Saturday, October 26, 2013

Turning on the Heat

We turned the heat on at our house this morning.  Alan got up out of bed in the middle of the night and went to the hall thermostat to push the "up" button several times to kick it into heat mode.  Thank goodness, because the extra blanket I had put on the bed was not quite doing the job.  For one thing, it was doing nothing to warm my face; my nose was ice cold.

I've become somewhat of a "wimp" when it comes to coping with cold weather.  We live in Wilmington, NC, after all, where it almost never snows, and people still use air conditioning well into late October.  But when the temperature dips below 40 degrees for the first time each year, you would think I lived way inside the arctic circle for all of my complaining.

I used to be a lot tougher about coping with cold temperatures when we lived in Japan, where most of our house wasn't even heated.  Only the downstairs was heated by a singular stove that heated up with a clicking sound.  When the temperature of the stove finally hit a point high enough, a fan turned on and blew glorious hot air into the living room.

Getting us out of bed on the coldest winter mornings was a challenge for my mother.  She timed waking us up to the stove's fan's cycle.  As it began to heat up, she came upstairs to one by one remove our blankets and quilts piled on top of us as we slept on our futon.

"Rise and shine!," she'd say, as she came upstairs to our room to put away our bedding into the closet for the day.  After begging for a few more minutes under the electric blanket and thick Japanese quilt on top (also called a futon,) our retort was always,
"Is the heater on?"
We knew our window of opportunity to dress in warmth was limited.  If the fan was blowing hot air, we grabbed our clothes including long underwear, and ran down the stairs to dress in front of the heater as it blew out its warmth, and got dressed as quick as we could before the fan went off.  Dressed in our wool sweaters, we headed off to Japanese school where the rooms were heated with black iron pot-bellied coal stoves - but that's a story for another day.

I will do my best to remember how fortunate I am to live in a house that has heat, and all we have to do is to push a plastic white button a couple of times to heat up the entire house.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Planting Seeds

I planted two flats of multi-colored pansies in the front yard today.  That was a success, but the extra lettuce seeds from my planting yesterday that I forgot to bring in overnight were eaten by some wild animal. Probably a raccoon.  He (or she) tore into the little white seed envelope and ate them up, making a big mess of torn paper next to the clay pots.  I forget that there are wild animals that roam my yard at night.

The first time I remember planting a seed, I was in the first grade.  I planted a black and white striped sunflower seed along with the other 39 children in my class.  We put them in a little paper cup with rich dirt, pushing the seed down deep into the soil as far as our little fingers could push.  We then lined the cups up by the window where they would receive lots of sunlight.  We planted them the same day, using the same batch of seeds and same bucket of shared soil to pretty much the same depth, and watered them just the way Kikuchi Sensei told us to.  Then we waited.

Days later, one by one, the seeds began to sprout, poking little green ropes up out of the soil in an arc.  A month later, by mid-July when it was time for summer vacation, we each had a seedling to take home and take care of.  Some children's seedlings were a dark, healthy green, already outgrowing the paper cup, making them topple over.  Other seedlings were scrawny yellow plants - they either got too much water or not enough, too much sun or not enough, and were not healthy specimens.

I took mine home where it was quickly forgotten after a week or two and it shriveled up.  I cared more about that little seedling when it was a competition.  Once it was just mine, where nobody was measuring their success based on mine, I gave it very little attention. I'd like to think I care more about my seedlings now, but my careless handling of lettuce seeds yesterday afternoon might prove otherwise.