Al is away this week, in Israel, volunteering on an archeological dig. It’s a dream he’s had for at least a year, and he’s having the time of his life. It’s also an activity that I cannot share. We agreed that my hands are simply not capable of the sifting and digging involved. There’s a heat wave there, with temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit by afternoon. The group has to get up by 4:00 in the morning to arrive at the dig site by 6:00. Work for the day finishes by noon, to avoid the worst of the brutal sun. Not my kind of schedule.
So I’m very glad that we were able to make this work for him. And fine being here on my own. But this is the longest stretch we’ve been apart—nine days—in six years, the last time involving another trip he made to Israel to visit our older daughter when she was living in Tel Aviv.
It’s an adjustment. I have good friends and neighbors that I know I can count on if I need any help. But I’m not about to call for assistance with all the little ways that Al fills in for my hands on a daily basis.
On Monday morning, for instance, the ants decided Memorial Day was the perfect time to march into my office, which is a renovated porch. The inner wall is the back of our chimney, and I noticed a tell-tale pile of fine dirt along one edge where the brick meets the carpet. A few industrious, tiny brown ants were scurrying hither and yon. There were also a few flying ants (not termites, I checked) that had chosen this very sunny day to flit about.
This is an annual spring phenomenon, so I was more annoyed than surprised. I brought up the portable vacuum from the basement, put the hose pieces together carefully so as not to bang my fingers, and sucked up the dirt (and a few ants, no doubt), then sprayed some Raid around the base of the brick wall.
The next problem, once the ants appeared vanquished (I won’t know for a few days if the swarm is over), was dealing with the fumes from the insecticide. I had a lot of writing to do, and I didn’t want to be forced out of my office by the smell (and sitting with those chemicals all day). Only problem is that the sliding door to our deck in my office is hard to open, but even harder for me to latch shut. Al always does this for me. So that option was out.
There is a bay window that has two panels you open with a crank. I never open them, because the cranks are not easy for me to manipulate. But I didn’t really have a choice. I cranked one window a few turns, only to realize that the top was stuck shut. So I cranked it closed and tried the other side. Same problem. The only other window in my office has no screen, and I couldn’t force it open, anyway.
As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Out I went, into our side yard, armed with a tack hammer, planning to use its pronged end to leverage open the upper half of the window. I didn’t want to damage the vinyl frame, so I worked my tool carefully up the length of the stuck edge. It only took a few easy tugs, and the window opened its full length. I must admit, I was pretty proud of myself.
I spent the rest of the day writing, with plenty of fresh air and no more ant activity. The only problem with the open window on a sunny holiday was that my next-door neighbor, whom I rarely hear, was out gardening for several hours, chatting with some other folks who were helping or visiting, I couldn’t quite tell. Certainly her right, on a beautiful day, but (grumble, grumble) I would have preferred less of a distraction.
This is where working in a newsroom years ago comes in handy. I can still screen out other people’s conversations when I’m deep into my writing. And that’s basically what I did. By the time I came up for air, it was after 6:00 p.m. I made good progress. When I cranked the window, it closed easily.
I’m leaving the vacuum upstairs until I’m sure the ants are gone. I’m hoping that’s the worst of my problems this week. (Friday morning, the day before Al left, he discovered that our hot water tank in the basement was leaking, a problem that involved a seven hour plumber’s visit, a new tank, and a lot of money. Fortunately this happened while Al was still here, or I would have been a lot more upset.)
My next challenge: taking out the garbage without screwing up my hands or breaking the bag. I think I can handle it. But the recycling can wait until Al gets home.
Image: Vlad Tchompalov