Patterns

A frost last night, which was colder than what I’d expected. Arfy, our little Toyota, had his windshield iced over this morning. It was the coldest morning we’ve had in a month or more. I wrapped blankets around me a little tighter than usual in the middle of the night, but did not anticipate the lowering night temperature. When I saw a skunk scuttling along in front of the neighbor’s house before dark last night, I should have noted a colder evening ahead, as they like to look for warmer places to hide and insulate themselves from the night air. Under my house is one of their favorite spots. I think of California weather as moving in a linear direction through the seasons, from a cycle of slowly getting warmer to that of slowly colder. To go a month with no frost and then suddenly to have frost is not ordinary.

I went to the beach earlier today to escape the noise of sawing and hammering, and to practice my newly developing ukulele strum, which has less of a mechanical sound to it than what I’ve been playing. I’ve been working on a pattern with the strings that does not so sound so predictable to the listener. A cold wind coming out of the south on the bay made my fingers icy enough that I found the strumming difficult to sustain. This town is full of beach lovers like myself. When the weather is warm and not windy, I can see umbrellas, towels, and boogie boards strewn for miles along the edge of the white surf, but on the cooler days I sometimes find myself the only one around. Maybe I’m the only one who doesn’t watch the weather reports close enough to know when is a good beach day and when is not.

The carpenters have been busy lifting long, thick roof rafters into place and securing a sheathing of plywood to them with a pneumatic nail gun, so I’m not sure which was more tolerable–sitting on the beach in the cold wind, or staying home and listening to all the sounds of a building being constructed. They have begun a leg to the work that was not in the original plan, but which makes sense to me, to make the new cottage stronger and more comfortable.

Perhaps I should have gone downtown to the library today, rather than to the cold beach. I need to be more flexible in my daily patterns of living. I lock into a routine that excludes all the possibilities, forgetting about the joy of spontaneity and surprise that is available to all who have a bit of imagination.

Last week the media was full of stories about North Korea wanting to launch a nuclear missile, but this week the threatening intensity of the stories has subsided. The photos I see of North Korean soldiers marching in synchronization with their boots kicking high into the air gives me the sense that the citizens must live in an unchangeable state of austerity and anxiety. It would be interesting to sit in the home of a couple who have lived their life under the Marxist regime and listen to what they think the leadership of their country should do next. A life of starvation and isolation from much of the world, with heavy artillery pointed at them from the border, might make them think that anything a nuclear attack could gain for them is better than the nearly lifeless pattern in which they have been living. They seem to have a national character of wounded pride, stubbornness, and a suicidal animosity from years of being locked up within self-imposed borders.

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