

From the early autumn when the trees are brilliant flames, dying in October to cheerful russet, to the embers of the last rusty leaves, and now the grey ash of November branches amidst the fire-proof pines – there’s this time every year between putting up the boats and the first snow. Years when these collide are less fun. A pause before winter – good time to get your snow tires on, get the old wood to the front of the pile, tie up the garden, get the screens in, organize the garage, and change the strings on the guitar in the early dark. But truth is, in the daily rush you never do get many of these items crossed off the list, and one day winter comes anyway.

Today – Black Friday – is collision day: sleet and snow piled on the roof all night, but I did not know until it turned to rain early this morning and the slush scraped down the steep tin roof around my dormer and woke me up. Most of the stuff on the shore is done up for winter – hoses drained, mooring chains sunk, docks taken in, boats overturned and tied down to the floats. But not my father’s old scow, Marisco – too big be turned over without a derrick, it remains a wide mouth that collects precipitation – easier to bail than shovel, so I try to get it covered before snowfall, but not this year.

Reprieve – it was above freezing by the time I got down to bail her and all the snow had melted. The regular rhythmic stroke of my arm (Superficial and Deep Back Arm Lines along with the Back Functional Line) on Dad’s old funnel pump is a chance to dream. Of a warmer climate (here, all that stays is dying, and all that lives is getting out) or of an easier life (one of my teachers has just quit in a welter of emotion, and I feel these losses so deeply, no matter how much I can see its inevitability and no matter how much I rise above to see the big picture unfolding as it should). But these are just gleams, I’ll take my chances with my choices. The sea birds are in, and the Old Squaws are out in the river crying their distinctive ‘Owl-omelet’.

It is the season of hunting, and I stroke the pump to an irregular drumbeat of shotguns blasting at the poor ducks along the shore, and 30.06’s thumping away at the poor deer up in the woods. The horses don’t like it, so Quan doesn’t like it. She has been waging war against the yahoos who go up to the orchard – which is posted – after dark and illegally jack-light the deer eating the apples. She calls the sheriff and the game warden, but by the time they arrive out here, the kids are gone, often with a deer across the tailgate. Many of the hunters around here get three or four deer, when the legal limit is one.

But despite the bad manners of a few drunken hunters, and the unsporting driving of the deer – 5 guys walk through the woodlot, chasing the deer into the other 5 waiting with guns along the far edge – the fact remains that this area is poor, and the meat goes around town and feeds a lot of hungry families.

The pump suction begins to rattle, and then squawks at every stroke as the bilge drains. The sere north wind that is already starting to chase the storm will dry out the rest. When it blows itself out, Annie and I will find a warmish quiet morning to nail on a tarp to keep the snow out of her for the winter.

Annie’s at the door of her garage as I walk by, and she asks me to come look at something. I shoulda known that I would get roped in. She lives in the house I grew up in, and I am pretty sure that cellar hasn’t been cleaned in all my sixty years – and today she’s doing it. The lasso is all the stuff she’s finding – a tiny drill press, a copper oil can for the Tin Man, an old wooden locker, full of something (this family? probably books) but we cannot tell what until we get a locksmith. There are boards nearly 2’ wide from the old days, fastened to the limed stone foundation with hand-forged square-cut nails. And lots and lots of dust, debris, and junk to shake your head over as you turn it in your hands. What qualifies as an antique? How much is sentimental value worth? What will I put back on a shelf that will just sit there another 50 years?

After my initial reluctance, I enter into her spirit, throwing things up the bulkhead with abandon, and not stopping until everything was settled in a new place, and the light was fading. I find myself in a new mood, despite the hours of working stooped and the bitter taste of the dust scratching my throat. All I needed was some focused physical work. My work life has become more and more abstract – from hands-on practitioner to dancing teacher to sedentary director – so I need this decrepit homestead to remember the old days and the constant labor necessary to survive here. What a body needs: love and work, that’s all. Actually, a little food and drink would be nice too, so I toddle off home for a little something, dirty but renewed and at peace.

One Response to “Enervated”

  1. julianaotter Says:

    Nice: “What a body needs: love and work, that’s all. “

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