August 4, 2020

Hello, August!

Given that 2020 has been an unusual year, to say the least, it's no real surprise that it's already August - the "dog days of summer", as the saying goes. After nearly two months of warmer than usual temperatures, including several heat waves where temperatures hit the 90s routinely, it's finally more typically summer, with warm days (not so scorchingly hlot) and less humidity that could be cut with a knife. I'm hoping that we've seen the worst of summer and we can relax and savor these perfect summer days. Even if it's raining, I don't mind. We do need the rain and, for the mos part, my lawn looks reasonably healthy thanks to the rain we seem to get weekly. It's a good thing.

I confess, having endured an unexpected health issue (not COVID, fortunately) that emerged unexpectedly in late May, I am finally feeling like myself again, with the issue now resolved - hopefully never to return. It does take a sudden reminder that one shouldn't take good health for granted. I have to admit that I haven't assumed my health would remain as reliable as always - I do remind myself that I've been very lucky to have avoided major issues over the years and have enjoyed fairly good health, but the moment one's health is compromised, everything seems wildly out of whack. I am glad my issue ultimately was resolved, but it took some doing to get there, so I'll be keeping an eye on my general state of well being to help ensure I remain well, as I really dislike having my good health compromised.

So, now, the first half of summer has passed, so I'm taking full advantage of August, glorious August, to enjoy the summer season to its fullest. I'm attending to my much smaller garden (a casualty of my earlier ill health), and reveling in the warm sunny days and gradually cooler nights to celebrate the best part of summer for the next six weeks before the winds of autumn push us toward the year's next season. Admittedly, early fall is my favorite time of year - the coolere weather and beautiful changing colors, but late summer is second best. Before the stores start loading up on Christmas items. (I heard one local crafts emporium already was breaking out the holiday decor - noooo!) As a teen, I remember being so annoyed that the stores started breaking out the autumn fashions - the woolens and plaids that were unthinkable in early August...Christmas in August is downright heresy!

Enjoy these wonderful weeks of August, as they, too, will be gone before we know it and we'll be wishing it was still June and we could have a do-over!  

July 3, 2020

An Atypical Fourth of July Holiday in the Pandemic Era

As the coronavirus pandemic marches on, there has been much progress and effective "flattening of the curve" here in New York State. Other parts of the country, where residents have been far less vigilant in adhering to the recommended safety protocals, are now experiencing a resurgence in the virus. Why is anyone surprised by this?

At the risk of sounding heartless, what did folks in the south and southwest expect? Honestly. This isn't brain surgery. It's NOT a hoax. The virus is real and it can be deadly. Many thousands of people already have died. How hard is it to wear a mask or appropriate face covering to help ensure that you don't infect others? It's a no-brainer, but so many people are simply in utter denial about the seriousness of this pandemic, and it's simply beyond comprehension.

Understandably, many annual fireworks displays have been cancelled and other seasonal July 4th events also will be deferred until 2021 as mass gatherings are still too risky. As an alternative, I've posted my watercolorized photo of a display of small flags in a planter sitting on top of a bridge barrier in a small community in my area as my summer season header. I've also pulled out a few of my own small flags and have put them in my own planters for a little traditional all-American holiday color.

Enjoy the holiday and, if you can, stay home and be safe until it's no longer necessary! 

June 15, 2020

The Uncommon Triple Crown

A contemporary watercolor interpretation of William C. Robertson's 1868 historic print "The False Start" features the grandstand of Jerome Park in New York in the background. Jerome Park, no longer in existence, was the first site of the Belmont Stakes in 1868.

As everyone knows by now, thanks to the global pandemic that has plagued much of the world, this is a year like no other when it comes to traditional sports. That includes the oldest organized sport conducted in the US: Thoroughbred horse racing, which dates back more than 300 years in the Colonies.

Racing's renowned Triple Crown, a concept focusing on 3-year-olds running "classic" distances between 1 3/16 miles to 1 1/2 miles, was established relatively recently (in the early 20th century vs. the 18th century).

In the modern era, the Triple Crown consists of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, in early May; the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland two weeks later in mid-May, and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, on Long Island, three weeks after the Preakness. Held over a span of five weeks, the Triple Crown culminates with the Belmont Stakes. At 1 1/2 miles, it is the longest of the three races and is often referred to as the "true test of the champion." While there are longer races on the annual racing calendar in the US, the Belmont typically is the only one 3-year-old horses of either gender is likely to run and few of them ever race that far again in their careers.

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, racing was interrupted in most areas of the country for several months this spring, functionally eliminating many of the usual prep races that owners and trainers use to prepare and qualify their promising young horses for the Triple Crown races. As a result, racing was postponed at all three of the race courses that host each of the respective Triple Crown races.

The first to reschedule was Churchill Downs, which postponed the 1 1/4-miles Kentucky Derby from the first Saturday in May until September 5. Pimlico indicated they, too, would be postponing the 1 3/16 miles of the Preakness Stakes from mid-May to October 3. The Belmont Stakes subsequently was rescheduled for Saturday, June 20, instead of a week earlier, and it will be run at a reduced distance of 1 1/8 miles instead of its traditional 1 1/2 miles. So the Triple Crown race that usually occurs last and the longest in the sequence shall be first this year and will be the shortest this year only.  

In the meantime, a number of promising candidates for one or more of these races have fallen by the wayside due to minor injury or more serious ones that have ended their racing careers. One gets the sense that this year's Triple Crown will be like no other and it's anyone's guess which horses will emerge as the top three-year-olds in this very odd year of 2020.

Tune in and watch on June 20 to see how things will shake out at the Belmont Stakes and which other contenders might also move forward to the other two legs of the Triple Crown when they do occur in late summer and early fall.

May 21, 2020

Lilac Time Again


It's just past the middle of May and the lilac bush in my front yard is full of fragrant blooms. Oh, how I so love the scent of lilacs! These are the traditional, glorious lavender-colored ones - simply gorgeous and they smell divine! (The bees are enjoying them, too.) I've managed to maintain this long-established bush - in the years that I've been here, clipping the nearest branches loaded with blooms to ensure that more appear next year and beyond. They don't last all that long on the bush or in a vase full of water, but they are wonderful for the fleeting days they are here. They're just heavenly!

The coronavirus response marches on and I'm happy to report we're making a major dent in its progress in New York State. Some areas of life are being "re-opened" gradually and very carefully. We have only ourselves to blame if the virus cases increase as we slowly revert to a semblance of life as we knew it. Some industries and businesses have had their restrictions eased and are returning to operation, while others are taking incremental steps to get there - slowly, but surely.

Other areas of life as we knew it will not be returning this year - it's too soon and larger crowds cannot be accommodated safely, so no larger concert venues with extensive seating, and no audiences or fans at larger sporting events, though I'm happy to report that horse racing will be returning to New York on June 3 at Belmont Park after a six-week delay. Efforts also are underway to allow training in Saratoga, hopefully by mid-June, and eventually racing there, as well, starting as originally planned in mid-July through Labor Day if all goes well. Only essential personnel will be permitted on site - not even horse owners - but there is discussion on ways that owners might be allowed to attend when they have horses running. It would seem to be only fair as there is no racing if owners don't supply the horses to trainers to race them. Who ever would have imagined this would be an issue and needed to be carefully planned for it to occur? Wild, but very glad to see horses be able to race again.

Saratoga is known as a racing town and over the past 20 years or so the city and surrounding towns have enjoy a real estate boom, with properties values well outpacing the greater region. The good news this year is that with no fans allowed, the cost of hotel rooms and rental properties is expected to be a bit less costly because of the lack of demand compared to a typical summer racing season. That should bode well for those who must travel here for the racing each summer as it shouldn't be quite as costly for them. Either way, I'm glad the horses will be returning even if we can only see them from afar and on TV or online. 

Hi ho!

View east from the Whitney Viewing Stand, built in 2013 at the homestretch of  Saratoga's "Oklahoma" training track
 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of horse racing in Saratoga Springs
The training track  and barn complex is located directly across Union Avenue from the renowed race course.

May 12, 2020

May Flowers

And here we are, a month since my last post imploring folks to stay safe and stay home. Since then, we've advanced to wearing face masks in public whenever we can't effectively be "social distanced" (6 feet away) from other people. Since most of us have to at least venture out occasionally for necessities, whether groceries or other items/tasks, the face mask is an important piece of attire.

People get so testy about their "personal" freedom being invaded, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. Unnecessary exposure to a potentially deadly virus, and an early, unanticipated death is not on my agenda. I'll wear my mask. When I get inspired, I'll do some creative versions, but, for now, a simple white one will do the job.

Fortunately, a few essential businesses are open that provide groceries and other household supplies, so a picked up a few pots of pretty pansies, because they are always so cheerful after a long, cold winter. The first two pots I picked up were more pastel in tone, with pale yellow and lavender rather than the usual bold, dark purple and bright sunny yellow, but I found those at another location a week or so later, so now I have more of them to cheer me each day. They're currently still in their pots and in the photo below they were just sitting in my big green planter next to my garage door, waiting to be planted. 

Before I could plant them, the weather went wacky, so I haven't planted them in larger pots yet. It's still unusually cold here. It has been a bit erratic for spring weather, so I've brought all of the pots of pansies inside for a bit until the temps stop dipping into freezing. And yes, a few days ago, on May 9, we did get the dusting of snow that was predicted. We rarely get snow after March, but when we do  it doesn't last long. Still, we've only had a few really lovely warmer days in the high 60s to low 70s. Oh, how I miss those wonderful warm spring days! They're finally due to return later this week and, hopefully, that means they'll be lingering for the next month until summer appears.

While it's unlikely we will see a return to "normal" life or activities in my region this summer, with many events and activities cancelled, postponed or shifted to virtual, there is a gradual loosening of business restrictions in some areas of my state where the virus impact wasn't as significant and its spread was more easily contained. That's not the case in my region, though I expect we'll get there eventually. It's still a trying time, and I continue to keep myself busy as usual at home and donating to causes that are important to me that help others who are more severely than I am. It's the right thing to do and I'm glad to be able to do that. I will look forward to doing more of the things I enjoy when the situation allows.

As the pansies remind us each spring, life will go well, be safe and stay home if you can.   


April 12, 2020

Easter in a Time of "Social Distancing" for Safety and Health

My carved wood bunnies with "scarves" anchored with little red wooden hearts clearly are not adhering to the recommendation that we keep a safe distance of 6 feet apart from other people, and wash our hands regularly, wear protective masks and even gloves, to try to stave off contamination from the rampant conoravirus that has now spanned the globe. If the lack of a cure or vaccination from this virus isn't incentive enough to embrace the dictates of practicing good hygiene through these vital safety precautions, I certainly don't know what is.

It's medical science people, not a hoax, and certainly not a joke. Thousands of people have died in the state of New York alone, and more than 100,000 around the globe. As I noted in my last post, I already spend a good chunk of time here in the "Great Northeast" indoors during the winter, so accommodating a directive to stay home except for absolute necessities (food and medicines) wasn't, and hasn't been, that hard for me to do. But, in certain parts of the country, I'm mind-boggled by the lack of belief, and, as a result, the lack of practice of these basic health and safety directives by so many of the population -- and, equally scary, their elected officials from the local to the state level - who are in utter denial about the risk of this insidious virus and are unwilling to curtail certain civil liberties in the interest of public health and safety. It's a pandemic - no one, but no one, is immune here or anywhere.

Honestly, this virus doesn't care about your political beliefs and to ignore the recommendations of people who spend their lives establishing expertise in the nature of this infectious disease because "it's only in certain areas" is to live, effectively, under a rock that won't protect you or anyone you love. If you won't do it for yourself, do it for those you care about and particularly those who are most vulnerable in our society - the elderly, who generally have weakened immune systems, and those with pre-existing conditions that make them more suseptible to infection.

Seriously, people, too many already have died because we didn't get out ahead of this disease here in the US, and many more will die if we don't do everything we can to protect against it individually AND collectively until the risk clearly has diminished. Don't be in a hurry to get back to "normal" life until the experts tell us it is safe to do so. This virus is NOT adhering to your personal agenda.

Don't think for a minute that because it's "not in your back yard," you're not at risk. It is inevitable that it will be where you live in due course if it isn't obviously there yet, and when it does emerge, it will do so with a vengeance. Do what you can now to help prevent that from happening to you and those you love, or at least from affecting more rather than fewer people. No one should have to die because they didn't take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and those they love. Ignore those safety recommendations at your own, and their, peril.

And, oh, be thankful that on this Easter Sunday, if you're able to spend the holiday enjoying it and not being among those directly affected by a deadly virus that is very clearly in our midst, or worse yet, that someone you know is one of those who we lost to it.

Be safe, be careful and stay home.          

April 7, 2020

Staying Parked as Spring Arrives

My apologies for not posting in March, but, as you all know (unless you were living out of the range of modern communications technology for an extended period) things got very crazy shortly after the month began with the eruption of coronavirus pandemic hitting our shores, and my state, in a very big way. We have been advised or directed or ordered to stay home, avoid people and practice "social distancing" to help stave off further spread of this dreaded virus for which there is no current cure at present. Its symptoms can range from mild and to fatal and it is not to be treated lightly. Protective actions must be taken to avoid contact that could result in contracting the disease and/or contaminating others, particularly those most vulnerable. It's simple good hygiene behaviors and solid public health safety measures and they are essential to practice.

I am thankful to report that I have been careful and, so far, I am fine, as are those I care about deeply, but none of us can be too careful. Masks and eye protection are the order of the day when going out periodically for essentials, as are.staying home except to pick up necessary groceries. I have spoken with friends routinely and, to be honest, staying home is my typical modus operandi for most of the winter season anyway, so it's not that difficult for me to abide by the latest recommendations and dictates involving leaving home. I don't go out unnecessarily in winter - I don't want to - but now, staying put at home is a bit more challenging when the early earmarks of spring have brought the much needed warmer temperatures that beckon one outdoors. I simply go outside onto my patio and into the yard and do some of the tasks of post-winter clean up and bring the garden supplies out - pots and planters placed in the sun for another season of planting and growing the herbs and flowers that are my favorite way to enjoy the spring and summer seasons at home.

So, I'm gearing up for the emergence of spring. The bird (mostly squirrel) feeders have been put away, and the hanging planters have been brought out and will be re-filled with fresh potting soil. The wooden chairs will come back from storage and the hose has been put outside. I even power-sprayed the winter's grime and grunge off the patio, ready for another season of warmth.

Virus self-isolation or not, I'm ready for life to re-emerge in plant form, at least. We'll get there eventually, but, for now, patience and a bit of industriousness to endure the constraints of this most unusual start to spring...

Be safe, stay home, and, if you can, focus on the things you've always wanted to have the time to do at home because that time is now. This, too, shall pass.