It’s All About Climate

In his short story “–And He Built a Crooked House” the great Robert Heinlein had a character cautiously opine that a house is, by and large, a device to keep off the rain. This is quite accurate. If you are wet, or your stuff, then life is not good.

And so all house design is tied closely to climate, and the materials available. Steeply sloped roofs speak of shedding snow. Flat roofs are for desert climes. Stone houses with stone roofs are built in stony regions, while earthen walls and sod roofs are for stone-free and timber-light conditions.

At this moment I am in Washington state. They’re having record rainfall. This is a good thing, since without plenteous rain there are wildfires in summer. People spend their home maintenance dollar coping with the rain. A good tight roof is a prerequisite, and if it’s fireproof metal then so much the better.

But then you get this kind of thing. This is a service building in a park, not a structure that gets a lot of love. It has a wooden roof, probably cedar shake. Because of the copious rain this roof may not actually be that old. But it’s got a couple seasons of growth on it, to get that deep cushiony moss and the rampant ferns.

Moss is a major problem for structures in this area, and there’s a considerable industry devoted to washing it off of manmade structures. The older residents of the region have mostly adapted to it, however. These trees for instance have formed a symbiosis with the moss!




Symptoms of Living

You examine every possible symptom and exposure.

1. A “dry cough”: at night, a present tickle in the throat, could it be the antihypertension medication? ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors are notorious for a side effect of cough. Or is it a lifetime of chronic nasal congestion, exacerbated by central heating and being cooped up inside with dogs?

2. Was I standing too near the friendly neighbor with the adorable pit bull named Andre?

3. Did I forget to wash my hands after a trip to Costco?

4. Was I too close to the guy jogging through the cemetery while I was on one of my walks?

I no longer fear packages delivered from east coast cities. I trust that our friends and my family, (the husband’s family is a different matter) are safe and uninfected because we share the same political view about mask-wearing, and because several are registered nurses. (Like me.)

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The Rambling Writer’s Pandemic Pool

Missing our swimming during the pandemic closures, Thor and I install a “swim spa” pool and transform our front yard.

Among the many adjustments of this past year of the Covid19 pandemic, a big one for Thor and me was missing our swimming exercise at the university pool, closed since last March. And then I missed the precious narrow window of outdoor summer swimming here in Bellingham, WA, as I dealt with my cancer surgery and recovery. Since we’d had to cancel three trips last year, we decided to use that money (and a bit more) to order a swim spa that lets us swim against a current, like swimming upstream in a river. And we can heat the water to whatever temperature helps fight the damp cold of our Pacific Northwest. Ahh, blissful weightlessness and exercise forgiving of our various old injuries and arthritic joints! We baby boomers keep making those adjustments…. Continue reading


New Worlds: Prostheses and Assistive Devices

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

Given that the last essay discussed medical interventions like amputation, it seems like a suitable time to take a look at the devices we’ve developed to help people deal with disabilities of many kinds — and what kinds of improvements could still be made.

Defining my terms first: a prosthesis replaces a missing body part, while an assistive device is anything meant to help the user function more effectively, specifically in situations of disability. (You could make a semantic argument that, say, my phone is an assistive device for helping me remember appointments, but that’s not the sense I’m looking at here.) Overall the aim of a prosthesis tends to be to restore function in the missing part, but that category also includes things like artificial eyes, which — so far! — are not able to provide any visual input. They’re only there to normalize the wearer’s appearance.

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Beach Walking

We live on an island–Orcas Island, in the San Juans, in farthest western Washington State–and there are lots of lovely woods here. I’ve written before about how much I love walking in the woods, how I walk nearly every day up the country road outside our house, to pick up the mail, or just to observe the wildlife and get some fresh air into my lungs.

But the cool thing about islands? They’re, you know, surrounded by water.

That means there are a lot of beaches here.

Read the rest of this post, including more photos, on my website blog.



Artist in Residence Quarantine Diaries Episode 22: The WInd Waits for No-one…

Oy vey, people. They said “high wind warning” on the weather apps. They lied. It was windapocalypse.

To backtrack – this was on thenight of January 12. Mom was staying overnight with me and the cats – and trust me, the cats knew something was up. My Little Boy was doing his best impression of a Face Hugger,lying practically on top of me on my pillow, and the Empress had her spine glued to my leg, a little lower down in the bed. And I was lying there, and listening – and outside, it was WUthering Heights. It HOWLED. I heard the occasional thud as things fell down on the deck and I just shut my eyes tight and went pleasepleasepleaseplease no trees coming down pleasepleaseplease…

At one point I heard momma padding up the corridor outside my bedroom, and I got out of bed, and went into the corridor… and at that point the power went out, and my emergency light in the kitchen, the one that comes on at power failure, blazed out and illuminated Mom’s consternated face. The cats were up, too, standing right beside me, one at each ankle, like a furry little honor guard. I had looked at the clock only a moment before – it was 1:44 AM.

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Good Girls & Bad Boys

Good Girls & Bad Boys

Falling in love with a bad boy is a Romance Novel trope that goes back to the beginning of folklore. Beauty and Beast is probably the most recognizable example.

Women seem to need to tame the wildness out of him, or realize that people in general are more monstrous than the beastly man.

What is a “Bad Boy”? He’s the man who was always in trouble in high school, rides a motorcycle even though he can afford a car, never stays with a girl friend for more than a few dates, hangs out in smokey bars swilling beer and getting into fights. Or maybe he’s the tycoon with a shady reputation for his business deals. There are rumors that he has mob connections. Continue reading


About the Weather


(video of cut trails after the 12/18/2020 snowstorm)

I live in New England– Massachusetts, to be precise. We can expect comparatively short summers that usually span from some time in May to some time in September. We’re known for picturesque falls that last into October. There’s an odd period between fall and winter that I’ve been told is called “locking time”– something I read about in John Gardner’s fine novel, October LightI’ve lived here for over forty years and have never heard anyone use that term. But it is true thing up here: a period where autumn is gone but winter hasn’t quite come. Then, usually in November, the cold rains come and in December comes the snow.

Winter stays until late March or early April. Then, there’s a tug of war between the seasons until May. It’s not a spring like I used to have back in Missouri– some friends of mind have suggested it be called flush or something similar. In Vermont and New Hampshire I’ve heard it called “mud season” when the top of the ground thaws but the earth below it remains frozen. The result is a mobile slop.

This climate has been my norm for the majority of my life. It’s not completely constant. One December we had Christmas dinner on picnic tables in the back yard. But there are predictable occurrences. There will be at least one– and probably more than one– snow storm where the snowfall will exceed a foot. There will be a few days well below zero. There’s usually a mid-winter thaw to give people hope, followed by a sudden freeze to take that hope away.

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Getting Through with Letters

Sigh. I really need to take a news break. More and more, I switch the radio from NPR to the local college station, which plays everything from alternative rock to reggae to jazz to prestissimo electric—at night when students need sometime to keep them awake or to accompany their drug use. After last week, and this week, and the last forty weeks, and the next forty weeks, I need music and movies and a delicious book more than ever.

We’re planning a Hawaii Zoom surprise party for my sister’s upcoming birthday. Hawaiian shirts necessary, if the Proud Boys haven’t cleared them all out of the thrift stores. Leis, songs, a Zoom background of Wailua Waterfall or a beach. She had planned, before all plugs were pulled on travel, to spend this milestone birthday in Hawaii with her husband.

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The Rambling Writer Rerun: Snowshoeing on Mt. Shuksan

We could all use a break from multiplying crises! Take a refreshing ramble up the mountain’s memory lane with Thor, Bear dog, and me.

Added to the stresses of the Covid19 pandemic at its worst level yet in the U.S. and elsewhere, an insane U.S. president inciting violent insurrection in our capital, with more mayhem planned by militant right-wing domestic terrorists, I’ve been juggling health issues and a myriad of tasks following my father’s death. Still in physical therapy, I can’t flee to the mountains for a dose of fresh air and sanity, so I’m escaping briefly to memories of a happier year. Here’s a rerun from 2016: Continue reading