If it’s not wet, it’s frozen

Annie and I have a bedtime ritual. I turn off the TV, empty the water out of the dehumidier in the den and turn it on. That machine that we bought secondhand many years ago sucks up about a gallon of water a day in the rainy season from a room that appears to be dry–but it’s not. Our den used to be the garage. It’s damp and usually about 60 degrees. Mold appears on things in the closet, and giant water stains mar the beige carpet.

Moisture is a constant problem here. I was sorting through old newspapers and magazines on Saturday and found a box containing my very first publications. I found poems, short stories and articles from the early 1970s, as well as articles I wrote for various publications, including the San Jose Mercury News, Bay Area Parent, Bay Area Homestyle, South Valley News, Corporate Times, the Advocate Journal and others. There were my early prizewinning poems,  the article I wrote about San Jose State University when I was a student, my treatise on bees for Family Motor Coaching. A whole history of a career lay in that box, but a lot of it was so moisture-damaged from years in a coastal storage locker and then another year in my garage that I had to throw it away. I set aside the most precious things to be scanned into the computer. Then I went to Staples and bought some plastic bins for future storage.

The moisture is good for our skin, and it’s good for ferns and rhododendrons, but not so great for paper.

We haven’t had any rain for several days now. Instead we’re into an icy period, with the temperature in the 30s during the day and the 20s at night. If we had precipitation, it would be snow, but instead everything is coated with ice. So the other night, I turned on the dehumidifier, took my bedtime pill, brushed my teeth and then led Annie outside to make her final potty stop. She has a doggie door but rarely goes outside without me.

Her first stop is always the water bowl. This time, she put her tongue down and hit solid ice. I laughed at the look of total confusion on her face. I got her inside bowl and offered her liquid water, but no, she had to drink out of the outside bowl. She licked at the ice, pushed it around with her nose and finally found some water underneath.

After her drink, she skidded across the pavement and crunched across the frozen lawn to squat and melt some of the ice. Unlike most nights, she did not take time to sniff the air or run after phantom invaders. Too cold! She ran back inside and waited for her two Milkbones. If I just give her one, she’ll stare at me until I give her another. I kissed her goodnight, and we retired to our respective beds, mine in my bedroom and hers by the pellet stove which would be coming on and going off all night, lighting the room with an orange glow. By morning, the bin would be empty, and Annie would be curled up tight against the cold. I’d get another bag of pellets and start fighting our daily battle against the cold again. I just bought another 18 40-pound bags, half of them still in the car.

Nobody told us it would get this cold when we moved to the Oregon coast. And yet, when I look out the window at our bright blue sky without a hint of smog, when I step outside into the icy cold at night and see the stars so bright I could touch them, when I look at the trees and the ocean and the boats in the bay, I can’t believe how beautiful it is here. So I’ll buy plastic bins to protect my possessions and lots of pellets to keep me and Annie warm. Only a fool would complain.

Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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