More cold and snow

We have snow on the ground, but it is sort of crap. Last weekend a whole lot fell. Of course, my whole family was away during the storm. In fact, we left early to avoid travel delays. Still, it was hard to miss a snow storm. I love snow storms.

After it snowed, it rained, so I didn’t feel totally bad to miss it all. Everything got crusty and hard and yuck. When we got back home our driveway was icy. I mean, I couldn’t see that it was icy. There was an inch of fresh snow on top. But turning in, the car slipped. Snow on top of ice is one slick trick. “I hope it isn’t this icy on the whole driveway” I said aloud. I went slowly but where it slopes down at the end, just before the garage, it was especially slick. I tried to stop. I even chanted “stopstopstopstopstopstopstop” before we slid into the garage door and pulled it right off the wall. I was telling the car to stop. But the garage door listened.

Snow has fallen, a few inches, over the past three days. Things look beautiful–white and shiny and all–despite the crustiness beneath. And now it is cold. Right now, end of the day in the dark, it is a degree below zero. And it will get colder before the sun rises. Tomorrow afternoon, snow is forecast to fall again. It should keep falling until Wednesday.

We might have a snow day on Wednesday. I love snow days. Thing is, I am supposed to drive across the state Wednesday morning. Bad timing, that. I might have to skip that appointment. So it goes during winter in Vermont. You always need a plan B. I can still get the garage door open and shut, so I will put the car inside tomorrow night. With more snow, and temperatures below zero a few days this week, we are in full-on winter. Bring it, Baby.

Busses Stuck on the Hill

“The thing is,” said my son afterwards, “No one even thought it was weird. It was just something that would happen in Vermont.”

He had a point. I dropped him off early for a nordic ski meet, then went to take a walk at the Green Mountain Audubon center. I had over an hour. I drove the couple miles out on the dirt road, passing a bus headed up, and started down the hill at the end. There was a bus there, pulled over at the bottom. Printed on the side was “White River Valley” so they had had a long drive already. That hill was a bit slick, but it didn’t seem too slick. Then again, I wasn’t driving a bus full of minors.

When I returned, the bus was still there. In fact, there now were three busses, from different school districts. I thought of offering to shuttle some skiers up, but I figured that was a non-starter. Parents have to sign a waiver to allow their kids to ride on the bus. Any good bus driver would not let them ride in some stranger’s vehicle, even if they had a current FBI background check. So I kept going.

Up at the ski center I learned that the race, no surprise to me, was delayed–busses stuck. I chatted with my son for a bit. Then someone passed looking for volunteers to shuttle people up. I guess they are being flexible with the transportation, I thought. So I headed back down the road again in my car.

At the bus, the first driver was, predictably, unwilling to let students go. I understood that. I asked if he knew the long way around. One of the busses was gone, so maybe they had already decided to take that route. A bunch of cars started to pile up, folks willing to transport skiers. Then the town truck arrived to sand the road. So the busses were no longer stuck, and we caravanned back to the ski center. I spent a lot of time on that road.

Eventually everyone got where they needed to be, and the race started, only 45 minutes late, and my son cranked it out despite the crappy conditions, and it was an event full of fun and hard work, and I saw a bunch of other parents I know, and it all worked out. There were plenty of people willing to help, and it felt to me like a conflict between neighborliness and liability.

Once upon a time neighborliness would have won the day. Today, safety and security take precedence. I don’t think one is better than the other, or that one way should be the right way. I just noticed it in this case. I would have done just what those bus drivers did. But still, it would have been nice to have a bunch of people solve a problem and make the solution happen. And that is something, I am sure, is not unique to Vermont, even if those busses stuck on an icy hill was a classic Vermont situation.

Stuck at Home

IMG_5034

I love being home. I mean, we live in a pretty sweet place. Have you seen this state? If you are from around here, you know what I’m talking about (I hope). If you are not, look it up. Spring time in Vermont? Hard to beat.

Right now, however, we are stuck here. We had planned to head to Utah for a wedding. We went to the airport and planned to get on a plane. But at the desk the bad news was that our flight was delayed. We had just looked and it was on time, but in those intervening moments, things got pushed back.

Low cloud ceilings slow things down. At a busy airport like JFK, where we would catch our connecting flight, delays can cascade. Our 2:30 flight was pushed back to 4:30 while we spoke to agent at the desk. While we tried to decide what to do it got pushed back to 6:30. Then 8:00. Now it is scheduled to leave close to 9:00, still a half hour away. Good thing we decided to just wait until tomorrow.

We came home from the airport and ordered sandwiches in town. We have been relaxing and rescheduling at home while the rain comes down. It is pouring now, as the light fades. We don’t have to leave right away tomorrow but we will have a long layover in New York nonetheless–seven hours or so. There is only one flight on our airline per day from JFK to Salt Lake City. Whatever time we get there we have to take that flight.

We did have to deal with some logistics. Rental car is not available a day later but we figured that out (different rental car agency for not too much more money). We had to cancel our hotel less than 24 hours out (they let us do it without a fee) and we had to book the next night instead (room available!). We had to cancel what would have been our second night at a different place but they let us do so without a penalty as well. And we will get better seats on the new flight. So it all works out, as usual, even if we do have to miss a family hike. We won’t miss the wedding.

We are going from one beautiful place to another for a few days. These are all first world problems. Inconvenient for us? Yes. Disappointing? Sure. But we will be fine of course. For now we can enjoy the sound of the rain on the porch roof. Sounds pretty soothing if you ask me. A good night’s sleep and we’ll try again tomorrow.

October Ice

My good friend Scott has a birthday today. Here is one for him.

 

OCTOBER ICE

 

I stepped off the train in Rock Springs

hours before we had planned to meet.

The air smelled of rain falling

but not reaching the ground. I wandered

among dust until dark, until everything

but the bars closed. Scott was late, then

hunched over the Volvo’s wheel as he drove

past me on the curb. When he stepped around

to the passenger seat I drove us into a night

already ripening into tomorrow.

We headed north, both of us taciturn.

Grass and sage stretched east and west.

Beyond them in the dark the Wind Rivers rose.

The predators–bears, wolves, coyotes–had been shot

or fenced out, so rabbits had the run of the place.

They dashed through our headlights, the pavement

bumpy with their crushed bodies. I sucked in my breath

at the smack and crunch of quick death.

We agreed to sleep under the stars

and the aspens at the Eden cemetery,

outside town. A warm wind blew

over tilted tombstones and the weathered

stockade fence. We cocooned ourselves

in sleeping bags on the dusty ground.

While we slept the air froze. Death

surrounded us all night, our trip

just beginning. Ahead of us

were scuffed boots and several pitches

before we reached any clear view.

We carried a list of adventures and futures

we couldn’t imagine. The ghosts of settlers and nomads

whispered lessons the dead learn when they leave

their bodies to the earth. The words stiffened

in the cold air, drifted with the scent of sage,

wrapped the fence, the stones with blankets of ice.

We lay in the moments before shadows,

reviewing frame by frame what might come,

then lifted our bags and scattered frost

into the dust. When wind rubbed smooth

our tracks, these fragile crystals would melt,

moisten grass and bits of fur

and the remnants of bones. These blades of ice,

pulled from October air, would rise, fall

again and settle in sedimentary cracks.

With the patience of ice they would push down

stone after stone from the peaks the morning light

had just begun to warm with the scent of day.

Eating Around Here

I made dinner tonight and let me tell you it was good stuff.  It was simple, really, but a simple pleasure.  I scrambled up eggs and cheese and we ate it with greens. The greens were as simple as the eggs–leeks, garlic, peppers and kale with some salt and butter.  The combination was tasty, tastier than I thought it would be.  It felt good to eat food so wholesome and healthy.  And it felt good to know that almost everything came from right around here.

The leeks and kale came from our farm share. Our last pick up was Tuesday and we got a lot. We used some of it tonight. The peppers came from our garden–the last of them to be picked. The butter was Cabot butter, so also fairly local. The cheese in the eggs was also Cabot, and the eggs came from Maple Meadow Farm in Salisbury (the eggs could be more local, I admit, but this wasn’t bad). The olive oil traveled far to get to us, as did the salt, but those are hard to get from local sources.

The one thing that was questionable was garlic. That came from a farm somewhere, but that’s all I know. Our farm share did not include garlic several times in a row–they didn’t have a great year. I missed the farmer’s market last Saturday–I couldn’t get there until too late. And our local market, which often has good local produce, didn’t have any local garlic, so I bought what was there, even though I hate not to know the source of my food. Part of the reason we had no garlic was that the garlic I bought at the farmer’s market a couple weeks ago I planted in the ground. I want to make sure I have plenty next year, so I planted all the cloves and hope for them to burst out of the ground in spring. That would make things local, eh?

So our meal had only a few food miles. It is simply crazy that our food system means we can get cheap food that is transported hundreds or thousands or miles. How is it that we can spend 87 calories to get one calorie and not pay more for that one calorie than we do? How is it that we are OK with the poor quality of those strawberries or winter tomatoes when we buy them, out of season? We ship food all over the place so we can eat whatever we want whenever we want it. So we get poor quality food and we burn up all kinds of oil to get it and we pump CO2 into the atmosphere like mad (literally) when we could could have better food at less real cost if we ate locally. So I try to do that.

Having a garden helps. Taking part in a community supported agriculture program helps. Living in Vermont helps, as local food is available much of the year because people care about it. And canning and freezing helps, too, as that means we can spread the harvest out over the cold months. I am new to canning but thanks to my parents giving me a tutorial, I have canned my second batch of jam. I have pesto and pumpkin and soup in the freezer and will freeze more. I could do better and, with some experience and over time, I will. Pulling pesto out of the freezer in January is just about the best thing ever.

Keeping my food miles down is important. I don’t want my food traveling more in a year than I do. It is one thing I, and collectively we, can do to make a difference to abate global warming. Eating locally can make a big difference in limiting carbon emissions, since we all need to eat. One day we will be forced to eat more locally, since oil will get expensive and raspberries from temperate climes won’t be cheap to ship in the winter. Plus, food usually tastes better if it hasn’t traveled half way around the world. And it has more in it, so it is healthier. Sure, if we eat locally we don’t get to have anything we want whenever we want it, but waiting for things makes them sweeter, sometimes literally. And I can wait for a little sweetness.

(This post is part of Blog Action Day).

Oh Canada

Le Biodome

Le Biodome

How Do We Get to the Metro Station?

How Do We Get to the Metro Station?

We took a trip up to Montreal the other day.  It was just a day trip.  That is a benefit to living here.  We can zip and cross the border and be in a large city in a few hours.  The idea was to expose our children to the city and to some things they just won’t see in their typical days.  It took about three hours to get up there.  The border crossing on the way there was cake.  They are pretty laid back in Canada.  A few questions, a peek at our ID (we all have passports now) and off we went to the great white north.

We went first to the Biodome.  This place is pretty amazing.  It hosts several ecosystems, complete with plants, animals and birds.  Capybara, monkeys, beaver, penguins, lemurs–there is a lot to see.  That would make the trip worthwhile in itself but we were not there long.  The children lasted less than an hour inside.  So we split for the city center.  Signs are in French and getting on the Metro isn’t intuitive.  We asked for directions and paid in US cash.  We had meant to get Canadian dollars but never got around to it.  They took it, as seems to always be the case.  Since the US dollar is worth 1.15 Canadian right now, why not?

The Metro was probably the best part of the trip.  Our kids had never ridden a subway before so they got a good slice of city public transportation–lots of people, a musician, the fun of figuring out which stop is yours.  Once we got off at McGill, we wondered for a bit.  Montreal off was showing off its urbanity and we walked through it a bit before stopping at a shop to buy candy and toothpaste.  We covered the bases.

And then we headed back.  We were in the car more than we were out of it, but we were happy with our trip.   Seeing the bridge over the Saint Lawrence River, driving through tunnels, reading road signs in French, they all added to the experience.  Unlike Customs on the way into Canada, where we waited about ten minutes and were greeted with a smile, we waited maybe 45 minutes to talk to Mr. Stern Face at US Customs.  But he did let us pass unmolested.

The children were tuckered by the time we got home.  And hungry.  After a late dinner we headed right to bed.  We dreamed of living in a big city, and woke up to celebrate the birthday of our own nation.  It does have some major issues, and isn’t as progressive and free as Canada, but overall, this nation of ours is a great place to live for most people.  If only we could get the health care thing down, we might be as hip as our northern neighbor.  One can hope.

Stories Before Bed

The children love it when I tell them stories before bed.  The stories are all over the map.  Sometimes they are easy–a spin on the Thomas the Tank Engine stories for example.  Sometimes they are exotic, like the family that sails around the world and visits various sites.  Sometimes they are just plain silly.  If want to get them to sleep faster, I do what I can to make them boring.

I put the kids to bed last night, so they got a decent story.  It was about a group of explorers who traveled the southwest looking for a magic rock.  They narrowed it down and then searched for weeks by foot, drinking water from puddles and peering under cactus plants.  Finally, they discovered a staircase made of narrow steps in a steep wall that could only be seen in the setting sun.  After waiting the night, they climbed the dangerous wall and discovered the rock among thousand year old corn and baskets.  It turns out all of them made a wish and the wish came true.  Was it because of the magic rock?  Or not?

They left the rock in its place and told no one about it, so who knows?  The kids went to bed wondering.  This can backfire, of course, when they keep asking questions about the story.  Tonight my wife puts the kids to bed.  They asked for me and complained when I said no, it was Mom’s turn.  She doesn’t tell the same caliber of stories, I guess, at least not as regularly.

I like the ones where the family travels the world.  They see all kinds of interesting things and meet curious people, like the woman who wears only purple who seems to show up on every continent.  How does she get around, that purple woman?  I get to imagine that our family is doing the traveling, and I hope I am planting the seeds for our children to want to travel.  One of these days we may.

They are drifting off now, story over, such as it was tonight.  I need to plan ahead for tomorrow night’s story.  I am not sure what it will contain, but the purple woman hasn’t made and appearance in far too long.  She needs some story time.  I am thinking she may get it in about 24 hours.

Going to Florida?

My sister-in-law and her step sister called to talk to their sister/step-sister at different times today.  They wanted to talk about going to Florida.  What the hell did I know?  Tickets were cheap, and then they got cheaper, and they were going anyway and they asked my spouse if she wanted to go as well and take the children?  What about me. was what I thought?  You think I have something against the sunshine state?

No, they just thought I had to work.  Ho ho, I have the week off, too.  They pestered me, good naturedly of course, about why my wife would not answer the phone.  Sure, she doesn’t get great reception where she works but, more importantly, she was at work.  Not a great time to talk about a trip south.  They wanted me to say “Sure go ahead and book the tickets before the price goes up,” but we had not talked about it.  The closest we came was last night when she said to me, “My sister had the idea that we might go to Florida, but I’m not sure about it, what do you think?”  And then we got interupted.

So all of a sudden I was in the position of having to decide if she might want to go with the kids and can you please decide right now?  I deferred.  I supported the idea but I did want to spend that vacation week with the family.  We could use some time together without work and school pressures.  And I wanted to go along if they were going along.

Apparently we have made a plan.  We were going to keep it secret but my wife can’t keep a secret.  She keeps talking on the phone and talking to me and oh forget it let’s just tell the kids.  I didn’t even know where were we might go but it turns out Orlando is the destination.  Disneyland and all that.  I’m going to Disneyland!  Once I went to Orlando for a conference but I didn’t really get to Disneyland.  I wandered around the silly shopping area but that hardly counts.  I didn’t even buy anything except some chocolate coins with Mickey Mouse on them.

It is kind of exciting, just to take a trip and fly on a plane and get away from home and go someplace new.  Disneyland?  I guess that could be fun.  I remember, as a kid, others telling me about their visits to the Magic Kingdom.  Finally I will get a peek at what it is all about.  I am sure we will have a fine time.  Cable television and a swimming pool and we will be all set.  The rest is gravy.

So our vacation will be eventful.  We will have some friends visiting before we leave and we will get some down time when we get back.  Sounds about right.

GPS in the Dark

For Christmas my parents gave me a GPS unit. It is almost the same one that they have, maybe one version newer. My dad has been pretty into it since he got it and I guess he thought it might come in handy for me as well. I used it this afternoon and evening to drive down to the New Hampshire coast. It served me well.

Typically, if I drive somewhere I have never been, I get directions. I like to figure out where I am headed, to the last turn, before I start the car. But this time I did not do that. I had meant to, but just never got around to it. I was planning to rent a car to head down to save some cash for my organization (cheaper to pay the rental company than to reimburse me for mileage on my own car) so I used the new toy to get me there as I wasn’t sure where it was. That worked great.

Once I had the rental car I sat in the parking lot waiting for satellite connection. It took me a bit to find the location I was headed on the little black box, but once I did I was off down the interstate. Then it told me to just go on that road for 144 miles. Not much action there.

The thing has a lovely woman’s voice. She tells me where to turn right when I need to know. She is just so friendly, that GPS lass. Of course, her confidence can be deceptive. Once, when the family was headed out on an adventure together, the unit seemed to think we were a little off from where we actually were. According to that thing we were driving through rivers and buildings, but she just kept telling us to turn left or right.

It got dark as I headed down, on my own except for the lass, and I dutifully followed her directions. I turned where she told me to turn and ended up at a darkened building. It turns out that was the country club, not the hotel, so I rejiggered and turned about and after half a mile found the right spot.

I am not a huge fan of driving in the dark, especially in unknown locales, but I did manage to find my way, even without getting directions first. I was a little hesitant, and I don’t know that I’d go without a backup plan every time, but it worked. As I walked from my car to the main entrance to the hotel, I ran into a friend who is also attending the conference for which I drove all those hours. She said this: “I don’t know how I got here; I just kept on going and managed to find the place.”

Sounds about right to me.

Snowing Like Stink

I would, of course, be in Milton all day.  Most of the schools in the state were closed but all of Chittenden County was open.  That made sense in the short run, since it was not even snowing when I left this morning.  But whenever I got the chance to peek out of one of the too-few windows at Milton High School, it was snowing.

By early afternoon it was snowing like stink.  Some schools that had not closed for the morning closed early.  That would have been smart.  Driving home was craziness.  Snow was falling hard, visibility was low, there were lots of cars on the road; it was a recipe for smashing.  I made it home, however, with nary a scratch.  I simply had a long drive.

Now, long after I am home, it is still snowing like stink.  Look:

Snowing Like Stink at Night

Snowing Like Stink at Night

The timing of this was all wrong.  Schools were open because it wasn’t snowing in the morning.  They can’t close around here because too many parents complain if they are closed.  But when it was time for buses to carry students home, the roads were about as dangerous as they can get.  Plus, it will likely peter out so we don’t get the bonus snow day tomorrow.

Not that I can afford a snow day.  That would mean more work to make up. But still, I frickin’ love snow days.  If I can swing it, I will take a couple of hours to go skiing tomorrow.  Or not.  But maybe.  We’ll see just how much of the stinky stuff we get.