Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The entry room and other news ...

Those who have been to my house know and have seen the ~9x12' room that one enters on the road side of the house. It's been unfinished--apparently since it was built--a date I know not, but suspect it's been decades. Here are three views of what it looked like on the inside:

It has been a dream since I arrived here to have the room insulated (top, bottom, and sides) and sheet rocked. The dream came true a few weeks ago. I hired 2 local (cute!) guys to do the work and they did a good job. It only took them 2 days--they work fast! When they left, I primed and painted. Believe it or not, I've used 6 different colors in this small room. It wasn't planned... I intended to paint all the trim the same color, but once I started, I realized that the 5 windows and 2 doors makes for a lot of trim, and if all in the same color would have the effect of "shrinking" the room. So after painting 2 windows, I decided to paint 2 on another wall a different color, ditto the 3rd wall windows. Each door is trimmed in red. I still need to put a 2nd coat on some of the paint but I can manage that in my leisure time (if I get some ;) ).


I've temporarily painted the floor boards in a brick color, but will be ordering vinyl in this pattern:

I purchased a lovely cedar-lined coat closet from the re-purpose store on the cheap, brought my hall tree out there, and also have moved my work desk and laptop to this room as well. I can now say I leave the house to go to work! Ha! Although, in reality, the room now feels very much part of the house.

One more project checked off the list! :) Two other projects nearing the top of the list--and it's hard to say which I should consider first: 1) sump pump in the basement, 2) excavation work outside to build a drainage system that will divert the "stream" of water which heads directly towards my house off to the side, under the driveway (a new culvert), and towards the road. Since it won't be cheap, it won't be happening this year, but I'm starting to think seriously of ways to make it work.

In other news... Summer has arrived here. It was in the low 90s yesterday and high 80s today. I'm letting it permeate my soul, and I'm throwing myself into yard work every morning before it gets too hot. Today I planted a flowering crab apple tree that I purchased last month, set the tomatoes and parsley into the ground, and placed netting over my strawberries in what I hope will be a successful effort to thwart the berry raiders from confiscating the harvest! Yesterday, I put gladioli in the ground (some green flowering ones, and some yellows), and moved a pile of rubble. Over the weekend, the upper lawn got mowed for the 1st time and the lower lawn got a second cut. As you can see from this picture taken last week, the grass behind the flowers looks like a field! It's now sporting a more civilized cropped coif.

Still on the list: Finish digging the new deck garden; uncover the part of the labyrinth that sank over the winter; bring the garden furniture out from the cellar; figure out where new garden beds will go. Fiber projects are temporarily on the back burner.

The owl is around again and I love it's calls; soulful.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

These past seven months ...

... without running hot water. I don't think I mentioned it, but my hot water heater broke last November; I just got a replacement installed this past week. Of course, it wasn't planned that I would take all winter and then some to get a new hot water heater.

At first, I simply couldn't find a plumber to talk to. Hard as it may be to believe, this area is facing a severe shortage of plumbers! Even a very well-known national chain home improvement store is unable to do installations due to the lack of plumbers. I wonder if it should be a second career for me? Seems it would be less strenuous than programming... but who knows?

The tank that broke was propane fueled and I wasn't crazy about that. Propane anywhere other than the cook stove makes me nervous. Irrational? Of course. Anyway, I knew there was an opportunity to make a change. I also, within a short period of time after it broke, came to realize that I don't use much hot water. I can manage a sink load of dirty dishes with one tea kettle of boiling water, and the only other draws on the hot tap are showering and laundry. I got adept at sponge bathing over the past seven months, and I will say that having hot tap water again feels quite the luxury. I brought my laundry to the laundromat... like old NYC days. Yes, almost my entire 35 years living in NY saw me at the laundromat every few weeks. Believe me, to many NY'ers, a home laundry system is luxury living.

Winter came. The hardest thing about not having hot water during the winter is the morning face wash. It's quite the shock--although I got used to it (funny how we get used to things)--that near-zero splash. Quite the waker-upper. I was investigating my options: Since I now knew how little hot water I needed, it seemed an "on demand" heater would be most economical and ecological. Sadly, I found out my water is too heavy with minerals which would have made maintenance a headache.

Next option was electric, but small. Maybe 30 gallon if I could find one. Yes, they were available, but word was reaching my ears that I would suffer shock in the electric bill if I went that route. I called our local energy initiative and they helped assure me that electric wouldn't be the wallet drain I feared. They referred me to a local plumber (I wonder how they found him!?) and he was interested in setting me up with a heat-sink water heater. They work by drawing heat out of the surrounding atmosphere. If my wood stove were in the basement, and if I were firing it up all winter, then the heat-sink would have probably been a good buy. But it isn't, and I don't. It's quite cool to cold in the basement during the winter.

I finally ended up installing a 40-gallon electric heater.

Quite an amazing learning experience, this going without for seven months. For one, I've concluded that our way of living is not very efficient, but is in fact rather wasteful too much of the time. I suppose I reached that conclusion because I'm living here alone. It's a different story if one considers a family of 4 or so. But for me to keep 40 gallons of water hot all the time doesn't make a lot of sense seeing how I need so little of it. So I'm now thinking of setting it up with a timer. I'll also invest in a special blanket to wrap it in.

It's made me think of all the people the world over who do not have hot water on tap--many don't have cold on tap! We live cushy lives here in the west. It's easy to lose sight of how much luxury we enjoy.

I'm glad I don't have to sponge bathe any more.

Friday, June 9, 2017

A progress picture ...

I've managed to get some sewing done on "Celtic Solstice" these past few months on a 'here and there' basis. Turns out, sewing regularly fits the winter schedule better than that of spring. Even though the weather has prohibited much outdoor work, I've snapped up every opportunity to get out and peck away at the list of chores the yard has conjured up. Also, as it turns out: Cool, slightly breezy, drizzly days are the absolute best for garden and yard work--these conditions keep the bugs at bay. I'm remembering one very beautiful day a few weeks ago when I was able to get out and tend to some projects and honestly, every bug in New England got a good taste of me! I had to go indoors for fear I'd wither away to nil.

My "Celtic Solstice" needs 6 more blocks with the pinwheel center--the difficult block--and about 10 of the other--much easier--block. While I'm on spring pause for beautification of the grounds, not a lot is getting sewn, but the yard work will soon ebb and the seams will meet once again.

I have deliberately tried not to lay out my blocks "to see what they look like", but I succumbed to my curiosity one night a few weeks ago and this is what I have:

The blocks are not sewn together, they are just lying side-by-side. When they are all assembled, I will need to make quite a lot of "flying geese" to border them.

I'm well over half done.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Gay Pride Month 2017 ...

I have a few new posts to write, but I'll start with this one. Gay Pride month. (June--already! Last week one would have been hard pressed to know it based on the weather! It was not hot. It was not warm. It was not luke. It was not cool. It was cold! For this time of year. Much better today, but let me just say that half my "lawn" looks like a field right now. It's rained so much, and the ground has been so wet I haven't been able to mow it. I'm hoping something will happen over the weekend. It always amazes me how big a difference a mowed lawn makes to the look of one's property. From wild to civilized with a few passes of the mower.)

Gay Pride Day and it's extension into Gay Pride Month in modern times, started with the Stonewall riots; 1969. By the time I got to NYC the annual march was still a haphazard affair: Nothing official, no streets closed to traffic, and a slight risk of run-ins with police. My first march was in 1979 and I remember the distinct feeling of making a statement. It was nowhere near the official, highly visible march it is today. Alas, I will miss the march this year as I'll be participating in a chamber music workshop. But I'm fine with that; a year off will simply make next year's march all the more special. But I'll be thinking of my brothers and sisters marching and I'll be with them in spirit.

Every year during gay pride month I'm reminded of retired Bishop Shelby Spong's manifesto of 2009. I re-read it annually, and thought I'd share it here this year. It's heartening to witness how much has changed since he wrote this, 8 years ago, but disheartening to know that the forces against us remain mired in their sad ignorance and we must be ever vigilant.

Thursday October 15, 2009
A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is "an abomination to God," about how homosexuality is a "chosen lifestyle," or about how through prayer and "spiritual counseling" homosexual persons can be "cured." Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate "reparative therapy," as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality "deviant." I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that "we love the sinner but hate the sin." That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is "high-sounding, pious rhetoric." The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn't. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to "Roll on over or we'll roll on over you!" Time waits for no one.

I will particularly ignore those members of my own Episcopal Church who seek to break away from this body to form a "new church," claiming that this new and bigoted instrument alone now represents the Anglican Communion. Such a new ecclesiastical body is designed to allow these pathetic human beings, who are so deeply locked into a world that no longer exists, to form a community in which they can continue to hate gay people, distort gay people with their hopeless rhetoric and to be part of a religious fellowship in which they can continue to feel justified in their homophobic prejudices for the rest of their tortured lives. Church unity can never be a virtue that is preserved by allowing injustice, oppression and psychological tyranny to go unchallenged.

In my personal life, I will no longer listen to televised debates conducted by "fair-minded" channels that seek to give "both sides" of this issue "equal time." I am aware that these stations no longer give equal time to the advocates of treating women as if they are the property of men or to the advocates of reinstating either segregation or slavery, despite the fact that when these evil institutions were coming to an end the Bible was still being quoted frequently on each of these subjects. It is time for the media to announce that there are no longer two sides to the issue of full humanity for gay and lesbian people. There is no way that justice for homosexual people can be compromised any longer.

I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if the present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able to inform and educate himself on public issues on which he dares to speak with embarrassing ineptitude. I will no longer be respectful of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to believe that rude behavior, intolerance and even killing prejudice is somehow acceptable, so long as it comes from third-world religious leaders, who more than anything else reveal in themselves the price that colonial oppression has required of the minds and hearts of so many of our world's population. I see no way that ignorance and truth can be placed side by side, nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the Bible is quoted to justify it. I will dismiss as unworthy of any more of my attention the wild, false and uninformed opinions of such would-be religious leaders as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Albert Mohler, and Robert Duncan. My country and my church have both already spent too much time, energy and money trying to accommodate these backward points of view when they are no longer even tolerable.

I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of this struggle will be. Homosexual people will be accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society have to offer any of us. Homosexual marriages will become legal, recognized by the state and pronounced holy by the church. "Don't ask, don't tell" will be dismantled as the policy of our armed forces. We will and we must learn that equality of citizenship is not something that should ever be submitted to a referendum. Equality under and before the law is a solemn promise conveyed to all our citizens in the Constitution itself. Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to women? The time has come for politicians to stop hiding behind unjust laws that they themselves helped to enact, and to abandon that convenient shield of demanding a vote on the rights of full citizenship because they do not understand the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation has, and a "mobocracy," which this nation rejected when it adopted its constitution. We do not put the civil rights of a minority to the vote of a plebiscite.

I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives and gifts of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote.

The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture's various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon.

I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the "Flat Earth Society" either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I do not converse with people who think that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the birthplace of Ellen DeGeneres or that the terrorists hit the United Sates on 9/11 because we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American Civil Liberties Union. I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church's participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions and those we designated heretics, as well as gay and lesbian people.

Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a century ago: "New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth." I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever.

This is my manifesto and my creed. I proclaim it today. I invite others to join me in this public declaration. I believe that such a public outpouring will help cleanse both the church and this nation of its own distorting past. It will restore integrity and honor to both church and state. It will signal that a new day has dawned and we are ready not just to embrace it, but also to rejoice in it and to celebrate it.

– John Shelby Spong