Flags Along the Way

As I was driving through Milton this morning I noticed a United States flag.   It stood out because it was faded and tangled in the cross post on the pole.  It looked like it had been there a long time.  Someone had cared to put it up but then what happened?  Had it been forgotten?  Did they just leave it up all the time?  How long had it been tangled there?

Then I noticed other U.S. flags.  There was a flag on a pole part way up a utility pole, and another on the next pole.  I wondered if there would be many on many poles, but the next few utility poles were bare of flags.  Then, around the bend, there was flag after flag, all of them hanging toward the road, red, white and blue stretching down Route 7.  It was a lot of flagness there in Milton.

I realized that I just don’t notice U.S. flags anymore.  They are everywhere.  Had these flags been there a long time?  Or had they been hung recently, for Memorial Day?  They might have been there for months and I hadn’t noticed them on my many travels through town.  Or maybe they had only been there a few days.  I certainly hadn’t noticed them yesterday, or last week.

I then noticed the flag at the post office.  You can count on that one.  And there was a flag at the bank.  And others scattered about.  I thought that maybe I would count them on the way home, but I forgot.

I remember as a kid hanging a flag.  I don’t know how long we did that but I do remember raising it the morning and lowering it at night.  We weren’t always good about it.  Sometimes we left it up all night, or for several days straight.  According to the U.S. Code on such matters, one should not fly the flag at night unless it is fully lit.  We blew it on that one.  We always folded it properly and stored it well but the lighting thing didn’t happen.  Moreover, one shouldn’t fly the flag in inclement weather.  Oops.

I recently read an article in Grist about whether one can ignore the flag codes and fly the flag at night without lighting it, to save energy.  Wouldn’t that be patriotic?  Use less energy but still fly the flag?  The article suggested simply not flying the flag at night, or using a motion sensor light so if someone passes by they flag would be lit and thus be visible.  Sounded good to me.

I heard a story on NPR recently about a pastor who is flying his flag upside down in Chicago.  That usually, according to flag codes, should be reserved strictly as a signal of distress.  His point is that so many youth are being killed by firearms every year that his city faces an crisis.  He noted that within 48 hours we mobilized to inform and protect people from swine flu, a threat that was unclear at best, yet we can’t stop youth gun violence that has been happening for years?  I have no quibble with his approach, despite local veterans who might find it unpatriotic.  One does what one must.

I imagine I will be noticing flags a lot now.  Richmond used to post them on utility poles for July 4th.  I sometimes didn’t notice them at first but then saw them everywhere.  I imagine that will happen again.  I can’t imagine flying one myself any time soon, but I know that I will manage to see them, even when I am not looking.

Sublimation

Finger Painting

Finger Painting

It was a chilly one this morning. Frost covered everything. Snug in our house, we realized it was so cold when we looked at the thermometer right before I went out to haul in some firewood. The thermometer had a low number: 3

It was beautiful when the sun rose. Frost covered everything and the low red sun turned the thick ice pink. Milton’s rosy fingers of dawn tickled the landscape.

Frosty Twigs

Frosty Twigs

More Frosty Twigs

More Frosty Twigs

Wretched Driving

I’ve done some driving in bad conditions. More than once I have driven in weather so bad that I stopped driving to spend the night in the middle of wherever. I have seen snow on the road.

Driving from Connecticut to Maine one time the visibility was so poor we couldn’t see the road and had to spend the night at a random hotel. Before I moved to Burlington we spent a day apartment hunting in a snowstorm. The drive back from the queen city was a slow slog on the interstate with swirling snow and cars off the road. A long drive.

Yesterday I drove from Milton to Hinesburg. That was not a speedy drive. I left later than I had planned. Get a little more work in, you’ve been there, no? I was in a windowless room, so I had no cues to how the weather had become so fierce. The snow was heavy on the car when I brushed it off and packed on the roads.

I made two stops before I hit the interstate, so I had time to consider whether I should even take the interstate. Would it be better to travel on roads where others would drive more slowly? Or should I just take the most direct route? Popping in for toilet paper (stocking up for the storm!) then filling the tank with gas (and getting a warm cup of decaf) I decided to go for the big road.

It was some of the most dreadful driving I have encountered, pretty much ever. It is not a drive for which I would have opted if I were leaving home rather than heading toward it. The worst moment of my journey last night was on a bridge, a semi passing me on the left and whooshing a cloud of snow so dense I could just see my hood. When I could see a little more clearly I was way too close to the guardrail.

I moved over soon enough.

When I finally exited that four lane highway, slowly, behind another (or perhaps the same) semi, a car too close behind me, on the icy exit ramp, I was somewhat relieved. Then I had to navigate traffic. To travel about two miles on Dorset Street took me at least an hour. I was passing the mall, along with all that other strip development, and it was the final Friday before Christmas, but still, those traffic lights slowed me down lots. The keystone light on Kennedy Drive must have cycled red and green twenty times before I drove through it.

I did make it home. The car was coated in ice and snow. I was too hot (I had to keep the heater blasting to keep the windshield from icing–it was 7 degrees out there!). I needed to take a leak. I was hungry. It was dark and late after a long work day. But I was home to a warm house and a beautiful wife and some smiling children and pizza hot from the oven.

I ran the gauntlet, and the reward was great. It is enough to make this man happy. Last night, the snow falling heavily through the darkness, I slept well. And in the morning, the snow kept falling.

Snow Still Falling in the Morning

Snow Still Falling in the Morning