Monday, January 4, 2010
I Could Use Another Week Off
Not that I'm complaining, mind. I close my business between Christmas and the new year, which most people don't have the luxury of doing. I traditionally have taken this time for reflection, something that winter inspires me to do. I have often driven up the California coast to Big Sur or places further north. Camping trips, stays at lodges, cheap motels, whatever. A chance to get out of SoCal where the weather refuses to recognize winter as a valid season, an oversight I have taken issue with throughout my life.
Here in Bend, I don't feel that need to seek signs of winter, it's all around us. Winter solstice is deeper here than down south. The place synchronizes with what my internal clock was missing.
So this time I was able to stay home.
New Year's Eve is also Mrs Elliott's and my anniversary, a crafty bit of planning which gives us an automatic excuse to avoid NYE parties. Who in our age bracket stays up to midnight? Willingly, I mean. We went out for dinner at Ariana restaurant on Galveston (the paired wines were a bit timid, in my opinion, but the food was exceptionally delicious).
But by the end of New Years Day I found myself in a brown study after the Ducks lost to Ohio. Such moroseness could only be lifted by puttering around the house.
The old man puttered constantly. Except for a dry spell when he and Mom lived in a mobile home place in Goleta, Calif., where he didn't have a garage or a workshop, he was always doing something. He restored a couple antique British sports car, he fixed various plumbing problems, and built things. His three sons are all putterers, too. I can't speak for the other two, but I've always had an abiding distrust of men who didn't own tools, who didn't know how a flashlight works, whose garages actually held cars...and not table saws and an air compressor.
During this break, I figured out how to use this secondhand Kirby vacuum cleaner and all its myriad attachments (actually a solidly-built piece of equipment); used it to shampoo the living room carpet after that KPOV party; got Mrs Elliott to help me sort out the mess in the garage after packing the Christmas lights; and I replaced the old basket grate in the upstairs fireplace with a vertical grate and cast iron fireback. The difference in efficiency between the new wood stove insert (w/ blower) downstairs and the upstairs Bronze-age tech fireplace is significant. We can't afford an insert for the upstairs fireplace, but I'm hoping this new setup will improve the fireplace's radiant heat output.
I also swapped out a couple of dodgy circuit breakers in the house's main panel. This I had to do with the breaker panel live, since this house is wired with no way to shut off the power going into the panel -- the nice man at Pacific Power said I could schedule to have them disconnect the entire house at the pole, which is just plain silly for the five minutes that the actual swap needed.
So I just asked Mrs Elliott to stand by in case I made a mistake and got electrocuted.
"What should I do then?" she asked.
I thought about this for a few moments. "Call 9-1-1?"
She looked at me for a beat, sighed, and went back into the house to pack some more Christmas stuff to put away until next year.
All told, it was a pretty good vacation! I didn't have to drive 300 miles for it; and best of all, winter solstice felt real.
Next year, I'd like to join with some folk that celebrate the solstice, to help me find a way to better appreciate the spiritual quality I feel at this time of the year, when the real -- as opposed to calendar -- new year begins.
Still, another week off would be nice right now.