No Mutual Touching

Storm warnings in effect here for today, and sure enough it is snowing to beat the band and the wind is huffing and puffing to strip the heat out of the house. Attila couldn’t get into the driveway when he came home from lunch, the snow plow had been by and left a mountain of snow across the end of the driveway. Attila cleared it before he went back to work, so he can get the car into the driveway when he gets home tonight.

It is February, January has flown, and in seven weeks the Spring Equinox will arrive and thoughts of spring can be safely entertained.

The last few days have been a lot of fun, talking about music with a friend, talking with family via Skype and telephone. FaceBook, well I intrinsically hate the essence of the technology, object to it on so many levels, but what can you do when the world has decided to replace face-to-face contact with a digital images. I still prefer human contact, always will. This kind of distance communication puts me in mind of the ca 1821 letter my GGG Grandfather in Canada wrote home to his sister in Scotland. The likelihood of their seeing one another again was small, but the contact was real and warm, the page and ink touched by both hands, read by both eyes. Digital communication isn’t quite so concrete, no mutual touching at all. However, there are images and the interaction can be ongoing in real time, so perhaps that compensates for the lack of concrete sharing.

This fellow, Ron Sexsmith, is a wonder to watch live. I was addicted to this song for a few months, love it.

Worldly Distractions


-12 °C
Condition: Snow
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Visibility: 1 km
Temperature: -12.0°C
Dewpoint: -13.5°C
Humidity: 89 %
Wind: ENE 17 gust 31 km/h
Wind Chill: -20


“Life is a battle in which we fall from wounds we receive in running away.”
William L. Sullivan

“Never ask a cactus for a helping hand!”
By Bobbe L. Sommer

Out of Step

I am still attempting to elicit a response, since January 24th, other than “he’ll get back to you”, from our lawyer. He holds funds in trust for us and I simply want to know if they were paid out to the government. This is not a complicated question, yes or no, so I fear that the reason that we are not getting a response is that the funds are still held in trust and are gathering interest in the lawyers account. It could be worse than that, or it might be that he is busy with other things and even a simple answer is takes too much time out of his busy schedule. I hate having to wheedle for information that I feel should be forthcoming. But we need to know, so wheedle I must.

The weather is warmer this morning, only -14C just outside my kitchen window. It will take another day or two for the interior of the house to recover itself to a comfortable temperature. It is easy enough to bundle up until it warms up in here.

It is snowing. It is very pretty.

Today I am pondering reality. I know it is a malleable, chaotic entity, subject to endless debate, object of countless universalizations. I know that my reality intersects with the reality of the other, to varying degrees. I am thinking about two comments made to me by intimate friends, one a brilliant intellect, the other a brilliant musician. Of the academy, my intellectual friend told me, “it isn’t what you think it is”. He was right of course, my idealistic view of how knowledge is generated by scholars was sadly just that, idealistic. Of the experience of “normal” human interactions and social structures, my musician friend told me, “I hope you never find out.” What a beautiful wish he had for me, a kind and loving wish. I did find out though, about the numbing mediocrity that sustains progress, defines normal; but I also found out that nothing is so powerful that it never fails, including mediocrity, indifference and evil. Honour and beauty, truth and kindness may not always win, nor do they always fail.

As a small child I acquired language with a colloquial Scottish accent, for which I was ridiculed at school. It was my Great Great Grandfather who hailed from Scotland on the one side, and his wife’s parents on the other side of the family. A close knit family, the accent came down the generations to me, a gift. I met my Great Grandfather when I was a babe in arms. These ancestors, who came to Canada with their dreams and determination are a part of my makeup, both physically and psychically. For that reason the essence of the performance below speaks to me directly. When I play my bodhran, this is the spiritual experience I am having; alone and strong in the bush. Attila says my tongue is as strong as my spirit; slow to anger and passionate if roused. That’s me.

More information about this band at

Worldly Distractions


-14 °C
Condition: Snow
Pressure: 103.0 kPa
Visibility: 2 km
Temperature: -14.0°C
Dewpoint: -16.3°C
Humidity: 83 %
Wind: NE 5 km/h
Wind Chill: -17


“I passionately hate the idea of being with it, I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time.”
Orson Welles
1915 – 1985


“Albannach in Scots Gaelic means “Scotsman”.
And Scots they are, born and bred; Jamesie, Jacquie, Donnie, Aya, and Colin write and perform tribal music with roots set firmly in their native soil’s haunting ballads and ancient war songs. A traditional pipe band they’re not… you’ll probably never see them march in a parade. But Albannach’s rhythms and melodies take you back to that bygone time when pipes and songs were banned because of the power they have to stir stout hearts and Celtic souls. Ye canna resist…”

Cold Out There

Last night was a bit colder than expected, -29C at six this morning. Attila’s diligent attention to the hearth fires yesterday has succeeded in keeping the house reasonably comfortable. There is just a touch of chill in the air, in the house, this morning. I must dress warmly to stay comfortable. If I dress warmly I am comfortable.

Today is the last day of January, thank goodness. This morning when Attila left for work there was enough light in the sky that we could actually see one another clearly to wave goodbye, facial expressions and all. The distant horizon was pink and silver behind him, and now, an hour or so later, the tips of the tree tops are blazing in the sunshine.

Yesterday we made a quick dash to the village to buy some bread, and other supplies. There is a small store about five miles from here, but it only sells bread contaminated with my allergen, and prices are much higher there than in the village. The drive into the village was beautiful: sparkling snow, white frosted evergreens, blue, blue sky. It was great to get out for a few hours.

Attila is also coming down with cabin fever. We are busy making escape plans. Making plans temporarily alleviates the worst of the symptoms. Cabin fever is about failing human interconnections, and develops slowly as human connections slow or cease. Digital contact helps, but it only addresses the symptoms and is not a solution.

My shower this morning was akin to a polar bear dip, as I stepped out of the shower and into the icy bathroom. Very invigorating. My clothes had been warming on the hearth for quite some time, so I sprinted to the masonry heater to dry myself and don my warmed clothing.

This is an old video about masonry heaters, one I hadn’t seen before; this is not us, our masonry heater or our home. This must have been produced in southern climes, because when it is -29C outside, you need three “50 pound” fires every day, and that is not a small armful of wood by any means. Regardless, our masonry heater heats our house using about 12 face cords of wood per winter. That is a lot of wood and a lot of work, but we are almost exclusively “off-grid” when it comes to heat in the winter.

Worldly Distractions


-29 °C
Condition: Clear
Pressure: 103.7 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -29.0°C
Dewpoint: -31.7°C
Humidity: 78 %
Wind: 4 km/h
Wind Chill: -33


“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”
H. P. Lovecraft
1890 – 1937


“A masonry heater (or masonry stove) is a device for warming a home (or any interior space) that captures the heat from periodic burning of fuels (primarily wood), and then radiates that heat over a long period at a fairly constant temperature. The technology exists in many forms from the Roman hypocaust to the Austrian/German kachelofen. The hypocaust is a system for heating the floors and walls of buildings (especially baths) using the smoke and exhaust of a single fire. In Eastern and Northern Europe and North Asia, these kachelofens (or steinofens) evolved in many different forms and names, such as a Russian Stove/Fireplace (Russian: Русская печь), a Finnish Stove (in Finnish: pystyuuni or kaakeliuuni, “tile oven”) and the Swedish Stove (in Swedish: kakelugn, “tile stove” or “contra-flow stove”) associated with Carl Johan Cronstedt. The Chinese developed the same principle into their Kang bed-stove.”

Ain’t nobody here but us chickens.

Sunday morning 6:00 a.m. and I’ve been awake for what seems like hours. Attila is sleeping, the windows are spaces coloured black. With cabin fever one cannot afford to lie in bed for too long, black thoughts eventually outrun you. So here I am at the keyboard, at six on a Sunday morning, by lamplight. “Ain’t nobody here but us chickens.”

My inner voice has all sorts of sayings and phrases from my childhood. I hardly notice them and seldom verbalize them. This morning they are keeping me company.

Funny, the phrase “ain’t nobody here but us chickens” has always been a part of my world. I never thought about the origin until this morning, and it does make sense. It is possible that I listened to the Decca release of this song as a child, or perhaps just heard the adults around me use the phrase. My grandparents had a windup gramophone and we delighted in playing “old” records; which were actually relatively recent releases in those days, but since they belonged to my grandparents we thought of them as “old”. My favorite song as a child was Side by Side by Harry Woods, although I don’t know who performed the song on the actual recording we played, it might have been Nick Lucas or Kay Starr.

Tonight the outdoor temperature is due to dip to -27C. Attila will try to get ahead of this cold snap by splitting and toting enough wood for three fires in the masonry heater and two separate firings of the little wood stove downstairs. Heating with wood is a love/hate thing, love the heat, the crackle, the dancing flames and hate the inflexibility, chopping, splitting, toting, wood chips, ash and cleaning. Mist thinks this is just silly, wood heat is all good; until the humans fall behind in the quest for fire.

I usually pay no attention to jokes, as many of them these days are made at the expense of others. A fellow “classmate”, who attended the program for old workers with me, forwards email jokes and images that she finds amusing. I love her sense of humour and enjoy almost all the missives she sends my way. Neither she nor I were assisted by the program in finding work that would support us, so the humourous messages are a nice way of keeping in touch without bemoaning the deplorable state of non-employment/under-employment we both experience. This morning three new jokes appeared in my inbox, two of which elicited loud guffaws from both Attila and myself. One of them I found on the Internet, moral of the church gossip, classified as a church joke. However, to my mind it represents life in a small town, or in any place/group with a limited membership and control issues.

Worldly Distractions


-11 °C
Condition: Snow
Pressure: 101.8 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -11.0°C
Dewpoint: -12.1°C
Humidity: 92 %
Wind: WNW 5 km/h
Wind Chill: -14


“who… didn’t show any bitterness about his truncated life, as if he were oblivious to all the evil he had suffered. How different the old man was from some Chinese dissidents who were well supported by universities and foundations.”
A Free Life by Ha Jin (2007)


Song: There Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens (1946 hit)
by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five
“There ain’t nobody here but us chickens
There ain’t nobody here at all
So calm yourself,
And stop your fuss
There ain’t nobody here but us
We chickens tryin’ to sleep,
And you butt in
And hobble, hobble hobble hobble
With your chin”

Joke: moral of the church gossip
“Mildred, the church gossip, and self-appointed monitor of the church’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business. Several members did not approve of her extra-curricular activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence.
She made a mistake, however, when she accused George, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his old pickup parked in front of the town’s only bar one afternoon.
She emphatically told George and several others that everyone seeing it there would know what he was doing. George, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just turned and walked away. He didn’t explain, defend, or deny. He said nothing.”
Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of Mildred’s house … and left it there all night.

Cabin Fever

Suddenly we have cabin fever here; I have cabin fever.  Curses!

Besides the now ongoing challenge of cabin fever, life is pretty good.

As often happens, the universe conspires to delight me in small ways.  For instance, as I was glumly driving to work yesterday morning the sun suddenly illuminated a panorama of beauty, right in front of me.  Although it is all private property, this beautiful landscape, the trees and clouds and snow and sunshine do not for one minute acknowledge the hubris of entitlement.  The universe reminds me that it is real, more real than any rapacity the powerful minority of humans can muster.  This scenery, this natural force, is that to which I will return.  I find that beautiful.

And then of course, there is chocolate cake!  My birthday has come and gone, and it was a good one.  It went according to plan; I talked/corresponded with loved ones, had my pizza and chocolate cake and watched a good movie with Attila.

Kobo customer service continues to disappoint.  I still cannot access the book I purchased, nor have I received my discount coupon promised at time of purchase.  What they seem to be doing is to answer the phones, take down the information, “escalate” the call to unnamed individuals and then leave you waiting for a reply.  Since January 24th there has been no reply.  They also ask you to rate the call to customer service, which you really cannot do because no one has addressed your issue, they only escalate it into the ether.  The questions on the customer survey are not designed to explore the issues that concern me.  I am not happy with the Kobo support team right now.

The food labeling “write-in” has reached 3,690 as of early this morning; thanks to everyone who has participated. I do hope it succeeds, it would make my life much more bearable.

It looks like our plans to visit the little house in the city must be canceled again!  Lows of -20C to -26C mean that we have to stay at home to keep the hearth fires burning.  We have been trying to get away for just one night since the beginning of January.  Maybe next week!  Curses!

My desk was clear and clean just a few days ago, really it was.  Now it is piled high with bills, notes-to-self, doodles of a portable bed design I thought of while watching the fire this morning, professional magazines, flyers, notes on phone calls I have to make, forms I have to fill out…  Unfortunately not one of the items on my desk is interesting in the slightest.  My goal for today is to resolve all bits and pieces and clear my desk again.

Worldly Distractions


-18 °C
Condition: Clear
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -18.0°C
Dewpoint: -18.9°C
Humidity: 93 %
Wind: 4 km/h
Wind Chill: -21


“I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.”
Thomas Jefferson
1743 – 1826


Cabin fever is an idiomatic term for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in, in a small space, with nothing to do, for an extended period (as in a simple country vacation cottage during a long rain or snow). Symptoms include restlessness, irritability, irrational frustration with everyday objects, forgetfulness, laughter, excessive sleeping, distrust of anyone they are with, and an urge to go outside even in the rain, snow or dark.