Stolen Fire Pit

We don’t see a lot of other people these days, at least in person. But we did find a workaround to help. My son had a friend over not too long ago, sort of. They hung out at the end of our long driveway, a good distance apart, but enough to have a long conversation. That worked well to get in some real face time. We have no close neighbors so it was just the two of them.

Not long after that we had their whole family over. The second time they came over we hauled our metal fire pit to the end of the driveway and put that between us. They were on the road side and we were on the house side and it was enough to have a shared experience. After they left we snuffed the fire and pulled the pit off to the side and went back to the house.

My daughter tried this with friends as well. We had three or four fires this way. Then my daughter had a plan to do it one more time. We grabbed some wood and matches and water to put the fire out at the end and headed down the driveway. But we got there and the fire pit seemed, well, missing. Hadn’t we left it right there? We had. It was gone.

There was a pile of cold wood coals. The fire pit was gone, as was the grate that we had set off to the side. Someone had come to our house, dumped the ashes, grabbed the pit with its grate, and taken it for themselves. We were a bit dumbfounded. Who would do that? Especially right now? I mean, I know people steal stuff, but to take it while we are home? During the day? That’s bold.

Missing the fire pit isn’t too much of a problem. It is just a thing, albeit one that brought a lot of joy. My daughter and friends had a fire right on the gravel of the driveway that night. In fact, we have a second metal fire pit. Years ago my wife and I both bought one to give to each other for Christmas. Hers was better so we have had been using that one. I pulled out the second one from the basement and, after way too much assembly, we have another one to use, although we have yet to christen it.

The problem is that someone stole this object that made a big difference during these days of isolation. It was a symbol of how we might come together even when we can’t come together like we would at another time. It allowed for real sharing, not virtual sharing–light across distance. Plus it was a gift, and we had shared many fires with many other people over the years. For someone to just take that? That ain’t right.

Luckily we do have a back-up. I guess we won’t be leaving it at the end of the driveway, however. And I hope that the one that disappeared ends up causing some joy for others, even if it is a soured joy. I hope the sourness wears off, and true enjoyment can be had from our old fire pit. That theft has put a ding in a lonely time for us, so I hope it can take a ding out of someone else’s.

End of the Day

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.

Quiet Day

Not much snow today. It fluffed down a little this morning but then it was dry. We got over 30 inches, close to three feet, of snow over the past few days. Yeah, baby. My wife was hoping for a snow day today but I was skeptical. School was held as previously scheduled. The roads were slick but not slick enough to keep learning from happening. My daughter wanted a snow day more because she was nervous about going back to school after a long break. She was fine of course.

We did get some crust. Freezing rain is about the worst possible thing after such a tremendous snowfall. Ice on top off all that amazing snow? Ouch! At least it was a thin crust, just enough to slice your cheek if you fell wrong. Yesterday we were falling with straight backs into a wall of fluff. Not today. After a big storm it seemed quiet today–no precipitation, hardly a breath of wind. It was gray, but not much happened weather wise. We were all back to work and school.

It is sad to see the holidays go. They offer such joy and such hope. A new year has begun and we are back at it. Will we discover new things about ourselves? About each other? Will we come around to the realities around us or will we still be too afraid? Will we keep joy? Will we play? I hope we will do all these things. I will try myself, as that is all I can do. It was a good day to start back. It truly felt like a renewal, like the real first day of the new year.

And we will be back at it again tomorrow.

Proud Parent

My daughter had a holiday concert this evening. She was one student of all the students in her grade and the grade above hers, singing and dancing. They had practiced for weeks and tonight was the big night. It was a packed gymnasium where they performed. It was fun to watch and to hear, and the kids had lots of fun.

She was a little nervous when we left–not worried so much as anticipating that she would have to do something in front of others. She knows already that she wants to please others, to show herself in a positive light, to do well.  And of course she was stellar. She sang right out. She smiled the whole time. She looked around. She laughed. What more could a parent ask?

At one point her class sang as a unit. I watched her sing, smiling all the while (both she and I), and I felt a pang of proudness. I had a feeling of how quickly time passes, how she will grow to do wonderful things and lead a fine life, and how I will remember this moment more than she will remember it. I felt proud of her standing up and doing her best, enjoying life in that moment. I was genuinely happy, from within as well as for her. I didn’t just feel the small pride of a parent that comes from watching one’s child do something for the first time or trying hard to accomplish something. There was something more there. It was a flash of the future, an emotional glimpse of the power of the world that is hers now and will be as she grows. For just a moment, time flared out and tingled over me.

I am sure there will be many more moments where she performs in a group or even on her own. I will feel proud then as well, I am sure, but when she ran out of the building afterward, as I walked with her brother in the cold air, and jumped into my open arms for a huge hug, I held onto her and to that earthly briefness tightly, knowing that it will not be long before I remember how long ago this night was. And she may not remember it at all.

In a short while I will look in on her sleeping. I will feel proud, and I will love her as much as one can love one’s child. I will her as long as I am alive to do so, and I will miss that child when she grows up. Tomorrow I will be sure to make meaningful the moments we share, and to let her know again that I am proud of her, and that I love her. And both of us will be better because of it.

Bus in the Rain

Soggy Walk

Soggy Walk

It was wet this morning when it was time to meet the school bus.  We went anyway.  That’s the rule apparently.

How about we just not walk down to meet the bus this morning?  Stay at home where it is cozy and dry?

Can’t.  Gotta go to school.  That’s the rule.

Umbrellas helped.  The big fat black one and the little green frog one. The wind blew. Pants were moistened. My daughter got on the bus with her arms wrapped about her.  Smart kid.

Walking back to the house with her brother was wetter.  We walked into the wind.  He hardly noticed.  He wanted to stay out, in fact.  At another time I would have encouraged it. Get wet!  Romp in the rain!  Play in the puddles! But we had to go.  The clock is a cruel master.

The rain had stopped by the end of the school day.  The sun brightened the tops of the clouds.  My daughter and I walked back, dry. We laughed at her water bottle; it seems the bottom came unglued.  “We’ll have to glue gun it,” she tells me. Indeed. We also laughed at her description of playing Twister with her classmates.  She was the first one out.  She didn’t mind.

It rains and your pants get wet.  You fall down first in the game.  Don’t mind that.  There is laughing and playing to be done.

Morning Dew

Mornings these days are covered in dew.  The grass–wet.  The flowers–wet.  Everything is wet.  My son’s jacket was left out last night.  I found it after my morning run, soggy as the rest of it.  The field is dewy and filled with spider webs.  The whole stretch of it is filled with webs.  They drip with dew and as the sun angles low across the world, they shine.  Looking out in the early hours I can see them hanging between stalks of aster and milkweed and goldenrod.

Web Hanging in the Morning Dew

Web Hanging in the Morning Dew

This morning Venus dangled in the sky like a jewel.  The wind stirred the fog over the river.  The asters, closed for the night, bent in the breeze.  The world woke.  And I ran out into it and back.  And I felt alive.  And the sun rose over the beauty of it all.

Asters, September

Asters, September

And there we have a September morning.

Up and Running

I have been getting up early to run these past few mornings.  I love to do that.  The problem is that it is hard to get up early.  At least, it’s hard to get up early enough to be back in time to get all of us ready for work and school and whatnot.  I’m rising in the dark, and it is only going to get darker.  And then I’ll get all used to the darkness slowly shifting they’ll throw daylight savings at me.  I pretty much hate daylight savings.  Why can’t we just pick where the clocks will be?

Anyway, I’m getting up early.  I have to be all careful so I don’t wake the woman in the bed next to me who has tried so hard to sleep all night.  I have to be quiet as I walk down the hall and down the creeky stairs so I don’t wake the children.  I always step on some toy or bang into some chair left in an odd place.  I rarely get out without some loud crash or bump or screech.  But get out I do.

And when I do, the sun is working on the back side of Camel’s Hump and the sky glows and the low clouds are tinged with pink and the world is just beautiful.  It is hard not to enjoy it when the day starts off with its show.  Cloudy, rainy, clear, snowing, whatever, it is always beautiful.  If you can’t see it you need glasses or something.  Or you live in a place where you can’t see the world around you.  Because the world is just plain old stunning as the sun rises and the wind shakes the dew from the turning leaves and the spider webs grace the goldenrod.  I may be tired but it is so worth it.

Tomorrow morning I will try to rise again, even earlier.  The farther I want to go the earlier I need to rise.  So once I really get to the high mileage I need to get up way early.  But I’m just doing the shorties now–one to five miles–just to get out there and feel the morning and to get moving.  Sure, I’ll train for something sooner or later, and sure, I’ll run later in the day at times, but I need to remember, when I am bleary eyed and tuckered, that the early morning will give me a shot better than any espresso.

My shoes get wet as I walk across the dew-covered grass.  A late bat swoops over the field.  The asters quake in the breeze.  And the smell of fallen leaves mingles with a far off skunk and damp earth.  It makes one appreciate being alive.

Pics From Space and a Cool Beetle

New images were just released from the Hubble telescope, the first since the spring, when some repairs were made.  You can read a New York Times article here to learn more.  Here is one of the images:

Abell 370 Galaxy Cluster

Abell 370 Galaxy Cluster

Look up into the night sky (if you live in a place that isn’t so flooded with light that you can’t see the night sky) and you can see more stars than you can count.  On a clear night, even here so close to so many lights, I can see the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon.  I get, well, starstruck sometimes.  But this photo isn’t of stars, it is of galaxies.  There are too many galaxies to count.  And each one of them contains countless stars.  And eac star is too big to truly comprehend.  It can make one dizzy.

Jupiter is just visible as I write this, rising in the east.  It has been hanging around our skies for many nights lately.  If I could see over the hill to the west I might have seen Saturn or even Mercury just after the sun set.  Dang hill.

The world itself, this planet Earth of ours, is too vast to grasp.  I can’t really fathom 6 1/2 billion people, or the depth of the ocean, or the dryness of the Gobi Desert, or camels.  And look at that picture.  How many worlds are there just within its frame?  How can there not be life out there somewhere? The odds are with us on that one.  It seems almost impossible that there wouldn’t be life beyond Earth.

I saw a beetle today I had never seen before–yellow and black and green with stripes.  Check it out:

Cool Beetle

Cool Beetle

Isn’t that amazing enough?  And the milkweed on which it sits–isn’t there discovery in the shape and color and structure of those leaves?  Countless immense galaxies and tiny new beetles to be gazed upon.  I’ve got more than enough wonder for many lifetimes.

New Toy

I am not really a fan of stuff, and one type of stuff that seems to always grow is toys.  Our children have a gajillion toys.  We buy them toys occasionally (hard to resist when you are Disney World, for example) but they also arrive as gifts from friends and family, and they also arrive as toys that are outgrown by cousins or friends.

Our children have received many toys that are really great.  They have a huge collection of Lego and Duplo blocks, for example, that were given to them.  We did not have to buy any for them to be able to create buildings and spaceships and cars and cities.  My son’s favorite toys are wooden trains.  Most of those were given to us as well.  So we have received some good stuff and I am thankful for that, even if they don’t quite see the beneficence of their relations.

We have lots of crap as well, of course.  Can you say birthday party gift bags?  How many UPO’s have they generated?  About a bazillion, I’d say.  And the Mardi Gras parade this spring?  Plastic bead necklaces up the whazoo.  Too much, if you ask me.  Even if you don’t ask me it’s too much.

Today, however, our children got the most excellent toy.  My father-in-law had mentioned this teeter totter that his second set of kids had played with and loved, and that he was hoping to pass on.  He came by today and left a shiny new plaything.  The thing is, the one he dug out of his barn was broken, rusted, not in good shape.  It wouldn’t be safe to use.  So he made a new one.  It is strong and beefy and operates smoothly.  And it is no ordinary teeter totter.

Call it a seesaw if you will, but this doesn’t just pivot up and down.  The pivot also allows the cross beam to swing in all directions.  So it goes up and down, yes, but it also swings in circles.  My children have been playing on it for about three hours, with breaks for dinner and spraying each other with the hose.  They have been laughing most of the time as well.  I love this thing.  Not only is it just plain old fun, but they have to work together for it to be fun.  They seem to have it down pretty well at this point.  They are spinning fast.

I think my father-in-law ought to patent this thing and sell them.  Seriously.  It is fun just to watch them spin around and up and down.  I am betting that this becomes the toy of the summer.  They won’t play with it quite so much as the days go on.  They will become accustomed to it and the newness will wear off.  I am sure, however, that it will continue to be way fun for them.  It is one item of stuff I feel will get plenty of mileage at this household.

Rain Situation

It isn’t raining at the moment.  Well, maybe it is raining a little, but barely.  The sun is setting and we have that rare light when the bright sun shines under the clouds, coloring them steel gray and blasting the green hills with brightness.  It won’t last long.  The distant mountain tops are bright and I can see that rain falls there, and the shadows are creeping.

It has rained for a couple of days straight.  I planted flower seeds with the children on Tuesday afternoon, before dinner.  Then it rained.  And rained.  It is Friday now, about the same hour we planted the seeds.  Three days of wet.  I think they have gotten enough water to germinate.

I have not needed to uncoil the hose to water the garden.  In fact, I have been afraid that the garden has been getting too much water.  Last summer we had a wet spell that ruined some of our crops, including carrots.  They rotted in the ground.  Nothing I planted is so advanced that it will rot but this rain might keep some seeds from starting as I would like.  We’ll have to see what happens.

A hermit thrush tosses out its flutey voice over the wet trees behind the house.   It is an unassuming bird, what you might call an LBJ, a Little Brown Jobber, so similar to so many other bland birds.  Its voice, however, stops me at times.  Milton and Shakespeare and all those other dead English bards wrote about the nightingale, another thrush, whose voice trilled through the woods with sweetness.  I am sure they would have written their odes to the hermit thrush had they lived in Vermont.

We will likely get more rain showers over the next couple of days, but I am hoping the sun will come out to feed the new leaves on our squash plants and to warm the soil so the flowers will grow.  But that won’t happen until tomorrow.  Right now the land quiets.  The air is still, filled with moisture, heavy.  A robin adds to the thrush’s song.  Spring peepers and wood frogs sing out from the pond over the hill.  The light grows grayer.

It is not raining, but the rain has set the scene for a perfect early evening in spring.  Time to slide on some boots and head out there to smell it and feel it.