I once read in National Geographic of an experiment involving a French scientist and a deep cave. He was left in there with all the comforts of home, except for a clock. He found that without the natural signals of daylight and night to cue him, he gradually evolved to very long periods of being awake, followed by proportionally long sleeping periods. Basically, he worked like a crazed squirrel and got a little loony in the process.
This is exactly what I’m trying to avoid.
I came back to Tucson alone with the primary goal of getting a lot of work done, and that part is going well. Every day I wake up about 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. (trying to stay close to Eastern Time, for convenience) and air out the house for an hour or so while the morning temperatures are in the low 70s. Work starts immediately, even before I dress or eat. I work steadily through about 3 or 4 p.m., mixing in a little housework just so I’m not at the computer all day. If things are busy, I’ll work right until 6 p.m., four hours after the east coast has left the office. I drink a lot of water to combat the very dry air (typically single-digit percentages of relative humidity), and eat very little.
The problem is that I’m in the house alone all day. So each day I also build in a little time to go do something, anything, that get me out into the Tucson sunshine. This is probably why I don’t mind the intense heat of the day. Every day this week it has been between 100 and 105 in the afternoon, and I like how walking around in the sun recharges my mental batteries. Of course, minding Bill Doyle’s admonitions about sun safety, I wear my broad-brimmed hat and light colored clothing, and slather plenty of sunscreen on the exposed parts. (I only go out in my full-coverage hero costume if heroic measures are required.)
On the other hand, it is turning out to be a pretty fun arrangement for me. Eleanor and Emma are with me via telephone and occasionally video chat on the computer, so although I miss them I get to see them regularly. The rest of the time I’m free to do whatever I want. For example, yesterday I broke free of work at 3:30 to go shopping at the local hiking store and then see a screening of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (very well done, intense, thriller, foreign language with subtitles). It’s amazing to experience the complete freedom of Temporary Bachelorhood: no consideration of other people at all, no worries about schedules, eat when I want, sleep when I want, etc.
In other words, the good and the bad of this situation are the same: solitude. I still wake up at night looking for Eleanor in bed. There are times that the house is too quiet. And there are times when in a moment of boredom I find myself doing things I wouldn’t normally do, like shopping.
The shopping in particular can be dangerous to one’s wallet. Normally I’m fairly immune, but lately I feel rather vulnerable to suggestion. On Sunday Fred sent over a link to a limited edition Pendleton blanket featuring what we call The Man In The Maze icon, and the next thing I knew, I’d bought it.
The symbol is properly known as the I’itoi Ki, the sacred symbol of the Tohono O’odham, who live near here in the southwestern Arizona desert. The blanket can only be purchased through the Tohono O’odham (they have outlets in Tubac, AZ and Sells, AZ). I love the blanket and it will definitely travel with us in the Airstream next winter, but I think I should probably try to avoid eBay for the next few weeks.
I did don my TBM costume to do a few minor manly tasks. I dealt with the weeds in the yard, swept off the back patio, cleaned the bathroom (in a very manly way, I assure you), etc. The dishwasher had a sort of residual stink after washing the three moldy plates that had been “stored” in there since early May, but I resolved that in a classic TBM way: I ran it again. Problem solved.
Since Brett is coming here on Thursday, and he is planning to sleep in the Caravel in the carport, I plugged it into 30 amp power and fired up the air conditioner for a test. That AC unit hasn’t been run since 2004, so there was a legitimate question of whether it would work. It did, so well in fact that the interior of the trailer was soon meatlocker-cold despite outside air temperatures of 99 degrees at the time. (Of course, that was in the shade of the carport; it wouldn’t do so well in full sun.)
It is still a challenge to have a list of things to do outside the house, so that when I’m ready to break from work I have something to do in mind. I take about half an hour each day to browse the local Events calendars and collect possibilities. There’s a certain discipline involved in not becoming a shut-in. A computer is a great communications tool, but eventually you have to go outside and walk in the sun, too.