Cabin Fever

My energetic wife and I retired years ago, and we’re good at being together. A big house helps, and we both like holing up in our own space for long periods.

We genuinely like being together, debating current events, comparing books, taking long walks, traveling, riding bikes, and motorcycling.

She hikes at least twice a week, scaling Appalachian mountains with a close group of friends, and I work out daily and jaw-jack down at the gym and pool. We volunteer frequently and love working outdoors while the sun shines.

Old Timers Hiking Club buddy Rich. Photo by Janice Miller.

And we’ve been cooped up far too long.

But this February, darkness clouds the soul as rain continues to fall in sheets. Lakes and rivers are out, and it’s dangerous to travel country roads through low-lying areas.

The canary in the coal mine is Angeline, a British short hair female alley cat rescued fourteen years ago and named after the petulant female in James McMurtry’s sad lament about East Texas.

Angeline, even more ancient then we at seventy-two, gets wound up like a clock spring after days of indoor living, rocketing through the den, springing up on the stereo speakers, diving behind the TV stand, ripping out electrical cords, gnawing on live wires, jumping up onto cane furniture and clawing the seats, climbing into wastebaskets, and splashing water out of the toilet.

Angeline during happier days.

My wife runs frantically around the house – cleaning, cooking, ironing, scooping poop out of the cat box, chopping vegetables, whipping up brownies, unloading mousetraps, all that fun maintenance stuff – but after an hour or so her blood gets up and she’s perspiring, and she walks into the den where I’m reading comfortably, peers at the thermostat, pivots like an NBA point guard, jumps up and down theatrically, and screams: “It’s seventy-five degrees in here!”

The gas logs are looping a small flame and my mind instinctively turns to melting Montana glaciers that won’t exist in ten years, and I get up and walk to the kitchen, placing the fireplace remote in a large brown artisan-hand-crafted pottery mug sitting on its lonely shelf. I’d mindlessly chipped it a couple of years ago and was lambasted into cup-phobia; I now use my dead uncle’s sacred brown clay-baked coffee mug. Will break my own heart, and spare my wife’s, when I chip this one.

The benefits of cabin fever are legion.

Most days it takes effort to pry myself out of the chair and jump into gelid over-chlorinated greenish community center pool “water” filled with obese wrinkly-sausage-like septuagenarians, but now I can’t wait to smell those nose-hair-burning locker-room chemicals scorching the soles of my feet as I pad toward the odoriferous urinal. Other benefits of cabin fever include:

• endless cheese sandwiches chased with cups of tomato soup
• books, books, books, magazines, books
• basketball, basketball, basketball
• making up with the wife means … you guessed it. Smile.
• drawing

Photography helps me scratch the creative itch on a daily basis, but in the absence of outdoor light, I draw.

However, I’m uneducated. The only things I know about the medium are old Picasso quotes: “The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do? ”

Works for me.

Naked Fork.
One never knows what one is going to do. One starts a painting and then it becomes something quite else. It is remarkable how little the 'willing' of the artist intervenes. -- Pablo Picasso

Recently, I bought a laptop with a drawing app, so that adds a little depth to the concept I’m trying to put across. Here are a few examples.

An oldie.
The Gossip
Beheaded Chickenfish.
Bird Hair Day.

May the sun shine soon!

But the weatherman says two more weeks of rain. Makes me want to chop off the heads of a thousand chickenfish.