Friday, December 21, 2007

Using the right tool helps

Cool, drippy (40-ish)

Last spring, when I put up the Nature Trail signs, I had the crappiest day ever. When I tried to attach the two-by-four supports to the four-by-four posts, I stripped every single screw, and couldn’t get them to go in or out; I thus left most of the screws halfway, looking mighty sorry. Then I tried to put the signs on using Liquid Nails, and contrary to the directions on the can, it just didn’t work. I held them on for twenty minutes each, and finally they stayed, but I was disappointed. Disappointed? I was pissed. I didn’t have much time to make it work, and it was really frustrating. I couldn’t believe this Liquid Nails stuff was such crap. I had bought two tubes, and I used up the first tube of the junk on the first eleven signs. When I got to the twelfth sign, and opened up the new tube, I found a completely different substance inside. It turned out the tube had been mislabeled, and I had tried to join wood and plastic using caulk. Yeah. And I had been using deck screws, which had a square Phillips head top, and tried to attach them using a regular Phillips bit. Sigh.

So today, when I walked around to the signs with new screws and the correct drill bit, I felt acutely the usefulness of knowing what you’re doing. Drilling the new screws in took almost no time, and it was satisfying, too.

A lot of people, myself included, think it’s easy to learn how to build stuff—you just have to have the right “For dummies” book. But it’s not that easy. You have to know what a deck screw head looks like, and you have to know what Liquid Nails looks like, or you have an ugly set of circumstances.

That’s why I’m proud of this fence.

Woo hoo for vacation!

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Cool, drippy (mid-30s)

Today I was given the very exciting task of walking around camp to inventory paper towel dispensers. I know, it’s a glamorous job. But all sarcasm aside, it’s the kind of thing I really enjoy: I made a list (I love lists), and I put it on a clipboard, and I just walked around camp, taking stock of things, paper towel and otherwise. It was a beautiful day, alternating tiny bits of sun with really dark about-to-rain skies, and I tramped through lots of puddles and muddy trails to get around.

One thing I noticed, as I strolled from building to building, was the smells. I swear the smells at this camp are stronger than anywhere else, and each building has its own unique set of nasal mysteries. I’m not going to sugar-coat this; these aren’t all good smells. In fact, most of them aren’t good. They’re just distinct, and that’s what I find so fascinating.
  • Slanty smells like bacon.
  • Guards, today, smelled like poop. It smelled so strong I could barely stand to be in there. The whole building was like a giant fart cloud. When I came back with Carlo a few hours later to check it out, it had ceased to smell. I blame sewer gas.
  • Cooks’ Cabin smells like this air freshener that’s been plugged into the bathroom wall for a few years. It smells nice, and clean, despite the fact that you don’t want to like those junky air freshener things.
  • HOH smells like stale plastic, guano, and antiseptic. Of all the building smells, I think this is my least favorite.
  • The walk-in cooler has an acrid, unpleasant smell, as if the chemicals are off and have been for twenty years.
  • The Stink Shack smells almost purely of rat pee and poo, mixed with a few hazardous chemicals.
  • A-Frame smells of human pee, and also of old plastic-y building materials that can’t be good for you.
  • Ginny’s has a strong smell of appliances.
And that’s today’s report. Sorry it’s not more fascinating; I’m coming down with a cold (ah, the irony of writing about smells) and my mind is full of mucus.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Cool, rainy (40-ish)

Evenings in Slanty are settling into a pattern. I putter around, talk to Marc, set up the space heater in the bathroom, check the shower for those bizarre green spiders, and then hop in to get clean. Showered, I start dinner, build a fire, work on little projects, and eat. I’ve been making little Douglas-fir sachets, and knitting Marc’s hat. It’s pretty clichéd, making sachets and knitting. Huh. Then I do some yoga, write (as in now), do dishes, floss and brush, call Marc, and go to bed. It’s that simple.

During the past few days I’ve been switching it up a little, and making Smores to keep myself in the camp spirit. They haven’t been too authentic; I don’t really care for graham crackers, so I’ve left them out, and I’m now just toasting the marshmallow, with the piece of chocolate wedged inside to make it nice and melty. This little combination tastes great, and is fun, except that I’ve been toasting the stupid things on a butter knife. Yes, a butter knife. I don’t have a roasting stick, and when night rolls around the last thing I want to do is walk outside into the darkness, under the pouring rain, to find a pretty roasting stick.

I’ve thus confirmed a nasty suspicion that roasting sticks were created for a reason: The end of a butter knife is too close to the fire.

Roasting sticks aside… I originally got the chocolate and marshmallows thinking it might be fun to have people over for Smores. That might still be true. And I have the feeling I do a lot of things for reasons like that: Maybe that will impress someone someday. Or maybe that will be fun for someone someday. And so, when I pulled out the Smore-makin’s two nights ago, it felt weird. Making Smores by yourself feels like watching a movie by yourself, or eating by yourself at a restaurant: Smores are a social food. When you make a Smore by yourself, it’s simultaneously bewildering and liberating. It’s bewildering because you realize you’re alone for another night in the woods, and in all likelihood, you’re never going to have people over for Smores. It’s liberating because you realize you’re alone for another night in the woods, and you can have this Smore moment all to yourself.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bird neighbors

Sometimes I stand at Slanty’s front door, to watch for traffic on the road or get reception on my phone. And some of these times, I happen upon a little bird party going on outside. They come in packs, ten or so tiny little birds hopping around just past my door. They must not be able to see me, because they don’t seem at all alarmed.

They’re little things, maybe two or three inches long, and mostly brown. Their heads are striped yellow and black, and they look both spirited and dignified for it.

At first I usually see just one or two, and then I notice they’re all over the place. One’s hopping the branches of the Western red-cedar. Another is poking at the bottom of a swordfern. A few are darting around the oxalis, which is their same height. All in all, they’re pretty cute, and they remind me how much I like being able to look out my front door and see wild little things.

No, I didn’t get to that toilet today. And that’s just fine with me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

One toilet remains

Cool, drippy (mid 30s)

Today I set out with a new mindset about this toilet ladling business: This was a new day, a new week—a chance to finish the stupid ladling and sponging of toilets, a chance to move on, if only I plugged through the remaining ones.

So plug through I did. I drilled, ladled, sponged, and poured like a pro. And then I drove up to the last unit in camp and tackled its three toilets. I finished two, and opened the last toilet—the very last toilet in camp—to find a dried-up, crusty clump of paper towels and poop.

At this point a moral argument kicked off in my head. And when you spend a lot of time alone in the woods, certain clichés, like that of the angel and devil on one’s shoulders, seem to become more relevant. Maybe it’s because it’s as if they’re actual people, and sometimes, when you find a toilet full of poop, you’d like to have someone to talk to. Anyway, the devil whispered, Just pour in some antifreeze. The toilet’s all dry; the water’s been soaked up by the poop and the paper; all you need to do is pour antifreeze and forget about it. The angel was appalled. And leave poop in the toilet all winter? Seriously, no way, it said, you’ve got to get in there and clean it all out. To be frank, I wasn’t a big fan of either option. I marched outside and got a stick, and started chipping away at it, but the stick was too soft inside, and it broke. So I found a leaky old bucket, and filled it with water, and started bucket-flushing. To my surprise, the toilet flushed just fine, but the clump persisted. I filled and flushed perhaps ten times, and then consulted the moral experts.

Let the water freeze, the devil grinned, the toilet will break, and then you’ll never have to clean up that clump. It was appealing.

No, no, no, the angel protested, pick up the toilet brush and start scrubbing.

What, and have to throw that toilet brush away?

No, wash the brush, then drain the toilet…

It was all too much. In the end, I left the water in the bowl, hoping it would eat away at the clump overnight. We’ll find out tomorrow, in our next installment of The Neverending Story of Toilet Winterization.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Toilets are off

Cool, overcast (low 30s)

Once all the water in camp is off, a tiny part of my job changes: I pee in the woods. I have Slanty to use while I’m not working, but when I’m well away from my little house, I do what anyone else would do, and choose a nice, scenic spot. Having done this for a few years, I know where the nice river views are, and so today, when nature called, I made a beeline for a nice spot behind an ugly building.

While I was peeing, I noticed a little carrot round lying in a pile of leaves a few feet away. It was kind of pretty, actually, this bright little circular root vegetable, contrasted with the decaying leaves. And then I noticed, between the carrot and me, a huge pile of human feces.

I was kind of dumbfounded. My first sense of indignation was at myself—how could you not notice a pile of poop almost right under your own feet? And my second twinge of indignation was toward the excreter, who, oh, I don’t know, maybe could have buried it? And my third indignation was toward the carrot, which somehow made the excrement even grosser.

And then what to do? Should I hop away in the middle of peeing? Should I stop peeing, and move, and start again? I’ve heard that’s bad for your bladder. And seriously, it’s not going to jump off the ground and bite, is it? So I sighed, looked at the river, and kept peeing.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The present

(Cool, overcast—mid 30s)

I spent a lot of time today thinking about the future, as contrasted with the life I’m leading here. Wow, that sounds like I’m talking about the afterlife or something—what I actually mean is, what I’m doing these few months, versus what I hope to do be doing next year. I guess it’s dawning on me that I’m not eager to be done with these sorts of jobs; I want nothing more than to be outside, and here I am! Since I was in high school I’ve dreamt of having a job that paid me to live and work in the woods. What more could I ask for? I walked down to the beach during my lunch break today, and the river had gone down, but the beach was largely quicksand, which made for an exciting visit. Every single day I have the chance to go down to the river and look for otters. Every day I can walk out of my house and be at work. Every night I go to sleep in a still, dark place, next to a dwindling fire. Why could I possibly want to move on?

Call me crazy, but I think it has to do with the fact that I spent the afternoon ladling toilets again. To do this effectively, you have to be on your knees, right in front of the porcelain, and you have to dip this stupid little ladle in there about five billion times, and despite this work—which is actually kind of hard on your back, believe it or not—there’s still a little puddle when you’re done.

And yet I think the ladling isn’t even the reason for moving on. Yeah, it’s tedious, and kind of miserable, but so are a lot of jobs. There’s even something satisfying about it, because it’s physical work, work that is done when it’s done. I’m not bringing my work home, and I’m not unendingly frustrated by it. What it is, more than the ladling, is a need for stability. I don’t mean that in the suburban sense; please don’t accuse me of wanting a minivan; I mean I want some sense of a sustainable future. I love love love this job, but can I do it for ten years? Ten years of getting a new job every three months, and just barely exceeding the minimum wage? Yeah, maybe I could. Do I want to? That’s what I don’t know. And what about twenty years? Thirty?

With the clarity provided by a new paragraph, I can say this: No. I don’t want to work ten years at minimum wage and have to move every three months.

What I don’t get is this: Why do we all have to give up the things we want, sometimes even the things we love most, when we grow up? Maybe we don’t. Maybe these things come in time, and you have to see your life’s possibilities as unpredictable. Maybe whatever career I end up with will allow me to live in the woods, and travel a lot, too. It seems like if you love something, you should stick with it—but, then, maybe you should quit before you stop loving it. Maybe that’s the difference between fond memories and bitterness. It’s all a lot to consider.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Toilet Ladler

Cool, damp (low 30s)

Goodness. You know, sometimes I feel incredibly lucky to work at camp. It’s a place beloved to so many people, and I know a ton of them would bite (literally, probably) at the chance to live at camp and do things to benefit camp all the time. And of course I love my job, and most of the time, it’s amazing and wonderful and even fulfilling.

Today, however, I spent a lot of time in one dark, damp bathroom, trying to drain toilets. Why did I spend so long in there? Well…

First thing this morning, I set about draining toilets. It was going just fine, with that new pumpy thing, until I hit this particular bathroom. Then the pumpy thing stopped. This device usually works like this: As the drill rotates, it rotates a little thing inside this pump. The pump is attached to an intake hose and an outtake (ha ha) hose, and when the thing rotates, water comes in through the intake (from the toilet) and goes out the other one (into a bucket). Needless to say, none of this was happening. I monkeyed with it for awhile, and didn’t get anywhere. I monkeyed some more. I took it apart. I dangled the hoses above my head. I changed the drill’s battery. In short, I tried really hard to fix it. Nothing doing. So I drove to the hardware store, consulted with Carlo on options, and ended up buying a new one of the same thing. I also bought a little siphon hose with a pump, just hoping.

When I brought it back, it worked a charm—EUREKA!—for the first toilet bowl, and then didn’t work again. I got out the siphon, had a good laugh about the complete ineffectiveness of that method, and then sighed. Only one method remained, and it looked like this:

For the next long while, I ladled water out of toilets. I crouched on the floor, getting better acquainted with nasty, damp, dark toilet bowls than anyone could ever want to be. There’s a surprising amount of ladle-fulls of water in a toilet, especially when you get down to the bottom and have to use miniature ladles. After you’ve ladled, you have to get the rest of the water with a sponge, which means dipping your hand into the freezing cold water of the toilet, and squeezing this freezing cold water out, until your hand screams in protest. Mind, this whole time you’re squeezing toilet water, which doesn’t make you feel any better.

All in all, I think I managed three toilets today. Out of… 42. Great! Yee-haw! Awesome. At this rate I’ll only be at this thirteen more days.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Frozen logic puzzle

Cold, dry, overcast (30-ish)

Work today was like a giant logic puzzle in subzero temperature. Carlo and I started shutting down the water in main camp, and just soon enough—it’s mighty cold out there. To shut down the water, you have to understand a complex, unwritten map of camp, the kind of map that’s only pretty to people who really like systems. This map includes hundreds of valves and drains, some metal pipes, some plastic ones, some broken and a little leaky, some stuck in their ways.

I set out with a hand warmer this morning, but I never got up to a satisfactory temperature. This was exacerbated by the amount of time I spent standing around waiting for something to happen. The most exciting part of the day was when we were blowing compressed air into the upper line, and the drinking fountain next to the Stink Shack suddenly spurted a twelve-foot geyser, straight in the air, of steam. It was pretty funny. I watched it go for a few minutes, and that was that. Most of the time I just turned things on and off, and steered as clear of the air compressor as possible, because those things always seem to me like they could explode at any moment.

Toward the end of the afternoon, I started draining water from toilets, using that handy-dandy drill attachment that pumps water out. That’s kind of a fun thing to do, for the first few toilets on which you use it; after that, you could probably do without the process, which requires a sponge and some weird-smelling antifreeze. But that’s okay.

Tonight I had some camp volunteer types over for tea, and we looked at the beautiful aerial photo above my fireplace, and discussed what year it might have been taken, based on camp’s features. The swimming pool isn’t on it, which makes it fairly old, but other than that, nobody’s really been able to say much, beyond just looking at it and thinking how cool it is.

I think I may have to sleep with both space heaters on tonight. Brr.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


(Cold and clear, 30-ish)

I was pulling up a wad of blackberry roots today when a high-school girl walked by, talking to her counselor type, and said, “Hannah? Have you ever heard of those paintball places where guys come and shoot paintball guns at naked ladies?”

It was a delicious moment between these two women. The older one said, “Um, no,” while the nearby boys picked up the subject. But the fact that this girl felt comfortable asking this twenty-something woman was really great. The kids I worked with today ruled the humor department. I came upon the group half an hour later, and one of the guys was saying to the other, “Dude, would you fire a paintball gun at a naked lady? I mean, one who wanted to be fired at?” All the while, they were standing in a mucky creekbed, shoveling silty water out and onto the ground nearby.

Today’s work project was a lot of fun. One group dug up the creek, while another skinned the rails and posts for the fence, and the last one cut down two more trees for fence materials. All of the fence wood is cut now; all it needs is to get completely ready, and then we can put it up. I think we should have it done by next week, with the last service project of the year. After working by myself or with just one other person, it’s awfully nice to have a crew of people, even on the off chance that they’re being a little frustrating.

After the service project, Marc and I walked down to the river. It had been clear all day, but a fog rolled in as the air cooled. The river was higher, and everywhere you stepped on the beach, it was nearly quicksand. I love when the Sandy is like that. We didn’t see any prints, but there were three ducks chilling when we approached.

Now we’re sitting by the fire. We just ate dinner, and it’s lovely to be out here in the calm evening, with the weekend ahead.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Stink Shack

(Cool, drippy—around 40)

Camp was built in many stages, starting in the 20s. I’m sure that in their first years, all of camp’s buildings were beautiful, well-thought-out, and utilitarian. The Stink Shack is no exception. It’s the original maintenance building, and it has gorgeous racks custom-built for axes, hatchets, shovels, cross-cut saws, and the like. It has the beautiful little windows characteristic of camp’s older buildings, and it’s a little, unassuming building, brimming with character.

Now, though, it’s kind of a sad place. You walk in, through a sliding door that doesn’t quite slide right, and the first thing you notice is the stink, a potent mix of chemicals and years' worth of rat urine. The first thing you see is insulation, falling off the ceiling and dangling from the rafters. This insulation is coated in rat turds. The place is piled high with molding, unused stuff, from ancient herbicide to copper toilet parts. This could be fun—all the relics of the past in one building—if it didn’t also feel kind of toxic, and if the building wasn’t intended for current use.

One of my ongoing projects is to clean this little shop. Today I tackled the plumbing corner, sorting sections of pipe, little fittings, and plumber’s putty. I also found a whole bunch of unidentifiable stuff, as usual, and just kind of hung it up wherever. One of the perennial problems with the Stink Shack is that its floor is constantly littered with junk, which may sit there for years, accumulating mold and leaching stuff into the floor. After I cleaned up one particular crate, a fine cream-colored powder was left all over the floor, and I had no idea what it was. It’s that sort of stuff that makes the Stink Shack simultaneously charming and worrisome.

I was sweeping up in this corner, picking up chunks of insulation, when I heard a distinct and awful crunch beneath my foot. I looked down, and saw a little pile of gray; when I picked it up, I discovered it was a dried-up mouse, pictured here. Now, I might have thought this was gross, or I might have thought I would get hanta virus, or I might have lamented the poor little guy’s fate, if this had been the first dessicated rodent I had found in the Stink Shack. But this fellow was not unique; last year, when I’d spend entire days in the Stink Shack, I’d find five or six pruney rodents a day, most of them considerably larger than mice.

And sometimes I’d find rotting ones, especially rats. So here’s my question: What makes some rats rot, whereas some just dry up? The rotting ones still have their beady little eyes, which makes them more forbidding. They all have whiskers, which creeps me out. Does rotting lead to dessication? Hmm.

On a brighter note, a mom and yearling deer were chilling by the Stink Shack while I worked in there; they kept sneaking glances my way, while munching on plants. It was pretty sweet. They cocked their gigantic ears whenever I made the slightest little noise. Hooray for charismatic megafauna! I can go for cute deer over dessicated mice any day.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


(Cool and damp, 45-ish)

I feel like I’m blogging piecemeal, giving these daily thoughts of life out here in the woods, and without any real context. What do I actually do here? Where do I actually live? What are these treehouses I mention? Yeah, there’s a lot to know, and I’m sorry.

But today I want to tell you about my house, Slanty. It has another, more boring name, but I call it Slanty because 1)Marc came up with the name, 2)It has a slanted roof, and 3)It’s not at all level, meaning if you placed a tennis ball on the floor, it would roll to the kitchen sink. I want to tell you about my house because I’ve been spending a lot of time in here. Carlo and I have been working on fixing the ceiling and putting up the walls somebody never finished. Since it gets dark around 4:30 these days, I’ve also been spending a whole lot of evening time in here. Therefore, dear blog, you should know about it.

Slanty is easy to describe, because it has four rooms: A kitchen, a living room, a hallway, and a bathroom. The kitchen and living room rest on stilts, and look out over a leafless, but mossy, big-leaf maple grove. Farther on, evergreen trees join in. The forest slopes down toward the river, which I could see from my windows if we cut down all the trees. One wall of Slanty is almost entirely windows, and the view is captivating: The fog creeps between the trees, and squirrels leap from branch to branch, and I’m pretty sure there’s a cougar living somewhere close by back there, so it’s a pretty exciting area.

I sleep in a corner of the living room, between two banks of windows. The back windows don’t have any curtains, which makes me nervous at night but gleeful during the day. The gray sunlight wakes me up in the mornings, and I prop myself up on my elbow to look outside. The focal point of the living room is a brick fireplace, with an ancient aerial photo of camp on the mantle. Right now I’ve got the mantle decorated with fir boughs, too. The bathroom is ridiculously large for a cabin this size, but that’s okay. It’s better than being too small.

All of that said, Slanty is kind of a wreck. It was built by someone with limited architectural skills, way back in the day, and some walls go five feet between studs. If you walk below the house, you’ll notice the stilts are resting on little concrete pyramids, some of which are being supported by the septic line. As for the septic, no one knows where it goes. The water line on the way in is leaky, seeping dirt into the line. (One has to hope the septic line is not right next to the water line, but around here, you never know.) The bathroom never got finished, so until today, there weren’t walls, and there’s still bare insulation for a ceiling. Icing that cake is the fact that the insulation was put up upside-down.

A space heater is the only source of heat, and it has a loud, high-pitched fan that goes whenever it’s on. Insulation is limited, and the back door has a big crack, so it never really gets warm unless it’s summer. I have another little space heater, which I use to heat the bathroom before I shower, and my bed during the night. The fireplace draws heat out from the house, but I would never begrudge it, because it’s so lovely.

The outside walls of Slanty are rough, dark, ugly wood, which is molding and cracking in many places. Carlo and I nailed up square patches of unmatched wood to keep out the squirrels. A tree fell on the gutter last year, and took out a corner of the building; we haven’t gotten around to fixing it. The front stoop is made of gravel and railroad ties, and gets dripped on constantly; it’s starting to fall in, and it—combined with the ripped front door—is deeply ugly.

But Slanty is beautiful inside, with her wood paneling and her windows, and since I’ve droned on about my house way too long, I’ll leave it there.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Different kinds of work

I was puttering around Slanty this morning when Carlo called, saying we’d been invited to a staff meeting in town. I changed into an outfit that didn’t feature a muddy hoody, and we climbed into the FMT for the long drive downtown. We sauntered into the office a few minutes late, to a group of people politely listening to some suited guy talk about retirement benefits. I don’t intend any offense by this, because I believe the people in that meeting were talented and kind, but meetings are boring. When we got back outside, it was like the weight of all the boredom in the world had been lifted from my shoulders. We walked back out to the FMT, which we had parked downtown with a sprig of Douglas-fir sticking out its tailgate, and a cement pillar dedicated to Samuel Cobb in its bed, and drove back to camp.

After sitting around for a few hours, sanding wood was amazing. We worked on Slanty for a little bit, and then Carlo left for a party. Stacy was still in town, and with Carlo and his family gone, I was alone in camp. I meandered over to the Nature House, where I stripped bark off those red alder poles. It was delightful. My back ached, and the knots were incredibly stubborn, but I worked them for two hours, past quitting time. I only worked on that one rail, because each knot requires a gentle time commitment, but it was delicious to see it turn from rough, knotty bark to pure, just-cut wood, to dark red alder, all with the rain pouring outside. It was so quiet, with everyone gone. With all the changes on the way at camp, and all the uncertainty, it was mighty nice to have two hours in an open-air building, alone with red alder, just working, nothing else, with the rain pouring outside.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Wet wood, tangled yarn, and massive spiders

(Damp, warm—mid-50s)

So here’s something I don’t get: Fire, and where it likes to start. Western Oregon, for example, is a really wet place. The forest acts as a giant sponge, soaking up all possible moisture, and keeping it, even for drier seasons. This place drips for months after the major rains stop. Our forests are so many kinds of green you could make a set of 64 crayons of different greens.

Let’s contrast this with my fireplace here in Slanty: It’s always dry, is made of stone, and was designed to burn wood.

So now, here’s the question: Which of these two places is more likely to burn wood? Examples: A few years ago, a numbskull ranger wanted to burn some old love letters. She did so in a remote campfire pit, in what by all accounts is a giant sponge, and ignited half the state. She didn’t even mean to. In contrast, I’ve spent the past hour trying to ignite five pieces of seasoned wood in my fireplace, and have had little success.

Honestly, I’m not sure why this is. I’ve had a fire every night I’ve been here so far, and they’ve all been small, but roaring affairs, and this one—well, this one just sucks. I started it in hopes of feeling good about the evening, getting to bed early, and being restful. After I lit it, I thought I’d try knitting. I discovered the hat was twisted, and I’d have to start over. I was not pleased, but with a stoic sigh, I started pulling out stitches. A few stitches in, the fire went out, and I came over to tend it, and when I came back, there had been some sort of yarn mutiny, and it was all knotted up in a wad. While I was trying to pull it out, Marc called, but my speakerphone wouldn’t work, and I shouted to him for a few minutes, before realizing the fire was out again. So I came over to the fireplace, and while shouting into the phone, saw one of those hideously large dark spiders I’ve only seen here at camp, crawling around in the fireplace. Marc said he thought it would climb out the chimney, if only the fire was hot enough; this sparked a nerve (I cannot get this fire to light, much less get hot enough to drive out a spider), and the spider crawled toward me. I was navigating the cracks in the brickwork, trying to get a cup over its disgustingly large body, when the smoke detector went off, and Marc said, “What are you doing?” and I considered marching out to the car, in my jammies, and driving home.

Eventually we got off the phone, and I played with yarn for a few more minutes, and now, since I started writing, my fire seems to be cooperating a little.

Today in general was pretty good. We worked on Slanty’s bathroom a little this morning, and then I worked on stripping red alder for new fence materials, and then we started sanding and routing boards for Slanty’s walls. I’m a little sore from the stripping (ha! ha!) so I think I’ll do some yoga before bed. Yes, I think I’ll lie on the floor of this cabin, trying to achieve some sort of meditative state among the gargantuan spiders, wimpy flame, and ridiculous pile of yarn on my bed. Eh.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


My, my, what a worky day. It feels good to be at the end of it, having accomplished some stuff. It feels even better now that I’ve had a shower and I’m getting warm. Today I worked with the wilderness therapy kids, and we tackled the ugly area in front of the nature house (pictured above, in delightful snow!). One team dug post-holes, while another gathered rocks to line the paths, and the other cut down and skinned trees to make a fence. It’s always interesting to work with them, because a few will work really hard and be consistently cheerful, while others drag along, and you have to remind yourself that they’re just high-school kids who got in some sort of trouble—nothing more, nothing less. I guess the thing to remember is they’re not volunteers.

A cold rain, alternating with snow and hail, fell most of the day, but it was beautiful. Fog rolled behind my house and over the meadow, and although it was chilly, it was a perfect day to be outside. We all got caked in mud from carrying rocks, and that mud just got muddier with the rain. I acted sort of as the forewoman of the project, which meant I didn’t do as much hard work as I would normally have, but the project went better, and I was able to help people more. By the end of the afternoon, we had four post-holes dug, several rails, a few posts, and the entire pathway lined with rocks. It already looks a whole lot nicer. It was nice to see something at camp change because of some good solid work.

And now I’m home, lonely no more, eating hazelnuts, excited for the weekend. Woot!