Monday, October 22, 2012

My Summer in the Crawl Space

While preparing to sell my mom's house there were lots of things to take care of.  Beyond the normal things you'd expect (new carpet, paint, etc) we had a few plumbing issues to take care of.   A leaky tub and shower caused water damage to the flooring and insulation under the master bathroom.  Nothing a couple of plumbers couldn't solve.  After that it was closing up the insulation and cleaning up the vapor barrier.  Boring stuff right?  I mean are you even still reading?  Stay with me.

Under the house is the crawlspace.  This isn't just a generalized term to describe "under the house" but was a true description of the type of space there was available under my mom's house.  At the roomiest height there was only enough room to sit and any actual movement required crawling.  Not on hand and knees either...I mean crawling like you're in the bootcamp scenes in the movie Stripes or in my case maybe Private Benjamin.

I have on eye protection and a respirator since the air is full of rodent poop dust and I am crawling on my belly and sweeping with a horizontal hand broom.  I make a long sweep with my right hand and then heard what sounded like wind chimes. Just so you know, that's the sound it makes when you're sweeping a raccoon skeleton across 6mm sheets of plastic.

I admit that this was freaking me out a little.  I'm holding my breath while I move the skeletal remains of this poor animal along.  I continue crawling along on my stomach just a few feet behind the trail of bones with each sweep of progress.  I swept the bones over and across this large mound under the plastic and then stopped for a second to catch my breath.  While trying to calm down I heard something else that I hadn't heard before.  It sounded like buzzing.  I took off my respirator and shouted over to my brother.

"Hey, do you hear that?"  My voice barely carries.

"What?"  My brother stops tearing at insulation. "What did you say?"

"I hear buzzing or something?  I said after another big breath.  "Can you hear that?"

"Oh," he said then stopped for a second.  "I did see bees over there earlier."

This tiny back area of the house which took me five minutes to crawl into took me just 3 seconds to get out of.  Crawling over the raccoon skeleton and away from the sound of bees I was able to get out of the crawlspace.  No stings, just a bump on the head where I smacked it on a beam, crawling quickly while breathing out a panicked shriek.

The exterminator later pointed out to me that he was able to kill thousands of bald faced hornets in the nest that were still in the large mound.

"Um, large mound?"  I asked.

"Yeah, those hornets made a huge mound under the plastic, I'm surprised you didn't see it down there."  He held his arms out in a big circle as if to demonstrate the circumference of the place I nearly died. Only a couple of hours earlier I was crawling over that mound while sweeping along a dead raccoon.

Seriously, that day really sucked. 

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Peace in the Valley

I'm from the Snoqualmie Valley.  I was born in upper part of the valley, in the town of Snoqualmie, and grew up in the lower half around Duvall.  I moved away when I left my parents house and never really returned under great circumstances.

For awhile, I convinced myself I didn't like the valley.  It was rural after all.  Ya know, the middle of nowhere?  The novelty of answering the question, "So, where are you from?" had long since worn off in my life.  I simply answered:  Seattle area.

It didn't help that after I moved away in the late 80's I was always returning.  From the late 90's on I looked after my handicapped mother.  The stability of her finances, health, and home was a burden on me.  Many many weekends were spent out there in the valley, taking care of property I hadn't lived on in 20 years.  I hardly had time to sit and visit with my mom as I was racing the setting sun to finish the lawn or whatever else was needed.  I didn't regret it, it was how we did things. 

It was a hard situation.  She grew older and living alone was a challenge.  It was never a bargain having limited mobility but she always handled it gracefully.  From my earliest memories my mom needed my assistance with something.  It had been pretty well established in my mindset that she would always need help, though I always watched at a close distance to see where the line was.  All my life I felt there were things I needed to help my mom with.

I never interfered with her independence and I was often times her only advocate when people in our lives suggested strongly that she move away.  Moving away meant leaving her friends and the community she had been so involved in.  

So when I returned to the valley, it never came with much appreciation.

Rory on the suspension bridge that crosses the Snoqualmie River
This last weekend, my older son and I took a ride on my motorcycle and we rode through the valley.  Just for fun.  No burden.  Even at six years of age he knew that we were headed out that way and we wouldn't have a whole day of work ahead of us.  He asked to stop at a park and I had to stop and think where there was one.

We headed along the west part of the valley passing by the old Carnation Farms and into the town of Carnation.  There we stopped at Tolt-MacDonald Park which features a suspension bridge that crosses the river.  I was about my son's age when the bridge was built and I remember what a big deal it was when it opened in the Summer of '76.

Next time I'm out that way I plan to visit with old friends and try to see if there's anything left to appreciate.  I bet there will be.