Monthly Archives: December 2010


Whiteboard white-out

A wonderful winter blizzard brought mounds of white snow to play in and shovel and snowshoe through. Spinning gusts of snow whipped by the wind raced over a field of white, and reminded me of the whiteboard at the showers.

Our modest village of Otter Creek has only a few businesses, but Hot Showers is one of them. It has no other name. It is simply, as the oversized sign in classic 1950’s signboard lettering proclaims, Hot Showers – coin-operated, 24-hours.

A year ago the old tired building was taken apart and the groundwork laid for a new, more efficient one. While there wasn’t anything wrong with the old, it was increasingly difficult to maintain. Constant monitoring and repairs made it a struggle to keep it profitable. The groundwork began in November, we held the grand opening in May.

There were kinks to work out, though remarkably few. But we wanted feedback, a way to be sure there was nothing important overlooked, a way to find out if there were any more kinks we needed to straighten. And so the whiteboard was installed. “Comments? Suggestions?” we rashly asked. And an outpouring began that continued until the showers closed for the season in October. We had expected practical comments, such as “stall seven needs the knob adjusted” “the women’s toilet door sticks” or other useful information. And we were prepared for some disgruntled remarks, in spite of the brand new, clean and green facilities, there always seems to someone who is to be dissatisfied. Instead a communication was started between our customers, and us and from one shower user to another.

We would erase as the board filled, but not without sharing. “Did you see what the couple from Nebraska said?” “A woman from New Hampshire said she took three showers in one day!” While delighted by this we were also perplexed, it seems like a lot. But a morning shower, and then after a swim in the sea, and then perhaps in the evening after a pounding bike ride. We were not really satisfied with this however, and will never know why she took three. “That’s not a shower, that’s a miracle!” wrote Marc from Brisbane, Auckland. “When was the last time 2$ made me so happy?” another asked. We became fascinated, and only realized after several weeks that there had not been one, “Please check the knob” comment.

But now the board is silent for the winter. It is wiped clean and sits waiting, a perfect white field ready for the voices of our customers in 2011. Happy New Year to all, see you in the Spring, but right now we are going to don snowshoes and explore paths through the woods and cross white fields of snow.


Silver Balls

White ground, blue sky, green tree, silver balls. Colors and calm, how has it happened that we are relaxed rather than frenzied in this last stretch before Christmas?

Agendas are still full, last weekend we brought wood to camp, cut our wild and ungroomed trees, framed a dried octopus, went to a Yankee swap, (for which the octopus was framed), decorated the tree for the house, packed and shipped gifts going far away, breakfasted with mother-in-law, had family over for dinner, and clung to a ladder as I reached to hang silver globes from the weeping cherry. We leave a few of these silver balls on the tree all year. In the summer they reflect the green grass and curious faces of those peering at them, a gallery of gazing balls.

But all this activity is done with a curious quietude. I think I like it. Gifts were wrapped and hidden away the start of December, and we have had the time to say, yes, let’s go see Harry Potter, or go for a walk, without feeling we should instead be getting ready. We are ready. And now have the time to look around and enjoy it.

Those silver balls on the cherry hang about fifteen feet outside the bay window. The balls hang suspended by monofilament, tied in a sad approximation of the knot my dad patiently, over and over, showed me how to tie. Inside the window the Christmas tree is a brilliant blaze with chandelier crystals from my mother, glass icicles, and clear old-fashioned tree lights. The bulbs have slim glass tubes that bubble away, creating constant movement, but gentle movement, unlike blinking electric Christmas lights. In the dusk they reflect off the window. The weeping cherry, with it’s silver balls, appears covered with a thousand gleaming spots of reflected light floating around its branches, Tinkerbelle and all her family come to visit.

In the distance, one large globe topped with snow hangs high, twice the height of the cherry tree, and we are reminded of an warm autumn night when a visiting granddaughter grabbed a fallen globe and swarmed up the tree, hanging it far out of range of being retrieved.

We throw another log in the stove, bundle up for the 17 degree air. Outside we blow out the lamp in the grape arbor, a gift from family who will be away this Christmas, and walk through our tiny village looking at lights. Some houses are dark. We miss the plastic candles and life size Snow White of the neighbor who passed away this year. Other houses that had long stood empty are festive and jolly for the first time. We walk to where our other house burned to the ground. There on the far side of the hole we placed a small tree and ran a long cord, using an ingenious timer system D’s father helped set up. It bravely stands guard, holding place until we rebuild.

The home stretch stretches on. Friends visit, family drops in, and those who cannot are here with us, saying Merry Christmas from a Christmas light timer, a globe on a branch, an outdoor lantern, a silver clamshell, a chandelier crystal, and a botched knot. To them, and to all, Merry Christmas.