This and That Vol 4 – Mid Winter Musings

This and That Vol 4

Mid Winter Musings

By

Cognitive Dissonance

 

 

Probably the one topic Mrs. Cog and I return to more often than any other is our amazement how so many people who profess awareness and understanding of the coming chaos and hard times remain firmly rooted in their present situation. Despite acknowledging the runaway train barreling down the tracks directly towards them, they do little to nothing to get out of the way.

They know they are dependent upon a failing state for most, if not all, of their needs. Whether it is food, water, sewer, electricity, security, employment, whatever area we wish to examine, they remain tragically dependent upon a failing state to ‘not fail’ in order to continue to provide what the failing state soon will be unable to supply.

The thing is, there is no particular reason we can point towards as the reason for remaining shipwrecked and locked in the winter ice, slowly crushed by the ever thickening, shifting, grinding mass surrounding us.

This is not to say one can escape in totality from the insanity. There remains no ‘new world’ to travel to for a fresh start. Or at least none that is conveniently located within two miles of a grocery store, mall, movie theater, schools, Home Depot and Starbucks.

And therein is the rub and possible the central reason why people simply won’t get off the tracks. The railway we lay upon leads directly to all the conveniences so many of us take for granted that they are no longer wants, but bleeding needs.

We are so thoroughly entangled by and dependent upon our consumer culture that it is unthinkable to voluntarily withdraw from what we believe nurtures and sustain us. We are main-lining our own poison in every way imaginable and it’s killing us softly.

We as a culture and as individuals have made a bargain with the devil and have no sincere or sustained desire to break from it. So we rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic to maintain our emotional and physical comfort, however temporary that may be, and make believe it will all turn out for the best.

For the vast majority of Americans, it is simply unimaginable that the US could fail, either by turning into a back water third world country (aka a shithole banana republic) or turning on its own citizens a la a police state. So we cling to the illusion of the protections of our constitutional rights, even as the last of them are stripped away or trampled underfoot, while speaking bravely of freedom and justice for all.

Of course, not a single one of us believes this holds true for ourselves, only the other guy or gal over there. Those, they and them are always the root of our problems, never me, we or us. And so we frogs remain passively seated in the pot of water, desperately suppressing the instinct to panic and flee, as the chef turns the heat up from insufferably hot to full on boil.

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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I tend to think of mid January as half way thru winter and eagerly look forward to the first signs of spring just around the corner. Unfortunately I’m always disappointed when winter drags on for several more months, followed by the slow dawning of spring.

I’m a Damn Yankee, defined in these parts of Southwestern Virginia as a Yankee who just won’t go home. So it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with the concept of cold and/or snow for six or more months of the year. Born and raised in Southern New England, April showers bringing May flowers was just the way it was.

Up there, temperatures didn’t really warm up until sometime around mid June. And before you knew it, the leaves were beginning to turn by mid to late September. For this Damn Yankee, summer would fall squarely between Independence Day (July 4th) and Labor Day, the so-called workers holiday that falls somewhere within the first week of September.

I moved south(er) in 1998, landing in the suburbs of Washington DC, Northern Virginia to be exact. Suddenly I found myself with almost two extra months of warmth in which to run naked through the trees. Or, when my neighbors complained, two extra months to remain fully (and comfortably) clothed in my shorts and pocket t-shirts.

It’s not as if I actually like the cold. Rather I don’t like the heat and remain comfortable in lower temperatures most fully adapted humanoids would loudly complain is too damn cold. As it turns out Mrs. Cog is one of those humanoids. We have learned to compromise with a household temperature she considers freezing and I feel is way too hot.

When we moved from Northern Virginia, elevation a few hundred feet, to a slightly more southern latitude but 3000 feet up in the clouds (up here we don’t have fog, but something more accurately described as clouds on the ground) we found we had lost a month of warmer weather because of the altitude, but gained less hot and humid weather during the middle of summer. Rarely do we get more than a hand full of days in the 90’s around here.

During winter, while we have our fair share of cold and snow, the frozen wonderland rarely lasts more than a week before melting away, nature’s compensation for our lack of a snowplow or snow thrower. Thankfully our half mile long private road is plowed by a local farmer for what is essentially a pittance.

Two years ago I asked him to make a pass through our round driveway after a foot of snow had fallen, saving me much work and backache. He has since done so after each snowfall to my great relief. I make sure he is compensated for our personal plowing when he finally presents a bill for clearing the community owned private road.

Until my late 30’s I worked outside year round in New England, mostly in residential construction. For me at least, in order to deal with any and all weather conditions I found the best way to acclimate to the cold weather was by wearing the least amount of clothes I could during fall so I was conditioned for winter.

My problem is almost always one of overheating inside my clothing rather than being unable to stay warm. I’m a tall guy with a fair amount of surface area radiating heat and humidity. The fewer clothes I wear the longer I can remain outside…within reason of course. Once you start sweating in cold weather you can never get warm.

This means the temps must get down into the single digits before I pull out the heavy winter coat. Even then the heavy gear is only used when I expect to be working outside for a sustained period of time. Usually I just wear a pocket t-shirt and shorts when visiting the outdoor wood stove furnace to stoke and feed the fire.

Lately as the temperatures dipped well below zero and the winds picked up, I started wearing long pants and a zip up hoodie. Mrs. Cog looks at me like I’m nuts, but has grown accustomed to witnessing the madman exit the house in sub-zero temps dressed like it’s 60 degrees outside. On occasion she will plead with me to at least put on a hat.

It’s not as if I don’t feel the cold, because I do. The difference is I try not to tense up when I’m cold, something I discovered long ago actually makes it much worse. At best I try to ignore it, at worst I think of myself as a screen door and let it pass through me. There is a limit to this technique, one I’ve found I visit more frequently the older I get.

Actually I have a love hate relationship with the colder months of the year. Particularly up here on the mountain, the sky is often an intense blue and crystal clear. With the leaves down and the underbrush mostly gone, the bright clear days create gorgeous long shadows among the trees.

There are a thousand shades of gray, yellow and brown to admire juxtaposed with the deep blue sky and the yellower, more brilliant, sunlight. There are times, when walking among the trees, I will look up and be stunned by the view. In my mind there is nothing more beautiful than the explosion of branches back dropped by a brilliant blue sky along with the golden sun peeking out behind the larger branches or central trunk.

On cold clear nights, a regular occurrence up here, the stars are brilliant points of light, their sparkle never diminished by light pollution. It is so amazingly quiet up here, particularly during the winter months but pretty much year round, that sounds from miles away can be clearly heard and sometimes recognized.

We live on the edge of a ridge that drops off for a quarter of mile to a small river far below. If I walk to the edge I can hear the gurgling of water flowing far below while clearly hearing human voices coming from a (seasonal) hotel several miles away on the next ridge. There are times when I can even understand what they are saying.

With the winter forest floor littered with dry and decaying leaves, a raccoon’s footfall sounds as loud as a bear’s might during the summer. I can’t tell you how many times I froze in my tracks assuming something very large was headed my way, only to discover a ferocious squirrel busy gathering nuts. Nature has a sense of humor and I’m usually the butt of her joke.

With the brush and leaves down and the woods wide open, I enjoy aimless drives around all the local country roads. There’s always something new to discover around the bend or off in the woods that’s usually obscured or totally hidden in the summer by foliage and trees. Just this afternoon I discovered a beautiful log cabin nestled in among a thick stand of maple and oak not 100 feet off the road. It is normally completely invisible during the height of spring and summer green.

In my mind the only other time of year that rivals the depths of winter are those one or two weeks in spring when everything, especially the trees, is blooming. For just a few short days to a week, there are thousands upon thousands of slightly different shades of green on display. Stunning is the only way to describe it, especially if peak green occurs during bright sunny days.

But winters up here tend to be windy. After all, we are precariously perched on the edge of a ridge on top of a mountain. Certainly there are gorgeous sunny days with perfectly still air, where the smoke from the wood stove boiler rises in a nearly perfect column straight up to slowly disperse in the clear cold air. But the norm during the winter months is at least a 3-5 mile per hour breeze and often 10-30 winds. The winter storm winds are even worse.

It is what it is.

I dislike wind, not because it makes the air feel colder, but because I am a tall man and tend to be blown around more than the average person. The bigger the sail, the more force is applied to the sail by the wind. Try standing outside with a two foot square piece of plywood during a windy day. Then grab a four foot square piece and you’ll be amazed by the difference in force applied to you, the holder. The same dynamics apply to body surface area.

Mrs. Cog jokingly says it’s a control issue for me and I tend to agree. I prefer to control where I’m walking and to remain upright as much as possible. If that means I have control issues, I’m guilty as charged. LOL

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As many already know, we live in a log cabin. While I love the look of the wood, both inside and out, tending to the cabin is a maintenance nightmare. The logs need to be sealed on a regular basis, in our case every four years. When we first moved here in 2013 the logs had been neglected for several years. The south and east sides were in tough shape, with the north not that far behind.

After several years of scrambling to seal and caulk the cracks in the logs, then apply two coats of clear sealant (the first coat just soaked in) I have now settled into a routine of doing one side per year. But we also have a large garage and a second outbuilding also constructed of logs, making for lots of work in the spring or fall when the sun isn’t so severe.

Two years ago I built a third outbuilding, not of logs, but still of a type of rough wood siding. The smart move would have been to build it with a maintenance free siding, but aesthetically it would not have fit in with its surroundings.

I applied a coat of stain/sealant to the raw wood as I was constructing it, but it soaked in quickly and the surface remained barely protected. Eighteen months later I got up on the ladder and carefully applied a second coat with a brush to work the sealant into all the little nooks and crannies. This newest building has now been placed in the general staining/sealing rotation that constitutes the never ending cycle of maintenance required by natural wood structures.

Ironically, living in a log cabin with wood/log outbuildings was the last thing I wanted as I approached 60 years of age. My goal was to be as maintenance free as possible during the third trimester of my life. But when Mrs. Cog and I decided the way forward involved more self sufficiency and less dependency upon the system, our new homestead was the compromise that afforded us the best we could find for the price and location we wanted.

Nearly five years later we have no regrets.

01/15/2018

Cognitive Dissonance

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