The Big Questions

Nothing like an early walk on an exquisite spring morning to generate the big questions in life . . .

Why can’t I pick trilliums? It was illegal when I was a child; is it still?

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Was that deer flirting with me? Was she following me? Was she as interested in me as I was in her? Why is her tail white? Why can’t my iPhone camera keep up?

How much does a sailboat like that cost?!

Who will live in Mr. C’s little place, now that he’s gone? Will they grow tomatoes, too?

Why does my cat sit placidly and purr when we stick a big needle under his skin and deliver fluids and then bite me, hard, when I clip his toenails?

And a related question: Why can’t I drink alcohol while on antibiotics?

Where does that lilac smell come from? How can it be so poignant and nostalgic and moving?

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Which chore do I tackle when I get home? Which piece of wood do I sand and/or paint today? Which tomorrow? The next day? Can I just keep walking . . . and avoid the chores?

Why do I look so tubby in my silhouette?

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And a related question: Which kind of ice cream shall I choose today?

Why does 71 sound so old and seem so young? I’ll ask my husband—he’s reaching that birthday today . . .

Where does the time go? Are we using it to full advantage?

How can I fit it all in, everything I want to do on this perfect day, and still have time to acknowledge and honor a perfect day?

Can I do this all again, tomorrow? Please?

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Lessons from My Garden

 

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I ache all over.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately, and the better part of the last two two days, outside trying to bring some sense of order to our yard and gardens.

The temperature has been in the 60s (call it 18 celsius) and it’s been sunny, so it’s been a delight to be outdoors. But it’s hard work, is yard work. And since my husband had yet another ankle surgery last month, a lot of it is falling to me.

I learn, or re-learn, many lessons in these days of April.

  • This isn’t yet a lovely time of year. It has its moments and, all in all, it’s better than February, but April is pretty chilly, quite windy, and way too wet.
  • Living on a lake has its downside. Ever since we had to leave our home for 6 weeks several years ago, when Lake Champlain flooded and we could only get in the house by wearing chest waders, we have had a healthy, nervous respect for the lake in April. It’s high right now, into flood stage, but not yet really a problem . . . knock wood.
  • I now know where I planted my mother’s irises. We sold her place late last fall and I had to rush to dig up the irises and bring them here. And I had no idea where I put them! Now I know and I’m thrilled to see them. It’s good to have something new, and old, to look forward to.
  • All the leaves from upstate New York, most from Vermont, and quite a few from Canada blow in every late fall and form dense, thick mats on our lawn. The tops look dry but underneath they’re soaked and in spots still frozen. The Canadian encroachers bother me most and I think maybe we should build a wall.
  • The gym didn’t do me much good at all. I dutifully went, all winter long, and sweated on the treadmill and that elliptical thingy, and am still knackered after two hours raking.
  • The corollary to which is: the best overall way to stay fit is to do yard work.
  • I did a wretchedly bad job, just really lazy, of cleaning up the gardens last autumn, which is proof of another pivotal lesson of life: You can pay now or you can pay later.
  • I’ve been reminded that little things offer huge rewards after winter—that one golden crocus, the old cats that act like kittens again and zoom up trees, the bits of chartreuse that are thriving under the frozen mat of dead leaves—it’s that color that happens only in early spring and is so fleeting and perfect.
  • And I’ve learned, again, the pleasure of the bone-deep tiredness that comes from working outside, to care for our bit of Earth.

What lessons does your garden have to teach?

Building Your Word Power: Sastruga

Over the years, I’ve posted photos of one of my favorite winter phenomena and a couple of years ago, blogger Sandra, from A Corner of Cornwall, told me there was a fancy name for it!

Sastruga (pl. sastrugi) It means: “ridges of snow formed on a snowfield by the action of the wind.”

When the wind screams off the lake, it sculpts the snow into constantly changing shapes . . . sastrugi.

Some are subtle.

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Some are gorgeous, sinuous, and flashy.IMG_3303

It may look like striations in rock

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Or waves of water, breaking

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Or just plain peculiar . . .

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This was from earlier this week. Those “duck bills” have an overhang of at least a foot!

Sastruga–A new word for you–you’ll need to use it three times, in a sentence, to make it your own . . .

Would you ever have a need for such a word, in your neck of the woods?

Winter’s Silver Lining

At this point of winter, we Northerners look for silver linings.

Many are the reasons to pity the poor Southerners, but one presented its silver self this morning.

Freezing fog and the delicate, sparkling rime it leaves behind.

I’m no meteorologist and I would have to look up the specific conditions that give us freezing fog, but Northerners know it is distinct from garden-variety frost.

In its wake, freezing fog leaves the most delicate fuzz of crystals on the entire outdoors. Every tree and twig and dried weed and fence post is enrobed so they all appear a bit softened, muted, as if behind a scrim.

(If you click on the photos, you can count the little spikes of ice!)

The temperature rises a degree or two, the sun comes out, and it’s gone. Winter is cold and a little bleak and hard-edged again. 

But we had our silver lining for a moment . . . and that counts for a lot during winter.

Beyond My Ability to Capture

They’ve come. 

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They’ve gone.

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And I still haven’t gotten a really good photo of them . . . 

Few things cause me more agita than seeing something spectacular and a little unusual and not being able to share it with you.

And for that reason, the snow geese that come through here on their migration have  been a source of great agita.

Every November, septo-quazillions of snow geese arrive. I think they choose this area because we have lots of water and protected bays as well as many, many corn fields that have recently been harvested. 

They are the absolute highlight of late autumn for me. I follow them around with a camera and, yet, I am never satisfied. I can’t capture the sheer numbers of them, I can’t capture the racket they make, I can’t capture the way their white wings, with the black tips, glitter against a blue sky, and the way a mass of them, rising from the lake, appear to be a storm of snowflakes, falling up.

The first time I ever saw them, I was taking a walk by the lake and could see a line of snow across the bay. But it was well above freezing and that couldn’t be snow . . .

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Plus it was moving.

My mother and I went to watch them a couple weeks ago. The geese were all placid and happy and chortling near shore. I said to my mom, “If I were a different kind of person, I’d throw a stone, just so we could see them all take off at once.”

A moment later, a small plane flew low overhead . . . and the geese all took off at once. And me, not quick enough to get a video that might’ve conveyed the majesty . . .

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A few days later, I drove home at twilight. We’d had snow that covered the ground and made it difficult for the geese to find leftover corn. But at that moment, three huge harvesters were at work in the fields . . . and uncountable geese were whirling and swirling and rising and falling around the harvesters.

A Thanksgiving all-you-can-eat buffet for hungry birds.

All along the rural road, cars pulled over to watch the scene. I sat and gawked and took a ton of photos and was so excited  . . . and the photos look like nothing special at all.

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Maybe some moments are not meant to be captured, to be frozen, to be stopped in time. 

Maybe the snow geese are simply to be experienced. 

Maybe you need to come next November and see them for yourself!

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Autumn Respite

It seems the internet and airwaves are awash with bad/crazy/scary news. I care about it all and am paying attention and cannot wait until next Tuesday, when I will be pressing my nose up against the window at my local polling place, eager to vote.

And yet . . . one needs a break. One needs a reminder that our world isn’t only bad/crazy/scary. You, my blog friends, offer many and excellent reminders of that. And I want to contribute my own, from my lovely part of the world.

Autumn has been awesome this year. It’s always my favorite time of year, here in upstate New York, in the Adirondack Mountains, near Lake Champlain. But this year the color of the trees, in addition to being bright, has persisted longer than usual or so it seems to me. A few trees fade and more have taken their place.

I can’t give you the freshening breeze that makes the leaves dance and sparkle. I can’t give you the tang of woodsmoke or the crunch of dry leaves beneath your feet. I can’t give you the snap of an Autumn Crisp apple or the sound of the snow geese as they make their raucous way south.

But I can give you the sights of autumn. Many, many sights of autumn. You can click on them as you choose . . . I just know I feel better having been out there, in our pretty world.

 

 

An Autumn Pet Peeve

I love a field of autumn corn. The stalks all golden brown, lined up, and waiting to be harvested. It’ll be cut down, chopped, and used for silage to feed cattle during the long winter. (Silage goes in a silo and that’s what most farmers call it. I grew up on a farm very near the Quebec border and never heard the word silage until a few years ago. We used the word “ensilage” exclusively–the French influence, I guess.)

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I even love a field of mown corn. It looks restful, harvest finished, and its sere, muted shades make the surrounding foliage seem all the more radiant.

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But this? This make me peevish. Who does this?

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Who harvests an entire field and leaves one last corn stalk standing? So untidy . . .

(And can you see the blue jay photo bombing the picture?!)