Preparation and Dread: Winter is Coming.

We set the clocks back one hour this weekend and, as Daylight Savings goes, so does my heart and all the joy that comes naturally with every Summer dawn. Time to prepare for Winter.

So here’s my check list:

One: Tabulate the annual Blessings of the Blue Jay Feathers:

An even dozen gorgeous Blue Jay feathers found during the Summer of ’18, with one Cardinal feather as a lagniappe.

Two: Get Steve’s shelter set up for his warmth and comfort from snow, hail, rain, and sleet from now until May.

No, that’s not Steve, and that’s not his shelter. This is Lickety, on Halloween, curled up in one of the cubbies I keep in the garage. He’s practicing for when it gets really cold out there. I put all new straw in all the cat shelters (I have four, in total; two cubbies in the garage, a rabbit hutch insulated with two down-filled sleeping bags and lots of straw in the backyard . . .

Last Winter

. . . and Steve’s space-age bachelor pad acrylic house with heating pad by the front stoop for the one cat who never, ever comes in the house no matter how brutal the weather gets, the one cat who keeps me awake at night if I think he’s not warm, and dry, and safe:

Three: Put in 32 storm windows. This is a very vexing task. I live in a handmade, 100-year old house on the North Shore of Long Island. Each window is slightly different, and none of them are standard. We never think to label the storm windows when we take them out in the Spring, so we always dread putting them back in in the Fall. And by “we”, I mean Top Cat.

Four: Dig out the special light I bought four years ago to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder, the one I forgot to use the past two years because I bought a Himalayan Rock Salt lamp for the Winter of 2016 (when it was all the rage) that worked liked a dream but that I forgot to turn on for all of Winter 2017 (too distracted by the horror of American politics). I think I’ll need a double dose of light and vibes to deal with whatever crap der Drumpf is going to unload on us this coming year, when he fights off the Blue Wave (Vote Vote Vote).

Five: Commit to a mind-enhancing project. Something to challenge my way of thinking about the world and get me out of the house. I started taking American Sign Language classes a year and a half ago with a free class at the library, and then I took two semesters at a local college. I think I’ll stick with that.

Six:  Put a big quality-of-life-improvement project on the schedule. We still need to de-clutter our house, and Top Cat has never liked our round kitchen table and blonde wood Windsor chairs. Time to spruce up and simplify.

Seven: Togs. I want a new Winter sweater that keeps me warm and happy, or at least less miserable, at 15 togs. Basically, I want to feel as if I am wearing a duvet wherever I go. I don’t care what I look like. I just can’t stand being cold. I need extra-heavy-duty fleece.

Eight: Volunteer for a social project. This year, I am starting a new fund-raising event for the library and I hope to raise big buck but first, I have to change the by-laws so we can have an open bar in the reference section (for just one night! Not for all time!). You can throw all the kids’ events you want, but it’s the grown-ups who have spending money and they won’t come to your dinky library gala if there is no booze.

Nine: Dig into a new creative project. Something that will take all Winter. And months afterwards. Something that fires you up with a mission, something that makes you feel that what you are doing will make a difference and enhance other peoples’ lives. It’s time to write a new damn book.

Ten: Go say Hi to Orion, the one thing that makes us here in the Northern Hemisphere feel god about Fall. (I meant to type “feel good about Fall”…but I like the “feed god about Fall”, which  makes sense, when you look out at the universe on a crisp, clear Fall night.)

Last week, Top Cat woke me up at 4 o’clock in the morning, just after the meeting of the full moon, so we could put on our coats and go outside to see Orion in his rightful place among the brilliant stars of the Milky Way. It was cold, and ever so clear, and while we were staring at Rigel and Betelgeuse a shooting star arced across Orion’s belt. That must be a good omen for Winter of ’19. Vote Vote Vote.

We happened to have got such a good look at the heavens because we were here:

After spending three days in southern California we drove out to Searles Valley, in the middle of nowhere, 170miles east of Los Angeles. Top Cat wanted to see the Trona Pinnacles:

The Trona Pinnacle consist of more than 500 calcium carbonate spires (porous rock formed under water ), some as high as 140 feet (43 m), rising from the dry bed of Searle Lake, formed when this was an inland sea about 100,000 years ago.  The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and squat to tall and thin, and they now sit isolated and slowly crumbling away near the south end of the valley, surrounded by many square miles of flat, dried mud and with stark mountain ranges at either side.

We came to watch the sunset . . .

. . . and lo, on the other side of the valley, we also got to watch the moon rise:

We stayed in an AirBnB in the small town of Trona:

The next day we drove into Death Valley.

You all know Badwater Spring, the lowest point in the continental U.S., 279 feet below sea level (that’s 85 meters, in souless metric-talk).

But do you know Dante’s View:

Dante’s View is where you can climb 5,476 feet (1,669 meters) above sea level to look down at 279 feet below sea level. There is a whole lot to see in between, but rest assured that I will not bore you will holiday snaps except for this:

We turned off the main road for a side trip to go see an abandoned borax mine because I said I wanted to get a photo of the most boring thing in Death Valley. I mean, who on Earth wants to go see an abandoned borax mine? Its not like it’s prehistoric: it was abandoned only in 1888…what’s the big deal? If I wanted to see hundred-year-old bricks I could have stayed home.

Well, it was a good thing that we took this little detour because, when we pulled the rental car back onto the main road, our timing was such that we made a fine rendezvous with a coyote! Luckily, I had my camera handy as we watched him saunter across the desert towards the chaparral:

I had forgotten to pack a hat and shorts for this trip, so this was my hiking outfit:

When I’m not stuffing the hems into my socks so I don’t trip over them as I climb on my hands and knees up rock faces in Natural Bridge Canyon, for example, those pants are really cute.

Fun fact: The most common language spoken in Death Valley is French. French tourists love Death Valley. The place was packed with les Francaises. As I was coming down from Zabriskie Point, I passed a young mother trudging upwards to the look-out platform, towing a whining 10-year-old daughter who had clearly had enough of the heat and the boring scenery, and she said: Arrête, tu es comme une grand-mère! (Stop that, you’re like an old lady!)

The next day we drove to Las Vegas, but we had some marijuana edibles in the car (it’s legal in Nevada) and I had the bright idea “Let’s try some of that chocolate bar!”, under the assumption that eating marijuana makes it less potent than if you smoke it. I was wrong.

Eating marijuana means that it just takes a little longer to feel the effects, like, a half hour after ingestion before I felt the first part of my brain-pan lifting off from its moorings. From there, I was on a slow but steady glide into outer space. It was only an hour’s drive to Vegas. When we arrived, my mind was no where in sight, and I had to hold onto the walls of the hotel lobby to keep myself upright.

I never want to eat marijuana again, no thank you.

Happily, I was fine the next day, and I walked on the Strip with Top Cat, and happily I did not run into this lady while I was somewhere over the rainbow or else I would have been sure I was hallucinating:

Dear Reader/Commentor Elaine Holmes was right: where does that lady think she is? Walmart?

So I’m back home, where I want to be, prepping for Winter, counting the days until I can get out and Vote.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones, and Vote as if our democracy depends on it, because it does.



14 Comments, RSS

  1. I like your checklist, especially numbers 8 and 9 — I always struggle to find enough Things To Do or the motivation to do them during the dreary winter months due to my hobbies all being outdoor focused, and like you, my aversion to being cold. I must make a checklist, too — thank you for the idea.

    You can post as many tourist snaps as you wish — they are fun! I love desert country, and the coyote was a great bonus.

    I’ve heard unhappy tales from friends about marijuana edibles (also legal here in WA state). Glad you survived the experience — stick to the booze! And good luck on the library fundraiser!

  2. Well, I’m glad I was right guessing you were in Vegas, but I would never have guessed Trona. So that was a surprise. The coyote is cool! And actually even the Borax mine is kind of interesting, in a weird way. I had no idea the French are so into Death Valley. Wonder why that is? Maybe becauise it’s so drastically different from anything in France?

  3. Oh, and why NOT have a permanent bar in the reference section?! I kind of love that idea, and now that we have the Internet we don’t need the reference section for actual reference!

  4. Margot

    What a wonderful, inspiring list of winter tasks. I’m going to follow your lead on the intellectual stimulation and creative projects. Your note on Death Valley explains a movie I (tried to) watch recently, in which Isabelle Huppert & Gerard Depardieu wandered the desert speaking of grief and the emptiness of it all… it was unbearable.
    We sent in our ballots over a week ago (our state votes by Mail! 🙂 and now I am just praying non-theistically and channeling my anxiety into Deep House Cleaning.
    if everyone votes, this will be a totally different country, on Wednesday morning. Hoping…

  5. Leslie

    What a relief to know that the lady in black lace was in Las Vegas, and not strolling on the street of a nation in the tropics, offending and disrespecting as so many others have done, inspiring ridicule, embarrassment and scorn. Honey, you don’t look good! That was not designed to be street wear. But I digress… I would like to remind you of Number 11 for your Winter Survival List: Buy tickets to Florida for the dead of winter. It’s a kind of reality check for that time of year when winter just will not end. There’s hope! And it need not be Key West. There are many beautiful gardens (Washington Oaks, Mounts, Viscaya, Bonnet House, Seven Arts and so many more) around the state to gladden your heart.
    As for books-you-have-written, what’s happening with the Giverny book? It would make such a perfect Christmas gift (for me to give myself.).
    I find it comforting to know that 100,000 years ago the desert was under the sea, and the change was not caused by human impact. Our beautiful planet is resilient.
    And yes, VOTE!

  6. Ellen

    I would so like some of those square notebooks your use for your Commonplace Book. Do they have a name or publisher? Do you know where I could order them?

    • Vivian

      I know which note books you are asking about, and I will look them up and get you the info soon. I know I did a blog post about them, eons ago, and if I can find that I’ll send that to you also.

  7. Kirra

    Looks like you had a great trip to somewhere sunny! Who knew the French were so interested in Death Valley?! Looks like an amazing place. Love your winter preparation list and I feel like I am not really prepared for this coming northern winter – can you tell more about the lamp? My friend said you can get lamps for when there’s not much sun. Hope the voting works out well for the US!

  8. Marijuana and Vegas would just be overkill. I couldn’t cope!

    What a list! Priority one I think is Steve’s house and the windows. It’s getting cold already and not even deep into November. I need to replace two storm windows. Ugh. And like you, I’m looking for the perfect warm, soft, cuddly fleecy, whatever sweater. Sooner rather than later, please!

    Death Valley — never had the urge to go. But that coyote sighting would be well worth it!

  9. Rachel

    Vivian, yes, we have voted and are just praying Beto is elected! He is such a breath of fresh air and level headedness after listening at Cruz (who actually is scary sometimes).
    We lived in Seattle and the companies that outfitted people for Alaska required them to have a hat…, go for wool or even down, if you can find one. Your hair will look like you just got out of bed…..but a warm bed. And, I love my Heat Holder socks….not exactly stylish, but also warm. You can get them on the line. I have worn out one pair, am wearing the second, and have the third in the sock drawer. And, buy some silk long johns…..they are the warmest kind, and they even have pretty tops. Hope this helps…..I HATE continual cold weather and never what to live through another winter in New York(4 1/2 years) or Boston(8 years). At least warm clothes help….and now, if someone could invent a way to not slip on ice/packed snow.
    Your list sounds very industrious….let us know what you decide for the ones you haven’t chosen yet.

  10. Casey

    But I want to know, did the coyote speak French? They are known for being very clever. Tricksters, I mean. Maybe that’s why the French love to hang out with them. ha ha.

    I loved the travelogue, but I also love traveling vicariously. And you and Top Cat always seem to find the strangest things to do even on the most beaten paths. OF COURSE you would cross paths with a coyote. OF COURSE you’d see a shooting star in Orion. OF COUSRE you’d be high on a drive through the desert. OF COURSE you’d find that lady in Vegas with her fancy parts hanging out for all to see. (I could go to Las Vegas for fifty years and never see anything like that.)

    I also liked your winter check list. I’m going to make one of my own. As soon as I make up my list I’ll be able to cross off the creative project, because making that list is as creative as I get.

  11. I did vote. Love mail in voting, so I could read the voters pamphlet, sip some tea, and vote all at the same time.
    Congratulations on getting cats ready for winter. Hope you found that perfect warm outfit to be ready yourself. I need to get a winter light. Right now experimenting with candles. Not sure it is working. My “live-in gardener” keeps wanting to go to Death Valley, but just the name alone doesn’t draw me to come visit. You see the most unusual things in Vegas for sure. Thanks for being you. I will be looking forward to your winter project.

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