It took a while for me to come up with the word for what I did today. At first, I picked "lathering," but that seemed to apply more to a bath. Finally I decided upon "slathering," which sounds like a good term for applying massive amounts of stain to very rough cut boards which are going to form the corner posts on my house.

The project has taken on a little more urgency now that the weather promises to be nice for a few days. The carpenters are keen to get the siding on the house when the weather is tolerable and while we still have the lift.

My mother has already stained 95 percent of the boards which will make up the siding on the house. However, she is getting ready for her trip to Thailand, which starts Friday, and I am no longer teaching, so I am now staining.

There is something to be said for working at a repetitive job far from the phone--which doesn't really ring that much, anyway.

It occurred to me today that there was an unusual amount of activity at the nursery for the end of December. Dad was in the bare root building sorting trees. Joe was in the quonset bagging peat. I was in another greenhouse painting. Cindy was in the office doing end-of-the-year bookwork, and the carpenters were out at the house building the porch.

AS I MENTIONED ABOVE, Mom is headed to Thailand at the end of the week. There is no apparent change of plans due to the earthquake and tidal waves, but I am sure that the complexion of her trip will have changed.

Say what you will about our weather in northwestern Minnesota, we'll never have a tidal wave. I can't imagine anything so frightening. I remember reading about a tidal wave in elementary school, and it made a lasting impression.

Last winter, when I was traveling along the coast of California, I loved walking out on the beach to get as close as possible to the huge waves which were pounding the coast that week. I didn't know about "sleeper" waves--the occasional wave which is double the size of the other waves and which frequently sweeps away the unwary. In fact, a week after I came through Ft. Bragg area, some hikers were swept off a cliff by a sleeper wave.

A tsunami would be truly terrifying.

When compared to the tumult in much of the world, the north woods in winter seems like a true retreat.