January 12

North Cairn: Reflections of cabin fever

The dog takes a peek into the mirror.

I surrender.

This is it, now. I’ve had all I can take.

I’m as happy as the next crisis junkie – in the name of survival – to face a few hard days of snow, sluggish traffic, poor visibility, extra trips to the wood pile to haul in split logs for the stove and give sentinel attention to icy patches on the roads, driveways and walks.

I’m content to absorb the additional expense of having a landscaper or lobsterman with a pickup and plow blade slice through the woods and carve out a path for my AWD mini-SUV. But even plowing isn’t helping that much now, because every flat surface from the backdoor stoop to the travel trails of deer in the woods are a sheet of ice. We are going nowhere fast.

Which brings us to this: Enough is enough.

The dog and I have been mostly snow and ice-bound for the better part of three weeks now, mainly because of the weather and partly because I am awaiting knee surgery and can barely walk. I thought that we were doing pretty well actually, surviving the worst of it and soldiering on as if this extreme weather was commonplace to us.

The ice about did me in, though, because it made the simplest movements – to the woodpile, down the stairs to get the dog indoors, the 15-foot walk to the car to let it run for a few minutes every couple of days – seem like major expeditions.

Still, we endured our little trials, managed with the ice and the rain, and snow boulders the size of sheep thundering off the roof of the house, and the floods and refreezing once the trees threw off their white shawls of snow.

I admit I began to notice that the voices of people from all over the country who phoned at one point or another over the last few weeks were beginning to wear ragged with the strain. I have a sister in Chicago who was almost hysterically amused to learn that the city had been pegged “Chiberia” because of the frigid temperatures.

Almost all human discourse whether in person, arriving from next door or halfway across the continent settled to the lowest common denominator: the weather.

And then the refrigerator broke down.

And the sewing machine.

And I sat on the durable stainless steel tip of a pair of extra-sharp precision, Swiss sewing shears – and had to navigate through humiliation and an ice storm to get a tetanus shot.

So I surrender.

And here I plan to stay until there is a break in the weather that lasts two days. That doesn’t seem to be too much to ask.

Of course, I have to acknowledge, we’ve had our better moments and even glimpses of peace.

One unexpected result of having been stuck indoors is that the dog has fallen in love with herself.

On one early day of our forced seclusion, I finally got around to hanging a full-length mirror at the bottom of the stairs – a five-minute chore I’d let slide for about six months. The goldie discovered it the next morning when she got up, trotted down the stairs and halfway to the bottom encountered another dog coming right at her, out of the wall.

“Yep, that’s you,” I said sleepily, sidling around her on the stairs. “Aren’t you cute?”

It was a pointless rhetorical question. While I staggered to the back door, she sat down on the fourth step of the staircase to gaze lovingly at the interesting dog that had just shown up.

(Continued on page 2)

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