Friday, June 16, 2017

Ticked off

It’s Sunday, May 7, 2017.  I’m currently in a coffee shop on Portage Avenue, waiting for a toasted cinnamon bun to go with my coffee.  I’ve just come from the Living Prairie Museum on Ness Avenue, a small nature preserve within Winnipeg city limits.

I have also just terminated with extreme prejudice a small brown bug that just crawled out of my hair.  It looks suspiciously like a tick, specifically the kind and I intend to wrap its fingernail-mangled, dismembered corpse in a napkin and take it with me for medical forensics in case I discover any mysterious bites on my person suggestive of Borrelia burgdorferi infection.  Hopefully it’s the only…

...Oh, bloody ‘ell, there’s another one of the little blighters.  *mangle*

And a third.  *crunch*

Okay, it’s official:  I am not a happy camper -- or hiker, as the case may be.  That said, I knew this job was dangerous when I took it.  I’m fully aware that May is tick season, and although I’ve never actually sustained a tick bite I harbour a profound dislike for that particular insect genus.  I’m on a far less malevolent footing with mosquitoes and wasps, in fact.

I went out for a walk on the tall grass prairie anyway.

There is a poignant phrase from The Soulforge by Margaret Weis:  “If we stop living because we fear death, then we have already died.”  This is something that I strive to live by, believing as I do that we get one life per customer and that the quality of that life is directly proportional to the amount of responsibility we assume for its disposition.

If I decline to go for a Sunday stroll in the open air because I fear ticks, then something in me is gasping for breath -- not dead yet, but not fully alive either.  I can choose my battles to some extent, calculating risks and minimizing overt stupidities, but hiding indoors on a sunny spring afternoon is not an option.




And now it’s Sunday, June 11, 2017.  I’m sitting in a different coffee shop, this time one on Academy Road.  I’m on my way home from a stroll at Fort Whyte Centre and seem to have escaped unscathed.  All I did was take reasonable precautions, wandering down the center of the Lakeside Trail and back to the entrance via a floating boardwalk, staying out of heavily overgrown areas.

If I had acquiesced to the fear I wouldn’t have heard the birdsong, a dozen unfamiliar tunes.  I wouldn’t have been able to stop and smell the wild roses, which are everywhere.  I wouldn’t have seen the bright yellow lady’s slippers lurking by the side of the path, lying in wait for unsuspecting bugs.  The main insects I did see were some ground-cruising blue beauties (damselflies, I think), one larger dragonfly in a holding pattern at 1,000 mm, and some gregarious butterflies.  There was a family of Canada geese in one of the lakes, an occasional duck quack from somewhere in the marsh, and bison in the field beside the access road.

I had a good time.  Better yet, the post-excursion check-over did not reveal any ticks or in fact any other bugs hiking across my person.

It’s entirely possible that on some future stroll in the woods, some minuscule wildlife will hitch a ride home with me.  If and when that happens, I’ll just deal with it and keep going.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

One step at a time. Just one step at a time.

One of my major struggles has been the quest to renovate my home.  It’s considerably less of a struggle now, as most of the big-ticket items are done deals:  I have a new 200-amp electrical board, two renovated bathrooms, an upgraded kitchen, new plumbing all the way from the water meter, and a new garage.  Last year I demolished the old front steps and built new ones.  So far this year, I’ve had several problem trees removed, had the parging fixed on three of the exterior walls, and constructed a large planter in the back yard.

Where I fall down on the job is when I have to finish up something that is functional and not really causing me any problems.  For instance, there’s some woodwork in the main hallway that isn’t quite done.  It’s aesthetically lacking, but it isn’t something that I’m crashing into or stubbing my toe on.

One problem spot is the hallway on the second floor.  New light fixtures, new paint, old floor that’s partially replaced.  This is something that one can stub one’s toe on, and it looks less-than-optimal.  I’m moving forward on this, bit by bit -- the next sheet of plywood is purchased and partly cut, with the next piece now upstairs awaiting a few measurements to fine-tune it to the space it needs to occupy.

I’m now closing in on another uncompleted project, applying oak trim inside the kitchen window frame to give it a more finished appearance.  I had been stalling on this for a number of reasons:  Didn’t want to spend money on the trim, wasn’t sure if I would do a good job cutting the trim and would have to purchase replacement pieces, didn’t like leaning over the kitchen sink to cut the cardboard templates necessary to get accurate measurements.

Guess what?  Not long after writing the first draft of this post, I went out to buy the materials.  Then I  made some long strips out of a couple of file folders.  Then I grabbed a step stool and leaned over the sink, lined up the strips with the inside of the window frame, and made a few creases at the inside window corners.  Then I transferred the template markings to the wood I had bought.  Then I took the wood downstairs and sawed, planed and sanded until each piece had the right shape and size.  Then I glued each piece into place, and stood back and admired the work I had done.  In other words, the kitchen window is now almost finished; it just needs a touch of wood filler and then a coat or two of wood stain to complete the job.

I constantly have to remind myself that projects are comprised of thousands -- yes, thousands -- of tiny steps.  I also have to keep reminding myself that it’s not fun to keep looking at the same undone work day after day.  It’s not healthy for self-esteem to be reminded of one’s failings, especially if the fail can be attributed to inaction rather than “Hold my beer and watch this!” derring-do.  Sometimes you just have to give it a go, even if that means cutting a board, swearing under your breath when you realize you cut it two inches too short, and jumping in the car to go buy another one.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s a small price to pay.