The pond in the night

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WAKING FOR A spell in the middle of the night presents one with three options:

First, go right back to sleep. This is preferred. Second is chewing on a minor problem that, due to its appearing in the middle of the night, magnifies spectacularly in significance. This is your least desirable path. For me, there is a third.

Go to Wavering Pond.

I lived on my maternal grandparents’ 500-acre farm in southwest Georgia from the age of six months until I was on the brink of 7, which is when we moved to Florida.

I regularly traveled the 200 miles to the farm for visits, first to my grandparents and later to my parents who returned there to live after my grandmother died during a visit to New Orleans, and they inherited the place. My mother was an only child.

They sold the farm and moved to Atlanta in the mid-1980s.

That farm was wonderful. There were huge fields of cotton, corn and peanuts. There were Hereford cows and a grove of pecan trees. Then, due to a government program, that all vanished (not the pecan trees) and was replaced by pines.

The best part of the farm was Wavering Pond which was about a quarter-mile behind the old house, a short and easy walk. That’s not it in the photo, but that’s precisely how it looked. The pond was full of cypress trees that grew right in the water.

My grandparents always kept a rowboat there and a paddle. It was a rustic affair, a little leaky, but it worked well for sliding over the surface or for fishing. I never fished. I explored. I spent hours over the decades paddling alone and slowly across that pond, and it was a very large pond, two or three acres or so.

It was always quiet and, except right out in the middle, a bit dark and creepy. There were owls and crows. Long ago, perhaps in my 20s — I don’t recall exactly — I dreamed of building a home there just like Thoreau, a place to live alone and not be bothered by people.

Additionally, it was going to be an underground home, dug into the hillside that rose up from the pond’s dark, clear waters, dark due to the many cypress trees. It’s an idea that still appeals to one’s hermit nature.

So now, in the middle of the night when I awaken, I visit the pond. I’m in the rowboat alone always, looking over the side, seeing bass and brim, the occasional snake and turtle. And I go back to sleep drifting among cypress knees.

The arch at night

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HEADING TO bed the other night, I turned around and saw this, and it occurred to me that I’d never taken a straight-on shot of the arch.

The camera was sitting on a table by the front door just off to the left, so I grabbed it, set it on flash, and shot this picture. I almost never use the flash, but it was necessary.

I was standing in near-total darkness.

Those two large plates hanging on either side of the arch were purchased years apart. The one on the left we bought about a decade ago during a trip to Taxco. The one on the right we bought more recently in Ajijic, Jalisco.

Ajijic, like San Miguel de Allende, is one of the most beloved spots for Gringos who want to live down here, do “art,” and not have to be bothered with learning pesky Spanish.

See those two carved-wood columns at the bases of the arch? That was my child bride’s idea. She came up with some doozies during the Hacienda construction.

About a week after moving into the house in 2003, we had a party to show it off to people we knew here. It was back before I turned into an almost complete hermit.

One of our invitees brought someone visiting from above the Rio Bravo. He was an architect, and he told me that finding someone in the United States who could build that arch would be almost impossible these days.

The old guy who built ours, Don Felipe Gonzalez, did it by hand, and it was interesting to watch the work. He was the boss of the three-man construction crew. Don Felipe turned 70 during the construction, and he’s since died.

He also chipped stone blocks out of rock piles to build the two fireplaces and, later, the Alamo Wall out in the yard. He did them by himself. Don Felipe was an artist.

When we hired him to build the Hacienda, he was 69 and just recovering from a lengthy illness of some sort. He was having trouble finding work due to his age.

Ageism, sexism, almost all the isms, thrive in Mexico.

People thought he was not up to it. He was recommended by a relative, and Don Felipe gave us an exceptionally low price for the labor. We jumped at it.

He’s long gone, but I think of his talent almost daily as I wander around here, even late at night before beddy-bye.

Work and solitude

WHEN WE first wed years back, I was the primary cook and dishwasher. I remain the latter.

But I tapered off on the cooking, mostly due to shiftlessness. It’s not that she took over so much as we just prefer the easy route. Quick stuff, takeout, restaurants, etc.

I used to do other work too. Decorative painting on the Hacienda’s walls. I’ve stopped. Too much effort.

Due to feeling increasing shame recently for my laziness, I’ve begun fixing more meals. I have some old standards. There’s jambalaya and gumbo. Jambalaya is lots easier than gumbo, so gumbo hasn’t returned to our plates just yet.

Maybe it never will. It’s not a quick meal.

I prefer easy fixings. I do a nice 15-minute minestrone. And there’s a pasta dish on which I dump steamed broccoli and garlic. Just today we’ll be having meatballs that I made yesterday in a crockpot.

And I’ve decided to work more in the yard, easy stuff. And wash the Honda more. I’ve been letting carwash guys on the plaza do it because it only costs a bit over two bucks.

Paying anybody to wash the car in these parts from June through October is akin to burning cash since it rains every single day. A clean car lasts about an hour.

But you gotta do something or, come November, you won’t even remember the color of your car.

So I’m working more now. Cooking, gardening, carwashing. It’s good to keep fairly busy, I think.

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The hermit life

I‘m reading a fascinating book called One Man’s Wilderness: an Alaskan Odyssey. A writer named Sam Keith used the journal of Richard Proenneke to construct the story of a man who moved alone at 51 to the Alaskan wilderness in the 1960s where he erected a cabin and lived solo for 30 years.

Proenneke’s talents with his hands and mind were awesome. He wasn’t an actual hermit because he received occasional guests, which he enjoyed, and, now and then, he returned to the Lower 48 for brief visits with relatives and amigos.

The book spoke to me perhaps more than to most people due to my longstanding hermit inclinations. Were it not for my love of womenfolk, perhaps I would have been a Proenneke. But I would have needed to hone my handyman skills first.

As a youth, I dreamed of living alone in an underground home on the bank sweeping down to the pond among cypress trees that rested on my grandparents’ Georgia farm.

Decades later, my hermit dream was to live in a half-buried school bus in the desert near Big Bend National Park. I read of a woman who did just that. I was flush with envy.

One wonders what a psychiatrist would say about those two dream homes being half buried beneath ground level?

I would have required a hermit woman, but doesn’t that negate the concept of being a hermit?

New ImageI would have cooked her gumbo in the school bus. And I would have washed her dishes. And maybe I’ll fix gumbo at the Hacienda again one day.

One must be kind to women.