12 January 2011


"Snow Guilt (n): the reluctance to admit to one's enjoyment of a beautiful snowfall if one is not the person who usually shovels the driveway."
Today, I'm having a quite serious case of snow guilt. Because the view outside is very beautiful, and there is no way I would be able to get the car out of the driveway later today if the guys hadn't done the shovelling at seven o'clock this morning. It's their energy that allows me to enjoy the wonderful white vista outside my window.

Which makes me think of the issue of energy. This is my first week "not working", and I'm digging into my house, sorting, cleaning, cooking, baking... All stuff that's been on the back burner for, well, about a year. Most of my energy- mental, emotional, and even physical energy- has gone into my job; now that that's gone, I can spend it on other matters.

And doing all this, it's making me realize that everything we do, everything that happens, comes with a price tag. Everything costs. And in a lot of cases, the cost is energy- my energy. There's this lovely ideology around about how much better it is to do homemade-everything; after all, it's FREE- right? "Don't use your dryer- it's better for the clothes, for the environment, and for your pocketbook!" Uh, yeah, but I pay for it with my energy. "Grow your own vegetables- it's organic, local food, great exercise, and soo much cheaper!" Uh, yeah, except for the cost of my energy and time. "Don't take the car; walk or ride a bike- it's healthier, better for the environment, and cheaper!" Uh, yeah... All of those things, they're healthier, cheaper, better for the environment- and it's human energy, my energy, that pays for it.

And my point is not that these things aren't healthier and cheaper and all that, but that we often discount the energy they take- we discount the cost. Human energy is not even factored into the equation; it's like it's value-less, worthless. Earth energy is valuable (which is a fairly new attitude, globally speaking, and needs more work yet); money is valuable; but human energy is not. And that leads to all kinds of issues- burnout being one of them, and perpetual guilt for some of us...

However. I'd better go and excavate the bird feeder from its featherbed of snow, so the juncos and rosy finches can get at the sunflower seeds. Watching them hop around under the balcony table, searching through the seed husks for something edible, just makes me feel guilty again- and that's a guilt that's easily assuaged, with very little energy expense. As for snow guilt, perhaps I can just let go of it- or better yet, I think I'll convert it to Snow Gratitude: the enjoyment of the beauty of a snowfall amplified by the appreciation of the energy spent by others on shovelling the driveway.

Life, the Universe and Snow Days. It's all in how you look at it.

05 January 2011

Stinkbugs and Violets

Stinkbugs. There's stink-frickin'-BUGS in my kitchen! In January! When it's MINUS FIVE outside! Well, yeah, that's why they're inside. It's too chilly for them out there. I hate stinkbugs. They sound like helicopters when they're in flight, and if you touch them, they smell like, well, stinkbugs, with overtones of banana and apple (the delicate nose of chiquita and mackintosh, blended to create the indescribable aroma of a slightly deranged chemist's laboratory, reminiscent of autumn, old socks, and the cat's last accident on the couch cushions. Suggested pairings are... No, let's not go there). Needless to say, you can't squash them to get rid of them. Don't crush 'em, flush 'em. Many-a-one has met its watery grave in the whirlpool of my toilet.

Out-of-season wildlife in the kitchen. There are lots of things that occur out of season, or in places where they don't belong or don't fit, aren't there. (This is where I wax philosophical- don't say you haven't been warned.) Someone once said that the definition of a weed is "a plant that grows in the wrong place." I had a neighbour once who, with a passion, ripped up sweet violets, because they were too vigorous about invading her flowerbeds; she thought they were a horrible weed. Unfortunately, I didn't find out in time, or I would have transplanted them to mine; where sweet violets are concerned, the more the better (just ask Eliza Doolittle, she'll tell you the value of voy-lets). On the other hand, I wage an unceasing, albeit losing, battle against the alfalfa which insists on growing all over my property, whereas a friend of mine would love to have it on hers to feed her critters. And I do grow alfalfa in jars on my kitchen counter- but only to a length of a couple of centimeters, so as to then devour it spread between slices of bread slathered with mayonnaise. Everything in its place. Violets in my flowerbeds (but not my neighbour's), alfalfa in my sandwiches (but not my garden). It's all a matter of perspective.

I just ran across an excellent quote which expresses something along those same lines: "Whether you are regarded as disabled or gifted depends largely on when and where you were born." It's from Thomas Armstrong's new book Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Brain Differences. Disabled or gifted- quite. Weed or violet? Stinkbug or...?

No, sorry, that's where the analogy breaks down. I don't think there is a desirable side to stinkbugs. I certainly don't think they would be any good in sandwiches. And now we'll have to wait until spring to find out, because I sincerely hope the one that just took a ride in the whirlpool was the last one I'll see until then.

Life, the Universe, Stinkbugs and Violets. It's all a matter of perspective.