Midwinter Blahs? We've a Checklist for Those
This time of year we struggle with control and chaos. There isn't much we can do about ice in the road, or about the unceasing wind, or no mail on account of weather, mice in the walls, water in the kerosene and it still gets dark early. We want white sugar and coffee, Hershey kisses and buttered toast and rum. We want bacon. We are racked with guilt over the same, brainwashed as we are with some baloney that we should somehow look like movie stars. This isn't seasonal-affective disorder, it's just the end of January, which is nothing compared with the ennui of February and the violence of March. Unless we're lucky, there will be vandalism.
Our mechanisms for exerting control are feeble: We wash the floor, cut trees that lean too close to power lines, do a few push-ups.
For some reason we make lists. I keep hearing about people's lists — all the ways they'll save money this year, the resolutions, the chore list and home repair check-off before summertime brings its own demands, even lists of things they are giving up (good luck with that one).
So, a few thoughts on the occasion of the New Year, and the other (lunar) New Year, sparing us reference to the economy or the price of lobster. Been all around that stuff already. There will be no Matinicus Year-In-Review from me, as 2008 was unceremoniously kicked down the steps with a most forceful and disgusted heave. Let us have, in this year of the hardworking and forward-looking Ox, respite, recuperation, everybody home for supper, safety on the water, all deliveries safe and on time, little use for hospitals, a chicken in every pot and a hockey stick on the airplane. (Just a little act of defiance there.)
If everybody else is making lists, what the heck.
Want to feel good about your actions? Here's a list of some good ideas I've heard recently:
365 Things for 365 Days. This means we put something from the annoyingly cluttered home into a box headed for Goodwill, the yard sale or the dump…every day. Every single day something is chosen, and must move out.
Match that Latte. This means we put money equal to the cost of each cup of fancy take-out coffee or whatever on-the-road, unnecessary refreshments into a jar, and save it up for something important, or donate it to something worthwhile, or both. The idea is also that if we can't afford two, maybe we shouldn't be spending the money on one cup either.
Keeping a Finished List rather than a mere to-do list in the kitchen. Paint the bathroom ceiling and then write it down? Seems odd; just might work, especially for those who live with others.
Thinking of trying the simple island life (hahaha)? Here's a list of what every island (or isolated rural) homeowner ought to collect before they leave the suburbs. You can sell your soccer cleats, your shiny shoes, your roller-blades, your electric stove and your cell phone to pay for this stuff:
Water-finding putty. If you don't know what that is, find out.
A couple of 55 gallons drums and a small transfer pump
Stabil-icers, yak-trax, or similar ice cleats for shoes
A mirror configured for looking up a chimney from a clean-out or stove thimble
WD-40, lock de-icer, and a torch
A hair dryer (no, dear, not for your hair)
A PVC pipe boot-dryer thing (uses very little power, but what a lovely result!)
A 25-pound box of chocolate chips (Rockland Food Service sends quite a few to Matinicus…)
Most of all: a REAL (not a cordless electronic) telephone, that doesn't require household electricity to work.
Want to bellyache? Me too. Let's do it together. Here, a list of what we don't need any more of:
That @#$%* water-loving ethanol gasoline (you can damn near support a goldfish in that stuff)
Reporters and writers who decide ahead of time what it's going to be like out here, no matter the facts
Scared young fellows who make believe they're dangerously ill because they don't want to be a sternman any more (take that up with your captain, dude, but don't freak out the EMTs after dark if you aren't really, uh…)
Rats. Got plenty of them.
Ready to pay a compliment? I offer my personal Best of 2008 list (“gold stars”) You'll have your own:
Sue Winter's almond brickle toffee recipe, which came with a lesson, starting with that melted butter in the iron skillet…
Betsy's 20-year-old Subaru, which will go up hill when nothing else will…
The fact that ice cream is now available on Matinicus, at least in the warmer weather…
Maine Energy of Belfast…it's a pleasure doing business with you, sirs…(more later on that one…)
The Robin R and the Jackie Renee, their captains, deckhands, and dogs. We all thank you. Last summer was a foggy one!
Anna McEnulty's tiramisu, the best in Maine…(Hmmm, there seems a sugary theme here…I guess it's the time of year.)
Do we need to look back after all? OK, but no rough stuff. My “Regrets of 2008” list (or “if I had it to do over…”)
When in the 'Keag Store in South Thomaston the day after Christmas buying a dozen eggs and a case of Budweiser for my brother, when the clerk looked up, not thinking in time to make the comment, “Yeah, we're makin' egg nog.”
When in Johnson's Sporting Goods, and everybody in there seemed to be either from Matinicus, talking about Matinicus, or wearing a “Matinicus Tactical Team” machine gun t-shirt, buying just a humble box of .410 shells. Think of the possibilities.
When driving up Main Street in Rockland last fall and a certain troublemaker of considerable local repute crossed in front of me, I braked quickly for his safety, of course. I was on my way to Herrick's to rent the truck to do the recycling run, and will confess to thinking “I should come back around with that; then it might say in his obituary that he was run over by a garbage truck.”
Recognizing that contentment comes from wanting what you've got, and after a round of visiting other people's homes and making adjustments, I offer my “All the Comforts of Home” gratitude list:
A fire going all the time in the kitchen stove (how do you warm your backside on a hot-water baseboard or a little register in the floor?)
Fresh-ground perked coffee (neither creosote nor dishwater nor raspberry-caramel-surprise)
Whole milk for said coffee (no skim, no soy, no non-dairy plaster dust,)
Big, hand-made beautifully colored mugs to drink it from (just a nice touch,)
Absolutely boiled tea water (as opposed to microwaved,)
Not having to call the fix-it guy because he lives right here,
No water in my kerosene,
Mid-winter days of homebody solitude when I don't even have to brush my hair,
A husband who has a bread recipe from his Danish grandmother and isn't afraid to use it.
List of things people out here have taken on the airplane which the TSA doesn't usually like to see in the passenger cabin:
Cordless drill with the bit in (that one was the funeral director)
Bag containing unknown substance (usually either a bottle of rotgut or the sternman's laundry)
Kukhri (large Nepalese knife also useful as camp ax, thus twice banned)
Turpentine, baseball bat, nun-chuks, meat cleaver, Clorox, Mapp gas torch, wrecking bar, firecrackers, lacrosse stick, large adjustable wrench and, most frightening of all, snow globes. Yes, those are absolutely outlawed, except here.
Blacksmith's tools are not specifically addressed on the list but large hammers, certainly, are a no-no.
Hockey stick (this one still makes me laugh out loud. Imagine trying to hijack an airplane with a hockey stick.
If this comment results in me being on the watch list, hey. I've already been fingerprinted. Twice. That's a subject for another day; let's just say it makes you proud to be an American. That topic would make a good list, too. Peace.
Eva Murray would gladly read your list of good ideas, as long as they don't suggest she go to the gym three times a week, shop for fresh greens at the farmer's market, or order pizza every Saturday while living on Matinicus Island.