Jilly D.

March Moods

In Off-The-Grid Memoir on March 7, 2014 at 1:14 pm

100_0931An eager student of a more sustainable lifestyle, I spent most of our first winter together interviewing Sam whenever we could find time to meet. Teaching four classes a day at Ithaca College that spring semester, I curtailed any additional demands on my time. I couldn’t wait to find more time to spend with this self-educated genius.

We met around dusk or else we didn’t see each other that day. Sam ate supper and went to bed soon after the sun set. Some days I didn’t start teaching my last class of the day until 4 pm. Three or four days a week we’d cook supper together and spend a few hours talking.

One March evening around 6:45 p.m., I decided it still looked light enough. The days were getting longer and I decided to walk down to Sam’s cabin at dusk. I saw through the window he was home preparing supper. I stared at him for a long time. He didn’t see me. I finally rapped on the window pane.

Sam dropped the pan on the table and with one move had his rifle pointed at the window. In that split second I realized he couldn’t see out into the darkness and I dropped to the ground face flat in snow.

I scrambled around to the door and knocked. He still had his rifle ready.

“Sam, Sam. It’s me! Jill. Sam! Don’t shoot!”

“Don’t you EVER do that again! I didn’t see you or hear you. You know I’m practically deaf. This cabin is lit up and anyone out there can see in but I can’t see out. Don’t ever sneak up on me like that again.” Sam scared me.

I’d never been around guns. Heard them go off a lot when I lived on the south side of Chicago, but I had never held one, used one, or owned one. Sam got his first hunting rifle at age 12. An Ithaca Gun. It hung on the wall within easy reach.

His loss of hearing often makes Sam feel vulnerable. From all the work he’s done with power tools and engines his hearing is marginal. Even as a teenager, he played drums in a rock band and loved the eardrum-breaking volume levels of music.

“Hunh?” is the word he says more than any other.Ithaca NY May 29-June 9 2009 Trip 215

“Did you read in the seed catalog about all the new kinds of tomato varieties?” I ask.

“Why would you wash your shoes in baking soda?” he responds. When Sam thinks he heard something and replies with a non sequitar, it’s funny to everyone but him. His hearing deficit makes me think about what I want to say and the clearest way to say it before I open my mouth.

All winter long I peppered him with questions about himself, his background, his home, his interests, his likes and dislikes, his friends and family, his land, his plans, his work, his projects, his intentions. How many questions I asked Sam that first year. Stupid questions. What do farmers do in winter? What is that machine? How does that work? When will the sun rise tomorrow? What are you thinking about? Should I make a salad? How did you learn that? What does that mean? What purpose does it serve? Do you like that?  How do you do that?

We didn’t even notice the blizzards that year. Every year thereafter, March seemed nothing more than a month of blizzards. Moods turn blue. Seasonal affective disorder is not an official diagnosis; it’s the result of living by the seasons and being in the March moment.

When you live by the weather, your moods are largely determined by climate conditions.  Clinical depression is a diagnosis for a mental condition of the blues with no basis in reality. Being bummed out is a realistic, if not healthy, response to living where it’s grey every day. The days get longer and longer and you get more and more frustrated that even though there is sunlight you can’t do the things you want to do because of the weather. In the middle of March it is simply depressing.

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  1. Get down! I get the vulnerability of deafness and the sinking feeling of March (the most disappointing month). Guns are part of country life. Whose going to eat everything you grew? You or the rabbits and woodchucks. Another fascinating story, Jill.

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