Life In Progress

I will not confuse my career with my life.


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With a Little Help

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Mr. Wonderful and I got a little time together outside on Friday. The sun was out, there was no wind—a perfect afternoon for my first garden cleanup session this spring. He led me to this gorgeous group of crocus near the foundation and also pointed out another clump of them that I didn’t realize were blooming. I always find the best stuff in the gardens with a little help from Mr. Wonderful, my master gardener.

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The Cure

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The photo within this photo was taken by Gregory Rec, Portland Press Herald, Portland, Maine.

The sun is back! We have lingered on the western-facing deck the past two afternoons to soak up some rays — really just an excuse to take the cure: Hang around doing nothing, drink a few beers and act like it wasn’t still winter in Maine. This morning the light in the stairwell was so beautiful I had to try to capture it in a photo.

The photo below was taken Friday afternoon. The Cabin Fever Snow Pile Races snow pile is still massive but pithy and not strong enough to withstand races anymore. This afternoon will likely present another fine opportunity to take off my fleece sweater, roll up my jeans and bask in the warm March sun and perhaps enjoy a brew … or two.

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Uncle

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The weather forecast has got me rummaging in the closet for my Happy Light light box. Even though it triggers retina-searing migraines, I am tempted to plug that sucker in and park myself in front of it wearing A Clockwork Orange-type eye apparatus to assure my continued focus. (Ah, don’t click through to that eye torture link. I’m sorry I did. Ugh!)

To Old Man Winter, I say, “Uncle, already!” The snow pile outside the front breezeway door is over my head and my favorite snow shovel (yes, I have a favorite snow shovel) is wrapped with duct tape to keep the handle on. I don’t even have the urge to carve snow creatures this week because it will be above 40°F each day. The icy characters would melt and sublimate before we had the chance to properly bond.

I think it’s going to be a messy, hip-deep mud season.


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Out Like a Lion

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The rain and wind have made it to Maine. The haughty Snow Wizard is melted down to a stump of its former glory. When we got a couple of inches of snow Monday night, I shoveled the deck snow onto the formerly fabulous and icy Cabin Fever Snow Pile, thinking that the snow in the tracks would protect the ice in the chutes. Against all odds, I had dreams of races this weekend. Now it looks like sulking will be my major activity.

As I took a few photos a little while ago, I heard a vivid rendition of the Wicked Witch of the West’s line run through my head: “I’m melting, melting. Oh, what a world, what a world.”

It feels so much like late March here. Late March is when Maine finally gets the legendary “in like a lion” aspect of the month. But, January — out like a lion?


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Snow Fun

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I hand washed the car today, right in the driveway. Hatless, gloveless and wearing an unzipped light jacket over my jeans and fleece sweater. In January. In Maine. The temps were in the 60s, the birds were singing and the sun was out — I couldn’t bear to return to the dry, stale indoor air, so I sat on the back deck with the cat in the waning sun. Fidgety, I got to making snowballs with the sublimating snow pile and a lightbulb went on in my head. The snow was perfect for making snow creatures! The sun was behind the trees when I got done, so I only had time to snap a few shots with my iPhone. Not as crisp as could be, but the crescent moon actually showed up in one.

This evening, Soft-Serv Snow Wizard made me smile every time I peeked out the sliding doors at him. It’s supposed to start getting cooler again so maybe he will stick around long enough to enjoy some company. And I will get to have more snow fun.

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The Big Tease

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Our cat, Chitra, has been virtually glued to the fireplace this weekend. It’s been in the 30s and 40s and the mist of sublimating snow has insulated us from the sun for several days straight. The rest of the house becomes stone cold when the fireplace heats up the first floor where the thermometer is, making it uncomfortable for Chitra to lounge about anywhere but right in front of the insert’s glass doors. I’m sipping steaming tea and piling on the fleece.

Temperatures were almost obscenely warm for early January in this part of the country. This past week there was an afternoon when I stood on the back deck, basking in the 50° sunshine, flirting with the dangerous idea that spring was right around the corner. It sure smelled like it. But it’s way too early for getting my hopes up! Spring comes late here and if I let myself thumb through Johnny’s Seed Catalog this soon, I’ll be a sobbing mess by the abysmal mud season in March.

I had such high hopes for a good old-fashioned winter when we got our Christmas-time snowfall here in southern Maine. The storm dumped a good 8″ to 10″ of  pretty snow that was awesome for skiing and snowmobiling. That said, I would have preferred the heavier, wet cement variety that is necessary for creating satisfying snow creatures like my lovely Snow Goddess, and for making snow piles that we can race wooden balls down, whilst laughing our arses off on Sunday afternoons.

This year we haven’t yet experienced the great snowfall that I was happy to post about a couple of years ago. I’m trying very hard to keep my chin up; I do yoga, log eons of rest, ingest gallons of hot herbal tea and faithfully swallow the vitamin D3 supplements that my doctor suggested to keep the blues at bay. Even though there is plenty of time for more snow this winter, the big tease of this January thaw has me on the brink.


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Mud Season Musings

Mud season is finally here. It’s really warm today and I am finally allowing myself to look forward to spring. Usually, the Maine winter tricks me and returns with a vengeance in March (some years, even April or May!) making me regroup and switch my hopeful nice-weather attitude for fleece sweaters, armfuls of firewood and static-charged hair.

My car was filthy and even though it looks much better now, I need to run it through a car wash with the undercarriage treatment. A clean car is only temporary for me, because my vehicle encounters the most grime right here in our own driveway. (Believe me, I use the term driveway quite loosely here…)

Mr. Wonderful, our Maine Coon, smells spring in the air, too, and was quite pleased to help me rake away the mounds of icy mud that the snow plow deposited so we could reach the sitting stumps in the front garden. Too early to sit out on the stumps while sipping beers, but I have big plans to enjoy the sunset on the back right after I finish this entry.

Cheers!

 


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Early Taste of Winter

The early snowfall last weekend almost sent me into winter hibernation phase. The power went out with a flourish at 11:22 p.m. Saturday, when the transformer in front of the house next door blew, lighting the snowy landscape with brilliant pink sparks. Instead of hopping out of bed to call Central Maine Power to report it, I pulled the covers over my head and went back to sleep. Until a crew attempted to restore power during the wee hours and caused the same transformer to make more Frankenstein electrocution sounds, that is.

The power came back at 9:00 a.m., Sunday, just after we decided to venture out for a hot breakfast. With the kettle on and the boiler chugging away in the cellar, the day turned to a normal Sunday and my visions of lazily reading by the wood stove evaporated. With the snow melting and creating a mini mud season, we both got busy with chores: I overturned birdbaths, brushed snow off a raised bed and dug the remaining row of carrots from the ice-crunchy mud. Harvested not a moment too soon, these carrots will be super sweet.

Every winter, I vow to become more self-sufficient for inevitable power outages, but it hasn’t happened. Just last month, I walked right past the gorgeous, inexpensive camp stove at Cabela’s, thinking I should buy that …someday. Yesterday, I regretted it. This early taste of winter has made me renew my vow for preparedness.

I need to get to Cabela’s soon, before “fear-of-shopping” overtakes me because of the looming holiday season crowds.


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Mr. Wonderful: Master Gardener

Garden clean-up last fall dragged on into an unusually lengthy event. I never like to cut plants down before frost, but vow to do just that this coming year. I was furiously clipping down plants well into December, looking over my shoulder every day for that first snowstorm of the season. Since the snow held off until the holiday, I am rewarded this spring with some amazingly orderly flower beds. With an exception that falls into the wabi-sabi category… that huge bed of gooseneck loosestrife (yes, an invasive…) lay there flattened and matted, taunting me.

Gooseneck loosestrife is truly gorgeous, but a garden thug of epic proportions. About 15 years ago, I saw a beautiful stand of them in a display garden and just had to have some. Now they dominate the southeastern corner of the front porch, crowding out even the vigorous ferns, evening primrose and centurea that were there. And they’re the devil to pull out, having glassy roots that break off shoots with every forking.

Mr. Wonderful, in all his glorious cat-ness, gladly assisted me by enforcing frequent petting session breaks as I clipped away. For some reason, he’s been following me around this spring, performing sentinel duty while I garden. Yesterday, while I tugged and clipped the loosestrife, he cavorted among the rustling stalks. At one point he crawled in and napped in a nest of them, which sent me in search of the camera.

Wise late fall accomplishments allowed me the luxury of grooming some areas this spring. Rather than breathlessly racing to cut last year’s stalks before this year’s growth progressed too far, the cobblestone retaining wall in the south garden magically manifested one day.

The next morning, with a mug of hot tea I went to inspect the new rock wall. My newly retained garden was replete with the gory bottom half of a mouse laying next to some newly transplanted hens ‘n chicks.

The perfect gift from Mr. Wonderful, Master Gardener.


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Cutting edge

The edge of spring in inland southern Maine:  Caustic salty dust devils flare up as cars fly by the end of the driveway; mud cakes our tires, marking our comings and goings onto the roadway and parking lot mountains of melting filthy snow take up fewer and fewer spaces each day at shopping centers. Before spring truly begins, mud season must be acknowledged.

Still mostly covered with snow, patches of the yard are appearing. Finally. It was over 60° even on the shady front porch this afternoon. Our rusty saw blade tables and maple stump seating areas will soon be available again for Beer:30.

Bring. Spring.

 


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Letting go

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Baguette dough tucked into the oven to rise, we clipped on our snow shoes and visited the goat barn for Beer:30. Along the way, I visited and documented the sad deterioration of my snow friends from this past week.

Ironically, the snow is perfect right now for sculpting. But it will be in the 50s here tomorrow, then a deluge tomorrow night. So all I can do is let go.

The turkeys can no longer walk on the crust with impunity. Watching them break through with every awkward step, I commiserate. Their generously scattered shit is being revealed rather ungraciously in the yard. Soon, they’ll be scratching in the fresh mud for cracked corn and making spectacles of themselves with their entertaining mating ritual.

And so the end of winter commences, giving way to …mud season. (You thought, maybe spring?)