Saturday, March 31, 2012

finally, Lago di Garda

Northern Italy is at the very tail end of its own heat wave – the temps climbed up to the high seventies today.

Weather stuff is tricky when you’re away. You want it to be nice. And on days when it does indeed exceed your hopes, you want to make sure you don’t waste a single minute of it. That’s a lot of pressure!

Still, as the pilot bumped his way to a landing in sunny Milan (and passengers grumbled at the added little bounce -- “that’s Altitalia for you!” -- one said, but then, a flight from Paris to Milan is always filled with people who look like this:

on the bus to the plane

Men in a hurry), I was looking out the window and thinking – wow, the Milanese spring is two weeks ahead of where our spring is right now. Amazing! (Both theirs and ours.)

Just to clarify, the lake region of Italy is just south of the Alps. You can this flying into Milan. Here’s the first of the big beauties – Lake Como, spreading its claws right up into the mountains.


On my return next week, I have to spend a night in Milan. That’s not the best way to end a trip, but early flights force my hand there. But there’s no reason to even pause in this city on my arrival. From airport, straight to the train station, where I catch the local to Brescia. (The local is always half the price of the snazzy intercity – there it is, that speeding devil, showing off its bright redness, like Mr Red back home, or my rosie, or my red hot lover. Forget you all! This time I’m on the pokey green snake.)


It’s always a challenge to take these trains after a long and convoluted series of flights. Far too easy to fall asleep and miss your station. The warm sun comes in through the windows, the train rocks gently, in the distance, the northern Alps frame your views...

No, I must stay awake.

Italian trains aren’t as on the spot punctual as those in neighboring countries (I’m thinking France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany) – so you can’t plan your connections around them. A little over an hour later, ss we pull into Brescia (a city at the southern end of Lake Garda), I see that we’re a tad late. So I miss a good bus to Gargnano. Ah well, there are plenty of others.

If I could fall asleep standing up (Ed can do it, I cannot), I would do it now, at the bus station in Brescia. It’s fairly crowded here, on this Friday afternoon. Lots of high school kids, too, returning (cigarettes out, ah, foolish kids!)  to their homes on the outskirts, or in the lakeside villages. When my Gargnano bus finally comes, it fills up quickly.

This is what people do when their gas gets taxed at higher rates – they cut back on using their cars and rely on public transportation, which then improves significantly to meet the growing demand. I’m one who believes that this is a good thing.

It’s my final leg of the journey and on the bus (an hour and a half ride), I can at last doze off. Mine is the last stop on the line. But who can sleep! Watching school kids get on and off, listening to the chatter of the older couple behind me – these rides are like café people watching: full of the excitement of being in a different country.

By the time I arrive at Gargnano (pronounced Gar-nia-no), the bus is nearly empty. I get off and look around.

What a stunning little place!


Gargnano is actually a handful of hamlets, clustered at the shore of Lake Garda and extending into the hills above it. I’m staying at the heart, where shops, cafes and eateries line a beautiful waterfront.

My hotel is a short walk – along a quiet street by the water’s edge.

DSC05298 - Version 2

Let me say right at the outset that the prevailing mood here, at the family run Hotel du Lac is that of a gentle quiet. Right now, the deep waters of Lake Garda are very still. At night, the wind picks up and I listen to the splash of small waves along the pebble shore. But there is no other noise, no disturbance.

It is also true that I am here before the season starts. My little hotel really doesn’t open until tomorrow, but they moved things up when I asked about a six day stay. They rewrote their webpage and actually have another room now occupied as well – by a couple whose home in southern Germany is a mere five hour drive. Sort of like me going to Escanamba for the weekend.

And speaking of my reference town of Escanaba (it’s your classic midwestern lakeside place – not especially a big tourist destination, but with your standard motel rooms going for about $100 per night) – I’m paying comparable rates here (though with a huge breakfast included). Meaning it’s not dirt cheap. I could have done better pricewise along Lake Como. But you have to get off your “go for the cheapest” horse when you travel this far for a week’s break. For ten Euro more I have Gargnano. It’s worth the ten Euro, really it is.

I don’t do much on this first day. The haze of a long journey has set in. You know how it is – you feel you’re moving even if you’re not. Everything seems slightly more distant, slightly muted around the edges.

It’s late afternoon and I walk to the village center. The locals are out and about, as usual the older men prefer the company of each other...


...and the older women huddle over a baby carriage and admire a new Gargnano addition.


Gargnano. At the feet of steep hills. Narrow streets, colorful houses, lovely vistas onto the waters of the lake.

DSC05321 - Version 2


I sit down at a lakefront café and let the sun warm my right side. It’s slowly sinking, but I’m plenty toasty on this last (or second to last? One can hope...) summerlike day here.

The waitress comes over. Si signora? She asks.
I want one of those, please. I wince at my own rusty Italian. It's been a while. I point to the aperitif of choice here: an Aperol spritz (half Prosecco, half the deliciously bitter Aperol, over ice, with a slice of a blood red orange).
She brings it. Lovely little drink. With a tray of snacks.

DSC05316 - Version 2

And a bruschietta with tomatoes.

I haven’t eaten since the morning snack at the Paris airport and even though I’m just a few hours short of dinnertime, I’m hungry. And I am especially hungry for that warm bread with tomatoes, drizzled over with a local olive oil and sprinkled with oregano.

It funny how quickly you get attached to the local stuff here, in the Mediterranean countries. When you go into a small food store (and I did), you see a shelf of wines – always local wines. Everyone in the village appears to drinks the local Lugana and the not too distant wines of the Veneto. And they use their own olive oils and they buy bags of their local cookies. If I stay long enough in a place, I’ll get into that habit too and I begin to think that these wines, these olive oils, these cookies are superior to all others and I’ll buy some and lug them home where they will at once taste... well, nice, but also ordinary. No different than the next good oil or decent bottle of wine.

Out of the six nights I am here, three of them are on a demi-pension basis – breakfast and dinner included. It was too good a deal to pass up, even as I hate being tied to just one eatery during my entire stay in Italy, so I made this compromise of three and they were fine with it.

Back in my room now... (and back to mirror photo snapping... where are you, Ed?!)


I notice that the sun has set. My room faces east and I see the shadows of my own Gargnano mountain on the hills before me. The sunlight picks up the reflection of a window pane and it throws a tail of twinkling light onto the water. It is an utterly sublime moment – a play of light on water, a touch of cloud, a dazzle of fading blue.


Today is my hotel dinner night. The one other couple here is eating here too. We are in a dining room that sits almost on top of the water. The views over the lake at this evening hour are stunning.


People always ask me if I mind eating alone when I travel. Of course it’s fun to have Ed or my daughters or friends at the table. Of course it is. But eating out alone is never an issue for me. I know Ed takes a book when he does it. I take my notebook. Often times I scribble stuff I never use. It’s the kind of writing that I used to do when I was younger. Journal like. Very indulgent. And sort of pointless. But fun.

I also watch others. And, when you are alone, people engage you. (They always leave you alone when you’re with someone.) The German couple began talking to me before I was through with my “pasta” course (barley, prepared as a risotto, with tomatoes and basil). A delightful duo. Very gentle, very polite.

They’re at least a decade older than me. We talk about our various travels and eventually they find out I am originally from Poland. They’re both surprised.
So you must be Catholic! – the woman blurts out.

No one has ever said this to me before, just like that, out of the blue. It was an idle observation, I suppose. Perhaps an association with the Polish Pope. I consider my answers. Well now, when I was born, right after the war, it is true that the country was 98% Catholic then. But I myself am actually of the 2% that were not.

As European countries struggle with a new wave of religious politics, I’m still riding the old one. And indeed, I am in a place in Italy that is just full of the old one. Mussolini occupied and set up residence in a Gargnano villa in 1943.

On the flight over the ocean, my Serbian friend talked about her family, especially about her father who, as a Jew, spent the war years in German camps. She said how he wasn’t one to look with hostility at all things German after the war. He drove a BMW, because it was a good car – she tells me. My first car was a Mini Cooper. I drove it every summer from Yugoslavia to Paris when I was a student. My mother was terrified for me, but I liked Paris. And tennis at the Bois du Boulogne. I smile at the image of this now big time doctor  as a Yugoslav student, driving her Mini Cooper across the continent to play tennis in the Bois du Boulogne.

But it is also true that we are the postwar children. We think about invasions and occupations on this continent. The next generation can think in a history textbook way about the war. My generation cannot. And it’s rare that I am in Europe and am not in some way reminded of my role as the child whose family and friends lived through the war. It’s just the way it is.

The food at the hotel? Delicious! It is their first meal service of the season and they were duly apologetic about not having all their eggs out of the basket yet, but I cannot see what could be better than my eggplant appetizer, the barley risotto, a fresh salad, and the most delicate lake trout I have had in a long time. Followed by a semifreddo with meringue and strawberries.


...and heaven too.

Outside my window, at the predawn hour, the lights on the other coast shut down and the sky begins to turn a bright blue again. A new day. May it continue to bring sunshine. Just one more day. Then I will feel satiated, I promise.


Friday, March 30, 2012

life’s travels


I suppose it’s fitting that I am traveling alone to the northern parts of Italy. You could say I became who I am here a long long time ago – an adult, but with clear leanings toward child’s play.

When I graduated from college (I finally finished things up in the winter of 1974), I packed my bags and came to this part of the world. I rented an apartment in the Dolomites – a very difficult feat in years when everything had to be done through correspondence – traveled to it and waited. For what? For a male friend from New York to come visit, I suppose. He never did and I got terribly lonely up there in the Italian mountains and so I got in the habit of taking the early bus to the train that would eventually put me in Venice. I took about a dozen such Venetian trips that month and I have to say, seeing that city in the cold and drizzly days of March was eye-opening. In a good way.

Occasionally I would overnight in a small hotel not too far from the Piazza San Marco. The owner was rather romantically inclined (even as this was a family operation – the wife, the son, they all worked there) and he would show me various parts of the hotel leaning suggestively next to me, talking of romance and Venice and it all rather swam in my yearning 20 year old soul. I’m sure I was offered wine, I’m sure I accepted. And still, the story goes no further than that. In the end, I was suddenly adult enough to stay away from trouble. Despite Venice.

The little hotel is there, in Venice still. The owner must be ancient. Or dead. I don’t ever stay there anymore. The memory is more mine than his or anyone else’s. Youthful games in adult places.

My destination now isn’t Venice, nor the mountains really – it’s Lago di Garda – the largest lake in Italy. I’ll be staying halfway up its coast, in the small town of Gargnano. D.H. Lawrence paused there back in 1912 or 1913. Indeed, the Italian lakes of the north were once a favorite of the British literate folk. They have their own lakes, of course and they pranced around those as well, but the Italian lakes have a micro-climate, a Mediterranean ambiance and a pleasant relationship with the sun and so the writers who could, went there.

And I’m heading there as well. Same reasons in the end – the quiet beauty, the climate, the feeling of calm.The walks.

Not that the journey thus far has been especially calm. Before my last law class, I checked my email only to see that my flight – the first one – was cancelled. A fast scramble ensued. Pipes in the Law School developed a leak and at this very moment our building is flooded. Water drizzled from nearly every direction, threatening the building’s power supply. A class had to be taught, a flight had to be found.

As always, it all worked well enough. So I’m flying through Paris instead of Amsterdam. That’s fine. So I get into Milan a few hours later. Equally fine.

But with all the rush and unexpected activity, I never had a chance to eat my peanut butter sandwich back home. I’m traveling to Italy with half a peanut butter sandwich in my bag.


In flight:

KLM has this new program for its frequent fliers: you can provide your Facebook profile and then connect, no, not just connect, sit next to people of like mind.

Well now, I find that to be so not me. I like to shut out the world on long flights. I like to read, write, think and if all those fail – watch a dumb movie.

I am on a flight from Minneapolis to Paris and I have next to me a person who appears to like to talk. This is not a good sign. I am not chatty up in the air. 

But suddenly, I learn things about my seat mate that are uniquely fascinating! She is a physician at Mayo. She is Serbian. She lived in Yugoslavia in much the same way and in the same years that I lived in Poland.

I understand her childhood and she understands mine. We are American, very much so, but with this curious twist.

And high school, you know how in high school...
And, isn’t it true that Americans have just no idea...
And, isn’t it wonderful how in the States...

And so on.

Eventually, she goes back to her papers and I lose myself in mine. But we are now solidly connected -- all this transpiring at 35,000 feet above the earth. These are the good flights. One has to remember that for every bad one, there are ten like this -- completely wonderful.

Arriving in Paris

I’m not pausing in Paris. My attention is focused elsewhere on this trip. But my oh my, am I always happy to have that interlude here, biting into their pain au chocolate, sipping their very strong coffee. Thanks, Paris. Now let’s move on.

(posted from Paris airport)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

spring break

A tight squeeze of a day. Early classes, a sixty minute window to zip from school and catch flight out (thanks Ed!), an inconveniently out of the way layover in Minneapolis, then, one long flight, followed by a short one, a bus ride, a train ride, another bus ride and I’ll be there – a brief respite of a week, a much needed and loved spring getaway.

I’ll write more tomorrow, once I arrive.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

first chomp out of the garden

Perhaps the brightest moment of the day came in the evening when, walking past my kitchen herb garden (so many of these guys survived!), I noticed that the chives were ready for snipping. Dinner for us was a plate of steamed spinach and scrambled eggs. I’m that busy. Excuse me – scrambled eggs with chives!

It’s considerably cooler outdoors this week. We started with a breakfast on the porch, but I gave up into the first spoonful of granola. Indoors felt so... deliciously warm.

Biking to work was tough, too. I was dressed for last week's heat wave. I turned around and decided to give up the bike after half a mile. But very quickly, I turned around again, hating myself for being a wimp. And then got cold again.  And so I retreated. Then kicked myself once more and, with a final spin around, shrugged off the cold and headed on Mr Red to work.

I’ll post the precious field view from my rural biking road, but I have to say, I didn’t pause for long. Too cool out there today. At the height of the day, we registered 56 degrees.


At the farmette tonight, things became rather fast paced. I had the urgent need to plant my peony. And to weed the shoulder flower bed that abuts the walkway. Ed remained calmly committed to finishing the transplant of the tomato seedlings to bigger pots. He’s not in a hurry. And he is especially not in a hurry today. He’s not going anywhere tomorrow.

I never expected him to change his mind and come with me and he never expected me to retract and cancel, but we keep the pretense going. Must you go? Can't you go? Short cut for -- I care, but this is the week to travel/stay home (depending on who is speaking).

I leave you with flowers from the garden. They are a gentle sweetness. A delightful presence. I’m already looking forward to seeing their proliferation upon my return (next Friday).

DSC00923 - Version 2

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

broccoli and tomatoes

When I am not teaching or working on teaching, you’ll find me today reading Supreme Court arguments about broccoli and, I suppose, our national passion for eating it.

So there’s that.

Ed, meanwhile, is home mollycoddling our tomato seedlings. We got a tad concerned as a commenter conveyed the message that we ruined the whole lot by letting them stay out on a cool March night. Start again! -- we were told.

This sent Ed googling. He came back relieved. No, if they’re alive, they’re alive, he tells me. Their souls (and fruit producing capabilities) aren’t damaged so long as they look okay.

I wasn’t convinced.

Ed asks – do you want me to call the Burpee hotline? Brilliant! -- I say. Like the Butterball hotline at Thanksgiving! (Even as our seeds aren’t Burpee seeds so I feel like we are slightly cheating.)

Hours later I hear from him again. He’s jubilant. She said – and I did ask after her credentials – that had these been eggplant or pepper seedlings, then maybe they would have been affected. But for tomato seedlings, the kind of damage that comes from spending a cool night out is peanuts compared to the horrors that lie ahead for the average tomato: winds, heat waves, pounding rains. In other words, they should be fine.

I feel like the mother who feeds her kids peanut butter on white bread, knowing that this isn't right, doing it anyway, only to find out later that actually, kids are fine with white bread. Especially as combined with peanut butter.

Ed spends the rest of the day dividing his seedlings, babying them really, while I work on campus.


By evening, we're home again and I look around me a tad disheartened. The plums are almost done with their bloom. They provide a nice backdrop to the delicate pink flowers of the peach.


The pear is flowering too. But our most prolific bloomers (crabs? hawthorn?) are just budding now.


Will I miss the burst of blooms? Typically, this comes at the end of April. This year – it looks like in a day or two, these trees will be at their best.

That's okay. You can’t have it all. I’ll be back in time for the lilacs. I think. (I’m only going away for a week!)

The sun recedes, but tonight, the air stays warm. And still, Ed’s not taking any chances. He loads the flats of seedlings onto a cart and wheels it all inside the sheep shed for the night.

DSC00918 - Version 2

In the meantime, I make lots and lots of cabbage soup – for today and for the days I’m gone. As if Ed couldn’t cook for himself. As if he hadn’t done so for the 55 years before I began to cook meals for us both.

We eat and listen to the ongoing debate on the news about, well, broccoli.

Monday, March 26, 2012


I wake up and automatically check the temps outside. 34. Oh dear. Ed, we’re going to pay a price for not taking in the tomatoes last night.

We goofed. Or forgot. Or got lazy. Or some combination of the above.

I stumble outside and pick up the little seedlings. Their leaves are upright, clasped together as if in prayer: please help us even as they wont. I bring them in. We place them on the window sill. Sorry guys.

Breakfast isn’t going to be among the daffodils. Unless you count the ones on the table. Inside. They'd fallen over with the heaving temps outside.

DSC00904 - Version 2

Monday. I bring home sushi, we listen to news, I work some more. Windows closed, heater on. Brrr.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I do so appreciate good words

In the last few weeks, I’ve received a number of “lurker” emails – people who read Ocean and just want to let me know that they do. It truly is wonderful to hear from them, especially when I know that they are in different worlds, with different lives, at different ages and stages. So thank you for writing.

Ed and I woke up to a stellar, sunny day. It had been a quiet night. What a relief! Whereas the previous night, Isis came in and out of the farmhouse no fewer than TEN times (he doesn't have a cat door, so someone -- thanks Ed! -- has to let him in and out), last night he stayed away. I thanked him profusely this morning.

Today is the day to set the parameters of out veggie garden. Ed is suggesting that we dispense with fencing for our peas – donkey or chicken, they're all wrong. String. He’s convinced it’ll be more attractive and effective to use string. Well alright, I’ll give it a try. Let the man create and design. He thrives on this in life.


There’s another Ed idea that I am less tickled with: the tomatoes we planted in flats? You know how you’re supposed to put in a few seeds and then thin them out as they sprout? That’s not Ed’s way. He wont “thin.” He’ll laboriously cut the soil and separate the seedlings so that we don’t “kill” a sprout or two.
I ask him – why don’t we just plant one seed per pod next time?
Because they’re not all supposed to sprout.
But they do sprout.
I have no answer to that.


I leave him to his job. My daughter and her fiancée stop by for a country walk, city (Madison) people that they are. We go the way of the Nature Conservancy trail.

DSC05269 - Version 2

The last time I did this walk, it was midnight and the snows had covered our way. That was just a month ago – February 24. Today? Well now, today was very different.

Evening comes. I have a few difficult phone calls and then a wonderful family dinner and then it is all set, over and done with. I think to myself – you can never get others to feel good about life if they’re hell bent on feeling angry at what life has dealt them. You can’t force others to take on your story line, your praise of the good stuff. You just cannot. And that’s okay. But in the process of trying, you can get knocked around a bit. Today I got knocked around a bit. It happens.

Yes gorgeous?
People are nuts.
Yes gorgeous.
Let's watch a good movie.
Okay gorgeous.

For once, he said exactly the right thing.

And now let’s consider tomorrow. A bright day, no? I look forward to breakfast among daffodils again.


Saturday, March 24, 2012


Going shopping alone (for nongrocery stuff) has become a distressing experience. If I don’t buy what I intended to buy, I feel that I wasted time. If I make a purchase, I do it with the awareness that if Ed was there, he’d talk me out of it and I’d be that much richer and closer to retirement.

Women encourage each other to buy. You deserve it! – typical words that accompany a small shove toward the register. Ed is on the opposite extreme. He pulls me away, quickly, firmly.

These days, I rarely go to stores. But today was the exception. Pansies, seeds, REI stuff, bookstore stuff, stuff

As I left Barnes & Noble bookstore, I thought how perhaps I’m too old to buy books anymore. I have many that I haven’t read yet and we do make use of the library. A lot. I do not completely endorse Ed’s philosophy that it’s only sad if you die before you turn sixty, but I do feel that purchasing plans of a post-58 year old have to be of a different kind than those of someone approaching 30. My parents both have great difficulty dismantling their various accumulations. Not me. By the time I’m their age (should I live past 60), I may well be living out of a single cardboard box. I’d probably be fine with that.

In the end, I did purchase an REI pack with wheels. It’s a nod toward my youthful ambition of carrying anything I take on a trip on my back and acknowledging that sometimes it’s just that much easier to wheel things. But I’ll return it tomorrow. At home, Ed gently but emphatically convinced me that I do not need it. His steadfast commitment to keep less "stuff" at the farmette is very soothing after a stressful day of store hopping.

Okay, let me turn our attention toward the farmette garden. Much time can be wasted by merely pulling weeds. You walk from point A to point B and you stop a hundred times to pull out a dandelion or a creeping Charlie or a blade of quack grass. The patch by the screened porch is a constant target for us. Isis gets involved as well. He walks daintily between flower clumps. Ed and I are lucky if we trample down fewer than two each time.


We’re starting a new veggie garden and the project combines my impulsiveness with Ed’s devotion to developing a good technique. Ed has a huge roll of wire fencing stored in the barn and we are thinking it may work well as a pea climber.


Ed, is this really for growing peas and beans? I’m skeptical. The stuff is heavy and hard to keep upright.
Well, they say that it's supremely well suited for containing donkeys. Not sure why I have it. It’s looking too funky, isn’t it?
That’s a hint that the end result is likely to look like something your great aunt Hilda may have tried to hoist up after having one too many beers. There isn't a chance that is Ed going to let a funky fence like that stand.
We could try to straighten it.
In the alternative, we could take it down and put up some chicken mesh. Tomorrow.

We’re done for today. We have a vision, we have seeds. A few pots have pansies in them.

DSC00889 - Version 2

And really, at this point, everything looks ridiculously lovely just because we have around us buds and flowers that belong to May. In March. Sure, it is a bit cool today. Fifties. And still, it's a postcard type of day. Even the sheepshed looks dreamy nice. Imagine that.


Friday, March 23, 2012

questions requiring no answers

Why can’t you come with me?
Why do you need to go?

One Q is mine, the other is Ed’s. We’re really not asking, because we know the answers. We’re stating our position – that I wish he’d want to go, that he wishes I wouldn’t want to go.

Spring break is very late this year – it does not start until at the end of next week. I tell my students – it’s been so warm, it feels like we’re wrapping up the school year. Except that we’re not. Not yet. Even as in the last months of a teaching year, every bit of reading, of lecture writing, of class preparation takes longer. You don’t want to slow down, you don’t want to finish limply and so you do more, even as your brain neurons have a healthy dose of spring fever. Sort of like softball pitchers, effortlessly tossing balls into the air. Without focus.

Spring break is the time that Ed rarely wants to go anywhere with me. Too short a break. Besides, he likes the farmette in the earliest months of spring. His preference is to go away for long, but rarely. Mine is exactly the opposite.

So this year, I’ll go away alone. In my life, I’ve traveled alone more than I’ve traveled with someone and so I am quite used to it, even as I wish my occasional traveling companion would drop the “occasional” part. I know, I know. He’d like me to drop the “frequent” in his description of me. Meet Nina, the frequent traveler. "Occasional" would, for him, be much more satisfying.

We would not be who we are if we were what the other wanted.

In other news – well, in anticipation of leaving this Thursday, I have a load of work – both of the bookish kind and outdoor stuff as well. Spring has galloped ahead of me and now I’m left with raspberry canes to trim, lettuce seeds to sow, our tomatoes to transplant.



Oh, it's a green world out there! Ten days ago, there was not a sign of spring. I took a photo of the farmhouse. Bathed in brown. Today? Well now...


Good work. Happy work. The skies are gray, the temps have settled into the comfortable sixties. We’re indoors working, we’re outdoors working, back and forth, all day long, one task, another, and another, until the sun, if there was one to be seen, nears the setting time.



Yes, it’s a green world out there! I honor it by cooking asparagus spinach soup – winter spinach and spring asparagus. Perfect combination.


What if I give over my miles and you could travel free? I already paid for a room...
What if I took you out to dinner every night here? We could work outside, then finish with a dinner out...

I've always said -- Ed is Ed. But, too, as he so well knows, Nina is Nina.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Do you like pink? I ask Ed. Pink’s okay, he answers, then goes back to his reading. I recognize it as meaning – how could color matter? Ever?

Case in point: it matters to this young woman! On Bascom Mall today. Every detail in pink. (Please do take note of our green, remarkably green hill of grass.)


Earlier, during our morning breakfast on the porch, Ed asks – did you plant colors other than white out front?

Well he may wonder. The first narcissus that came up out front is the white one. And then another and then another.

DSC00857 - Version 2

I tell him others are soon to follow, but really, narcissus are all of the yellow-white family.

And speaking of yellow, on campus, we are experiencing the peak of yellow forsythia.


It’s short lived, but I’m always happy to see it, even if this year it is accompanied by most everything else. Bursting, blooming, growing substantially ahead of its season. We continue to be breaking record highs. Today it was in the upper seventies.

What’s your favorite color? I persist, wanting him to put down the New Yorker.
You! Ed says. You’re gorgeous! Ah, his dialogue tape is on auto pilot. He cannot be distracted. A shame. I go back to playing my very limited iTunes selections, picking songs carefully, even though I know that he isn’t really listening.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

warm air thoughts

There are many many things to admire and respect in Ed, but the trait that came to mind today is his utter tolerance for another one’s conduct. Let them alone, it’s none of your business – these are his words, even when he doesn’t say them.

There is in there (though he wouldn’t admit it) a healthy respect for anyone’s life and for decisions people make in directing their own futures. Sure, if someone is hurting another, especially an animal, he’ll be appalled. But anything short of that is just one person’s life – not yours to grumble about or make fun of.

Of course, we all think that this describes us as well. We think we’re good at minding our own worlds, that we let others be who they are. But Ed doesn’t deeply think these things through. He just, by life’s habit, isn’t concerned with the conduct of others.

On the downside, I can’t get him riled with a story of a colleague’s misdeeds or the occasional student’s audaciousness. He’ll look at me puzzled and ask – why do you care? What does that have to do with doing your work well? That’s a conversation stopper, right there.

DSC00836 - Version 2

In other news – we continue to have summer. I don’t think we’ll quite hit 100 days of summer, in fact I believe today was the last of the hot (eighties!) days, but still, it’s been quite a remarkable run of it.


I biked to work. Of course I did. And I took the long route. Eight miles in, fourteen on the return. I was rewarded with a nice display of sandhill crane love. He was flapping his wings, she was ignoring him (but not really) and so it continued, until he settled down to follow her in the more quiet manner that seemed to appeal to her.


On campus, kids were sprawled out on Bascom Mall in various states of repose and undress. You could do a catalogue of good photos right there, but I'll show just this one. I like that he rests just outside the Education door. He seems quite ready for education.

DSC00831 - Version 2

After classes, I meet Ed at Paul’s café. Ed sleeps, I work, then we both bike home.

In the fields across the road from us, the truck farmers have been working now daily. This evening, I watch one as she sits with her grandchild. It’s a moment of rest. The boy is taking a sip of something, she is encouraging him. Around them, the fields are no longer brown. This gift of good weather is not just felt by me. It’s hers and his too.


At the farmette, the fruit tree exploded in bloom overnight. Is it a plum? – I ask Ed. Don’t know. Maybe. Or a sour cherry.


We’re not very good at identifying trees.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

spring, forward!

Happy spring! ...but really – thank you for this time of summer!

It is a long work day, but it's made easier with a start of oatmeal on the porch...

DSC00800 - Version 2

...and by a glance out at the daffodil and lily patch, where the green stalks are getting taller by the minute!

...and I even don’t mind the chipmunks that are cavorting through my flowerbeds. They’re a nuisance, sure, but their play is my play today.

Rosie is ready to go this morning. These days she and I are one. I no longer reach automatically for a seat belt when I turn on her engine.  On the rural roads, she is my song, my spirit and today -- my spring dance.

Between classes, I take a short stroll to the lake. Some of the Union Terrace chairs and tables are out. Earlier than ever! No outdoor food service yet, but at lunch time, people bring their own foods outside, to eat near this great wonderful body of water.



And finally, in the evening, I'm home.


And I notice that some of the fruit trees are budding!


Everyone knows that I have always favored spring. All seasons, yes, I like them all, but spring is special. Now is the time to feel buoyant, now is the time to sketch plans for the months of summer, now is the time to smile again and again, just at the beauty of it all.