Saturday, January 15, 2011

Water, the currency of kings...

As I shoveled my way to the garage this afternoon, I enjoyed this view down through the orchard. The snow fell four days ago but the tracks of a squirrel are still the only ones in sight.

There's no question that winter in New England can be beautiful but there's also no question that winter in New England can be awkward and irksome, especially for those of us blessed with old house living.

As I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes this evening I suddenly became aware of water dripping on my arm.

From above.

From the ceiling.


Ice dam, that is. Warmth from inside the house works its way up and out. The snow melts where it is in contact with the roof. The water runs down to the edge of the roof. The underside of the eaves is exposed, so there's no heat coming through and the water promptly freezes up again. The edge of the roof builds up a dam of ice. Now the water has nowhere to go, so it makes a little pond that backs up under the shingles.

Et voila! Drip, drip, drip!! The same water that created that picture postcard orchard scene is now working its way through the inner spaces of my house, carrying rot and destruction along with it.

When I was a teenager I worked as a lifeguard at a community swimming pool where I also taught swimming lessons. I remember one reluctant beginner who, when urged to jump in the pool, would say to me with all the intensity of his age, "The water is my enemy."

At the time I thought it was a gross exaggeration, but now I know better. Water may seem insipid - colorless, tasteless, and unable to hold its own shape - but it is truly powerful and insidious.

The one good thing is that the place where the water most commonly works its way through is directly over the kitchen sink. By coincidence or by design? Given the practicality of our Yankee ancestors, I suspect it was by design.

Welcome to my world!

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