Monthly Archives: April 2013

“Walking on Sunshine”

Many people in the Twin Cities metro are walking on sunshine because of the wonderful weather change since Monday. Of course, the 1983 song by Katrina and the Waves has received ample airplay on a couple of the radio stations. Between Monday and Friday, the landscape changed from sooty gray on dirty white to mostly green on khaki. Wardrobes consisting of parkas and Sorel boots now are tank tops and sandals. Car washes and nail shops are insanely busy and Dairy Queen has a steady stream of cars in line from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm. The furnace is getting a rest and the air conditioner surprised me by kicking on late this afternoon. Sun and blue sky replaced the slate gray gloom. We have a surprise thunderstorm underway now rather than freezing rain and sloppy snow.

All my snow melted off Friday and the last of the ice in the backyard shady spot was gone Saturday morning. The temperature had not risen above 60°F this year. Friday was our first 70°F day and today (Sunday) was our first 80°F day. I took advantage of the weather and got the gardens prepped and seeded for the season and did some brush trimming and chipping. I am kicking myself for the wonderful mild sunburn I have on the top of my head from spending eleven hours in the sun between yesterday and today. It shows that I’m not as young as I once was. I am also very thankful for ibuprofen and Powerade.

May could still play a cruel practical joke on us. The weather forecasts for Wednesday night and Thursday night mentioned the dreaded “s” word again. Monday is the last 70°F day for the next week, and Tuesday that last day above 60°F. While the normal high is about 63°F, Wednesday will struggle to make it into the 40’s. The weekend might rebound to the mid 50’s.

I know eleven hours doing garden prep and brush removal sounds like a lot of work. Lucy would help and we would get it done in about half the time. I know she would be disappointed with the late start to the growing season, but she also knew many things were beyond her control. Our reward for a busy day of gardening was dinner at Romano’s Macaroni Grill or Don Pablo’s, then sit in porch on the glider. We savored these warm days with low humidity and no pesky bugs. We would also do some brainstorming and get ideas for the next project (or seven).

We thought ahead and went with low maintenance perennials. The spring readiness and fall clean up were the only two periods of hours of work. Watering, weeding, and cleaning the birdbath amounted to about two hours per week. Mowing takes about 1½ hours when needed, twice per week during the rainier spring and every other week in the drier summer. Thinking ahead gave us more time to enjoy the weather by going for walks. We would average about 200 miles per year walking. By not being in the backyard constantly, it gave the birds a chance to find the birdbath and nesting spots and keep us entertained.

The earlier sunrise time is giving the cardinals more time to sing loudly. I have two males that are in the midst of a territory dispute. One likes to perch in the ash tree outside the bedroom window and sing his own praises at the top of his lungs, usually at 4:30 am (it is still better than an alarm clock!). About a dozen bluebirds used the birdbath today despite my making a terrible racket with the chipper. A crow and a great horned owl had a dust-up, with the crow losing many feathers. The online falcon cam shows peregrine falcons nesting on the Black Dog power plant smokestack about two miles southeast of me. They may have hatchlings because of the flyovers at treetop level. I think they’re ready for spring, too.

Tomorrow is another delightful day, around 75°F with a slight breeze. I have to replace my weather station tomorrow, assuming the new one arrives, and that requires climbing up on the roof. The old anemometer took a hit from an ice chunk Monday. It lost so much weight that it dropped a cup! I know, don’t give up my day job to be a comedian. That will also give me a chance to clear the branches and twigs that fell on the roof after the ice and snow Monday. The old weather station is over twelve years old and the anemometer registered too slowly, even when it had all its cups. The new one accepts data on a USB port and not a serial port, and it has a more accurate anemometer.

My hope is the weather is wonderful where you are. Please give your loved ones a meaningful hug or two, let them know you love them, and take a few minutes to do some “Walking on Sunshine”.

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Filed under gardening, music, nature, rebuilding, weather

“A Hazy Shade of Winter”

Looking out of my living room window reminded me of this Simon and Garfunkel song from 1966, although there is much more than “a patch of snow on the ground”. A steady light rain changed over to moderately heavy snow rather quickly. April is becoming a cruel month, at least concerning the weather. The weather forecasts for today have been in a state of flux for the past two days. Blending all the forecasts would mean the Twin Cities will get somewhere between 1″ – 10″ of snow. Nevertheless, once we make it through this latest wintry disruption, we supposedly will see temperatures approaching normal and (gasp!) maybe our first 70°F temperature of the season. We keep hoping this is winter’s last stand.

One coping mechanism humans have is the ability to anthropomorphize objects like the weather. Once we imbue the weather with human-like qualities, it becomes easy to assign blame. It gives us a sense of power in trying to make sense of something we are powerless to control and a focal point for our frustration.

My attempt at anthropomorphizing is probably similar to many others in this area. Winter is like the unruly guest that shows up to a party a couple of hours late, heavily intoxicated, moody, obnoxious, and refusing to leave after the other guests have departed. Trying to usher winter out the door leads to another unpleasant temper tantrum. Each tantrum is a little less intense and the cleanup is a little less disgusting. We can only hope that winter finally staggers out the door and keeps stumbling and weaving down the sidewalk without stopping and launching rolls of toilet paper into the trees.

I hope this is the last weather gripe for a while. It will be nice to get in the gardens, out on the hiking trails, putting some miles on the bicycle, doing anything but looking out the window and seeing snow come down. Chasing a snowblower is not as fun as chasing a Frisbee in a park. The only advantage about the snowy nights is for the people with someone to cuddle. I hope you are taking advantage of that!

Cuddle if you have someone, give your loved ones a meaningful hug, and let them know how much you care about them. They might be more inclined to help you clear the driveway.

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“Riding the Storm Out”

Many of us “of a certain age” remember REO Speedwagon’s 1973 hit song. The upper Midwest is currently caught in a cycle of weather temper tantrums most of this month. Last night the Twin Cities metro area officially picked up 6.4” of sloppy snow. This was after a steady rain that turned to sleet in the early afternoon. Our snowfall set a record for the date, and the 1.02” of water content just missed tying the 1.04” record. Today’s snowfall of 0.9” fell short of today’s record of 1.2”. I posted a few pictures of the storm in my photo gallery. Other than a spate of traffic accidents today, there did not seem to be much ill effect from the storm. No one needed generators or chain saws.

I can tell the lateness of the snow falls are getting to people, but I have heard that the robins are hitchhiking to some place warm, and that the Minnesota DNR is considering eradicating groundhog weather forecasters. The human ones are getting uneasy in public places, though one has kept a sense of humor with his #BlameJerrid Twitter hashtag. Facebook is littered with posts, some humorous, some darkly humorous, and some with high levels of profanity and frustration. Judging by the number of restaurant offers I am getting, I believe people are hunkering down waiting for a day or two without snow. We may not break 60°F again until May 1, which is a little over two weeks from now. Our normal high temperature is in the low 60’s, but we will stay 10-20°F below that for the next week. “April showers bring May flowers” but only if the showers are not of the frozen variety.

Our coping mechanisms are getting quite a workout this month because of our unusual weather. Compared to the horror in Boston on Monday or the tragedy in West, TX on Wednesday, our weather has been an annoyance. Dealing with loss of a loved one is somewhat like dealing with unpredictable weather. About the time the weather seems to calm somewhat, a sudden storm whips through causing damage and havoc. The cycle of raising hopes followed by an unpleasant set back is commonplace. We persevere through hope and we strengthen our resolve with love. Someday the storms will subside and chaos will diminish.

This week’s events bear witness to the fact that life has a degree of risk. For some, parachuting is an acceptable risk while others enjoy juggling sharp objects. Some people work in dangerous professions and take whatever precautions they can to reduce risk. Others prefer not to travel by plane. We cannot eliminate risk because we cannot control randomness. The more we try to control randomness, the more it seems that randomness finds a new way to keep us off balance. By the same token, we cannot predict or stop loss. We have to keep on living and to keep moving forward.

With the sadness and uncertainty of this week, please take time to give your loved ones a meaningful hug to two. Let them know you care, so they have the strength to endure, and so they remain hopeful that things will get better. If you see a busload of robins heading south, please tell them to turn around. The weather will get better sometime, and if it doesn’t, we can #BlameJerrid.

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Tempus fugit, sed amor reliquias (One Year)

Tempus fugit, sed amor reliquias (Time goes quickly, but love remains) is misleading. Vida fugit, sed amor reliquias (Life goes quickly, but love remains) seems more accurate.

Lucy’s time on earth ended a year ago yesterday. I still think of her every day and I still love her. I know the people who love her feel the same way. I made it through this first year with a huge amount of love and support from all of you. Getting through the days has not been impossibly difficult, but they have been empty. The first year is the worst; I believe I can make it through my remaining time because of you.

Lucy and I had a very successful life together. Life threw challenges our way, such as childlessness, job changes, and tragedies, but we found ways to overcome them. “The whole is more than the sum of its parts” held true for us. Our love gave us a synergy that got us through the unexpected and made our life together a fun adventure. We defended each other, we trusted each other’s judgment, we gave each other hope, we were loyal to each other, and we stayed devoted to each other. We not only lived, we thrived. Her smile was always a motivator for me. We stayed playful and we enjoyed our time together. That playfulness, happiness, and joy kept us younger than our chronological ages because we had found our happily ever after. Since her passing, I feel I experienced rapid aging and others have confided they share the same observation. Love truly does keep one young at heart.

She had a gentle nature, a wonderful sense of humor, surprising strength, and a special love that made me a much better person, and I will probably never experience that again. Her life is worth celebrating when we can and her memory will continue to give us comfort and strength. She taught us to cherish our loved ones every chance we get and she remains part of us. Lucy made us better people by her being part of our lives. Her life went quickly, but her love remains.

I see her when I close my eyes and if I concentrate really hard, I can still feel the softness of her touch. No doubt some may believe that because of the number of memories I have of Lucy, and the number of interactions we had during our time together, the experiences are a form of Pavlovian conditioning. Regardless of the explanation, the memories of happiness and joy provide much comfort. I hope you find comfort with your memories of Lucy.

Julie, Suzy, Diane, my parents, and I got together today to celebrate Lucy’s life. We had lunch and spent a couple hours talking. Afterwards, we went to the cemetery to visit Lucy. Our umbrellas all turned inside-out from the wind, and the rain was quite cold. I think even the weather misses Lucy’s warmth and goodness. The rain is cold enough that the snow we received late last week is hardly melting, and the forecasts show even more below normal temperatures for the next week, more like November than April.

The past three hundred years have seen stunning increases in human life expectancy. Millions of people are alive today who would have perished had they been born in the 1600’s rather than the 1900’s or 2000’s. Our lifetimes have expanded from roughly thirty-five years to over eighty years in that interval, accomplishing in a couple of centuries what evolution would require a couple of millennia. Even with our lifetime extensions, our life spans are miniscule compared to some animals and plants. What is eighty years when compared to centuries? Those eighty years are microscopic compared to the billions of years our planet has been alive, or the theoretical trillions or quadrillions of years our piece of the multiverse may live. Life goes quickly, indeed.

Definitely find time to enjoy your loved ones. Hugs are such a wonderful way to convey love and affection, so make your hugs meaningful and plentiful. Our lives go by too quickly to waste an opportunity to tell a loved one you care, so please do so. Thank you for remembering Lucy!

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Wither, winter! Whither spring?

This week has not behaved like a typical April spring week and warrants a little word play with homonyms. On Tuesday, I took delight seeing the snow gone from my front yard and had a small patch remaining in the shady section of the back yard. Last night’s rain changed over to sleet and then snow, but the long thunder peals lasted through the first hour of snow. Two inches of heavy, sloppy slush coated everything. Last year, we had a stretch of ten days where we set or tied eight record highs; this year, we have not had eight days of at or above normal temperatures since the equinox.

The Twin Cities is under a Winter Storm Warning until Friday morning. Earlier in the week, there were indications of an 18″ snowfall potential. That has mercifully reduced to 5″-10″ and I am hoping that the forecasters are overestimating again for the sake of inflating ratings.

Weather is humbling. Humans take pride in technological advances that improve natural processes because natural processes have a high level of uncertainty. Attempts at managing weather have been futile at best and disastrous at worst. There are some things still beyond our control, and weather is towards the top of the list. It would be wonderful to prevent hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and floods but prediction tools still need much refinement first.

Life is full of uncertainty. We are all familiar with the adage “Life is uncertain, eat dessert first!” I am uncertain how much snow I will get or whether I will lose power. The snowblower and generator are full of fuel and ready for use. I can hibernate for a couple of days until the snow stops and the roads clear.

I hope that winter finally withers away and we don’t have to ask where is spring. Take time to give your loved ones a meaningful hug and let them know you love them. It’s like eating your dessert first. Be careful with snow removal and commuting if it’s applicable!

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“There is a garden, verdant, beautiful…”

Well, maybe not today, but spring is continuing to make inroads at wresting control of the seasons from winter. The title of the post is the first line of a poem by Reyvrex Questor Reyes titled “Love Sonnet 58 There is a garden, verdant, beautiful“. Lucy would have liked the poem.

Several days of above freezing temperatures and several nights of light fog have devoured about five inches of snow cover in my back yard. The calendar says April but the weather behaves like March. While the yard is not verdant yet, its color is showing a green tinge in the brown. The front yard has a couple of snow piles created by the snowblower. After pulling back the leaves that had piled up in the gardens last fall, I was happy to see daffodils and squills poking through. Some areas of the yard remain frozen solid and other areas have thawed to about two inches down. Yesterday’s snowfall was a reminder that the weather in Minnesota s unpredictable. My yard looked like it had a bad case of dandruff and it melted later in the evening.

I have mentioned a couple of times that Lucy enjoyed poetry. She had a “Nothing Book” in her nightstand where she had transcribed poems that she liked. Julie gave Lucy the “Nothing Book” on Lucy’s 22nd birthday in 1980. The first poem Lucy had jotted in there was a haiku from the James Bond story “You Only Live Twice” by Ian Fleming:

You only live twice…
When you are born, and
When you look death in the face

We both enjoyed baseball, a game played on a verdant ball field. It is a game that spans three seasons and we would enjoy it on the radio while we worked in the gardens or were out for a walk. A. Bartlett Giamatti, a professor from Yale who later became the Commissioner of Baseball, had a quote in “The Green Fields of the Mind” which sums baseball up nicely:

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.”

We went to some games at the Metrodome and wished we could be outdoors…except for one game when a severe thunderstorm roared through. Watching the Teflon roof bounce and seeing the flashes of lightning through the fabric made for an interesting evening, but we stayed dry. I was fortunate enough to see some Twins games at the old Metropolitan Stadium, now the site of the Mall of America. Lucy wanted to see a game at Target Field and to attend a St. Paul Saints game at Midway Stadium, and I plan to do both during this baseball season. Let me know if any of you would be interested in joining me.

I hope the weather where you are at is acting more seasonal than it is here. Give your loved ones a meaningful hug, try to get out and enjoy nature, and “root, root, root for the home team”.

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