Editor’s Notebook, Features and Occasionals

Editor’s Notebook

By Greta Belanger deJong

The boiler in this big ol’ house that is home to CATALYST, and to me, too, heaved its last sigh in late fall. Why the new one hasn’t been installed yet is a boring story I won’t tell. Suffice it to say the old behemoth finally got dismantled and carted away yesterday, and my radiators should be gurgling again by December 1 if the shipping company can figure out where the heck my new boiler went.

It hasn’t been as bad as you might think. In the office, each of us has our own personal space heater. Fingerless gloves are not only fashionable, they are useful. Down is super-cozy. Layering makes sense. We’re starting to wonder why people don’t always dress like this?

The most fun part for me is that I get to wear my flea market mink indoors. Found in Denver late on a Sunday afternoon, near the end of the outdoor shopping season, it called out to me from afar. I found it as if I were a homing pigeon. Full length, it is slightly decrepit but still lovely. And, I can tell you, it is deliciously warm. I consider myself executive director of the Dead Animal Rescue League. I offer thanks and apologies to all the small bodies who lived and died for someone else’s high-priced vanity, and I am so grateful that I am now their cozy savior.

One handy thing: I don’t have to get dressed to walk Tesla the dog (and Mosey the cat, who always comes along); it’s usually not much colder outside than inside. As I dress in front of the little space heater, I think of my dad, born in 1909 into a big rural Wisconsin farm family, who would dress by the wood stove each winter morning before eating his bowl of oatmeal and prunes and venturing out on his long walk, in the days before snowplows, to school. I think of my grandma heating water, by wood stove, for dishes and bathing.

Little comfort, a lot of particulate matter. Not that the latter was of any concern. As to comfort—that was the way it was in winter. Who knew anything different?

From my own early youth, I remember my Grandma Ciske’s big old black cast iron kitchen stove, and how exciting it was when the front door was opened to feed the flames within, and how disappointed I was when it was replaced by a modern electric appliance. (I’m sure my grandma and aunts did not feel that way.)

I think of all the oil burned in my cozy childhood home, where sometimes frost grew on the insides of windowpanes (before we got storm windows); I spent what seems like hours of amazement, admiring the frosty designs, and of course couldn’t resist scratching my own marks into them. I remember watching the fire dance through the basement furnace’s tiny window, comforted by its no-nonsense rumble.

It will be nice when the new boiler comes, and the radiators rattle again, and I won’t have to thaw my fingers around a mug of tea mid-afternoon. I am grateful to Lori, Sophie, Janie, Katherine and John for their forebearance in these chilly times. I am thankful for my little pets, Tesla and Mosey, who really did help keep me warm at night.

But I am also glad I had this experience. It’s good to learn that what we first world people consider our given rights are, in the big picture, some pretty nice luxuries. I hope I will remember that blessing for a long time to come. _

This article was originally published on November 29, 2014.