Summer’s over, the light is changing, and everything is beautiful in its own way. No more starry summer nights, soon to be snow-covered winter days. And along with all that comes a problem with indoor plumbing. Why now? I don’t know, but at least it’s not 50 below, right? Kids are grown and on their own, but home for a visit. Everybody knows nothing goes in the toilet that hasn’t gone in your mouth, but the other day I dumped a kettle full of sink water and beans, and I thought that was it. Apparently not, because things are all plugged up. Not the shower. Not the sink. Not the tub. Just the sweet commode. You know, the thing you can walk to in the middle of the night, in the middle of a dream; find your way there and back in the dark with no problem. Now we walk on the wild side – out the door, down through the knee-high grass I’ve neglected to mow, to the outhouse about 90 yards down the hill from the house alongside the woods. Nobody complains but me. I’m still looking for the dishrag.

There was a time the kids had their “own” bush. It was claimed territory, no trespassing to worry about (really). When the generator started to spit and sputter, you had time to brush your teeth, get the movie out of the player and into the sleeve, and stoke the woodstove. Grace was having light to find your blueberry bush or young alder or screen of devils club and do your business before things wound down and it was lights out. If your bush was at the edge of the flats, it could be a spooky sprint back to the front door where someone held the kerosene lantern to guide your way. Yep, we all remember those days, even fondly if not with some relief not to be running through the sticker bushes in the dark and in a windstorm. The combination of misery was endless – rain, snow, “sn-ain,” or just plain old cold and wet.

Here, in a borough-taxable district, an outhouse is not uncommon. Probably not something you’d find in New York or Connecticut, but it works here in the interior of Alaska. Ours has a view of high bush cranberries, alder, aspen, spruce, lilies, moss – a lot better than plywood or the medicine cabinet. There’s a candle lantern on occasions when your headlamp battery is weak. An old coffee can is filled with lime, or I should say there’s about a quarter of a can left. Two containers with lids, one held red licorice and one we ate a gallon of ice cream from, and now each of them holds a roll of TP. Lids are necessary to prevent squirrel vandalism and moisture. One roll survived an entire winter intact – dry enough to unwind with ease. There are different degrees of comfort when it comes to outhouses and, as much as I like them, ours will remain doorless as incentive to get the indoor convenience back to being convenient.

But I started this with a nice picture of an end-of-summer morning sky. Instagram makes blah look good, so I used it and found a way to TP the sky while I was at it. Don’t forget to lime, and put the lid back on to keep things dry.


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