March 1, 2021

March: In Like a Lion...

Yet another new header image with the impending change of season, based on an spring landscape that I came across that makes me happy, with its pinks, greens and flowering trees.

With the usual apologies for no posts in February, it was a short but busy month, so it was better if I focused on the immediate priorities and came back when things calmed down a bit. The turn of the new month is a good time to catch up here after a somewhat wild couple of months. 

One of the unusual events in February was the jam-packed stacking of Valentine's Day, followed by President's Day, followed by Mardi Gras - all within a three-day span. I don't recall ever seeing that happen since Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays were combined into an official President's Day. I grew up with those two birthdays being separate holidays, but this year (2021) is the 50th anniversary of that change, which occurred in 1971 via the federal Uniform Monday Holiday Act. As a result, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day all were changed to specific Mondays on the calendar. Memorial Day was fixed on the last Monday of May and Columbus Day, traditionally October 12, was fixed on the second Monday in October. Veterans Day however, which was celebrated for nine years as the second Monday in October, later was restored to its original November 11 date in 1980, regardless of when the holiday fell (though governmental offices observed the holiday on a Friday if the holiday fell on Saturday, or on a Monday if the 11th fell on Sunday). That celebration remains on November 11.

Although it's still a few weeks away, I'm starting to get ready for the arrival of Spring. I've had enough of winter, bitter cold and snow, so, while we'll likely see a bit more snow, the winds of March are literally blowing in full force to herald the arrival of this new, long-awaited season. It's trite, I know, but it truly is a time of re-awakening that always makes me very happy. We've survived the bitter frosts and snows of winter and things are gradually beginning to show the tell-take signs of rebirth. Not before time, for sure. 

I've been feeding the birds and squirrels all winter. The ones that have been stopping by each morning to get their provisions for another day probably are living nearby in the wooded area behind my house. I'm happy to see them, though I don't spend hours watching them. I'll be winding the feeding down soon, as the temperatures are starting slowly to creep higher. The snows are melting gradually, so I'm hoping they all will be gone by the time the first day of spring arrives. I've noticed that the critters are not consuming quite as much of the seeds and nuts I've been providing as they did in the past few months. While we will are still well snow-covered, things are beginning to re-emerge, so I expect they're likely starting to find enough to meet their needs and won't be needing my contributions to augment their larders. Fine with me. I've done my duty for the neighborhood wildlife once again. They'll be on their own again soon and I'll be off the hook.

As for my health and well being, I'll be glad to see warmer temperatures and milder weather. We have been experiencing weather in Spring in recent years that has leaned toward short on the mild and long on the intensely cold, snowy, and rainy, then suddenly, warmer-than-usual weather arrives in May and feels like July rather than mid-Spring. I'm hoping we have a long, mild season this Spring so we can defrost gradually and enjoy the arrival of crocus and forsythia, apple blossoms and gentle breezes. I'm not a fan of the "light switch" change in the season's weather. Slow and steady is my preference. I'm eager to get outside and moving without the challenges of ice and snow impeding my progress. The end of cabin fever is in sight! Here's hoping that's what we'll enjoy... 

 

   

 

 

January 15, 2021

Winter Thoughts...

 

New seasonal header is "A Quiet Stream", painting by Walter Launt Palmer, circa 1890*

 

I skipped posting in December, not by design, but purely because I had other things keeping me busier than I expected, then, suddenly, it was January. It happens sometimes. In some ways, I certainly concurred with sentiments of those eager to exit 2020 as quickly as possible in December, but it's not something I wanted to dwell on at the time. 

Like so many people, my holiday season spirit was kept contained and relatively low-key. I didn't search for new decorative items and relied on things I already had. I only pulled out a few things, preferring to keep things minimal and simple - a small dish, a single bunch of faux greens on the mantel with a pair of simple candles, a wreath on the door and my faux trees flanking the hearth and one just outside the front door. To be honest, I didn't take photos of any of it. I just didn't want to bother. Sure, I made a few special dishes to enjoy for each holiday, but I didn't go crazy as the celebrations just didn't seem to be the thing to do during in this COVID era. 

I haven't been depressed about the low-key holidays, but after a mid-December storm that hit the week before winter officially started, dumping three feet of powdery snow on the ground outside my doors just as my trusty snowblower decided it didn't want to start, I knew that Christmas and New Year's were not holidays that I wanted to make a big fuss about. (The snowblower has since been repaired and stands ready for any further challenges Mother Nature might have in store for the rest of this winter.)     

I was dealing primarily with shipping parcels to their recipients during December, and tracking them like a hawk to follow their progress to their ultimate destinations. While I knew the delivery systems across the country were bogged down with extraordinarily heavy volume during a typically very busy period for shipping annually, I had little choice but to ship my parcels when I did. A few of them took an inordinate amount of time to get where they were going during the holiday rush and its massive delays, but all of them eventually made it. Some didn't make it in time for the holiday, but all of the recipients were understanding and, for some, it didn't matter. December provided the final and frustrating major logistical challenge for what was an already very challenging year on so many levels. 

In the grand scheme of things, my worries about a few packages being delivered in a timely manner was an insignificant concern compared to the difficult, and sometimes tragic, situations so many people faced in the course of this overwhelmingly aberrational year. 

I'm so sad for those who lost their battles with COVID-19 and for the families and friends they have left behind. I'm sad for the health care workers and first responders and all who surround them for the unspeakably difficult challenges they have faced and are still facing as the virus cases spike around the country. I wish we had been able to make more progress in keeping this rabid disease in check and get the vaccines out to everyone more swiftly once approved. I know these things take time, but we're the greatest country in the world - or we were - and we should be able to get this done faster. We'll get there eventually, but until we do, we'll all be trying to dodge that bullet until it's no longer a threat to our very lives.

No sooner did we tick over into 2021 and the events of January 6 were a startling reminder that the calendar might have changed but all still is not well for everyone in the USA. I won't get into a political discussion here, but it certainly was a troubling turn of events on top of a very troubling and disruptive prior year. It certainly makes one appreciate when things were more "normal."

I continue to spend this time lying low and, except for those close to me, avoiding other people as much as possible. Fortunately, I have a very high tolerance for spending time relying on my own devices, doing the things I enjoy within the confines of the four walls in which I live or just outside them. I don't need to go very far and, fortunately, don't have to as the essential amenities I need are nearby. I consider myself very fortunate in that regard. 

I have always been a creative type and I now have the time to indulge my creative passions. Fortunately, it's the way I can make the best of a situation that is, for the most part, out of any of our individual hands. 

Let's hope that we can all move forward in this new year of 2021 deliberately and with greater freedom, health, and success than we have experienced in 2020.

 

* American painter Walter Launt Palmer (1854-1932) was a native of my hometown of Albany, NY, and was known particularly his portrayals of the eastern New York region's landscape, particularly in winter. He was tutored early in his life by renowned Hudson River School artist Frederic Church and traveled to Europe to study the great masters before returning to settle at his Albany home.  


 


November 5, 2020

November Belongs to Autumn

 

I've been on this rant in the past, but in this exceptional COVID-19 pandemic year, I'm reiterating it even more vociferously - it's November and the entire month is blanketed by the autumn season. It is NOT winter, it is NOT the Christmas season. I firmly resist any attempt by the retail industrial complex to convince us that it's time to leap squarely into Christmas decor and celebration (and, of course, product acquisition) before giving the appropriate time and attention to which the harvest season and Thanksgiving are entitled. 

Here in the United States of America, we cannot and should not leap directly from Halloween to Christmas and give short shrift to the season and singular holiday that prompts us to reflect on our blessings, the gifts of Mother Nature, and give thanks for them. I LOVE autumn in the Northeast, where I was born, raised and still live. (I also happen to have been born smack in the middle of the autumn season, so that might be part of my personal affection for this time of year...who knows.) There simply is nothing like the stunning colors of autumn and you won't find them in many parts of the country that don't have the array of trees that change from greens to stunning reds, oranges and yellows at this extraordinary time of year. And while, yes, it signals the end of the growing season, what a way to go with a spectacular display of colors!


While I'm not so enthusiastic about the leaf-raking that follows this astounding display, it's a small price to pay (and good exercise). 

In this year, in particular, it seems that the retail industrial complex did not gear up for autumn as much as it was in a mad rush to push Christmas upon us in September. Granted, they were pushing autumn in August (when many of us were enjoying sand, sea and warm temperatures). I remember being dismayed back when I was in high school that retailers were foisting woolens, plaids and tweeds in clothing fashions upon us while we were in sleeveless cottons and shorts. I understood the season was coming, but it was at least a month or more away and I didn't need to prepare for it that far in advance. Maybe it was needed by the students who were heading off to college, so they'd have the items they'd need to be warm, but the rest of us could easily have waited. I just never liked being rushed and I still don't, but I like even less having the season that I love the most practically ignored and rushed on and off the store shelves in a blink of an eye. Why? 

Why can't we enjoy autumn for as long as it's with us? I love autumn, and my favorite holiday of the year, let alone the autumn season, is Thanksgiving. It's not about religion, it's simply about being thankful and enjoying the season's bounty - cooking, food, and dining with family and friends, or just being on one's own and celebrating quietly. Any way one does it is fine, but because we're not being pushed to exchange gifts by buying stuff, the retailers don't shove it in our faces with the zeal that they dedicate to Christmas. It annoys me no end, and even more when the autumn harvest season is almost ignored. 

So I'm just here to remind all that autumn matters, Thanksgiving matters, and to stop and think about what it means to you and what you have to be thankful for. It's not about buying stuff. It doesn't cost anything. Celebrate that.

    

November 1, 2020

New Month, New Snow?



It was early in the morning of October 30, and, just as predicted by the local meteorologists, we awoke to a one-inch dusting of the season's first snow and the freezing temperatures that invited it. That was the bad news if you're, like me, not a snow person. It's pretty for a minute, but after those 60 seconds, I want it gone. The good news, it was gone by the end of the day as the sun's warmth was just a bit too much for it to last. Pretty at first, but I was glad to see it go as I still have leaves to rake up before the real winter weather sets in.  

It's rare, but not unheard of, for snow to hit here in my area of eastern upstate New York. Back on October 4, 1987, we had a freak October snow storm that took trees and limbs down with abandon as they had just started to turn and still had most of their leaves, knocking out power and blocking roads and causing widespread damage that permanently altered the landscape. This year, the rains had already taken some of the leaves down, so, fortunately, there weren't many left on the trees to wreak such havoc.

Given the adjustment of the Daylight Saving Time window, we changed back to standard time early this morning. I'm not a fan of the return to standard time but at least it's a bit later on the calendar than it had been, but November 1 is now the soonest that it returns to our lives. Next year, in 2021, it won't occur until November 7. That's just fine with me as I'm not a fan of darkness at 5pm. I like my afternoons lighter later and my mornings light by 7am. Actually, I like the long daylight of June and July, when it's light early in the morning and later in the evening, too. Alas, Mother Nature and her growing season can't accommodate that, so I, like everyone, will have to deal with the seasonal daylight adjustment. So be it.

Before the contrasting colors of autumn are gone for good, here is one more October image to try to hang onto the last of the autumn season's annual display. Enjoy, because the early darkness of the evening has arrived...

 

 



October 25, 2020

Finally Fully Prime Foliage


 For the past two weeks or so, a friend and I have been taking short scenic drives for leaf peeping as the colors finally had begun to reach their peak stage of brilliance. One morning, we drove to a state park in the region with a scenic overlook near the area's highest elevation toward the northernmost tip of the Catskill mountain range. Not as dramatic as the high peaks of the Adirondacks, across the Mohawk River valley below and to the north.

 

 

 View north to the Adirondack Mountains on the horizon, far in the distance, across the Mohawk River basin.

There are lots of opportunities to see the array of colors that Mother Nature provides during October in my region of eastern upstate New York, but, after some study, it became apparent that not only were the colors this year particularly loaded with brilliance, the best times to see them at their most intense and striking were early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Those were the day parts when the sun's rays illuminated the leaves at a more acute angle than during the midday hours when the sun was at its highest in the sky. The leaves simply were far more dull in the middle of the day. So not all jaunts were as satisfying as others - time of day and the availability of sunshine were key factors for the most satisfying views of autumnal leaf splendor.

This is a fleeting time in autumn, when the leaves are changing so dramatically, before they fall to the ground and leave us with the stark landscape of winter for the next several months thereafter. If you're able, and you have access to such a stunning display where you are, go out, see the beauty that surrounds you before it's gone for another year. So few sights are so dramatic and so gratifying...and don't cost anything to enjoy.

 

 

 




 

 

 

      

September 29, 2020

Okay, Autumn, come ahead


With the official arrival of autumn on September 22, the leaves on the trees in my area of the Northeast suddenly responded as if a switch had been flipped and the change from varied greens to blazing oranges and brilliant reds began to evolve right on cue. I was lamenting the sudden rush into autumn on September 1, the start of meteorological autumn, but we had a bit of a roller-coaster of a weather month along with this wacky pandemic year. It was warm, then it was cool and slipped quickly into downright frosty at night during one weekend mid-month. Then, as if to say, "Sorry, we didn't really mean for that to happen just yet", the cold snap faded and the perfect mild late summer/early autumn air that makes for glorious balmy days and nights just cool enough to afford the most comfortable sleeping slid into the mix.

We've been half-way out and half-way into autumn for most of late September, but we're nearly all in now. Mild days, cool nights and leaves changing all around. In another week, things will be more reds, oranges and yellows than greens and with a good rain and a bit of wind, those leaves will be hitting the ground and going all golden yellows and, before we blink, it'll be November. Until then, I'm savoring all we get in this most fickle but beautiful of seasons of the year...welcome, autumn. So glad to finally see you.


  

 

 

 

September 2, 2020

Not so fast, Fall!

 

What's the rush to get to autumn? It'll be here in just three weeks, but I'm in no hurry to break out the fall decor and change over from summer. I'm just not, because here in eastern upstate New York, this is the best time of the year for perfect weather - mild, not horribly hot or outrageously humid. It's simply  lovely, so I revel in this time of year and am planning to make the most of it, even though travel and access to some of my favorite activities are more limited than ever, thanks to that dreaded virus.

I've been fortunate to be able to enjoy good health after an issue earlier this year. I'm so glad that's behind me and I can do all of the things now that I was able to do before that annoying health hiccup. Phew! So, I'm taking advantage of this prime time to get outside, deal with some maintenance issues around the house and just be glad that we've got a few more weeks of great weather before things start to get a bit nippy. Mind you, I do love autumn here, as seasons go, but I'm in no hurry for its arrival. I'm still in a bit of disbelief that it's already September. How did that happen? The summer - that glorious season that couldn't get here soon enough back in mid-February - literally flew by this year! It's beyond crazy.

So, even though travel has been severely constrained this year, I have stayed busy with tasks at home, fun things (and a few not so fun things) all has kept me busy. I guess that's how the summer season flew by so quickly when I was busy doing other things. So, for the moment, I'm taking a few days while it's beautiful outside and am just enjoying these golden days of the late summer season before the colors start to change and remind us all that the frosty, snowy winter is not all that far off...