I Would Have Made a Lousy Pioneer and Other Mid-Winter Musings

by Julie, wintering in Somerville and dreaming of spring

Last week the power went out in my apartment. There were some inconveniences–I was in the middle of doing laundry, and my bed needed to be made. However, my apartment was warm, and holds on to heat, so comfort wasn’t compromised. My phone was charged with audiobooks at the ready, I had a flashlight handy, and it was late enough in the day that I was winding down.

Today, the water is being shut off to my building from 9am – 2pm so the city can do work. I found out last Wednesday, so plenty of time to store some water, take a shower, and prepare. In both these instances, my first thought was “I would have made a lousy pioneer”. No heat, no lights, no water–I can deal with them for a bit, knowing they’ll be back. But traveling in unknown parts, not knowing when the next time I’ll have any of them? No thank you. (Needless to say, I’m not a camper, but that’s another post.)

Now, where did that thought even come from? It’s not as though I’d been thinking about pioneers or covered wagons. Why did my imagination go there right away? From my mid-winter musings, that’s where.

This is the time of year when the days are getting longer, and a titch warmer, but there’s still a long way to go. I’m cold, and tired, and a bit cranky. And my mind wanders about, like a toddler prodding a bruise affirming that it still hurts. Lights out? Water cut off? Prod, probe. What must it have been like to be a pioneer? Would I have been any good at it? Answers–difficult, and no.

Other musings of late?

  • I love charming books and television shows, but find them in short supply these days. People don’t fully commit to the charm–they feel the need to mix in dark, or a bit of horror, and that doesn’t work. Or the charm moves into stupid, which also doesn’t work. Charm, true charm, is underrated.
  • I saw a thread on social media that celebrated the character actors of yore, and bemoaned their absence today. More accurately, the actors who looked like ten miles of a bad road, and wore it proudly. You could tell they smoked, drank, and ate terrible foods, and used all of that to fuel their work. Think about the older reporters (Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, Jason Robards) in All the Presidents Men or Shelly Winters in the Poseidon Adventure. How about William Conrad in Cannon? With our obsession about youth, fitness and beauty, what’s happened to the place for those character actors? Please note–in England, they’re alive and well. This feels like more of US issue.
  • I’ve always wanted to learn how to crack a safe and pick a lock. Even before I could use “but I’m a mystery writer” as an excuse. (That excuse is wicked handy in all sorts of situations, trust me.) Do other people harbor the same desire? Where does that even come from? My sisters have no such interest. On further musings, I’ve decided to learn how to at least pick a lock. Seems handy to know.
  • I find myself looking at an actor, or person in the news, figuring out their age, and if it’s around mine asking myself do I look better than them? What’s my age, you may ask. Heartthrobs of my youth are now playing the grandfather in bad movies years old.

Readers, do you have odd mid-winter musings? Let’s commiserate in the comments.

43 Thoughts

  1. I love this, Julie! When I was younger, I would have been a much better pioneer than I am now, and I loved camping. Now? I don’t sit on hard surfaces well and don’t sit on the ground easily, either.

    I was musing on the crocuses that I know are pushing up under the snow. It will be so lovely to see their lovely purples and yellows – and then I’ll wish I’d planted more last fall! Also, I’d like to learn to pick a lock, too. Just because.

  2. I muse about longer walks with my trusty sidekick, Rango. As dog walking goes, he’s good-to-go in the winter, but me, not so much. With warmer weather, he and I long to stretch our legs. BTW: You can find some nifty lock-pick kits, and practice on your doors without fear of arrest!

  3. I wish we didn’t have the four seasons, but then I would miss the four seasons. But now, I wish it was Spring.

  4. I have always wondered about odd things at odd times. I grew up in the suburbs near Rte. 495 when it was growing. I wondered how people in cities lived with all the traffic! I wanted tools so I could take things apart and see how they worked. Then I wanted tools to fix things. I can see plots and conspiracies in almost everything if I let my mind wander a bit. When the power has gone out, I have to come up with another way to make my coffee but I’ve done it. The mind is a wonderful way to explore. Writing is a wonderful way to use that experience!

    1. I’ve had all of those thoughts! And years ago during a power outage on the Cape, I called my folks to tell them to come and stay with me, and my father assured me he’d figured out how to make coffee on the gas grill, so they were all set.

  5. Oh my if I had a penny for every time I’ve said, “I am definitely NOT descended from the regular population in medieval times; clearly I am descended from nobility!” (lol, I’m not…) I love camping…in my 26′ RV with a shower, stove, frig, electricity, TV! We have 2 generators to use if we lose power, but if it’s for longer than a couple days, I’m headed to a motel haaaa!

    1. That sounds like my kind of camping. I wonder if I was a maid or servant in those times, which is why I don’t want to do it again! I often think about how terrible everything must have smelled in medieval times. Sorry for that brain worm.

  6. I, too, would have made a lousy pioneer, Julie. Between needing glasses and allergy meds, I’m pretty sure the other pioneers would have suggested I get with some other group. Cheers to modern life!

  7. Oh my if I had a penny for every time I’ve said, “I am definitely NOT descended from the regular population in medieval times; clearly I am descended from nobility!” (lol, I’m not…) I love camping…in my 26′ RV with a shower, stove, frig, electricity, TV! We have 2 generators to use if we lose power, but if it’s for longer than a couple days, I’m headed to a motel haaaa!

    My musings right now, like Edith above, are concentrated on what my pretty little crocuses are doing under the snow! Saw a patch of ground this morning and felt a surge of nature power whoohoo!

  8. Right about now, I start wondering why I thought four seasons is such a great thing – but like Dru, if I ever relocated somewhere where it was hot all the time, I’d miss them, especially fall. I’d make a lousy pioneer.

    And Julie, I’d love to learn to pick a lock!

  9. Speaking of actor’s, when did it get to where an actor or actress became popular and received more headlines on what they did or how they acted in their personal life than their acting skills?

    Why is it that in the summer time we cool our homes to one temperature, but in the winter the same temperature is too cool? Plus in the winter we talk about all we want to do and then come summer say it’s too hot to get outside?

    Why do we long for the future so much and then remember the past with such fond memories? Don’t we miss the present when we live in either the future or the past? Or is the present only important once it is the past?

    There’s been many a time, I sure wish I knew how to pick a lock!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Kay, these are great. I think about temperatures all the time! And I agree about the incredible pressure on young people who aren’t capable of making good decisions and are under a spotlight.

      As for the living in the present–that is my task right now. I’m trying not to future cast, and just take it day by day.

  10. Ah, I’d be a great pioneer. As a young child, I spent time on my great-grandparents upstate New York farm. No indoor plumbing, no heat other than wood and cooking stove, you get the picture. Comes in handy living in the wilds of northern Maine, I can tell you. Especially knowing how to cook on a woodstove!

    Check out the locksmith lawyer on YouTube. He’ll teach you how to pick a lock!

  11. My grandparents, married in the late 1800’s, first lived in a sod house until they moved into a two story white wooden house with no insulation on property they bought. They had their first three children in the sod house and the next eight children in the new house. Finally the last child was born in the tiny hospital in town. No running water, no indoor plumbing and twelve children. I find it so hard to believe even now. My winter thoughts are about about seeing the neighborhood trees swaying and sweeping the gray skies as we work out what plants we will buy for the front garden. No camping for me, I tried that as a Girl Scout and was not won over.

    1. Twelve children! And yikes–12 children, no insulation? Never mind the sod house.

      Planning a garden is one of the best things to do in the winter–even when you don’t have a garden. Imaging green helps.

  12. I would have made a lousy pioneer too and I always hated camping. What’s the point? Bugs, bears, no bathrooms? No thanks. If you want to read a charming book read Fox Crossing by Melinda Metz.

  13. I laughed out loud at your line “Even before I could use “but I’m a mystery writer” as an excuse. (That excuse is wicked handy in all sorts of situations, trust me.)” I need to remember it. And Yes, I too would have been a terrible pioneer. I will camp for one night with my family … and then head home for a shower! For charming … let’s see. How about Enchanted April? If you’re up for the movie version, the movie is a pretty sweet confection. 🙂

  14. Julie, how I laughed! I too would make a lousy pioneer. I like my indoor plumbing too much! I do adore hiking, but only if there’s a nice hotel at the end of the trail. We’re definitely on the same wavelength about character actors, too. I was watching a Hallmark movie and they had an actress playing “grandma” who was not more than ten years older than her supposed kids. Remember the line from The First Wives Club? “There are only three ages for women in Hollywood: Babe, District Attorney, and Driving Miss Daisy.”
    Lock picking? Sign me up!

  15. You post is completely charming! Thank you, Julie. I had those lock picking yens, too, and did learn how to get into a room that only has a chain on the inside – using a rubber band. Lots of fun! Also how to get into a locked car with a coat hanger. Both are extremely satisfying. Coat hangers probably don’t work on modern cars, though, and very few people only use a chain these days. Time marches on and my skills are passé. Bummer. If you pick up lock picking tips, please show me, too.

  16. The one thing that would make you a better pioneer, or at least someone who lived during that time, is knowing how to survive without running water/electricity. It wasn’t part of daily life then, so it was something people dealt with daily, not every once in a while like we do now.

    Having said that, I’d make a lousy pioneer, too.

      1. Not to mention all those endless hours of travel with nothing to entertain you. I would have died of boredom.

  17. Waving my hand and admitting I’d be the WORST pioneer ever! And admitting also that I’d love to learn how to crack open a safe and Jimmy a door open with a credit card. 🤓

      1. This one is easy, but only works in simple locks without deadbolts. I used it a couple times many, many years ago.

  18. Oh, Julia, I have always wanted to learn to pick a lock. It’s on my “I want to list..” And I totally agree about the lack of unhandsome but intriging stars in American TV. I so enjoy Acorn TV for that very reason as not all the stars of their series are “beautiful people”. Thanks for the laugh today.

  19. JULIE: I would also be a lousy pioneer. As a Toronto (big city) native, overnight camping never held any appeal. Although I now do enjoy exercising outdoors all year round, I also look forward to returning to my warm, secure apartment (or hotel room) at the end of the day. After a record “warm” Sunday (14C/55F), it has been snowing all day today. So after 4.5 months of this wintry white stuff, it is now getting a bit tedious. My 2022 garden plans and a few started seedlings means I am ready for spring, but that’s won’t happen until April (or May in some years).

    1. Grace, snowing?!? I’m so sorry. We’re still warmer today than normal, so I went out for a walk because we both know it won’t last. My grandfather always loved starting seedlings, mostly because it gave him something to tend to between gardening seasons.

  20. Late on this party, but if you want a charming TV watch, my sweetie and I have been enjoying the Kominsky Method on Amazon Prime. Two old friends–and really, actually old: Michael Douglas (who I now have a crush on) and Alan Arkin play an acting coach and a talent agent. It’s very funny, even with some serious stuff about aging and how to get through it. As for example, and this is not a spoiler, as it opens the series, the Alan Arkin character’s wife is dying. But it is funny! Even if, sometimes, there is a tear here and there. Cheers, all. – Melanie

  21. Good morning Julie,
    I love this post for two reasons, one- would I have been a great pioneer woman and the answer is no. Living in Florida, the hurricane season can be and most cases are scary. Electricity always go off at one time or another. Another reason I love the post, as a woman of a certain age (let’s say) I looked at others on the tube and wondered their ages, also. I refuse to give out my age, (my choice) and my husband has been warned never to utter it to anyone. Thanks for this post.

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