Winter blues


In memory of Minou aka Felix, Franc’s beloved cat

There have been storm warnings. We’ve been waiting for snow. It’s a bit early for here and the temperatures are below seasonal. It rained much of yesterday and then cleared through the night. As I was coming home from dinner with the Stepfords next door, I noticed the moon peeking through the clouds. It was an illustration book moon, round – creamy white with cool white shadows looking so much like a jolly fat man’s face blowing kisses to the world.

No one can really prove that the full moon does things to people. Nevertheless, hospitals will tell you that when the moon is full, there is greater activity. Teachers will tell you that the children get more squirrelly. Things seem to be more intense, whatever they may be. Events seem to happen that coincide with the fullness of the moon, so we ascribe their proximity to the moon’s fullness, and so it goes.

And so it went that yesterday evening, I went into the basement to tend to laundry. I always like to stay fairly close to the machines. Heather had a fire in her dryer once when Mother was staying with her. It spread through the little laundry room before the fire department got there. Insurance kicked in and everything was fixed, but there were always those “what-ifs” that kicked in after the shock of it died down.

Mother and Heather were on the point of going out. What if they had left the house a few minutes earlier and nobody had noticed the fire. The whole house would have gone. What if Heather had gone out leaving Mother to sleep. With her mobility problems, what would have happened to her?

We drew a number of lessons from that incident. Now we actually pay attention when we are reminded to clean out the lint in the dryer and under the dryer. That’s how the fire started and the firemen told Heather that it’s a fairly common occurrence with dryers. So now I never leave the dryer on and go away from it. I clean out the lint under the dryer occasionally – it’s the build-up that counts; it doesn’t have to be done every time you use the dryer. And I always clean out the lint from the screen, every time. Absolutely every time.

While I was waiting for my laundry to do, I worked at sorting out the thousand and seven paintings, the thirty years plus of production that I haven’t taken to market. Heather’s dauntless husband had early on erected a serviceable IKEA shelving unit for me to stack the paintings on and he bolted it to the rafters. It has a nice tall section where I can put large paintings and there was still some room on it to put a few more.

The one and only finished room in the basement is loaded up with paintings that have not been properly stored. They are in order of size, sort of, but mostly in order of when they came into the basement during my unending trips to Burnaby to transfer them from Mother’s house to mine in that infamous move that you can read about in earlier posts. That is to say, they were in no logical order at all. The shelving unit was going to fix that.

There were a few smaller sized items in the rack – some packages of watercolour and drawing papers, some portfolios of drawings still wrapped in plastic from the move. These would get moved to a smaller compartment of the shelving. I picked up the first of these and found my hand was wet. Now, where would wetness come from?

I got a towel from the rag drawer and wiped it off, feeling a bit baffled. I took the next piece of work and it too was wet. In fact, the plastic covering it shifted and a little runnel of water fell to the floor. That was more worrisome.

I patted my hand on the top of the shelving which had two packages of paper on it and my hand was definitely wet. Ach! This was more serious. I patted up all the water I could see and by reaching up to the top, some that I couldn’t see. I’d have to get my step stool to get a better look up there. I went for my new emergency flashlight as well.

Instead of packing up the shelving unit, I ended up taking everything out.


Nothing much is damaged. Only one small drawing, really not one of my best, has water damage and that is on the matting. The frame is metal and can be wiped off. The drawing itself seems to be untouched. There were three photographs I had purchased from a street vendor. They actually had puddles on them and I’ll have to wait and see how they dry off to know if there is damage there or not. Otherwise, my practice of matting things and then sealing them in foldable mylar packets sealed with masking tape has saved a number of the drawings from harm.

But I’m going to have to move the shelving unit. The water is not from a leaking pipe. There are no water pipes in the general vicinity. Fortunately there is no “ceiling” in the basement. I don’t have to open anything up to see. It’s just the exposed floor joists with wiring running through it.

I searched the area and there is a single spot where the water is coming in. It seeps through a couple of floor boards and finds its way down a single joist and drips on the corner of the storage unit. Temporarily, I put a cleaning basin beneath the drip location. There now were no paintings or drawings for it to drip onto. I could wait for the light of day to give it another inspection.

I moved some boxes and rugs while I waited for the dryer to finish. I needed a tape measure so that I could determine if the rug I want in the upstairs studio room can be accommodated there. Of course I got distracted.

Franc called. I haven’t heard from Franc in four months. Not a peep.

His cat has died. His cat was a beautiful Maine Coon cat, I think. Or at least there was a lot Maine Coon heritage in his genes. He had suddenly gotten ill and in two days he was gone. You need to know that Franc has always loved cats with a passion. He’s always had a cat and he has a strong emotional attachment to them. He seems to know and understand them deeply. He will be devastated without his cat. He will lose his compass in his life, so as to speak. My heart goes out to him.

And so we talked. At first tentatively, and then for a half hour or so. I won’t tell you the details. He’s planning to go travelling in January. He has his ticket already and he doesn’t know how long he will stay away. He has some deep thinking to do.

It was about an hour later that I remembered my laundry and the water leak. I went down to check the basin. There was not a drop in it.

I took my new LED flashlight and shone it where the water had been blackening the joist with moisture. It was no longer black, nor was the seepage evident between those two floor boards. Well then, I have a mystery on my hands. Where does that water come from?

And my laundry was done.



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