Naked on the Deck

And other benefits of a home with privacy.

Lately, I’ve taken to relaxing on my deck after a shower or soak in the tub. Naked.

Naked on the Deck
This chair outside my bedroom door to the deck is a perfect place to relax after a shower or soak in the tub.

I can do that where I live. My north-facing deck is covered and blocked from the road by my home. There’s a hill to the west that separates me from my closest neighbor. To the north and east, the land drops away, leaving me with a clear view down to the Columbia River Valley with more than a quarter mile between me and the closest home or orchard.

I have a comfortable chair out there where I can relax, letting a warm summer breeze tickle my skin and dry water droplets my towel missed. I listen to the birds or the crickets or the orchard sprayers while looking out over miles of orchards, scattered homes, a small lake, the winding Columbia River, basalt cliffs, and the city of Wenatchee off in the distance.

It’s one of the perks of living someplace with privacy.

My home in Arizona had nearly as much privacy and I admit I occasionally lounged on my upstairs patio there after a shower or bath — mostly on a warm winter afternoon when the sun flooded the covered area. But I was far more likely to drop my towel at night than during the day; my neighbors were a lot closer and more likely to spot me out there. I’m shy.

My vacation home in northern Arizona was the ultimate in privacy. No one was ever around up there. That place also had a deep silence broken only occasionally by the sound of the flapping of a raven’s wings or a car wandering onto the rumble strip along the closest paved road two air miles away. Or a jet, 30,000 feet up, flying on the jet route over the Grand Canyon.

I value privacy — real privacy. That’s one of the reasons I live on ten acres two miles down a gravel road on the edge of town. Yeah, it’s a long drive — 10 miles to the nearest supermarket — but it’s so worth it.

People complain about loss of privacy from big data collection by social media or portable devices or government agencies like the TSA. Yet these same people live in homes 20 feet from their neighbors’ and rely on association-approved fences to keep those same neighbors from watching their backyard barbecues. Or they share walls with neighbors in apartments or condos and can hear their neighbors sneeze or argue or have sex. Or their windows look out into community spaces, thus requiring them to close the blinds if they don’t want their neighbors to watch them eating dinner or watching television.

I lived like that for a while: in a fishbowl condo that reminded me so much of a movie that I named the network Rear Window. I hated having to use blinds to block out prying eyes — and light. I hated the thought that I had to change the way I lived my life just because I lived so close to other people.

But here in my new home, I don’t have curtains or blinds on any of my windows. I don’t need them. No one is going to look in — no one can. And no one wants to — most of the people out here have their own lives and don’t need to poke their noses into their neighbors’ business. (Sadly, not all of them have learned what living in the country is all about, but I suspect they’ll learn that lesson soon. Seriously: some people who live in metro areas really should stay there. They’re not welcome here.)

So I’ll relax naked on my deck whenever I like, basking in the privacy that my semi-remote home gives me, glad that I made the decision to rebuild my life here, in a place I love, on my terms.

A Ghost in the Machine

Traces of a past best forgotten pop up in the most unexpected places.

This morning, I unpacked and installed my HP color laser printer. I’d been using a cheap Brother laser printer — the one I’d bought years ago for home when I moved my office to a condo in Wickenburg for a few years — since moving to Washington state two years ago. The Brother is very fast and reliable with perfectly fine print quality for the limited amount of printing I do. But I needed a color printer to print some satellite images for the pilots who will be working with me this summer and since the HP was packed in its box in my shop storage area, I figured I’d bring it up.

I honestly can’t remember where the printer was when I packed it. I’d had it in my office in Wickenburg for quite a while but in 2011, in a failed attempt to appease my husband (now wasband), I’d moved my office to the condo he was living in during the week in Phoenix. The idea was to spend more time with him, which he led me to believe he wanted.

But that move also came with a lifestyle that had me shuttling back and forth between Phoenix and Wickenburg every week — weekdays in Phoenix, weekends in Wickenburg. After spending the whole summer living in an RV every year, I wanted to be home. In one home. With my office in Phoenix, whenever I had a book project, I needed to be there. And I work weekends when I have to. So instead of spending most of my time in my comfortable Wickenburg home, I wound up spending most of my time in a dark, depressing, noisy, and privacy-free condo in Phoenix that I never even liked. Meanwhile, he kept going home on weekends, making we wonder, at times, why I’d moved at all.

Anyway, I don’t remember if I moved the printer down to that office. I might have. If I did, it was likely one of the possessions I had to beg him to let me have back when he and his mommy/girlfriend began their reign of harassment in the early days of divorce proceedings. In any case, I still had the original box — I kept all boxes in my hangar — and I packed it in its original foam. I’m pretty sure the Brother was in the condo — it was in the cabinet under the TV — and I can’t remember if I got it the day I came to retrieve my possessions or before that.

Honestly, the whole thing is a blur and that’s probably a good thing.

Today, I moved the Brother off my file cabinet — another possession I had to ask for — dusted the cabinet’s top off, and set the HP in its place. It uses the same cables, so I just hooked it up to power and USB. It immediately came to life with a Paper Jam error message.

I opened the printer’s big front door. The sheet of paper was clearly visible and easily removed. As I pulled it out, I wondered why I hadn’t removed it when the jam occurred. Then I looked at it and realized that I hadn’t printed it. My wasband had.

Email Jam
The ghost in my machine was a jammed email message printout.

It was an email message I’d written to him back in 2007. It had two attachments, one of which was a PDF of my flight plan. The message told him that I was flying from Page, AZ up Lake Powell and into Canyonlands National Park. I was apparently on a charter flight — probably a photo flight I did with a photographer trying to get images of certain landforms from the air for an advertising poster. I vaguely remember the early morning flight and the photographer holding a camera sitting on a Kenyon gyro. I could probably track down more details in my log book.

I know I’d used the printer after 2007. Heck, I’m not even sure if I owned the printer in 2007. That meant my wasband had printed a long-saved email message while I was gone, probably in the summer of 2012, when he hooked up with his girlfriend/mommy and his delusions went into full swing.

I have an idea why he might have printed this old email. In his deluded mind, he was convinced that he had helped me build my helicopter charter business. That’s how he justified going after half its assets in the divorce. He was unable to prove his case in court — most likely because it wasn’t true — but I assume that he was collecting email messages related to that business as part of his case.

Of course, the reason I sent him an email message with my flight plan that morning at 3:06 AM was because he was my husband and I thought he’d care about my route. At that point, before his delusions began, I think he really did. He might have even still loved me back then.

But mental illness does funny things to people. Once the love was gone and the greed-fed delusions took over, he saw everything even remotely related to my business as evidence of me using him without compensation. I’m sure his lawyer(s) got a stack of email messages from me to him that he thought could help his case in court.

Printed on my printer.

Finding this message jammed in my printer makes me even sadder for him than I already am. His illness, fed by bad advice by manipulative people he trusts, caused him to throw away so much — not the least of which was a friendship and a ton of money. I doubt anything remains of the good, honest man he once was.

I’ll throw this ghost into my recycle bin. Another reminder of a lost life swept away.

The Cricket Wars

Because crickets belong outdoors.

It started the other night at 1:50 AM. The sound of a cricket so loud that it woke me out of a sound sleep.

Like most people, I like the sound of crickets. To me, it’s a country sound, a sound of the natural world. It reminds me of childhood and camping and the great outdoors. It reminds me of star gazing and warm summer nights and forests.

A symphony of hundreds of crickets is a wonderful blanket of white noise to lull a person to sleep.

But not when a cricket is making its noise from the inside of your bedroom closet.

It was loud. Very loud. And because my home has very high ceilings, the sound seemed to echo around the place. Indeed, when I finally got out of bed to try to put a stop to it, it took me a while to zero in on the bug’s location. But I found it in the corner of the closet, hidden under some temporary shelves I’d put in there to stow my clothes until my official move.

This was not a small cricket like the ones you might buy in a pet shop to feed your caged reptile. Its body was at least an inch long.

A shoe made short work of it. I picked up its carcass with a tissue and flushed it.

And then I went back to bed.

I never did get back to sleep. Another cricket started up soon afterwards. This one wasn’t in the closet. I had no idea where it was but I knew it was indoors. Somewhere. Possibly in the living room.

I got out of bed to start by day. At 3:15 AM.

That night, on Facebook, I mentioned my cricket situation:

Found and killed the cricket in my bedroom, but the one in the living room is still at large. For now.

One of my friends commented:

Oh no! I’m sad to hear that, I love me my crickets! All they do is make music for you!

My response:

I suspect you haven’t had them in your bedroom with you. At night. When you want to sleep.

My friend Alix, who is in a doctoral program for entomology, said she could use one for her collection. She’s required to collect, identify, and mount several hundred insects for her degree. I’ve been collecting interesting bugs on and off for her for the past two years. I even bought special zipper snack bags to store them in.

So the next morning, when the cricket somewhere near my hallway started up again before 4 AM, I grabbed a snack bag and went hunting. The trick, I realized, is to be very quiet. If they hear you nearby, they shut up. It took about 10 minutes, but I finally zeroed in on my second victim. It was in my future linen closet — currently shelfless — against one wall. I put the baggie down in front of it and coaxed it in. Then I zipped it shut, took a photo, put it in the freezer, and showed it off on the Facebook thread.

Cricket Post

Alix later identified it as a male Gryllidae. (She is seriously into bugs.)

Later that morning, I heard a third one. I found it in my bedroom closet again. The ShopVac I had sitting in the hallway made short work of it.

That night, it was quiet inside. In fact, it was quiet for the next few nights.

Until 3:30 AM on Monday morning.

I found it in my closet, conveniently close to my household vacuum and closet power outlet. I plugged in the vacuum, positioned the hose nozzle, and turned it on. Whoosh!

After a quick tweet, I went back to sleep.

Since then, I haven’t been bothered by indoor crickets at night.

I did find one by my bedroom door to the deck yesterday afternoon when I went outside with a glass of wine to watch a rainstorm and listen to the rain on my roof. I scooted it outside with my toe.

And I’m pretty sure there’s one stuck inside the wall or possibly between the wall and door jamb downstairs in my entrance vestibule. I can’t find it and it doesn’t make noise at night. As I type this, it’s silent and I’m beginning to think it either found its way outside or has died.

Is the Cricket War over? I doubt it. I am more careful about leaving the doors open downstairs, though. I know I have crickets in my garage and I don’t really mind. But since I suspect they might have come in through one of my two vestibule doors to get upstairs, I now keep those doors closed. And the front door.

But I know who the winner of this war will be — and it isn’t the crickets.

Spring Day from My Deck Time-Lapse

A windy spring day.

I set up my GoPro on a tripod on the deck outside my bedroom door for a time-lapse on Monday before dawn. Unfortunately, Monday was a rather ugly day — cloudy and kind of dreary. The resulting time-lapse would not have been share-worthy.

So I left the GoPro running and captured enough images for a 4 AM to 10 PM time-lapse on a much prettier — but windier — day. Can you see the point where the wind blew over my tripod? (I deleted the shot of my deck roof.)

Should have set this to music but I didn’t. Sorry!

I’ll try this again in a few weeks with the image zoomed in a bit. I thought I’d set it right for this one, but apparently I didn’t.

Taking “Home Made” to New Levels

I realize that I can take home-cooking to extremes.

French Toast Breakfast
My home-made/grown bread, eggs, and honey went into this.

This morning, I made French toast for breakfast. For most people, that’s not a big deal — French toast is easy enough to make. But I realized that my French toast went beyond what most people would consider a home-cooked meal for a few reasons:

  • I baked the bread.
  • The eggs came from my chickens.
  • The honey I put on top came from my bees.

The only thing related to my plate that I didn’t make or grow was the cooking spray I used in the pan and the fresh strawberries. In two months, the strawberries will come from my garden.

While anyone with an oven (or bread machine) and a tiny bit of skill (or ability to follow directions for a bread mix) can make their own bread — and I highly recommend it! — I agree that raising chickens or keeping bees is not for the average person. So no, I’m not trying to tell you to follow my lead here. I’m just pointing out that it’s possible to have better control over what you eat.

And the results can be delicious.