photo by Sheri Dixon

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I'm a Simple Gal, In Many Ways

We used to camp.

We used to camp right here, on the very spot this house is built, back when we first bought the land and before we started going to MD Anderson.

It was easy camping, really, since it's only 3 miles from the old house if something was forgotten we could just run home to get it.

I remember the first campfires here, the first coffee on the camp stove, lying awake listening to the boys breathing next to me in our little tent, stars and moonlight, mists and mornings, the sun crowning over Meadow Hill.

Tent camping, to us, is still preferable to camper camping- closer to outside because camping INside isn't camping, it's just being INside...somewhere other than a house- but our aging bones don't like sleeping on the ground, so our overnights morphed from sleeping on the ground, to sleeping on foam mattresses, to sleeping on camping cots, to saying "Yanno, we may be too damn old for this".

When we built the house the intent was (and still is) to screen in one of the big sides of the wrap-around porch for an old fashioned "sleeping porch" and spare bedroom. There's room enough for my great- grandmother's 4 poster bed, a bedside table, a few chairs, a reading lamp. To that end this porch section has its own door into the house proper for privacy and easy access to the kitchen and bathroom without traipsing through Ward's library and our bedroom. We ran out of building money before building projects and that hasn't been done yet.

I've been ill, actually pretty dang ill with a fever-inducing tummy bug and then worsening of other issues culminating in clutching my chest like Redd Foxx, looking upwards and calling "I'm coming, Elizabeth" (dating myself much?). The 2am reality was not quite as humorous as that, as both Ward and I will attest to but the end result was going to the doctor for a check up and finding out that the twice/thrice daily dosing of ibuprofen for my headaches and bad ankle are starting to eat a hole in my stomach. But I digress.

During the initial phases of my illness, I commandeered Joe's cabin, which has both a/c (since I was running fever and losing fluids that was a concern in our continuing daily 105+ heat) and a bathroom literally 3 steps from the bed. For 2 days the a/c blew past me and the fan blew on me and I slept/was sick/dizzy/pretty much left the world as I know it. During that time Ward, Alec and Joe all tended me, babied me, spoiled me. I spent Tuesday and Wednesday like that.

I got up Thursday morning with most of my initial symptoms abated and able to walk more than 5 steps without the world tipping annoyingly sideways. I went home. Then to work. Stop. I get it. Moving on.

Thursday night I had the alarmingly cardiac-ish symptoms and went to the doctor Friday. Thursday night was spent at home, which has actually been very comfortable once the sun drops below the tree-line on the west side of the house and with box fans pulling in the cooler air.

But it's still cooler outside.

I'd been fretting our lack of screened porchedness- generally and actually even during our May cookout the skeeters flat eat you up out here with the 2 creeks, neighbors' ponds, springs and whatnot but then it hit me-

I haven't had a single skeeter so much as buzz my head all summer long.

Our ecosystem has been so fried by the heat (day 73 as of this writing above 100 degrees since June 1st) and the drought (down several FEET from where we should be by now) that there are no mosquitoes.

Very very bad for crops, livestock, trees, surface water, barn swallows and bats who depend on endless supplies of blood-sucking bugs for sustenance.

But most excellent if you have an unscreened-as-yet sleeping porch.

Last night I camped.

I borrowed Joe's hunting cot. The boys declined to join me even though I reminded them and tempted them with the happy fact that we have other cots every bit as uncomfortable in the barn from our family camping days.

I padded the cot with a big quilt and brought out a light sheet in case I got cold. (Stop snickering- when it's 105+ day after day after day, when the temperature drops below 80- *a 25 degree difference* it's chilly). I brought out my 2 favorite pillows and my current reading book- the porch light is not too bright, not too dim.

And I fell asleep on the cool porch listening to the quiet drone of the boys' tv's, the soft hum of the window fans, the crickets' gentle serenade a welcome change from the high-velocity extreme-voltage cicadas of daylight.

'Round about 2am I felt I was being watched. I could feel breathing in my ear. I opened my eyes and there was a beagle sleeping on my pillow. Wendy stayed right there about half an hour till her own children realized she was gone and we both heard them calling her from under Joe's cabin. Giving me a sad long gaze, she heaved a heavy sigh went back to them.

'Round about 3am a lone owl added his bass to the cricket orchestra.

Off and on I heard Sugarbearmarshmallowdog on patrol up and down the creek, up and down the hill.

At 4am the banty rooster announced morning, quickly followed and over-ridden by the senior roo, the library door opened and Ward came outside. I assured him there was plenty of room on the cot for both of us and he humored me, because he loves me and that's what he does. We snuggled there on the hard cot out on the porch till we both got cold (shup- it was down to the high 70's by then) and we went into the house and our bed where Fizzgig and Smidgeon gave me complete hell for abandoning them all night and also gave me the Stinkeye because my pillow smelled of ANOTHER DOG.

I'm really not all that stiff from the cot, and I slept well in between interruptions- all good interruptions, all things that helped clear my head and lungs of the 2 days in artificial climate conditions. All things that brought back memories of our first nights here, our short but intense history here, our roots already deep here.

I'm more energized than ever to get the porch screened, get the bed up for us and the hammock up for The Boy.

And I'm looking forward to tonight. Maybe I'm not too damn old for this after all...

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