Everyone was excited for the storm. Several inches of snow might fall. Up to a foot! And the timing would be just right. The heaviest snow would come down just in time for the morning commute. It was going to be a snow day for sure. Until it wasn’t.
The forecast changed last night–less snow, the timing not quite right. By dark it was barely snowing yet. I suggested to my children that it was unlikely school would be canceled. They were not happy with me for suggesting such blasphemy. How insensitive of me.
It was snowing steadily at first light. Light fluffy stuff covered the bird feeders outside my bedroom window. Three inches or so had fallen. It was lovely. But school was on. It was a bit of a grumpy morning.
My kids got to school. I made it to work. Our road was not plowed when I steered the car out of the driveway. But the roads became more navigable as I headed to town. I traveled more slowly than usual but I got there.
And it was beautiful. The snow started out wet enough that it stuck to everything. Trees were painted white. Everything was painted white. I tried to tell my daughter, as I drove her to school, to be aware of that beauty. She was having none of it. “It’s not worth it,” she claimed, upset to the end that the snow day fizzled.
Still, I had to try. If I can least show her what it means to look at the world with a positive outlook, she may adopt that stance one day. We can focus on what we do not have, or we can ogle the snowflakes coating the fire hydrant. I guess it’s up to her in the end. But I’m hoping she chooses the latter.
We took a trip up to Stowe yesterday. The last time I was there it was cold and snowy and we lugged our skis to the ski lift to enjoy some turns on the slopes. Yesterday we had bikes instead of skis. Our kids have new bikes. Children keep growing, apparently. The last time they had new bikes was years ago. Those bikes look silly now.
Stowe has a fantastic recreation path–five miles end to end. We rode from one end to the other. That ten miles seemed easy, even though we all were a bit rusty with the bike riding. The air smelled of grass and thawing dirt and manure and cold air slipping away. We wore shorts.
My kids, as one of them said to me, “kicked my butt” by zooming ahead. At the beginning of our ride I was advised by my son to slow down. I guess I slowed down too much. But we all ended up at the same place, and we all enjoyed a ride on a doozy of a fine day. Snow still graced the mountains but trout lilies and wild leeks graced the forest floor. I kept feeling my usual awe at the changing of the seasons. I wasn’t all that worried about getting my butt kicked.
Later, after we had gotten home and had dinner, we went out for another short ride. We rode up the hill and down and over the other way. It continued to be a stellar day. We watched the sun get low and the trees glow golden with their young leaves. We did not rush but we broke a sweat nonetheless. We all felt great when we got home. And we all slept well, ready to embrace another winner of day today. So far, we have not been disappointed.
A couple of nights ago I had the pleasure to hear my local elementary/middle school band play. Two back-to-back concerts were performed: the beginner band and the intermediate band. It was a fine show.
The beginner band performed first. They did a good job, typical of a beginner band, with clarinet squeaks and off-beat percussion and blaring brass overshadowing the flutes, followed by the older and more experienced musicians who, as expected, had honed their craft a bit more. It was not a concert to be attended by the critics, or by anyone who is looking to get their ears massaged. It was like so many similar performances that happen every year all across the United States. The place was packed with proud (and tired and spaced out and other varieties of) parents, and a passel of school kids did their best and had fun.
I was struck by the timelessness and the typicallness of it. We were assembled in the gymnasium, seated in folding chairs in rows. Students played on risers as well as on the stage at the side of the room. They played under the basketball hoops. There was a state flag and a national flag on the wall. Four students started us off with the national anthem. Gym mats were folded in the corner. How many people have witnessed this same scene?
This was exactly what I did in elementary and middle school. Lots of kids played instruments and we managed to honk out some tunes as a band. Some or these young musicians will stick with it, but most will leave their instruments behind and some day say that they once played the saxophone or the bass drum, just like in my generation. I imagine many of those parents and grandparents attending this time were in that boat. This pageant has been repeated many times in many places. It is a shared experience.
What if we could tap into that shared experience? If we all could know how many others have felt pride at hitting the right notes, or embarrassment at missing them, wouldn’t we be in a better place? I certainly felt pride in my own child for performing, and I am confident I was not alone. Math may not be taught the same way as when these students’ parents went to school, and Chromebooks were not available to the previous generation. Schools and public education have changed in many ways, but band is similar. The clarinets and french horns and cymbals sound the same and work the same way. I think there is something to be celebrated in that.
Music (and other art) programs get cut at many schools. They are not valued as much as things that are typically measured on standardized tests. I think that is a mistake. There is much to be learned by playing music. If you have had any experience playing music, even as an elementary school band member, you know what I mean. And the continuity of it is powerful as well. There are few things that really are the same about school from the last generations to this one. I think we should hang on to some of them.
The other day I sat on the couch with my daughter, laughing. She had grabbed the wool beanie cap from my head and popped it onto her own head. She took a bunch of selfies and cracked herself right up. And it cracked me right up. And we laughed about it.
She isn’t small anymore. That happens, of course. All those trite things other parents say are true after all. “They grow up so fast!” and all that crap isn’t wrong even if it is hackneyed. That moment laughing over the silliness of a hat was a gift. I’ll be sticking that one in my wallet to carry around.
The sun rose in the east today. Exactly in the east. No northeast or southeast about it. Spring rolls around, even if if feels like winter. At least the sun is higher and stronger. The blackbirds seem to notice that. Every day is just a little bit different, sweeping through the seasons. Day to day I find it hard to notice the difference, but I keep looking. That is the way with all of us. My daughter changes but not enough from yesterday to notice. I change too. That is why marking the moments, like the equinox or laughing on the couch, is important.
Tucked in the corner of the yard, under the big spruce, old toys lie scattered. Those toys were once a world. Now they are forgotten, not even seen they have been there so long. The sun bleaches them and the grass grows around them. What day did they get left there? What story was created just before they were left there for the last time? How many days, how many seasons, have passed since that world was real?
Frost melts in the new spring sun. Green shoots push aside last year’s dried stalks. My children will be taller today than they were yesterday. Those toys will fade just a little more. One day I will pick them up and find a place for them. One day my daughter will head off into her own Spring. I should pay attention. I should notice the days. I should hold onto the stories so they do not fade. I should enjoy this glorious day, today. The sun is high already.
We celebrate Christmas in our house. And boy do we gear up for it. The weekend after Thanksgiving we get a tree (a fir, cut from the tree farm down the road) shove into the van and set it up. By December 1st we have a trimmed tree, lights up, holiday themed dishware out on the table and more to come.
By Christmas Eve, we are ready to go–gifts wrapped, holiday music playing, a full refrigerator, stockings hung, festive as can be. So by Christmas morning the anticipation is pretty high. We spent the tail end of Christmas Eve at my sister-in-law’s place and so did not get home until later than the usual bedtime. Not that it mattered. Our kids were so excited that they had a hard time falling asleep. My son did not fall asleep until at least 11:00. He woke up around 4:00. He had the crazy idea that 4:00 was the time to get up and head downstairs. We had to put him off until 5:00. It was an early morning.
We had stockings stuffed with small gifts and opened those gifts first. We took a break for a waffle breakfast. We had a fire in the woodstove that heated things up fast–temperatures were in the forties. Some snow stayed on the ground at least. We had a lot of snow but then had two days of rain to wash most of it away. It was patchy Christmas morning but it was there at least. We opened gifts throughout the morning and early afternoon, trying to make it last. It is a pretty special day.
I took a short walk after our afternoon dinner. The breeze felt warm and clouds drifted across the gray sky. The water in the river was high with all the melted snow. Fields were flooded. A crescent moon dangled behind the clouds. The road was muddy. It was quiet. I thought about how this day is about giving and love and it made me want to simplify my life, get to what matters most more often.
The kids were asleep early. My daughter resisted the idea of going to bed earlier than usual, but she conked out pretty much immediately. My wife and I stayed up for a while, enjoying the quiet and the lights. We felt like successful parents, fostering the joy of the day, creating memories and all that. It turned out to be magical for all of us. After we turned out the lights and said goodnight to the tree, we headed to bed. It didn’t take long for us to conk out ourselves.
We had another snow day today. The snow fell all last night and most of the day today. It is hard to tell just how much snow fell. The wind blew hard. We may have gotten two feet. We had “blizzard-like” conditions. A blizzard needs to have sustained winds of 35 miles per hour for three hours. We did not quite meet that definition. A severe blizzard also has temperatures of 10 degrees or lower. We started the day at 14 degrees. So I guess we just had a snowstorm.
I stayed inside for a while, although the kids did get out early. They didn’t last long in the cold and wind, but they went out several times throughout the day. I figured I would start with breakfast. Since I did not have to drive anywhere I used what would have been my commuting time to make home fries.
I paired these hot crispy potatoes with a hot omelette
The snow did let up eventually. I took a walk in the afternoon when it was falling lightly, although the wind was still pretty fierce.
The town road crew got the road passable, but wind kept the drifts coming
There’s a river under there somewhere
By the end of the day the sun came out for a bit, the light low across the white landscape. Before the sun set the world turned pink. After a dinner of soup and hot sandwiches, we all headed back outside again. We fell backward off the hill into a huge snowdrift and flipped upside down into the pile the plow had left. We tossed snow at each other in the dark. We came inside red-faced and a little soggy. After some reading together the children headed up to bed. Two days off and they are back to school tomorrow. I worked a bunch from home today but I am back at it myself once the sun comes up. It was a great couple of days in our house. We have to enjoy the snow when it comes, and we did.
We took a nordic ski around the field this afternoon– a post-lunch sticky slip walk. Our skis held the snow well. The glide was less than the kick. We didn’t stay out all that long. Snow has been falling on and off all day so hopefully conditions will improve for tomorrow. The warm conditions made for excellent snow sculpturing possibilities, however. My son and I slapped around the white stuff and made a guardian for our home. Here he or she (undecided) stands:
Notice the Groovy Pocket
That Hat is Handy As New Snow Falls, Especially With No Legs to Get Out of the Weather
I picked the popcorn today. Last time I planted popcorn, two years ago, I picked it on the 22nd of September, but this was ready to go. It was nicely dried and the stalks were starting to fall over. I planted the same variety as last time–Tom Thumb, a miniature variety with four foot tall stalks–but the weather was just not the same this year. With the help of my daughter I picked 69 small ears.
Popcorn off the Stalk
Both my kids helped me shuck it. My daughter noted several times that the ear she just revealed would the be the perfect size for a doll, although it would have been less tasty than the corn we purchased from the Conant farm (whose last day was today, and we missed it). After peeling back the husks, we ended up with a pile of golden ears.
Each Ear Equals One Batch of Popcorn
Last time I bagged the ears in a mesh bag and left it to dry for a bunch of weeks. The children were so excited to start collecting it in a bowl, however, that I totally forgot in my own excitement. So we took it off the ears and we marveled at the bowl of kernals. It will need to dry more, indeed, but in a mesh bag that is hanging in the right spot, that should happen easily.
This Will Warm Us on a Winter Day
It was easy to grow. The hardest part was keeping the birds away long enough for it to sprout. They love to yank it out just as it pushes green from the soil. The first time I grew it I had to totally replant it. The second time I tried to grow it I did not have enough time to try again. This time I hung reflectors just as the first shots appeared. That scared the crows and turkeys away and I had plants. After that it was just water, weed and wait. I planted melons in between the plants and that worked out well for both plants.
In a few weeks I will test the popcorn to see if it pops well. Once it is I will jar it up to keep the moisture content right and we will have healthy snacks for the winter. And plenty of it.
Our children hopped on the bus today. September one–first day of school. I have to admit I am happy school starts in September. Starting in August is hard to take. I can think of September as fall, but August is still summer, no arguing, even if the temperature is supposed to top 90 today. I am off to work, hoping to get it all done before the bus returns this afternoon. Another school year underway, with the good and the bad that comes with that. My kids were excited and nervous at the same time, as I imagine I was back in the school days. A colleague of mine, when I saw her for the first time since June this week, said to me, “Happy New Year!” I thought that was apt. So here is to a good new year. Cheers!
Warm night. Lightning bugs dot the field. Children sleep their innocent sleep, half under blankets.
Summer has arrived. I watched the sun set on the lake tonight. The Adirondacks outlined in pink and red. Peepers still sing to one another in the darkness.
I am in love with everything around me–my wife, my children, this world. I am love with the lightning bugs and the sunset. My heart leaps up.
Dew settles as the air cools. The wind has the night off. The sun wakes the other side of the earth. Somewhere outside the house, a skunk searches for breakfast.
How can I sleep with such wonder? How can I sleep with such beauty? And what about love? That, too, keeps me stirring long after my family sleeps, long after I have risen and left my bed to gather the day’s dust.