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.


  1. From Wikipedia (for what that's worth):

    "Since the [winter solstice] is seen as the reversal of the Sun's ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common and, in cultures using winter solstitially based cyclic calendars, the year as reborn has been celebrated with regard to life-death-rebirth deities or new beginnings such as Hogmanay's redding, a New Year cleaning tradition. In Greek mythology, the gods and goddesses met on the winter and summer solstice, and Hades was permitted on Mount Olympus. Also reversal is another usual theme as in Saturnalia's slave and master reversals. ...

    Even in modern cultures these gatherings are still valued for emotional comfort, having something to look forward to at the darkest time of the year. This is especially the case for populations in the near polar regions of the hemisphere. The depressive psychological effects of winter on individuals and societies are experienced as coldness, tiredness, malaise, and inactivity. This is known as seasonal affective disorder.

    "Also, insufficient sunlight in the short winter days increases the secretion of melatonin in the body, throwing off the circadian rhythm with longer sleep."

    I've always associated the vernal equinox with rebirth. The winter solstice I associate with death. But that's just me.

  2. Maybe winter solstice is when the northern hemisphere gets knocked up with the new year. The Vernal equinox signifies the quickening, and the new year is born shortly thereafter.

    Deciduous trees bud, little critters are born, and the migratory golfer -- with its distinctive collared t-shirt -- returns to Central Oregon to feed at resort restaurant/lounges.

    Ah, life.

  3. Maybe the winter solstice is when Bend gets the clap.

  4. Yeah, that Ma Nature, she's a tramp.


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