There are days when being an independent self-sufficient adult is really annoying, days when you just want to roll over and say "Go away world."
Monday was one of those days although the weekend had started off really well.
I had decided to do some cooking, and although I often make simple meals for myself during the week, I find cooking for one to be far more tedious than I found cooking for two. I love it when I have an excuse to spend a day or two in the kitchen, and this weekend was one such occasion. I needed to make vegetarian chili (yay! feeding people!) , and since I was in the kitchen anyway, I decided to work on several things: a few pantry staples and a few more time-consuming things for myself.
Friday and Saturday were shopping days. Saturday morning is farmer's market time anyway, and what I see in the stands tends to inspire and inform a lot of what happens in the kitchen. Saturday night, inspired to clean out the freezer, I started a batch of chicken stock in the slow cooker and shredded up some leftover cooked chicken to make a Burmese dish, Kyethar Ngayakethee Kyaw, or shredded crispy chicken.
I had several projects in mind for Sunday: I toasted whole chiles, simmered them briefly, and left them to soak while I went to church. When I returned home I made chili paste, reserving some for the vegetarian chili and freezing the remainder in 2 tablespoon portions. Then I started on a Mostarda. I had a pile of dried fruit left over from earlier in the month, so I cut that up and simmered it in sweet vermouth, which may not be traditional but was already in the pantry, while I cut up the fresh fruit. After that was out of the way, I started the vegetarian chili, and once everything was in the pot, I boned out a lovely pork shoulder I had found at the farmer's market, salting the meat and putting it in the refrigerator overnight, with the intention of making carnitas on Monday.
Monday's plan was to deliver the chili (I had my share for breakfast with an egg), make the carnitas, make a simple ground beef chili, for those days I was too rushed or tired to cook, and to make a chilled cucumber soup. Hopefully I would also take a bicycle ride.
But then everything fell apart.
It poured Sunday night. I didn't think much about it except that Tikka refused to go outside. I continued working in the kitchen, finding the sound of the rain outside the windows soothing somehow. It proved to be a false sense of peace. I strained the chicken stock and put it in the refrigerator so I could let it sit overnight before removing the fat and packaging it for the freezer, then I went upstairs, thinking I had time to read before bed. I saw a puddle in the doorway to the bedroom, and initially I was annoyed with Tikka, who had refused to go out in the rain. I quickly realized that the puddle extended around half of my bedroom and was far too big for Tikka to have made it. I ran downstairs to the laundry room for extra towels. While I was downstairs I looked in the unfinished half of the basement, where a flooding problem arose over the winter, and which the contractor has not yet come back to fix. Admittedly this is at least partially because we were unsure of the cause, and since there has been little rain, I have had no reason to push. That scenario has now changed.
I had more water in the basement than I have had before, although the there was very little water in the laundry room itself. At least one leak had been fixed. Back upstairs. After soaking 10 towels and hauling them back down to the laundry, I noticed that there was water at the bedroom windowsill, but it didn't look soaked. My bedroom floor was soaked however, including the carpet and the pad. I hauled a drying rack upstairs to get the curtains off the floor so they could dry, and went back downstairs, where I saw that I also had a flood in the dining room. Luckily there is no carpet there yet, and the floor is polyurethaned. I took towels from the dryer, mopping up that water, put the second load of towels in the dryer, and the third load in the wash. Then I looked around at the basement walls.
The basement is below grade and I noticed that in both rooms, the finished laundry rooms and the unfinished area, the water was not coming in at the windows. They were perfectly dry. It seemed like it was seeping through the cinder block. I had an awful lot of water, but it was contained on a painted cinder block shelf that circumnavigates the perimeter. There was nothing more that could be done right then and I was about to collapse with exhaustion, so I went to bed. It was 2 AM.
Monday morning I awoke at my normal time, still exhausted, and would have much rather stayed in bed, but I couldn't. I realized that although I had mopped up as much water as I could the night before, the floors still felt wet, and the carpet was sodden around the fringes of nearly half the room. It is my house, my choice, and there is no one to fix things except me.
The upstairs floors have not yet been refinished, and the old wood felt like it had just absorbed some of the water. I packed up my sewing project so I could use the cutting table for clothes storage, emptied my dresser, stacking everything on the cuttiing table, and tried to move the dresser out of the corner. It is an incredibly heavy piece, but it was holding the carpet down and the area all around it was heavy with water. I was struggling to get enough purchase to get sliding disks under the legs so I could move it, but it was too close to the corner, the carpet was thick and swollen, and I didn't seem to have the strength. Just as I was about to give up, just as I called a friend to come help me move the dresser, I figured out how to do it, and I got the dresser across the room. I was inordinately proud of myself. It didn't look like there was any water on the bottom of the dresser itself, or underneath it, the water had just spread through the rug with capillary action. I hadn't thought of it previously, but of course a wool rug will hold a tremendous amount of water.
After turning back all the carpets, I went to Target to buy oscillating fans. And then the next stage of my adventure occurred. I was on the road, heading home, when I heard "thwack, thwack, crash, bang, rumble bumble, thud thud and my windshield wiper went flying across the road and hit a car going the opposite direction. Bye-bye windshield wiper. It was raining again, and of course, the flying wiper was from the driver's side of the car.
I assembled three fans and set them up in the bedroom to help dry out the carpet and floor. I also turned the A/C down to 65 upstairs, mostly because I thought the extra air flow could help, and because I wanted to discourage any mold or mildew growth. Tikka seems to think I've made this special place just for her. You can't tell in the picture above, but she is in the sweet spot between two oscillating fans. She looks like she is in pomsky heaven, in a cold room with cold air blowing on her.
Then I went downstairs to start moving stuff and mopping up water from the basement. Or at least that was my intention. When I got to the dryer I saw a snake in the corner. Not a big snake, just a rat snake, but not a tiny snake either, about 1 1/2 times the length of my foot. My foot is 10 inches long, in shoes. Back upstairs, out to the garage for a hoe and perhaps a pitchfork. I didn't want to hurt the snake, but I did want to get him out of the corner and out of the house, and I didn't want to be all that friendly. I'm really not frightened of snakes, but still, sometimes I do have to battle my own princess instincts. Perhaps I was just really tired. None of this is tragic stuff, just annoying. Seeing no prince on the horizon, I coaxed the snake onto my fork and happily settled him outside.
A daylily that decided to bloom on Monday. I don't remember its name.
By that time the rain appeared to have stopped and I needed to deliver the chili. While I drove it started to drizzle again, but luckily my drive was short, only 3 miles or so. I had to stop every couple of blocks to get out and wipe my windshield so I could see, but the rain finally did stop on my way back home, at least temporarily. I am now carless, at least as long as it rains, at least until I can safely get to a shop and get a new windshield wiper.
I tried to take a nap, but couldn't settle down. It made more sense to do something, so I packaged chicken stock and took it to the freezer, then drained the liquid from the fruit, boiled it down to a syrup and returned it to the bowl to macerate for another 24 hours. I went upstairs, but couldn't read. I puttered at my desk, and as I looked up and out, through the condensation filled panes (remember the upstairs is cold) I was somehow captured by the magic of that contrast. The silvery panes of condensation looked like little doorways, some promised reward hidden behind each one. I noticed in the perimeters that the rain had stopped and the sky was beginning to clear. I realized that this is just a hiccup.
I think I know what the problem was. It was just a conflagration of events. We had over 2 inches of rain in a couple of hours, at least according to my trusty 5-inch rain gauge. I think the gutter on that side of the house was overwhelmed. There is obviously a drainage issue, and it may well be underground. I do have the gutters cleaned regularly, but there is a problem in that area of the yard, probably with the buried portion of the drainpipe. The basement walls in that area were wet. Everything that touched them was wet. The rooms are all stacked in a line above that area of wet walls and sodden soil, of a drain pipe that perhaps doesn't drain properly and may well back up. I don't know if something went wrong the last time the gutters were cleaned and cleared, or if there was something happening that just finally gave way recently. I suspect the latter, I suspect there was an issue there before I bought the house, but it was more minor. It is no longer minor. And yet understanding a problem, even just the beginnings of understanding, as I may be wrong, offers hope. With hope comes determination, and with determination a renewal of resolve and energy.
Refreshed and energized, I started cooking the carnitas. I hauled stuff around the basement yet again. I sopped up water and washed towels and sopped up more water. I assembled the last fan and started it running in the basement. I didn't put away my clean clothes. I have no place to put them. I am tired of stuff piled up everywhere. I want to put stuff away and have it stay there. I want everything to work the way I want it to work. But don't we all?
This too will pass. Such a cliché, such yet such truth. Would life be happier and more rewarding if nothing ever went wrong? Well, I'd certainly like to imagine it, but I suspect not. I'd grow bored, complacent even; unhappiness would creep in anyway. Happiness grows out of meaningful work, out of connection to others and to the physicalness of life itself. What if life is really like those little fogged-over panes of glass? What if what we think is reality is really just obscured, a story we tell ourselves in order to survive, and the truth is around the edges, mostly unnoticed. What if we only see when we are outside of ourselves, outside of our routines, outside of our perfect little rituals and habits?
I would, however, like to sleep tomorrow.