Thursday, January 31, 2013

in, out

Everything about this day was changeable. Unsteady, unpredictable. And therefore poorly observed and even less well photographed.

Up early. Snow? Again? Is it supposed to snow?

We eat breakfast quickly, at the kitchen table.

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And then I'm off. Except wait, that's a pretty patch of blue up there. Might we have a lovely day ahead?


Cold. It's beastly cold. Single digits. The doors on the cars are sticking. Snow clumps to the underside. It takes me a while to clear a car enough to get going and so I do not have time to even pause for a photo of the beautiful interplay between clouds and sun over the fields to the side of the road.

For a while, the sun dominates. Walking up the hill to my office, I snap this photo.

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But it doesn't last.

After my first class, I have a necessary doctor's appointment. Leg surgery  -- of the type that you have when you've been around for a while. With assurances that I can teach right after (because I am unwilling to take the day off).

During the procedure, the doc and I chat about Turkey. Okay, that's fun. The hour under the knife flies. After, I rush back to campus for my afternoon class. Except, when I park in the garage, I find that I can't open the car door. I crawl over cross country skis to exit through the passenger side. Right. Will do. Maybe something froze somewhere.

Classes done. Survived being on my feet after leg surgery. Back to the old Geo to drive it home. And again: door wont open. Passenger side as well. Now what? (Key is inside, hidden in it's usual inside spot.)

Ah. Hatch is unlocked. I scramble in through the rusty, dirty hatch over clunky skis to open the passenger door. I then crawl back out, close the hatch, and crawl once more, this time on the passenger side, over to the driver's seat.

Now that was a challenge!

I think of people who drive cars where doors open and close, where you don't have to shut off all peripherals at the beginning (heat, lights, radio) to get the fan belt to stop squealing... I tell Ed that my patience with his Geo is really diminishing. He grins -- but you're having fun!

I consider his point: do adversity (of the kind when you cant get into a car and cant run the heat or lights or radio for the first two minutes of a trip) and challenge create a sense of fun? I've always thought that the last place where I will put good (potentially travel) money is on a car. I enjoyed talking with my doc about Turkey. The recollections of my travels there thrilled me. No account of any car would have made me half as happy.

I pick up Ed at the farmette and we drive to Paul's cafe. I show him how once again, I cannot open the door. He laughs: you're banging it with your elbow! That's silly! Bang it with the palm of your hand -- everyone knows that! Okay. I will remember: keep heat/lights/radio off until fan belt quiets down and to get out, use palm not elbow. In the alternative, climb in and out through the hatch.

My doc told me I absolutely cannot ski for at least 24 hours. So I have a reason to say no to skiing in the Arctic blast. I settle in at Paul's and drink my decaf skim whatever and think again about Turkey and Crete and all the islands in between.

During the short drive home, the muffler on the Geo splits. Rusted through to the core. The noise now, when I accelerate is deafening. The door? Well, if I couldn't open it before, we now find ourselves in the position of not being able to close it. I drive home slowly, keeping the door "shut" with my hand pulling it toward me.

At home, Ed mutters -- I may have to retire that car.

He goes to fetch Isis from the sheep shed...

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...while I roast all remaining vegetables in the refrigerator for a thrown together supper of everything and nothing.

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The last day of January. Thank you January -- we've really had such fine days with you!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

a day in four parts

Part One: Snow!

At six in the morning the snow begins. I push back the covers and look outside. Pretty.

Then I pull up the quilt and go back to sleep. Something about snow outside makes it easy to sleep.

Still, snow? Real, blanketing, delightful snow? I need to step outside.

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Ah, lovely stuff. The kind that'll cause driving headaches. The kind that's hard to ignore. The kind that makes Isis run for shelter.

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I walk the farmette land admiring the sudden transformation.

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I can work at home Wednesday mornings and so I do. Let's let them clear the roads some.

We eat breakfast in the front room. You get the better views of the  snow covered trees here, Ed tells me.

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But the snow keeps falling and even if you shovel your way out -- nothing remains clear for long.

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Part Two: More Snow!

I teach shortly after the noon hour and so eventually I have to make my way to campus. It's slow going. Really slow going. I take Ed's '93 Geo. The thinking is that the car is so rusty that nothing can damage it further. It's all good, so long as you keep the speed down to maybe 20 miles an hour.

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Campus is hoppin'. Wisconsin doesn't slow down just because of a snow storm. (And yes, that is a bicyclist pushing his way down State Street.)

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On Bascom Hill students pause, look around, take out their cell phones to photograph the prettiness of this day on campus.

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Part Three: Can't be Soft

Classes end. Time to head home. The wind has kicked in and so now you have the good bits of road, interspersed with stretches that are hardly navigable.

It's late. Barely any daylight left. But if you have the idea that you should celebrate this beautiful snow, then you don't want to turn your back to it just yet. Perhaps there's enough daylight for a trip up to the park. The one with ski trails running close to lake Waubesa. It's so close! A mere two miles from where we are!

So out we go. Never mind that the winds are gusting and the snow is coming down hard. Can't be soft!

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We pull into an empty parking lot. The falling snow feels prickly and unkind if you stand the wrong way. We look out toward the trails. What trails, there are no trails. Of course not. Anything marked now would surely be covered over within minutes The wind is blowing the snow around as if it were one big playing field of confetti.

This is not easy to work with.  A ski run that typically takes an hour drags into twice that and then some. Bits of heavy, wet snow cling to the skis and in places, huge puddles from last night's rains are still visible, waiting to sink your ski if you go the wrong way.

But it's beautiful alright. Winter has given us her best right now. (Predictably, there are fishermen out on Lake Waubesa. Sheltered fishermen. In little huts that add color to an otherwise white landscape.)

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The light fades. We push forward, not gliding at all. More like stomping forward, finding that space between the trees.

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Take another photo, please! -- I hand the camera to Ed, feeling rather victorious when finally we complete the loop.

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Part Four: hungry!

It's dark by the time we reach the car. Isis is past his supper hour. We're past our supper hour.

A blogger in Denmark reminded me earlier today that eggs are terrific to play with, especially if you have some greens in your fridge. And a shallot or two. And a can of good tomatoes. And chunks of cheese to sprinkle on top.

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I'm plenty tired right now. A good kind of tired. Sleepy tired. But so glad to have snow on the ground again. Wisconsin winters, I always say, are easy to navigate, if there's snow to play in and the days are sunny. We've got the white stuff now. I'm hoping for a month (at least) of good, strong sunshine.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

weather systems

So much goofiness in the weather systems this month! How can you keep up?! Cold, gray, sunny, wet, foggy warm, stormy, rainy and now, tomorrow -- snow, cold and who knows what will be here after that...

It's rare to listen to a thunder storm roll through a January night, but we surely heard one last night. And this morning, I faced a morning drive through dense fog. The type where I can't see the end of the road. As always, I'm happy to be living so close to my workplace. And as always, I wish there was nearby public transportation to get me to campus.

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The rains came down again this afternoon and flooding in this region suddenly became a very real possibility: the ground is frozen solid -- streams of rain have nowhere to go. Our own yard looks like it may be contemplating the formation of a pond.

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At least the old snow will be washed away and the new snow will bring a sense of a deep Midwestern winter that's been a little missing this year.

In the meantime, work keeps me indoors. Tuesdays are tough days and this day began so early and ran so much without interruption that Ed agreed to take-out for dinner. Thai. Very good. With leftovers, in case the winter storm that's brewing delivers more than we bargained for tomorrow.

Monday, January 28, 2013

a January spring

Not too long ago, someone near and dear to me poked gentle fun at my incessant photos of breakfast. And so I considered this: might it be mildly annoying for a reader to open Ocean to the same old fruits and oatmeal so many days of the week? Month? Year? Perhaps even off-putting?

Let me explain why I do it.

Initially (meaning years ago) I though of it as an insurance aganst a day had had absolutely no other photo opportunities. Start early, get one under the belt, don't worry if there isn't anything else.

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Then I noticed something: taking photos of a breakfast table is hard! Even if you eat colorful fruits, it doesn't matter! Arranging a still life out of your morning repast is no easy task.

And so it became a challenge: can I try and try again to frame something that is actually a photo I can find satisfactory? If I try daily, will it open my eyes to new ways of viewing these essentially beautiful breakfast foods, shapes and colors?

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So I keep trying. And I have to admit, I love a slightly protracted breakfast and so a moment for photos is not time that takes us away from something more important.

In other news -- we had the beginning of a two day warm spell. I remembered how grand spring is here, because it felt like spring today. Isis, finding the picnic table free of snow at last, stretched and clawed at it and in general, let it be known that this is his kind of day!

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We were finally able to get to the stored carrots, too.  (They are wintered over in the space above the water well.) We wondered if they'd be frozen and awful.

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No, they are fine, so fine! (Most of them anyway.)

In the evening, the happy married couple came for the postponed meal...

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... and I made pumpkin shrimp curry (thanks to Tory Miller, our award winning chef, who shared this recipe!) and for a minute it felt like Sunday.

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But it wasn't Sunday. They left, I returned to work. Late, late into the night.

Still, spring poked her head in briefly today (back to single digits by Wednesday) and I found her to be enchanting. Can't wait 'til the real thing.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

the storm that went elsewhere

Sometimes days are far better than they appear to be. Take this Sunday: I could give it a bum rap alright. Consider it: 

We wake up and I have to say, all these years of my dutiful Sunday house cleaning have left their mark because the first words out of Ed's mouth are -- is it time to clean the house yet? (He's my vacuum guy.)

So I, or rather we, clean. And eat breakfast.

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Yoga next: now that's very nice. Though a little tainted by the fact that I have to drop off, on my way there, a catch-and-release mouse that had wandered into the farmhouse. The second one in a week! Somehow, this year, they're stubbornly finding a crack that we haven't quite yet identified. This tyke is spunky and runs around my feet before scampering off (and no, it is not the same mouse doing a return trip -- I take them a good couple of miles away from us and smart as they may be, they're not homing pigeons).

Gray skies, skimpy snow -- it's an uninteresting landscape out there, around us today.

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After yoga? Well, I wait for the ice storm to come. So concerned am I by the forecast of slick, dangerous roads that I call my daughter and tell her not to come for dinner.

In the end, we have a half hour of this:

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...which admittedly looks lovely, but it's fleeting and besides, it should all melt tomorrow as we're getting a two day warm spell.

When the ice storm changes its mind and takes a different (non-Madison) route, I call back my daughter and reinvite her to dinner, but by then she and her husband have settled in for the night. Wise people. You don't go out unless you have to on iffy weather days.

So that doesn't sound too good, right? A day of mousy tones and shades of gray and failed dinner plans.

An yet, consider this:  the farmhouse is warm and spiffy clean, the ice storm passes us by, and a thrown together supper of chicken brats turns out to be more than fine.

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A simple day with simple foods and earthy tones. I'm okay with that.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

a gift

Today was the kind of day that made mincemeat of the rest of the soppy, soggy, drippy, coldish, work-packed, tired, gray days of the past week. Grind them up and forget about them! My cold is over and done with! And, for this one day of an otherwise troublesome (weather-wise) weekend, the sun is out!

Isis started his morning "I am bored, can't you be up already?" routine early. Ed usually goes down with him for a while, but on this morning, Isis did not want to be pushed outside and so the two of them came right back up again. Which means that I am, by now, fully awake as neither of them are the silent type once they get going.

And now it is my turn to go downstairs and outside (even though it's in the teens, meaning nippy out there with just a coat thrown over a night shirt). So pretty! I walked the farmette land a bit and I was surprised how much (frozen solid) snow there was around me. Beautiful now in the early glow of the January sun.

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When I drive to work, the fields around us seem bare, with only patchy snow. But our own field, carefully cultivated by Farmer Lee come summertime, looks like it's buried in the white stuff.

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Something about the day causes Ed to be hungry for a bigger than usual breakfast and I love that! Like vacation! Oatmeal, fruits, yogurts and an egg! On the wee table that we have in the sun room because, well, it is, for once, sunny! (How many exclamation points do I need to convince you that for me, sunshine on a winter day makes this season truly not bad at all, no not at all!!)

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The sun room has a few odd plant specimens: flowers that I couldn't say good-bye to when the growing season was over. One such plant is the nasturtium: I wanted to see if I could winter one over in a pot and though in general, I wouldn't say it has been a happy little bugger, it's still chuggin' along and today, it shows me that it can still throw a flower every now and then. So -- a bit of orange by the window, looking out over the winter garden of dried hydrangeas.

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And the day continues in this chipper way. A longer than usual yoga class. And, with total determination, I drag out a rather tied-to-a-supine-position-lately Ed for a walk along the Nature Conservancy trail (a mere mile down the road from us).

It's grand to be walking outdoors again! (Here come those exclamation marks...)

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The sky is deliciously blue, but with dainty patterns of lacy clouds.

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The snow, such as it is, in patches here and there, adds a little winter glamor to the walk...

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Even as I'm hoping that we'll get another good cover before the season is over.

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At home, I make apple tea. It's not as good as the one I was given in Istanbul (adding sugar would help, but I refuse) and still, on a cold day, it seems so perfect. With a peanut butter and jam sandwich. Which we share. On a plate with a red bird. On a table with a red cloth, by the TV, where we watch more of the ancient Greece saga.

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No work today. None whatsoever.  A day with so much sunshine in it is a gift. To be used with care.

Friday, January 25, 2013

looking back

It should be this way: you're about to travel to Greece, you read all you can so that you are informed once you're there.

It's never like that for us. Indeed, it's quite the opposite: we travel, the trip sinks in. We then read and watch. (Today, it's DVDs on ancient Greece.) It's so much better in the reverse! We understand. We've seen it! It makes sense. (It doesn't hurt that the story of ancient Greece is one harrowing tale, so that it makes for good Friday night DVD-from-the-library-and-therefore-you-have-to-take-what's-available viewing.)

So I'm thinking of ancient Greece tonight. A better topic than, say, the gray day that we have outside.

In earlier hours, there was the usual -- school work (I had a class to teach today), though in the morning, I had the company of Isis, who is ever the adorable cat  (all snuggled into his paws as in the photo below), once night is over and our struggles as to who should have what portion of the bed are behind us.

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To document the utter colorlessness of the day, I take you once again to Lake Mendota, now covered by an insignificant coating of snow.

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On the way home from campus, I drive slowly. A snow shower comes and goes, never quite letting the flakes stick, never adding that gentle coverup to the January landscape.

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But, there are notes of 'color,' even on a day like this: my cold is nearly done (a nod perhaps to my mom here, who is a strong advocate of using the oil of oregano capsules at the very first onset of the sniffles). The brutal work week is behind me. I have a bunch of yoga classes this weekend to choose from. And, today, I went grocery shopping. And the flowers in the store were on sale ($5 a bunch!) and so I bought some.

Ed, I've come back with a bunch of flowers. This should come out of my funds, not yours... right?
It's okay, they can be from me.

That's one way to get your Traveling Companion to buy you flowers, if you're just itching for them. And I was. Especially during winter. Now.

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