Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Things

The melt reveals large objects, too. Bad parking job.

By late March, it becomes apparent that there will be an end to winter.  Sure, there might be a few last snowstorms in April to set the progress back a few days, but the increasing solar energy is an undeniable force.  Things must warm up, simply because there is more time with radiant heat, than without.  As the longer, warmer days loosen winter’s grip, and the snow starts to slip away, it becomes a time of discovery.  Misplaced items are found, questions are answered and great truths are revealed as the veil of winter melts away.
Anyone who feeds birds over the course of a winter wonders how the little critters can eat so much seed.  One would expect delicate chirping to be replaced with reverberating belches.  As the snow recedes mounds of seeds are left behind, piled high under the feeder.  It becomes apparent that a band of little wastrels has been hosted throughout the winter.

Spring can’t arrive without the official, annual retrieval of the lost glove.  Flattened beyond anything that could be accomplished through mere human effort, the lost mate is peeled off the ground as soon as the miniature glacier retreats from the driveway.  The perfectly good, essentially unused other half of the pair sat the winter out in the protected comfort of a drawer or shelf.  The reunited pair looks nothing like a matched set. One is thick, supple and inspires warmth just to look at it.  The other is wider by half again, and has been pressed to the thickness of newspaper.

At least a scarf doesn't have a mate.
Various efforts to make such a pair of gloves match again have been attempted at our house.  The best results, to date, have been attained by soaking the undamaged glove in water overnight, and then driving over it repeatedly.  However, success has been limited.  The artificially treated glove always remains noticeably thicker.

This nickel and two pennies in a few minutes of searching.
Spring is a time of change.  This is never more apparent than when the ice disappears in parking lots.  Pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters abound.  As the ice layers peel away from the blacktop, it isn’t impossible to go shopping for the week’s groceries and come out money ahead.  On sunny, warm days that promote rapid melting, the parking lots around stores are packed.  Easily half the drivers are lured to the lots by the thought of free change, rather than the possibility of spare change.

Every winter a multitude of hidden surprises accumulate along the roadways.  When the berms begin to shrink a veritable lost and found stretches for miles.  Most of the stuff is simply garbage, some of it is valuable, and on occasion, some of the things poking out of the dripping edges are inspirational in a macabre sort of way.

One spring, over the course of a week, I watched the subject of the following poem emerge from a berm along a road.  Titled “Berm Runners in the Spring” it can be sung to the tune of “Ghost Riders in the Sky, for those of you with a musical bent.  (If sung, the chorus is, “Hey, Fido!  Where’d you go? Berm runners in the spring.”)

Berm Runners in the Spring
From out of melting icicles, a patch of fur appears.
At first it’s just the eyes and nose, but eventually the ears.
You’ll finally learn where Fido went, when he did not return.
He spent the winter frozen stiff within a roadside berm.

Protruding paws outstretched to wave at every passing car,
His tail is stuck in snow and ice, he can’t run very far.
A frozen snarl is on his lips to greet the birds that fly
And land upon his frigid snout, to peck out both his eyes.

Standing high on crusty ridge, he strikes a stoic pose
An icon of fidelity amid the melting snows.
Back arrow straight, stretched out full stride, he goes no nowhere real fast.
The race he’s run is over now that winter time has passed.

As the springtime sun grows warmer, it starts to take its toll,
The snow base at his feet recedes; poor Fido starts to roll.
And soon enough our furry friend is one pathetic pup:
The snowbank sloughs and all that’s seen is four paws sticking up.

Out of sight, down in a ditch, he finds his resting place,
Defrosted fully, soft and limp, there’ll hardly be a trace;
A tuft of fur, perhaps a chain, is all that will remain,
Until next spring when berms are high, and the runners come again.

Not as good as dog, but ravens don't mind thawed... whatever, behind a fast food joint.
 If you enjoyed this blog tell your friends.  If you think it’s an abomination to the human spirit, tell your neighbor with the dog that barks all night. This post was partially excerpted from the e-book Of Moose and Men, available for 99 cents on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Devil's in the Details

A woman isn't happy until the room is complete

As a single, young man, moving into a place is simple: underwear placed neatly in a pile in one corner, pants in another corner pile, and shirts pitched into the closet, pending procurement of hangers at some indeterminate point in time. Furniture arrangement is a simple matter of setting up the chair to provide a clear path to the refrigerator while offering an unobstructed view of the television. If any thought at all is given to decoration, it is where best to stack the empty beer cans to form a pyramid.

Things change for a male when he assumes the role of a “not-really-significant-but-kind-of-important other.” As a general rule, women harbor a much less laid back outlook on moving into new living quarters. Women have rules for such things. They want things not only placed neatly, they want things to look nice when the dust settles. Men move with pickups. Women move with an agendas.

Upon setting down the final box, piece of furniture, or whatever, at a new place the guy is done with the move. In his opinion the job is complete, and it’s time to kick back and relax. The gal is just getting wound up.

Man thought: Not tidy, but sorta functional
“Don’t sit in that recliner. It doesn’t go there.”

“Where does it go?”

“I’m not sure yet… but definitely not there.”

“Mind if I sit on the couch?”

“No, but move it over where the recliner is first, and move the recliner over where the couch is now, and put the coffee table in front of the couch, and the end table next to the recline, and put the overstuffed chair on the other side of the end table. But before that, we need to lay down the area rug.”

The placement of furniture is like a ballet. Let’s call it “Swap Lake.” There is constant flittering and shuffling about until somebody lays down to die of exhaustion. But not until the woman decides the area rug should be oriented in a different direction.

From the man’s perspective the job is done when the furniture is re-arranged for the final time. Stuff will find its way to the walls, shelves and window sills all in good time. Men see that portion of a move as an evolutionary process, one that could take eons. Women, however, are creationists: from out of chaos arises order in a one day timeframe.

Order from chaos
“Okay. Let’s hang the pictures.”

“What? Let’s take some time to think about this.”

“I don’t need to. I knew exactly where I wanted what, when we first looked at this place.”

No explanation is offered as to how, exactly, that could possibly be the case, since it took several exhausting iterations of furniture arrangement before those things were placed correctly.

“Okay, but once the living room and bedroom are done, so am I. I’ll take care of the office at my pace, and you can tackle the sewing room at yours.”

 “That’s fine. Just keep your door closed.”
 For my part, I’m glad the office has a door for a sign: "Work in Progress! Stand back and watch us evolve!"
Neatly hung pictures in the hall = woman.  Stuff that will migrate to the walls = man.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Petey's Nose

The sun was rising in a clear sky and the thermometer showed seventeen below zero (twenty-seven below, for those accustomed to Celsius) while taking the day’s first load of stuff to the new house, yesterday. By afternoon the temperatures had climbed into the positive side of zero by more than twenty degrees. Daily temperature swings of more than forty degrees this time of year can only mean we’re standing on the cusp of breakup.

In reflecting on this past winter, it reminded me of a winter twenty-two years ago. That one also had extreme snowfall and a long stretch of bitter temperatures. In fact, that winter was much worse. Aside from the 176 inches of snow and four weeks during which the mercury actually froze, Mount Redoubt (one of our local, pesky volcanoes) erupted on a regular basis between November and April.  More succinctly: that winter sucked.  (The photo to the left is from a more recent eruption, in 2009.)

At any rate, while in the course of my wool gathering, a poem I wrote for my son about this time of year in 1990 came to mind. That winter was tough on kids. Between the ash fall (not good to breathe) and cold temps, the kids were cooped up a good portion of the winter. I don’t know if it was harder on the kids, or the parents, but “Petey’s Nose” gives a kid’s perspective.

Petey’s Nose

Oh, last September,
How the first frost made me grin.
I knew just what was on the way,
And couldn’t wait for winter to begin.
Then, by the last week of October,
It was more than I could bare:
I had almost given up dreams of drifts
When snowflakes filled the air!
Gosh, but it was glorious!
The whole wide world was white!
We stomped and packed it down by day,
And new snow would fall by night.

By the week of Thanksgiving vacation,
Things were pretty well frozen.
The boundaries for snow forts were laid,
And the opposing sides were chosen.
Spectacular battles were fought,
And deeds of valor performed.
Truces were called on a regular basis,
For hot chocolate, while fingers were warmed.
Ahhh, but those were great times.
But those times got old,
And by the end of Christmas vacation,
We were pretty much sick of the cold.

January crept along
Just like the proverbial molasses.
Things were so darn desperate,
We looked forward each morning to classes!
The grand forts we’d made were just mounds,
Neglected and buried under fluff.
The sleds and snowboards were ignored,
In favor of doing inside type stuff.
Eventually, Moms forced us outside with:
“You need fresh air and exercise.”
The cold would twist our noses,
Then freeze the tears welled in our eyes.

February was just like the poem,
It had twenty-eight slow days quite clear.
When a cold-snap descended upon us,
Playing outside, I frost-bit an ear.
After that, all of the kids would come over
And I’d show them my ear with some pride.
Most couldn’t have cared less about it,
As long as they could play inside.
As March came, my ear was all better,
And we were thrown back out into the snows.
As the gusty March wind swirled around us,
We picked Petey to frostbite his nose.

Petey wasn’t so certain,
He said it didn’t sound like much fun,
But Petey had picked out the short straw,
So we grabbed him before he could run.
Now that winter is finally over,
And April has come with the rain,
We still all go over to Petey’s.
(Except when he’s writhing in pain.)
Soon school will be out for the summer,
We’ll play ball and go fishing at dawn.
We’re hoping that Petey will heal up
And join us before summer is gone.