Category Archives: literature

Stuck in a rut

Yeah, it’s been one of those winters that started early, acted badly, and overstayed its welcome. The weather forecasts sound like a broken phonograph record, a tale of five days of below normal temperatures, a one-day sharp warm up, a one day sharp drop, and a skip to the beginning. This last round left an unwelcome seven-inch dumping of snow, numerous traffic accidents and snarls, and several million short-tempered people. It has been a season of hoping that the snow is finally done falling for the season and then having that hope smothered under several inches of slush.

The constant weather disappointments test resiliency. Resiliency has its roots in hope. We have all heard the adage “Hope springs eternal”. Dante Alighieri in the “Divine Comedy” imagined a warning on the gate to Hell including the phrase “Abandon all hope, you who enter here”. Hell is a metaphor for losing all hope. People’s attitudes change for the worse as hope dwindles.

There may be light at the end of the tunnel, and it may not be a snowplow’s headlights. A slight threat of snow Sunday night gives way to a slight chance of 70° on Wednesday, at least according to the latest four-minute entertainment piece, er, weather forecast. I think they’re about to get one right for a change. Road crews have alternated between emergency pothole repair and snow removal these past few weeks. People in Minneapolis and St. Paul have played a game of constantly moving their street parked cars to accommodate valiant but futile snow removal efforts and may enjoy a break from shovels and tow trucks. Vehicles and bridge surfaces will enjoy a salt-free diet again. Ducks trying to land on lakes will not skid after bouncing off ice, but gracefully set down on water. Perhaps humans will molt their winter outer layers, too.

If the weather permits in your area, get outside and enjoy nature. Enjoy time with those you love. It may help give hope to someone who needs it.


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“Thar she blows!”

In “Moby Dick”, the lookout shouted “Thar she blows!” to signal a whale had surfaced. That lookout could easily have been forecasting our weather as of late.

November is a month of extreme weather in the Midwest. This year is no different. Three days of high winds have sent what was left of our fall colors nearly to the North Pole. Not many birds have braved the wind. During a brief interval when the wind speed dropped to a gentle breeze, two bald eagles were soaring with a group of over a hundred terns. There were also nearly a dozen hawks I could not identify gliding the updrafts and downdrafts in a looping figure “8”.

Change is definitely in the air. Most of the songbirds have molted their brilliant summer plumage and are in their duller winter feathers. Goldfinches are hanging on to the coneflower seed heads for dear life while showing off messy table manners. Peregrine falcons and kestrels are making more frequent low altitude flights looking for a quick snack, at least when they can maneuver. Squirrels and raccoons have been gorging themselves to help get through the winter. This means quite a few of them are too heavy to get out of the street quickly enough, which delights the crows to no end as they line up at their version of an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Not much is blooming at this point. Several hard frosts took care of most of the flowers. The blanket flowers around the mailbox are still trying to bloom, and their puffy seed heads are blowing around. I’m sure the front lawn will have dozens of new blanket flowers germinating next spring. Otherwise, most the greenery has turned to a muddy brown or into desiccated brown stalks. This summer arrived late which meant the fall colors were not as spectacular as in past years. My burning bush never got the chance to turn red before the leaves went flying away and the Autumn Blaze maple leaves turned a dull burgundy rather than a bright red. My neighbor’s sugar maple turned yellow instead of the usual orange-red. Maybe this year’s fall fashion colors were earth tones and dull yellows.

The dried plants are also causing increased dust in the air. Upper respiratory illnesses and allergies increased, too. Sharp changes in the weather seem to increase the likelihood of illness and discomfort. Lucy suffered from nasal allergies and sinus problems. I have a close friend who is suffering mightily from blocked sinuses, and another friend battling what seems to be the flu. My nasal allergies and sinus problems are in high gear with little hope of near-term abatement.

Adding insult to injury is the Winter Weather Advisory (recently downgraded from a Winter Storm Watch) for the Twin Cities effective Tuesday night into Wednesday afternoon. While we have already had a couple of days of light flurries before a several day stretch of summer-like weather, we are possibly skipping the light snow and might get an entire month’s worth in a twelve-hour period. The storm track and intensity are still in question, so the forecast amounts are ranging from 2″ – 7″; our average November monthly snow total is 9.3″ according to the Minnesota Climatology Working Group. Today has seen rain so far. Perhaps the rain will lower the amount of snow we can expect from the storm? One can always hope. I have jumper cables and a shovel in the car just in case and the snow thrower is ready for service.

The forecast for the next ten days is for high temperatures in the low 40’s, which is about normal. I know someone who will spend several days in a warmer area later this week. Unfortunately, I am too heavy to be considered checked baggage, but I will happily be the taxi driver to see the smiles. The ground will be wet enough to enjoy a bonfire, some hot chocolate, and many laughs with friends once the streets clear. One has to make the best of whatever weather comes along.

If snow affects you over the next few days, take it easy when shoveling or using a snow thrower, be careful on the roads, and stay warm. As always, for those of you lucky enough to have a special someone close by, make sure you give an extra hug just because you can. It will brighten your day, too.


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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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The comforts of home

What do you consider “home”? Is it the house you grew up in? Is it the first place you lived in after moving out on your own? Is it the house you bought with your spouse? I know some of you moved often during your childhood. Others of you spent time in one or more foster homes before adulthood. Still others are renters and quite satisfied with not worrying about maintenance.

When we were younger, we could not wait until we could start our new adventure. What we didn’t know then is that adventure culminates in finding our new “home” and building new memories. I think we go through a restless period akin to Goldilocks sampling the porridge, chairs, and beds in the Three Bears’ home. We may not know what we are looking for, but we know when we find it.

Home is the place where you made the most memories, where you felt safe, grounded, and surrounded by love. Even as adults, many of us consider “home” as the place we grew up, not the place in which we currently reside. Home is where the heart is. I consider two places as “home”: my primary home is the house Lucy and I bought and my other home is the house my parents now live.

One difficult transition we can face as adults is the sale of our childhood home. Lucy’s siblings found a buyer for their parent’s home and it has been bittersweet for them. The transition is a loss and reminds us that time marches forward even if we may not like the tempo. What was once familiar and comforting has changed. Someday I will be unable to maintain my home, which will probably require me to move into a senior’s center. I will have my memories of home to help me make that transition just as memories of my time with Lucy help me transition to a life without her. In both cases, one can hope the new owners will start building memories of “home” there and have love and joy fill the rooms.

Thomas Wolfe wrote a novel called “You Can’t Go Home Again” with the main point being:

You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

I submit that Mr. Wolfe was wrong. “Home” may have a number of physical changes besides a new owner; in fact, the structure could no longer exist. The memories remain even if the abode does not. Our memories are powerful and can change our perceptions. In “Paradise Lost”, John Milton wrote:

The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.

The mind’s power is what helps us cope with the myriad of changes modern life sends our way. We cherish those memories of home, each one a thread woven into our life’s fabric. We use that fabric to shelter us from the unpleasantness that sometimes arises in life. As such, we never lose “home” unless we want it to go away. It will always be with us because it is part of us, providing us with peace, comfort, and smiles. You can go home again. Please keep Steve, Suzy, and Julie in your thoughts as they make this transition.

Yesterday was “National Napping Day” in areas that switched to Daylight Saving Time on Sunday. I hope that those of you who actively participated did not do so while driving. Other whimsical days this week include “National Pi Day” on Thursday and “National Quilting Day” on Saturday. Holiday Insights lists more if these interest or amuse you.

Tomorrow marks eleven months since Lucy passed away. Please think of her tomorrow. Thank you for keeping Lucy in your heart.

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Traho digitus meum

March weather at times seems like a series of practical jokes. The dog Latin post title translates to “Pull my finger” and fart gags (pun intended) date back to ancient Greece. Read “The Clouds” by Aristophanes for some 2,500-year-old proof. (The EPUB format is compatible with Nook readers.)

Today’s weather was a “pull my finger” sort of day. The heavy snowstorm threatened for last night took a more leisurely route and may arrive tonight. A Winter Storm Advisory issued Sunday morning became a Winter Storm Warning by Sunday afternoon declaring 7″ – 12″ of snow during the day Monday. Mother Nature gave us a “pull my finger” joke with the delay.

I’m a very logical, linear person and that can cause some “pull my finger” moments, as Lucy found out while we were dating. We learned quickly how to adjust, mostly with me adjusting to her communication style. My sister-in-law Julie has had the misfortune to experience a few of these moments, yesterday included. I feel badly that she ends up as the occasional (I hope) locus of my foibles and I am deeply grateful for her good humor and patience. I really am lucky having Julie and Suzy in my life.

Movie listings in the daily papers, on Yahoo! and on Google presented a “pull my finger” moment yesterday with a bogus showing time. Suzy, Julie, and I had planned on lunch and a movie yesterday. We settled for lunch at TGIFriday’s. It was still a very nice day despite the “Keystone Kops” subplots.

Parking in downtown Minneapolis is usually a “pull my finger” ordeal. During an event, parking downtown has a finishing touch of a flaming bag of dog poo. There are numerous restaurants worth the trouble of finding near the Convention Center. Check the Minneapolis Convention Center event calendar  before making the trip, trust me on that.

It’s been nice getting a chance to see some long-time friends. I’m catching up with Susan, and I have to make plans with Mike and Ken next week.

The Forsythia cutting is in full bloom, which is about three weeks earlier than I expected. It is a welcome splash of color and a reminder that spring is on the way in sixteen days. Another sure sign of spring are the seed and gardening catalogs arriving in the mail. Jung and Burpee seed catalogs are here and the Spring Hill Nursery catalog will probably arrive yet this week. Lucy had planted some Gloriosa lily bulbs a couple of years ago and I would like to try them again. It’s time to get the dahlia tubers in some dirt and start the seed tray.

I have completed the blog conversion. Facebook has been problematic with group notifications, so I have created a “Journey of the Teal Owl” page. If you could take a moment and “Like” the page, it will help with future notifications. I’m still discovering features with the WordPress software. Let me know what you think!

Having fun with loved ones is always a pleasure. Some of you like to play practical jokes. Let that special someone know that you care, hopefully without having him or her pull your finger.

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