Tag Archives: seasons

Fade to green

early spring rain f, by Flickr user withrow

early spring rain f, by withrow

The world I live in has lately been gray and wet and dirty and dim. Snow has mixed with rain, the wind has blown it in my face, and the sun has remained hidden in the flat, colorless sky. When it has rained, the water has pooled up on top of mud and sod, dirty puddles that are not the celebrated signs of spring.

But in the midst of this weary weather, I know that all this does herald the arrival of that fertile season. This precipitation is seeping into the earth, and will fuel the life which will soon spring from it. These cold rain showers will give way to the green smoke of the first buds on the cottonwoods, the trilliums on the forest floor. And then that will give way to the bright green of fresh leaves and then, with hardly enough time to notice, the world will indeed erupt into life.

With my head hunkered down now as I make my way through the gray outdoors, I can see in my mind’s eye the lush woods of summer, a mass of green. That which has been so long buried under snow that it’s become like the fading memory of a dream is now perceptible again. Visions of liquid–even warm–water in the lakes and rivers begin to sharpen. And everywhere there is green.

Good for the goose

Geese Flying, by Flickr user superstrikertwo

Geese Flying, by Flickr user superstriketwo

The early trout season in Wisconsin opens today. Despite the fact that we might get a couple inches of snow tonight, it is an undeniable harbinger of spring, or at least the weakening of winter’s grasp. There is a long way to go before spring is recognizable, but I know that many who get out there today will hear chirping birds and cast to rising fish.

What a winter. I remember the first hit of real cold in mid-December. It was windy and sub-zero and dark. Then it seemed like all of January was frozen solid, an indistinguishable blur of sharp temperatures that just went on and on week after week, except for the very last day of the month when it seemed the weather gods wanted to screw with us all and the mercury jumped up to the mid-40s, everything melted, and we were robbed of a full month of sub-freezing temperatures.

A week or two ago I walked Lola in the morning through a melting world, knowing that it was too early to consider this a long-lasting relief, but suddenly I heard honking overhead and I stopped and turned and watched a solitary goose cross the sky, an early scout for open water, overeager to return to his northern climes.

But yesterday I found myself walking outside without my jacket, first to a meeting downtown St. Paul with my new boss, and then over to Great Waters for a quick pint to wrap up the week.

I went home feeling weight lifted from my chest. There will be much scrabbling left to do this month, this season, this year, this life, but I feel a little like that goose, glad to be aloft after a winter in brackish southern marshes, seeking open water and signs of spring.

Housekeeping

I love home ownership. Today was scheduled as a chance to catch up on some of the little projects around we’ve been meaning to do for six months. It’s actually kind of fun to knock off these 15 minute chores. Hanging a rack in the camping gear room to hang our various packs from. Hanging art in the downstairs bathroom and the doorbell in the basement stairs. Organizing the workshop. I banged out several of these types of things and — impressed by my own productivity — decided I’d go upstairs to have a beer and some chips and salsa as a reward.

And the basement door broke when I try to close it after myself.

It’s OK to laugh.

Last night was really nice. I worked at home all day so I had a fire blazing in the fireplace when Rosie got home with fixings for dinner. We had some cheese and hummus while sitting in front of the fireplace, Katie enjoying some of Sterling Vineyard’s Cabernet Sauvignon and me with a big Flat Earth Brewing Element 115 (St. Paul’s newest brewery) that Scott gave me. I got a ton of new music from a friend the night before and we listened to Jolie Holland‘s Catalpa, Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Kaya and Tom Waits’ Mule Variations. We were both pretty wiped from the first five-day week since the holidays and it was nice to just enjoy the warmth, the food, the music and the quiet of the evening.

When we had sufficiently rested, we got to work on dinner, which was pheasant, thanks to my buddy Pete. Neither of us had ever had pheasant before, much less cooked it, so we had some fun. We used The Splendid Table’s Quail Roasted in Polenta recipe and it was delicious. I liked the bird a lot, though the polenta itself almost stole the show. Rosie had also splurged grocery shopping and bought some asparagus.

Our poor pooch has been a bit out of commission lately. After every hike we’ve taken her on for the past few months, she’s limped around the house for 24 hours, heavily favoring her right rear leg. Two trips to the vet convinced us it wasn’t some horrible knee or hip problem, but probably a strained muscle. The only prescription has been rest, so she’s gotten plenty bored with no hikes and very minimal daily walks.

But tomorrow, seeing how things go, we’re going to try a hike, as much for own sanity as anything, and perhaps bring her with. We’ll keep it short, and probably pick somewhere very flat so she’s not running up and down hills too much. But it’ll be awful good to get her back at it again.

I also ordered cross-country skis yesterday. I skied on Stillwater’s team in junior high and high school. I was never any good, but I loved getting out. I haven’t skied more than a few times in the intervening decade, though the past few years I’ve really been wanting to get back into it. The snowless winters have discouraged those ambitions, but when we finally got off to a snowy start to the season in December, I decided this was going to be the year. Of course, now half the snow melted during last week’s thaw, but I’m holding out hope that real winter will come back soon.

That’s all for now. I guess I have a door to fix…

Images of Thankfulness

We hosted my parents and grandma and Rosie’s parents at our house for Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful day. Enough sentiment to make it memorable, enough relaxation to make it enjoyable.

Perhaps the best thing about Thanksgiving weekend is that you get the holiday out of the way right off. Once all the dishes were done, we had a long weekend of well-deserved rest and play.

On Friday, I had a couple free hours in the afternoon so I drove over to our nearest park and took Lola for a wander in the woods.

On Saturday, we went a-Christmas tree cutting with Rosie’s clan. The three families met in Stillwater and then headed across the St. Croix to find a tree.

Rosie and I got our tree tied on first and hit the road back to her parents’ for dinner. En route, we decided to swing by the Arcola High Bridge to see the sun set over the valley.

As we were driving away, the moon was suddenly hanging over the tree tops, as big as I’ve ever seen it.

I was out catching up to tomorrow, or was I caught up in the past?
These days it’s hard to tell what’s out in front from what’s behind.
But, oh God, it’s unforgettable and unpredictable the way our chemicals collide.

- Cloud Cult

Finally, on Sunday, we went for a hike with Rainier and B (and Lola and their dog Quercus). They were leading us to new parks and it was a good wander around the northwest part of the metro area. Our primary destination was closed for a special deer hunt that day and that day only, so we improvised and found a state forest where we could walk some fire roads and trails through the pines.

Perhaps my favorite part of the walk was through a stand of red pines planted 50 years ago. The thick carpet of red needles on the path and the wind in the high canopy created a strange peaceful effect. A crow’s caw some distance away echoed carried through the woods.

I got myself a new look,
(Something gave me another chance to see).
Each time, each time I will try to do better.
Right now, right now is where I guess I belong.

Pulled my fist from my mouth.
I beat myself for a quarter century.
Remind, remind that it’s bigger than me.
Dissolve, dissolve into evergreens.

- ibid.

The cold started to set in over the course of the weekend. Winter is looming awfully long right now, and November has been dim and darkening, the skies have been gray, the wind raw, the land impartial and unmoving.

But there are lessons in all of it, and I’ve survived every other winter I’ve attempted, and already the cold is feeling more comfortable.

The persistence of light

The last of it is going now. The dark is coming so early, the leaves are falling or fallen. There is no more time for short-sleeves or sandals, no more chances for swimming.

Winter’s inevitability is dominant and more important imaginable. The length of the season ahead is best not considered, the brevity of the daylight is ominous enough.

The autumn sunsets are beautiful though. They come too early, but are red and orange and gold, the sky united with the earth. That last hour of the day is a time for quiet, when the beauty is striking but its fate is known to one-and-all. It seems that anyone out in it admires it and tries to breathe in the last rays of the sun.

Last night I left work as the sun was only a few degrees above the horizon. I maneuvered rush hour traffic as quick as I could so I would have enough light when I got home to take Lola to the park for a bit. There aren’t many days left when we will be able to do that.

When I got home, I changed quickly and we walked the couple blocks to the park, which is just a rarely-used soccer field. I brought the Chuckit and some water for her and threw the tennis ball over and over for her to chase down. The dusk hour was cool and quiet.

For being a retriever, Lola is sometimes easily-distracted from the task at hand. For the first 15 minutes, she occasionally got distracted by some smell in the grass on her way back to me and would drop the ball — forgetting about it entirely — and follow her nose. I eventually would have to walk out, retrieve the ball myself, and then regain her interest in the game.

As I concentrated on trying to convince her to actually bring the ball back to me every time, I forgot about pretty much everything else. I had felt inexplicably anxious and a little stressed by the end of the work day and had a slight headache. But in the middle of the big field, with no other people around, and just the frustrations of my poorly-trained dog to contend with, I felt happy and relaxed and the headache dissolved into the cool evening air.

After a while, Lola started to bring the ball back consistently. My mistake had probably been to not give her a chance to run around and “patrol the perimeter” as she likes to do on arriving somewhere. Once she had investigated all the smells and eaten some grass, she focused on the game and she got a good workout sprinting out after the ball and loping back to me with it proudly clutched in her mouth.

We walked home in the last gray light and I was happy that I had been able to use the dwindling daylight. This season is so powerfully defined by what it is, and what it is not, and what it will be.

Solstice Sunset

Solstice Sunset

Dogs will run and swim themselves nearly to death given the opportunity.

A perfectly flat hiking trail is a pleasure all its own.

Where the trout-less Trout Brook at Afton State Park enters the St. Croix, a sandbar extends much further out into the river than you would think. That sandbar and the cold creek water mingling with the warm river make for unexpectedly delightful wading.

Rural Afton is rich with long, curving hills that are just made for coasting down in nuetral at dusk.

Despite the claims of its Web site, Selma’s Ice Cream is not open until 10:00 every night of the week during the summer.

But Dairy Queen in Hudson is.

Solstice Sunset

(Photos courtesy Rainier. Thanks!)