FEBRUARY 14, 2016


Happy Valentine's Day to all my Valentines and everyone else. Valentine's Day has been a mixed bag for me much of my life. It is a day of obligation if you happen to be in a situation where the tradition is observed and you better not mess up. It is also my birthday, a day that I privately consider the one day of the year when you shouldn't have to be burdened with obligations. You can see that this could produce conflicts. Fortunately at this point my obligations are mostly taken by one old dog, one old cat, and a passle of birds, along with the occasional Hare and Deer and Turkey. Well, Turkeys are birds too, but they eat as much as the Deer. I turned 77 today and probably for the first time in my life I am feeling my age.


A couple of friends from Grand Rapids drove up today to celebrate with me. We three are the last remnant of an Atari computer club from twenty-five years ago, still going strong, tho the Atari computer has fallen by the wayside. We sat around my new fireplace insert and sipped beverages of choice, went to Mr. Pibs, the local eatery. A good time was had by all and that's about as much celebrating as I can stand. They both agreed that I seem to be living the good life with my plush easy chair recliner in front of the fire.


Well, let's take a look. For the first time since 1946, that is 70 years ago, I am free of Glenn Shores and the golf course. I have been free now for something like a couple of years, more or less, tho it dragged out a while. But I have not been back there since I drove off with my two dogs and cat on the day I was legally required to be gone, and with any luck will not have to see it again this lifetime.


I am living my dream, more or less, sometimes more, sometimes less, on 15 plus acres plus a house that draws accolades and has three rooms I don't use except for the occasional guest, plus a barn. My neighbors are winners, the village half a mile away and the county are, in spite of any flaws, the best kept secrets in MIchigan. I have said this before and I say it again, if I won the lottery, I would be right here for the rest of my life, perhaps with improvements, but as of right now I'm good to go.


Is it all good? Nothing is all good in this school of life, at least according to appearances. At this point in my life I am trying to learn how to lay my burdens down and I'm getting better at it. One of those would be my third marriage which has disintegrated without completely falling apart legally. I figure I've done my part in this deal, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. This is for experts only, please don't try this at home.


A related source of stress this past year has been the local church I chose to attend for a year and a half before it began to collapse with not enough people to sustain life. Much like my marriage, it appears to be closed but refuses to go away. Well, it's all good, it's all opportunity to learn how to do better this time around, and for all practical purposes this time around seems to be the one time to get things as right as possible before the final exam. We'll see.


In the meantime this winter has gone on too long. In reality it has only been something like a month and a half since the snow came to stay, maybe two months, but it seems twice that. Last winter was intense too, but I was going out in it on snowshoes, walking thru my frozen over swamps, taking pictures, breathing the air, taking advantage. This winter I have been hunkered down, sometimes making it all the way out to my barn with my one remaining dog, who looks at me, is that it?


That dog is a month away from being 16, which is pretty old for a dog. My cat is half a year away from being 18, which is pretty old for a cat who spent most of his life out in the back field duking it out. I thought I was taking him to the vet last week in order to bring him home in a body bag, but he got a shot for tapeworm, treatment for ear mites, a toothpaste tube of kitty vitaminnies, and he's good to go for another I don't know how long. Three old guys hanging out together with various complaints and needs and attitudes.


My woodburning fireplace insert has taken over much of my life. I didn't get it until early November and I didn't start to get firewood together until then. That's about a year late. Tonight I'm burning up the last of the Maple branches I hauled in last fall and cut up. There is one big Maple log left but it's buried in snow frozen like concrete until the thaw, likewise with a dead Elm that fell down. There is a week or two of cut and split firewood my neighbor Butch hauled for me from a nearby sawmill before the snow hit. He has kindly offered to loan me firewood from his stash when mine runs out, and I may well take advantage, but I've got to do something this week. Or go back full time to my propane furnace. There's a big Cottonwood that's dying I could cut down, but I don't know if even the branches would burn. I'm guessing there are Syrian refugees who would trade problems with me in a heartbeat.


The weather is supposed to warm up this coming week. Not like daffodil weather, but maybe a break from this past week, which has been the coldest weather of this whole winter. Last night it was so cold I got up at 4:30 to stoke my fire. Life becomes a matter of splitting up rounds and hauling them in to the house fast enough to keep up. I did go out a week or so ago on a day when it got up above freezing and strapped on snowshoes and took my old dog Ralph for a real walk to the back woods for the first time in a month or more. But mostly I've been sitting in front of my fire reading a book and listening to internet radio. Not a bad way to live until your firewood runs out.


So I've saved a lot on propane this winter. I paid ahead, and as it turns out, probably a couple of years ahead, maybe three, with current cheap prices. The propane furnace kicks in when the fire dies down, especially in the early morning before I get up to feed my crying dog and cat and birdies. But the woodstove is carrying the bulk of the load, at least so far. Reality says that it will probably take me three years to break even, maybe more.


There's the cost of the stove, plus the cost of installing it, which cost more than the stove, and I recently scored a Jeep Grand Cherokee with over 300 grand on the speedometer which I intend to use with a wood hauling trailer and give my neighbor, Butch, a break. It's a beater but I doubt if I will put 10,000 miles on it the rest of my life. Still don't have the trailer but I'm working on it. In any case, with the price of propane this year what I'm doing may not make sense unless you are sitting in my big easy chair in front of the fire reading a book and listening to bebop or blues and maybe snoozing off from time to time. My friends today were envious.


Okay, there have been some bumps along the way, but I'm doing good. Nothing to complain about unless you are my cat, who is a chronic complainer. Yes, I would like for some things to resolve, and if you want the truth I wouldn't mind if I didn't have to listen to my cat complaining any more, but I'm responsible for him since I rescued him from the side of the road when he was tiny enough to hold in your hand, and there you go.


I don't like this getting old business, but there you go again, what are you going to do? I can go out and work firewood for a few hours a day when the weather is good, and that's more than a lot of people can do. I'm warm, I'm not hungry, I'm not living in fear, I've got a lot to be grateful for. I'm going to call it good and thank God for it all.