Nature Deficit Disorder and the Cottage Preseason Opener

pexels-photo-42240Nature deficit disorder appears to be a real thing and spending time at the cottage provides a great fix. As part of this, my family and I have been unintentionally creating additional habitat for various invasive species for almost 17 years.

We purchased an A-frame cottage on Lake Winnipeg to get closer to nature.The two-story cottage and the open design allow everyone in the family their own personal space. The metal roof and cedar siding keeps out the elements, but not the rodents, which need their own personal space.

Opening the cottage after a long winter became a joyous occasion for the family. The main reason for this joy includes my travelling to the cottage by myself beforehand and conducting a cottage preseason opener. Like baseball spring training, I do some preliminary cleaning to work out the bugs. And of course by bugs, I do mean insects and other things that would drive away family members till the incident was forgotten.

In the first year, the flat roof over the sunroom leaked. The good news was that the vapor barrier captured all the water. The bad news was that these bags of tarry water hanging from the ceiling pushed out the ceiling tiles and made the room reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Making an incision in the hanging cocoon and draining the water remedied the situation.

We recently installed a small outdoor hot tub that we can plug-in for the summer. When lifting the lid for the first time of the season, I ask please don’t let me find a dead small mammal inside. This is only exceeded by the triple please of don’t let me find a terrified, alive and wanting to escape small mammal inside. So far, we have been good.

When cleaning outside, I use the gas-powered leaf blower to man-dust the decks. I do walk through the cottage, engine off, to clean the upper deck. Only a few times has it passed my mind to quickly man-dust the interior. Who would really know? But there are the gas fumes. So next year I am so going electric leaf blower. The gas blower works very well in the garage, especially if no one is watching.

Inside the cottage, checking all of the furniture, particular the beds, for mouse droppings, comes next. We keep the cottage warm during the winter, so finding a soft fluffy mouse nest in one of the beds is not beyond consideration. A mouse nest would require a cathartic cleansing of the linens. And by cleansing, I mean burning.

Cleaning inside causes a bit less stress. The freezer has to be cleaned out to make room for the coming summer. Sometimes this means tossing everything. Sometimes this means not letting things go to waste. This spring I had to dispose of a half container of crystalized ice cream, and by dispose of I mean eat. It tasted liked solidified sugar. And regret.

The main event involves crawling beneath the cottage. We have this area closed in, insulated and covered in plastic. Dark, dusty, bit mildewy, no one could hear you scream, if you even had the chance.

One late fall, some mid-sized mammals had moved in underneath the cottage. The tunnel they dug underneath the wall enclosing the bottom of the cottage allowed the cold winter air to directly hit the pipe coming up out of the ground from the well pump. This resulted in no well water for the rest of the winter and no working toilets. So during the summer, I closed off their hole and installed more furnace venting to direct heat towards the corner to prevent the pipes from freezing. The following winter, the hole was redug, and the venting was ripped apart. Apparently they didn’t like the air flow. They continued to show their displeasure by scat throughout the level beneath the cottage. Mid-size mammal droppings are a general sign to be careful, but I would swear that the droppings were arranged into an actual sign that said ‘stay away’. It may have been the darkness.

The forested property provides a tremendous view of the lake, which with the waves can look more like the ocean. Lake Winnipeg suffers from some eutrophication. Surface runoff from the extensive watershed and fertilizer use creates algae blooms. These blooms create green waves with the consistency of green paint. Waves glurp when hitting the shore. And waves should never glurp. Not a sound you want to have alongside your morning coffee.

At some point during the summer the sun brings out the flowers and butterflies. When the family comes to the cottage, the BBQ comes out, along with the home-made beer, bicycles and kayaks. This sooths the nature deficit disorder somewhat, and we continue to get inoculated as often as possible. There remains a difference between watching nature, and nature watching you. Nature normally comes at night, with many pairs of eyes that appear to glow in the dark. But, we are intervening into nature’s arena and we should be respectful. And watchful. Always watchful.

 

 

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A Study of Einstein

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Einstein made of study of physics and humanity. My favorite quote of his on the values of human nature:

“The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth. To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle.”

Albert Einstein
US (German-born) physicist (1879 – 1955)

Study

Entertain with Pizza

pexels-photo-723031During the summer, we had our cottage friends and a couple of our adult children over for pizza. Now, my wife likes to make speciality pizzas from scratch. This is a multi-day process to procure the ingredients and to ensure the dough rises correctly.

An hour before dinner, the BBQ has to be going to make sure the pizza stone reaches a searing 550 degrees. We arrange our tables on the deck to overlook the water. Everyone promptly arrives at 6, and then the magic starts to happen.

The wine is poured of course, but this never becomes a the main focus. Everyone sits on the long side of the table and my wife takes the other side. She orchestrates the pizza creation like a maestro. Carefully explaining all of the steps taken to make the speciality pizzas. The hot pizza stone cooks the pizza within 12 minutes. During this time, everyone converses while being entertained. Even after cooking, the pizzas require a bit more treatment by adding argula or drizzling some flavorful olive oils.

Everyone laughs and share stories as the pizza show continues. Making one pizza at time ensures that everyone gets fed bit by bit and remain hungry for more. The weather absolutely co-operates as the sun settles closers to the horizon. Even the ubiquitous mosquitoes take a break. All of these aspects swirl together to make a sublime happy experience.

The communal feeling of happiness that we all felt at that time continues to resonate with all of us.

Entertain

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Happiness Pursuit-Cruising for Contentment

mountains-nature-sky-sunnyA lot can be said for contentment cruising. The condition of being satisfied with what you have. This condition seems more achievable than happiness which appears to be a transitory emotional condition state. I achieve a high level of happiness when consuming chocolate cake. I would not be happy in this constant emotional high all day since this would consist of continual cake consumption. And diabetes. I may consider an experiment sometime in the future, but I know that once the cake consumption stops, regret flows from all corners. Eventually you would lose all your corners while you became ball like.

Cruising around sounds more relaxing than actively pursuing something. Cruising even sounds cool and seems consistent with achieving a particular level condition and keeping it at that level. An even pace.

I recall the times that I felt absolutely content. Our cottage at the lake provides the proper environment. One time during the winter when the rest of the family was out of town, I ventured to the cottage by myself and the dogs. The neighboring cabins remain vacant this time of year. The entire area goes dark without street lights.

Inside the cottage, pine covers the walls and ceiling. I activate the Bluetooth speakers to stream some nice subtle coffeehouse type music. All the lamps use LED bulbs, so of course I feel virtuous and turn a lot of them on. By 5:00 pm darkness settles in and I consider what to make for dinner. Th e weather makes other plans for me and knocks out the electricity. We keep a very nice antique candelabra up the cottage to carry around the candles. I scuttle around and can’t find any. Or a flashlight. So the atmosphere could have been very romantic with some candles and my spouse. But I digress.

The atmosphere turned pitch black instead. I did find the Coleman lantern and attempted to turn it on. The lantern took a few turns to get it going and by the time it did light, the excess propane fuel gave it a nice pop. The lamp made a sound louder than a pop but less than an explosion. [1] After checking the thesaurus, detonated seems to cover it. And of course, any unanticipated sound gives me whiplash of the neck and spine. And this sound was one of them.

The power can go out for a few hours, so I hunkered down and put a few more logs on the fire. Closing the glass door on the high efficiency fireplace produces a very unique fire. The flames seem to dance in the area above the logs instead of emanating right from the logs. I find it quite entrancing. The heat just radiates from the fireplace with minimal sound.

I turned off the Coleman and instead laid down on the couch in front of the fireplace. The dogs knew the routine and found their own favorite places. The flames provided the only light. I thought of this book I purchased 30 years ago, describing a world lit only by fire. I really have to read that someday. I admonish myself occasionally for things that shoulda, oughta, coulda been done.

I thought I might be in for the long haul. The temperature fell below freezing outside, so I did not know how long the furnace might be off. The fireplace can heat the cabin fairly well. I grabbed a blanket and closed my eyes. I felt contentment during this time. Nothing more could be done, and I desired nothing else to be done. I wondered about the dogs. Are they constantly happy or constantly content? Another time perhaps. I dozed off.

The period of contentment ended precisely at 6:31. I literally flew off the couch as every electrical device in the cottage announced its presence in a very happy way when it got its electricity back. The LEDs merely came back on, but they were emanating their own radiation, so I think the verb emanating requires the word happiness beside it.

The microwave produces a very loud squeal to announce that once again it is ready to radiate our food items to perfection. It produces a reverse type of squeal when it loses power. Sort of like a minor character in a movie that has a major task to allow the main hero or heroine to accomplish the main goal, but the minor character always gets killed off. ‘I’m sorry. I can’t heat up your leftovers. I tried.’ And then they express their last dying sounds. Very depressing. But when the power comes back on, the minor character revives and never died in the first place. The movie producer manage to squeeze another emotion out of you, but you feel better that the minor character did not die in the first place.

The oven however surprises you. Like a large black cat, the oven merely goes dark and sleeps. I suppose the manufacturers decided that you already knew that the power went off so no need to advise you by a warning squeal. The same manufacturers apparently decided that they had to grab your attention, perhaps more violently than required, that the stove got its power back. The sound emanating from the reactivated stove does not deserve the word happy beside it. I suppose sound horn covers it more accurately along with blasted. So, the stove blasted its sound horn to warn everyone that it was ready once more.

The Bluetooth speaker came alive. I place it in the center of the room so that the sound evenly distributes around the entire cottage. Of course, the center is where we keep the couch too. Beside my head. Sound increases logarithmically the closer you are to source. So the result is loud, even it is coffeehouse music.

The brain should include some type of surge protection. All of this radiation from various gadgets covering multiple wavelengths overloaded my system. This turned into a tanning bed for the brain when you wake up after accidently dozing off. And as I mentioned, I startle easily even at the subtlest surprises. Even more so when they aren’t subtle.

During that 30 minutes between searching for candles and falling asleep on the couch, I felt that sense of contentment. I did not search for it. The contentment just seeped in from all areas. And for a brief moment I did feel happily content.

Happiness appears then to be more leprechaun like. You cannot look directly at a leprechaun, but rather you can only perceive it from the corner of your eye. The same thing applies to happiness perhaps. You can only let it come to you and actively pursuing it drives it further away. Perhaps like a unicorn in the forest. Or perhaps a leprechaun riding a unicorn in the forest. Now that would go viral.

The next post shall deal with a number of other paths for happiness.

[1] In ascending order backfire, bang, blast, burst, detonated, ignited, report, rumbled, salvo, thundered

Treated to a Treat

pexels-photo-332091 (1)Back in the day, almost everything was a treat. A milkshake, a doughnut, candy of any sort became a treat. And this was unusually in response to good behaviour.

Now we treat ourselves whenever we want. The joy has been extracted from the treat since  they have now become commonplace. The ambient level of our happiness has been increased as we become adapted to the hedonic treadmill.

I recall the treats I used to get when going to grandma’s place on the coast. This was normally a coke float. I am not sure why this only happened when travelling to her place. there was a special little malt shop on the corner. I remember trying to swirl the coke and ice cream together to make a smoother concoction.

I now realize how I miss those times even more when the smaller things used to give me joy. How can get those little enjoyments back?

Treat

A mildly driven passion

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We like our winters mild since most of us want to avoid a harsh winter.

But to be mild mannered person seems to suggest one without passion. Clark Kent appeared mild mannered just to avoid attention. Would anyone follow a mild-mannered leader into a dramatic corporate restructuring? Into battle?

Some of us like our tacos mild, but give me personal passion anyday. That’s why I admire Americans. So long as no one gets hurt, I admire how they can be truly passionate about whatever it is they are passionate about.

Finding at least one thing you are passionate about can put you in touch with your humanity.

Mild

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