Jun 20

Mondays always have the worst titles, don’t they?

It’s Monday again, and welcome back to the part of the week in which we work on things. We’re still doing that. The emails are flying, the Slack channels are a-flurry. The video chats continue apace.

I had a two-hour student chat on Friday, and what’s more, the students are the one that asked for the meeting.

Hanging out with students is always fun, even when they are work meetings. Some students, when everyone was still living under a more restrictive lockdown, invited me to a few social video chats. That was kind of them. They are thoughtful and fun. And it was great to hear from them, see how they were doing, and to make them laugh. I became the butt of a lot jokes in those chats. It was worth it. Anyway, the video chats on Friday were about work. And going forward there will be more of those as we try to implement the things that will be our normal routines for the fall.

Normal. Routine. Aren’t those some concepts?

I suppose some people have routines that won’t change over much. And all of us will get used to the new rigors and routines soon enough. I’ve had the good fortune to be in my share of meetings to discuss what the new routines will be. The long and the short of it is that it will be odd getting there, weird getting used to it, and then a slow inconvenience we’ll work through.

But that’s what you do. You work through it. We’ll all have it to work through, all of us, in some way or another. We may as well do it with a smile. A smile that no one can see beneath a mask. Better learn to smile with your eyes.

Did you know you can smile with your whole body? When I used to do costume character work, in high school and college, you couldn’t help but to smile for pictures under that big helmet. Pretty quickly you noticed. After some time you manage to stop smiling under the headgear. But then you realized, or if you’re like me, you had to be told, to smile anyway. It comes through in the photos, in your posture, in your attitude. So you may as well smile.

By the way, when I smile, my eyes get small. So if you see me squinting, just know.

Here’s a routine, the cats!

Phoebe has a ‘You shall not pass!’ mentality in the hallway. It’s an effect roadblock. She slows you down by her cuteness, and you’re thrown off your game by a sudden urge to rub that belly.

It’s an even more effective obstacle when she does it on the stair landing. You’ve got to turn to the right, maybe you want to avoid a step, but there’s also this furry little thing.

I’m not clear at all how that’s comfortable, but that’s a cat’s posture for you.

Poseidon got interested in the camera lens.

And he’s always interested in this stovetop cover. I built this to keep the cats off the stove. Now they just sit on this thing. And, apparently, they’ll sit on it anywhere.

I’d moved the cover to another part of the countertop to clean the actual stovetop, and he’ll apparently sit on it wherever. So that was, one supposes, a good Saturday project.

Speaking of Saturday, we went for a walk through the woods, and we ran across a spotted fawn that was completely unconcerned by us. Mom was off looking for a snack and then she came back, saw us and we all stayed a respectful distance from one another.

Saturday was our anniversary, too. We spent most of the day reading through old tweets that our friends wrote that established the precise timeline of events. We looked at the menu for our wedding dinner, the eye is still drawn directly to the typo all these years later, and looked through our wedding photos and the honeymoon book. We made ourselves a crab dinner to celebrate, since we aren’t going out to eat. We listened to Sam Cooke and Al Green while we cracked shells. For a day, it was delightful.

This was right after the ceremony. We got married outdoors, under a canopy, in one of the hottest places in the country on the hottest day of the year. The heat index was 127. I was wearing summer wool. There is no such thing as summer wool. My bride looked beautiful:

(Still does!) After the ceremony was complete and we walked back up the aisle we walked inside a building. The first things she said as we began our marriage were “Oh thank goodness, air conditioning!”

For an anniversary, it should have been a more elaborate day. But, for an anniversary, revisiting the day was also perfect.

May 20

Happy Memorial Day

A Memorial Day unlike any other. There was no pageantry observed, no war films watched. The Yankee did use the grill. The day sped by with little tangible achievement. Went for a bike ride, threw yet another flat and so, in disgust, I limped back home. The day went by quickly, somehow.

The cats are doing just fine. Phoebe is surveying her queendom.

And one recent evening we were doing some work on the bed frame, which found the mattress standing on it’s end. Poseidon climbed up the underside of it and walked along the top.

We had a great time with that. Enjoyed it so much, laughed so hard, did I, that I couldn’t even be frustrated with the cat. And I said so. I’m not even mad. This is good stuff!

It was when he prepared to walk on top of the door that I stopped laughing and taking pictures.

The biggest news of the day was that we went to the lake and The Yankee got in a quick swim. I stood by as lifeguard and chief photographer.

I said, your suit is buoyant, so if you cramp up, just sit there and float until I can get out to you.

With the pools being closed this was her first swim, since early March, and finally, I guess, the lakes are starting to warm up. She was very excited about all of this.

And so were the other people at the lake. Three other swimmer at our inlet. Several people were preparing to put in kayaks. It felt like a summer day. A mid-summer day, the sort you enjoy and file away and don’t really catalog, not a holiday, not a day that marks the informal beginning of a season, but just a regular, muted day. Maybe that’s what it was. The whole of it seemed muted. A fuzzy reflection of a copy of some far off summer that is well out of reach. The peonies are blooming, the grill is cooking and the sun is finally warming things up, but this summer already feels lesser in most every respect.

Maybe that’ll make it feel more like a summer, somehow.

Apr 20

Riding into the weekend, and then walking into it

For reasons I’m beginning to understand only a bit, and am not quite yet equipped (or perhaps inspired, or both) to remedy, the videos I shoot on my phone look like compressed garbage when I upload them. What is this, 2012?

Anyway, here’s a little bit of today’s cross-county-line ride. Before the turnaround, and well before today’s flat. So sick of flats.

This, too, was before the flat. Good thing, as this was well away from the house. But you aren’t thinking about any of that when you see turkeys:

Anyway, just before getting back to the house I had another flat. It was on the last big downhill which, in my experience, is the wrong place to have your rear wheel to go down. At the bottom of the hill is a hard turn that leads up into our neighborhood. But I stopped short and figured, ehhh, I’m walking this in.

Because I could try to re-inflate the tube, or swap out to an extra one, right there on the side of the road — like I did just four rides ago! — or I could just walk the last mile in and do all of that in the comfort of my bike room or home-library.

So I walked it in. Problem: bike shoes. So you take those off and walk it in feeling a little ridiculous: spandex, helmet, walking a bike and barefoot. At some point you have to figure the people in your neighborhood, to the extent that they notice you, are just used to it.

Bobet, I hope so.

Anyway, you could be mad at flats, or pleased with the opportunity. If my tire hadn’t gone down I would have whizzed right through here at 20-some miles per hour and not even noticed this redbud tree (Cercis canadensis) demonstrating its cauliflory.

It’s a trait some species exhibit, where blooms can grow directly out of the trunk. Cauliflory, by the way, is ‘stem flower’ in Latin.

And, yes, I looked up the scientific name. There’s only so much stuff I can keep in my head, after all.

Also on the walk back … and this is just after The Yankee got to the house, put her things away and walked back out toward me with my sneakers. Which was great, because half-a-mile barefoot is quite enough, thanks. Anyway, we walked it in together, which was also nice, and we saw this:

And that’s how the weekend begins. I hope yours begins with pretty things and nice gestures, and fewer mechanical issues.

Mar 20

Still a few leftover pictures

We’re going back to our roots!

When I took that photo I thought, Wow, that’s a lot of roots. But, somehow, it seems like less now. Maybe that’s a compression of the whole scene into a computer monitor rather than the several square feet of ground the tree’s lateral branches. Maybe I was just impressed by being outside.

This was a sad sight.

In the background you can see a field where, in happier times, soccer and football and whatever else is played by the little kids. It’s a nice park floating just above the nearby middle school, surrounded by a quiet walking path. But there can be no swinging, and no monkeying around on the monkey bars. The climbing parts have been fenced in. There were still a few kids playing in that field, however.

This was from our bike ride yesterday, which was a nice and easy ride.

I don’t know why some days are nice and easy, and others feel like the most inept demonstration of human ability possible. But in that little ride, I established four new PRs on various segments and felt about as strong as seems likely, so it was the former.

You would think the sport, at the professional levels at least, would have caught up to science on this, but no. We are left to acknowledge that, sometimes, we have good legs. And then, other times, we resign ourselves to realizing we don’t have good legs, we merely have meatsicles that just hang there and feet that pedal squares. Sometimes it is a demonstration of physical grace and power and ease. Other times that fish that doesn’t need a bicycle could do it better than you. And that’s always the day when you see people you know out on a ride of their own.

Mar 20

No really, it is spring now, apparently

First things first, this is a panorama, or almost a panorama, I took on a weekend walk. Click to embiggen.

Let us do our regular Monday with the cats. We have a strict Not On The Counter rule that the cats ignore. Lately, they’ve found a loophole. The Yankee received this package in the mail some time back and it’s just been sitting on this out-of-the-way corner. And so the cats jump up on the counter and sit on the box where, as Phoebe demonstrates here, she is not on the corner:

They are also chewing on the box, both of them. They don’t eat it, they’re just destroying it bite by bite. I pick up the bits on the floor every day, and I am pretty sure they haven’t really thought this through. When they eat the box, they’ll be back on the counter, and we will set them in on the floor again.

I’ve been asked why we always see pretty pictures of Phoebe, and pictures of Poseidon in his hijinks. Mostly it is because Phoebe is a good girl. And Poseidon does things like this:

Note the feet. Note the balance.

Now, note the cuteness:

Now, note this wackadoo:

Computer? Enhance:

Found on a run this weekend, art which transports you from where you are, to, well, wherever this is going:

It isn’t awkward at all when the homeowners notice you taking a picture of this. Or when you realize the artist was an adult.

Just down from where I took that panorama picture at the top of the post, after you’ve walked down the hill and over the footbridge, there are two tennis courts and a small playground and a nice long walking path. It’s just down a second hill from an elementary school, and, as you might expect, there are a lot of kids in a nice spot like that. The teachers know that, too. And so up and down the path, they’d come out and left notes for their kids:

It’s the cutest, saddest thing. Imagine the progress a teacher has made with those kids all year long, and it’s over in March. They haven’t canceled school for the year yet, but it’s coming. And from the point-of-view of the teachers, the big and little worries they must have. For that teacher it came down to the one message. Keep reading.

I think I got in trouble for reading too much. If class bored me, and many classes did, there was a book in my lap. How do you scold a kid like that? Meanwhile, you’re worried about that child on the other side of the room that is in a real struggle? And now you, a compassionate teacher type, know they won’t be there in your class, to benefit from your training and experience in a formalized setting for a good long while.

Spring is showing up. In the backyard:

These are all from one tree. And the blooms won’t stick around long enough, but what they portend is welcome:

I think of that Moritsugu Katsumoto line a lot: “The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your entire life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.”

Who knows if they’re all perfect, or if the poetry there is really about the aspiration, or even the pursuit. It’s a nice thing to think about while you’re staring at the edges of fragile, fleeting things.

Here we are down by the creek:

It was a nice weekend to see the beginning of things to come.