Posts Tagged ‘snow’

Shovelful by Shovelful

And just like that, it seems that spring has come to our fair city.  Suddenly, I am able to rise and shine a little earlier and with more energy, it seems.  I am excited for the day and the possibility that I will shed my coat and hat in the warmth.  Crews of people, neighbors, city employees, the teenagers from the church next door, have been out along the streets, armed with shovels, attacking the enormous piles of snow that rise 10 and 12 feet high.  They throw shovelful by shovelful onto the pavement to melt.

The snow in my yard will just have to melt on it’s own, but the plant-life isn’t going to wait any longer to push through and bud.  Walking around the house today I noticed the Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa luciliae) poking through the snow and leaves in the shady side-yard.

By the end of March, they will look be full grown and by April they will be in bloom.


Now here is why I ran back in the house and grabbed the camera:

That is one of my hydrangeas.  It can’t wait to grow and I can’t wait to see it!

Last year, Yim and I wanted to plant a garden, but we could not organize ourselves in time to put it in the ground.  I also wanted to finally get those laying hens I’ve yearned after for so long, but we had to decide that for the time being, other things were more important.  Given all of that, we have had gardening on our minds since September!  So, about a month ago I started gathering information.

I picked up the Farmer’s and Planter’s Almanac at the local book store and have studied the monthly guidelines.

Zia said she just can’t stand people who have to do everything by the book.  My grandfather had an almanac hanging from a nail in one of the joists in his cellar.  It was from 1964 or something.  He never bought another one.  He never even used that one, I think.  I bought the almanac because I think it’s neat, and I trust that it’s guidelines are accurate.  I also realize that there is a wisdom that comes from the experience of raising a crop year in and year out that cannot be relayed between the pages of an almanac.  And the “seasoned” gardeners are telling me about it.  Every time I say something like, “I have to start my indoor seedlings this weekend,” someone whose “grown peppers since they were 12” tells me it’s too early.  I come from a long line of folks who have grown crops for their own consumption.  My entire life I have been around large gardens that produce so much harvest that it must be shared.  I get bushels of tomatoes, peaches, zucchini, garlic, and kale from Zia.  I am friends with people who like to throw some tomato plants and peppers and herbs into the ground every summer, but my family has grown nuts, fruits, and berries in addition to a wide range of vegetable crops.  I have grown successful gardens myself, that produced more peppers, Swiss chard, tomatoes and cucumbers than I knew what to do with.  But it’s admittedly been awhile.  And I bought the almanac.  We’ll see what happens.

Yim and I have determined where the garden will go in.  We are putting it in his yard, which means that I am going to be spending a lot more time over there this summer.  Hello, suburbs.

We started composting around Christmastime.

This week we are going to mark out the territory and till and fertilize the soil.  A few days ago we thought we’d have to clear snow first, but it has been melting so fast, there’s hardly any left on the grass in his yard.  I got my rubber gardening boots, though, because it’s gonna be muddy to start with.  Once the soil is well enough drained, in go the seeds!  We researched local unmodified organic seeds and found a seller.  Unfortunately, they were inundated with orders and had to stop taking new ones until April.  And I could not wait.  So we went with a make-do blend.  Anything we could get organic we did, and anything we couldn’t, we didn’t.

Oh my God, I am so excited to plant these and watch them grow! First things going in are the beets, cabbage and lettuces.  I’m starting the peppers indoors, and it should only be another 6 weeks or so until the other crops go in.  We intend to can things in late summer; dilly beans, pickled cukes, maybe a giardiniera.  We’ll make raspberry jam for jarring.  I’ll try to foster the herbs indoors when the weather turns cold again.  We did not buy zucchini and kale, as Zia has more than enough for all of us.  Speaking of Zia, when she saw the bag of seeds that we spent our money on, she could not curb her enthusiasm to give us what for.  But she quickly shifted gears after her jibes and said that she should take some of our “organic” seeds and plant them herself and we could have a contest.

On your marks.  Get set.  Go!

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I’ve been going to Flagstaff Hill most of my life.  When we were kids we’d go on summer nights, covered in city dirt after running and playing all day long, and watch the free movies projected on the outdoor screen.  Troops of people carrying blankets and children, pulling dogs along on leashes and toting anything that would carry the drinks, headed along the curved sidewalk towards the hill.  Before dusk college boys played Frisbee and the music of the late ’70’s blasted through the amps.  When the sun settled, so did the people.  Groups of friends and families shared blanket seating in the grass.  When the darkness came and the movie started, an herbal aroma wafted past our noses.  Whoa.  We saw Rollerball there.

Flagstaff Hill evokes memories that are part of the essence of who I’ve become.  The memories of going there with people who knew more than I did and were smart and funny with their words, and seeing young people who were older than me and watching them laugh, play, and love, wearing their clothes and hair in a way that was so ‘now’, then.  The memories of going there and feeling exciting but safe, romantic, fun.  It was cool, because of the crowd it attracted, and still so familiar it felt like my own backyard.

It is the backyard of two universities.  During any semester when the weather is good, the hill is crowded with dorm-dwelling co-eds.  They use the hill for outdoor studying, picnic lunches, or sunbathing on their days off.  I’d read a text or two on the hill when I was a student.

Flagstaff Hill is across the street from Phipps Conservatory, and from it’s mount you can see “the cloud factory” that Michael Chabon made legendary.  Just beyond that you can see the Carnegie Library and the Cathedral of Learning.  This is a cultural landmark.  Lovers can lie on their backs at night and gaze at the stars and the lighted skyline and feel smart!

In the summer when I was ten years old, I rolled down the great hill, over it’s green grass flocked with white clover, my arms stretched over my head, making like a log.  I was stung twice in the armpit by honeybees.

Any winter that graced us with heavy snowfall warranted a trip to the hill with our sleds.  This winter was one of those, and I shared my love of Flagstaff with Yim and his boys.  Another beautiful day on the hill.

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When feeling dejected and filled with self-pity, one should take up a task and set forth to do it.  Preferably a task that challenges one’s physical strength and endurance.  It is exactly what I needed this afternoon, and it worked.  There is no time for self-pity when there is necessary physical labor at hand, which is how farmers and ranchers end up with so much integrity.  This is one of the personality aspects I consider when I think about my grandparents and how much I respected the lives they led.  Strength of character and endurance are virtues that I admire, and my grandparents possessed both.  Actually, I think I grew to admire those virtues because of them, and not the other way around.  This afternoon I began to feel as if the universe was plotting against me.  I felt imminent loneliness peeking around the corner and I spent 2 hours building the darkness up.  But Zia’s rental property needed to be shoveled and after driving over only to realize there was absolutely no place I could park my car without getting stuck I drove back home and determined to walk over, shovel in hand.  As I walked, I ruminated over my troubles.  As I shoveled, my mood lifted.  And soon enough after I returned home the universe changed it’s course and rewarded me with the return of Yimmy.  As unexpected a sight as a Yeti, only better.

Men take more pains to lose themselves than would be requisite to keep them in the right road. — K. H. Digby

Happiness consists in activity:  such is the constitution of our nature: it is a running stream, and not a stagnant pool. — Good

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I should have said enough about the snow already but I’d like to add one last thing.  I asked my mother once whether she’d had the newspaper from the day I was born.  She told me that there were no papers on that day because of the snow storm.  Then, I believe it was on my 8th birthday that I remember my guests all had to cancel because of the snow storm.  Now, this past birthday of mine was also a snow-out.  One lonely guest joined my family and me as we celebrated.

My little nephew just turned 3.

I spoke to him on the phone the day after his birthday and he told me in his sweet, little voice that his party had been CANCELED!  Because of the snow storm.  Have you ever heard a 3 year old say their birthday was canceled?  It’ll pierce your heart.  Alas, this is the woe of the winter baby.  Which is why I’ve taken the Queen’s lead and have chosen to celebrate a more temperate “half birthday” every July 9th.

As far as newspapers are concerned, I used to do the New York Times Crossword Puzzle every day of the week.  Anyone who does the crossword knows that after Wednesday it is nearly impossible to finish without using help, i.e., the internet.  It’s been years since I did the daily puzzle, but I am hopelessly devoted to the Sunday puzzle.  I have to get the early edition of the Sunday paper on Saturday.  Here’s where snow storms come between me and another pleasure of mine almost as dear as a birthday party.  Yesterday I looked for the Sunday Post-Gazette (early edition).  No luck.  But surely I figured by today the papers would be hot off the press.  Nope, not at the corner store.  I bundled up properly and walked to the drug store.  Nope, not there either.  I walked further, to the grocery store.  No!  No local paper!  But they did have The New York Times, Sunday edition.  Did you know this paper runs $6.00?  Highway robbery.  I took it home, though.  And I did my puzzle.

I will keep it lying around until Wednesday and if I haven’t finished by then, it goes to the recycling bin.  I do not use outside help to complete the puzzles until I am satisfied that it is recyclable, and even then I only go as far as to ask my son for the sports answers and I only look up points of personal interest online.  Otherwise it remains incomplete.  Usually if I am able to finish a Times Sunday puzzle it will happen on the same day I start it.

Also, even though the snow storm here stopped the presses on the day I was born they were still rolling out the news in D.C.  Last year’s birthday brought me a unique and well thought gift from Yim.  My real birthday newspaper:

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Thunda Cats Out

Out again into the glorious snow today.  Alison and I donned our winter best and braved the 20″ deep fluff.  It was so good, in fact, we didn’t return home for 3 1/2 hours.

Mycol worked last night and we spoke around midnight.  The hotel provided him with a room for the night, along with other employees who were stuck at the job.  I felt a little lonely.  What a beautiful sight the world outside was and no one to share it with more intimately than over the phone.  I spent the night in Mycol’s room and fell asleep watching Notting Hill*.  His room is upstairs, and the view from the window of our neighbors roofs and the treetops is magical under the circumstances.  I was surprised to see snow still descending from the sky when I awoke at 7 this morning.

The world this morning was quiet and still.  The snow drifts outside were pristine.  As the day crept towards noon I noticed neighbors out trying to shovel paths and I got the itch to go outside.  There was no traffic and as I watched people make their way on foot down the center of the avenue I felt excited about doing that myself.  Alison called right on time.  I knew she’d be up for an outing.  I bundled up and walked down to her place.  People are extra friendly on days like today.  Greetings from all passersby made me think of the romantic idealism of olden days.

It reminded my of how people behave at campgrounds.  When we camp, everyone takes strolls around the ground, casually assessing their temporary neighbors and issuing friendly greetings made with eye contact.  Is it that when we feel vulnerable, even a little, we find comfort in this way?  On any other given day I surely do not exchange hellos with the majority of the people in my neighborhood, nor do we look at each other.  Someone suggested that on a day like today it’s best to stay in because the caliber of people venturing out is likely criminal.  I disagree and found the general vibe was completely opposite.  Although nothing would have kept me inside short of witnessing horrible crimes straight out my window.

I did note that snow-graffiti prevailed.

*An aside on Notting Hill:  I found it didn’t hold up well to time.  I was disappointed and disinterested and rolled over to sleep before the midway frame.  While I still like Julia Roberts, thank goodness Hugh Grant seems to have packed it in.  And Alec, Alec, Alec!  (Baldwin) What have you done to yourself?!  You are absolutely fantastic and funny and I love your style, but I barely recognized you in this role from 12 years ago because you have blown up since then!  With FAT!  Come on, man, bring sexy back!

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Winter Walk

Snow storms are the best part of winter.  Peppino and I just took a two hour long walk and it was exhilarating.  Itchy thighs are a reminder of my childhood, when going outside to play was something we just did, regardless of the weather, because we craved it.  (I wonder if this itchiness is the kind NieNie talks about with her grafts?)

As a child in a grown-up body, going out on a day like today seems a bit forced, but afterward I always feel great, like I am alive!  I’ve been told that the Norwegians go outside everyday, no matter what the weather.  Ever since I heard that I have tried to make it my practice as well, mainly because I struggle so desperately every winter to endure the darkness and the cold.  I figure it might be easier to bear if I reversed the roles and took from winter rather than letting winter take from me.

So, Peppino and I carried our umbrellas because in the beginning the snow was sleety.  We talked about frustrating injustices, new-found energy, and planning for the future as we made our way to a half-way point and coffee shop lattes.  Once upon a time we talked over our drinks and through our smoke about moving to France together.  “Over our drinks and through our smoke, to Paris, France we go…”

Now that I am home the flakes are the size of quarters and flying around in the air like the flakes in a snow-globe.  I wish I had someone to play with some more!

The other great part about winter weather and coming in from the cold is hot soup.  I made this hot and sweet vegetable and tofu soup the other day and was able to heat up a bowl on the stove after our walk.

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