Poetry 11-30 G-gold-1

golden sunrise

in my eyes

sky’s ablaze

with magic rays

gold medal day

is under way

spring stands still

air is chill

sun is warm

will soon transform

lift our moods

winter concludes

Poetry 11-30 G-gold-2

 

 

ephemeral beauty (9/30)

April 10, 2018

poetry 9-30 E-ephemeral

white, pink, blue, purple

when you’re fresh you’re beautiful

freshness is fleeting

 

 

poetry 3-30 three bars

Through three blue bars

the world is white and wonderful

The sky sneezes snowflakes

in a cold that continues to cling

Nature refuses to be nudged nearer to normal

and the brightness of the blanket blinds us bit by bit

Why winter won’t wither away?

 

Winter weather, whoa!

April 11, 2013

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Spring has not sprung. I was willing to overlook the fact that I wore longjohns and a parka to the Minnesota Twins baseball season opener. I don’t even mind that I can’t wear shorts yet—though many break them out as soon as the temperature hits 40F/5C. This is Minnesota, after all.

Mother Nature teased us with mild daytime highs last week. They were a little below average but still warm enough for people to wear shorts and to inspire me to drag my bicycle out of the storage room. It was an exciting development to pedal to work for the first time in months. After work I stopped at the local bike shop to enquire about a spring tune-up. I was told of my bike’s immanent demise, that I would be lucky if the thing didn’t fall apart right under me, and that with the labor and parts for the required complete overhaul, it would be less than $100 more to just purchase a new one. But I digress.

My friend Jon is hardcore and bikes everywhere all year. Even he was optimistic enough about the weather to make the switch from his winter beater bike to his nicer summer ride.

None of this was meant to be. The temperature went back down to around freezing and for days we listened to dire predictions about a late winter storm. Yesterday the drizzle began. Jon showed up on (I think he said) his wife’s beater bike because he had stored his already. An Instagram friend lamented that he’d have to switch the summer wheels on his car back to the winter. People do that? Another friend, Brad, was not looking forward to his #30DaysOfBiking ride after he got home last night.

I had been keenly radar-watching all day. The system was moving very slowly and Minneapolis was above freezing. I brashly predicted that the forecasts of six to twelve inches of snow would not materialize, that it wouldn’t be nearly that bad. I’d had a meteorology class in college in 1983, after all. Were you even born then? You would have seen me walking my dinosaur.

By the time I went to bed, the radar had bloomed. I knew I’d wake up to whiteness in the morning. I did.

ImageFortunately, the temperature hasn’t been spending much time below freezing. There were about 3 inches/8 cm of slushy snow on my sidewalk and it was raining snow. On the radio, the traffic updates reported slick entrance and exit ramps, and “too many spin-outs to mention them all.” I knew that in downtown Minneapolis where I live and work, things would be sloppy but the urban heat island effect would preclude too much slipperiness. What I wasn’t expecting to hear was that light rail trains were not in service because of ice build-up. In the eight winters that I’ve lived where I can use the light rail, I’ve never heard of service being suspended for any weather-related reason. Metro Transit does a nice job with the rail line. And really, the buses, too.

I personally was not put out by this storm. I don’t drive my car very much, and I certainly don’t drive it to work. I train, bus, bike, walk. I got to work this without too much inconvenience, except for having to wait while the Brothers Deli cooked my breakfast because I failed to phone ahead.

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“Look closely ….. that’s the amount of rain we received last year June through October.” Photo by Bossy Acres. They grow organic vegetables. Get some this summer.

Sure, I might wish for milder temperatures and dry roads so that I can continue riding my dilapidated bicycle. But let’s all of us put aside the selfishness of our personal comfort and conditions for a moment and think about the bigger picture. Though it sucks to get a major snowstorm in April, for sure (and let’s face it, if it were 50F/10C and had been raining for a week, we’d still be whining), let’s remember the inconvenient fact that since last summer, Minnesota is in drought. Our late snowfalls and slow temperature warm-up are a boon for the farmers who put food on our tables. The slower melt reduces flood risk, which means more of the water can be absorbed into the ground rather than just running off. In a couple of months when you’re walking around your local farmers market in your Crocs with your wild children, you’ll be thankful.

Ahem.

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“Priority parking shoveled out.” Photo by Harriet Brewing. They make Belgian-style beers. Go drink some.

This is Minnesota. If you’re going to live here, you must have a sense of humor about the weather, whatever it is and whenever it’s occuring. Just look at this photo posted by local brewery Harriet Brewing. They know people like Jon will still be out on their bikes, even in these shit conditions. This too shall pass.

Oh no, no snow!

March 10, 2012

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It obviously doesn’t come as a shock to anyone that we’ve had a mild winter this year. As you may recall (and if you don’t, please review here), last winter was quite a different story.

I don’t do a lot of necessary driving in my car, so snow or no snow it’s not usually too much of a deal to me. Having said that, it kind of seems like when it does snow, three out of four times it’s on a bowling night. But maybe that’s just me being overly sensitive because I don’t do a lot of necessary driving and when I do drive, it’s noticeable when the conditions are less than optimal.

Regardless, my party line is that if it’s going to be cold, I think it should snow. But this year, I don’t even get that. It hasn’t been cold and it hasn’t snowed. We’ve had about three inches altogether so far. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. We’ve had about ten. I haven’t looked it up but I think that’s pretty close to the truth.

Last night I dreamed that I was biking over the crest of the Rocky Mountains. Though it was Todd with whom I had been discussing biking every day in April and he mentioned he was “Riding the Rockies” in June—May?—June?—May?—you’re not missing the Small Batch Revival, are you?—it was actually Jon, Christine, and Chris who were my cycling companions in my dream. And it wasn’t the Rockies, but a mash-up of Rib Mountain in Wausau, Wisconsin (okay, Granite Peak, whatever), and Lutsen Mountain up Duluth, Minnesota-way. It was “Riding the Rockies,” but all I wanted to do was get to a roadside motel, such as the Big Orange Moose place in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, and have a Hacker-Pschorr, which I enjoyed when I got stranded in Mauston, Wisconsin, last year.

But I digress.

The point is, it has been unseasonably warm this year. That’s something you’re probably almost as sick of hearing about as the running commentary on the “front-runner” in the Republican presidential-nominee circus. 

I continue to digress.

Because of the warm temperatures, when I heard about a bike-every-day-in-April challenge I thought, oh, I can easily do that. In the non-winter season I do bike to work every day, and the challenge will get me out on the weekends, too. Though I prefer to walk home from work because it’s a very relaxing interlude, I can’t overlook the time savings of riding my bike both in the morning, when I would catch a ride on the light rail or the Number 7, and in the afternoon when it’s thirty-five minutes for the walk versus ten for the bike ride. Also, the downtown-traversing bike ride is a whole lot more stressful. But, because of the warm temperatures this year, I anticipate that I’ll start biking earlier, such as in April. Or on Monday.

Look at this forecast for the next week. Tomorrow I will take my bike over to the neighborhood shop and top off the air in the tires. How can I resist the lure of these temperatures?

Snow emergency? This whole winter has been a false alarm.

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My online friends might have noticed that I’ve been obsessing over winter’s bare trees in the last week or so. I have become fascinated with imagining the root system underground that’s comparable to the naked branches I see reaching toward the steel grey winter sky. I just think these trees are stunningly gorgeous in their seeming randomness that’s actually well-behaved fractal growth.

Large trees and small trees, they all inspire me with awe. These urban trees quite often are given very precise plots in which to grow, defined by the 3-foot by 3-foot metal grates that mark their entrance into the earth. But Mother Nature endows them with persistence.

Here is my tribute to these wonderful plant creatures. They all exist within the linear mile and three quarters between my office in the heart of downtown and my home neighborhood that’s only slightly less in the thick of things.

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The tree at the very top and the tree directly above are, in fact, the same tree. I thought the vertical shot had nice composition, but the horizontal photo really shows off the branches.

All of the trees have their own personalities. The ones below I also found particularly appealing and beautiful. Each shows its own history. Maybe it has fortunate wind blockage from nearby buildings and can grow straight. Maybe it doesn’t and lists to one side. Maybe it’s in a healthy location and has grown an even crown of branches. Maybe it has to eke out a living on a dirty, busy, polluted corner and makes gasping grabs toward the sun.

If you are in a deciduous winter, go outside and revel in the beauty that has yet again been provided you by this planet we live on.

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Photos were shot as dusk approached with my iPhone 4 and processed with Camera+ app, using the Ansel filter and thin black border, because today’s mission was to share a black and white photo.

Tree fractals, part 2

March 7, 2011

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Here’s the tree I had in mind yesterday when I was creating my illustration. I think it’s just beautiful in this state.

Part 1: Back story

I have a good reason. My friend Sara and her podcast partner Rob from How Much Do We Love are having a live performance in Chicago tomorrow night. Sara lives in California, I live in Minneapolis. One of my two best friends from Minneapolis, Rob, moved to California and is now one of her best friends. So Sara and I are friends via the transitive property. There are two Robs—my friend (and now Sara’s) and Sara’s podcast partner who lives in Chicago. Confused?

So Sara and podcast Rob decided to do a live performance version of How Much Do We Love. Since Chicago is in my neck of the woods, roughly speaking and definitely relative to California, I decided to hop in the car, contingent upon my tax refunds finding their way to my checking account. They did. As a bonus, my friend California Rob is going, too. But he was the lucky one. He got to fly. Today, he only had to drive from Madison where he had overnighted with his brother. Unlike me, who had to drive from Minneapolis.

I suppose I could have flown, but a flight is so much more expensive than three-plus tanks of gas in my economical Hyundai Accent. It’s a good car, but it has the bodyweight of a gnat and therein lies the problem.

It was no surprise that it blizzarded today. But the timing kept changing. By suppertime yesterday, I had resigned myself to waiting until Monday (tomorrow) to drive down, because the forecast at that time said the snow would start during the overnight. But when I woke up at 7:00 this morning there was not a flake in sight. The weather radar made me think that if I could just get going, I’d avoid a large part of the trouble. This seemed like the thing to do, as the forecast now said that snow would continue through about midday Monday.

Part 2: The drive

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Of course, hoping to leave within an hour turned into actually leaving in two. Okay, so I laid in bed for forty-five minutes contemplating it all while checking forecasts for cities along Interstate 94 and hypnotoading myself with the radar loop trying to figure out where the blob was going and how quickly. I hit the road at 10:15, just as the snow was beginning to fall in earnest in Minneapolis. I was still optimistic.

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For a while, just a while, I, in my fluffy little Hyundai Accent, managed to drive at speeds up to 50mph. That didn’t last too long. By the time I availed myself of the rest stop at Menomonie WI, conditions were deteriorating quickly.

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This is the mayhem that I was endeavoring to traverse, from the upper left pin to the lower right. Kindly disregard that one in the middle that’s out of line.

As I neared Eau Claire WI, conditions were approaching white-out (I refuse to spell it Wite Out®). What qualifies as white-out? At best, I could see 1/10 mile ahead of me. At the second Eau Claire exit, traffic was diverted off of I-94 to US Highway 12. Tonight I heard it was because of a twenty-car pile-up. At the exit, there were four vehicles in either ditch.

I shall now digress and editorialize about something that irks me at the best of driving times—tailgaters. It’s bad enough that when you’re flying down the freeway at speed, people think it’s okay to ride ten feet off your bumper. Today, in the blizzard+white out conditions, people were riding ten feet off other people’s bumpers. What in the name of [insert your favorite diety here] makes you think that’s a good idea when it’s slippery and you can’t see anything? Your tailgaiting me makes me go slower, not faster. It’s counterproductive. It’s a blizzard, for [x]‘s sake. Don’t be a fucking ass because you drive an SUV. Other people don’t.

I understand the limitations of my particular car and drive accordingly. It’s not a winter car. I had no business being on the road today. But since I foolishly chose to be so, I drove within the parameters that it is capable of meeting under such conditions. You’re just going to have to wait for me, or use the other lane to pass me. Your tailgating is not going to make me drive in a manner that my car can’t handle.

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So we got shunted onto Highway 12, and I stopped at the next gas station to use the facilities and to clear the ice off my windshield wipers. The passenger side one had been caked with ice since shortly after the Menomonie rest stop and my driver’s side was almost holding its own, but every now and then I had to open my window and grab it and try to smack it against the windshield as it made its pass.

The nice lady at the gas station recommended taking 12 to Wisconsin 53 to Osseo WI, where there is a big junction with I-94. It was while driving on 53 that I realized that was the way to go. The road surface may have been less clear than the interstate, but I had more confidence in it, and I quickly realized major advantages. On the less major roads, there was far less traffic, and trees, property, and any other stuff is closer to the road which allows you to more easily keep your bearings during blizzard driving, and it provides more interesting viewing while you’re driving so you don’t get fatigued by white white white white. I was delighted once again by Mother Nature’s beauty.

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I took 53 to US 10 just west of Osseo, where I stopped at the SuperValu for the bathroom and a snack. I decided to stay off I-94 and rejoined Highway 12 about ten miles further east. The snow began to ease and the clouds became less thick, and for a while, there were some really interesting quality of light things going on. I don’t know if these photos do it any justice.

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At Black River Falls WI, I decided to get back onto I-94. The lanes were pretty clear and I was fairly confident pushing the needle to 40–45mph. Quality of light continued as I moved into the “wintry mix” portion of the weather. Thundersnow was forecast for south-central Wisconsin. The clouds were alternately thick and dark, and looser with the sun almost poking through.

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Shortly after Black River Falls, there was a rest stop at which I paused. Just as I pulled in, it started to hail. Okay, so it was really tiny and probably technically large sleet, but I’m calling it hail. They were very discreet, peppercorn-sized balls. I took the opportunity to eat one of the sandwiches I had packed. I’m very glad I packed sandwiches.

Well, within about half an hour, darkness began to settle on the situation. I passed Tomah WI and began to have thoughts of hitting up California Rob’s Madison brother for a place to crash, because it was becoming apparent that it would be after midnight by the time I got to Chicago, or fourteen hours on the road in stressful conditions.

I tried to push on in the darkness, but it rather quickly became obvious that with the liquid precipitation that was now falling which was likely freezing rain, and all the semi-trucks that were whizzing past me in the left lane, temporarily blinding me each time, I was operating under very unsafe conditions and was rapidly becoming fatigued. I decided I couldn’t even make it to Madison and exited at the next lodging opportunity, which was Mauston WI, which is from where I’m now writing to you.

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I had a reservation at a Super 8 in Chicago, so that’s what I chose in Mauston, hoping I could transfer tonight’s booking here. Because of the extremely cheap rate, I couldn’t do that and had to pay here, too, but no matter. What’s my safety worth? Certainly more than the cost of a hotel room. And it’s a really nice room, too, well worth the $55 (my Chicago rate was $43).

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However, unlike its neighbor, the Country Inn Suites, it does not have a bar. So I went next door to DJ’s, and hung out for a while. Though I could have chosen the 16-ounce cans of Keystone Light for $1.50, I instead opted for the $3 Hacker-Pschorr Weiss and $3 Guinness Draught. I brought two cans of Guinness back to the Super 8 with me, which I have enjoyed while recounting my tale. So that was (ahem) five beers and a frozen pizza for $20 plus tip.

My safety, priceless. I will forge ahead in daylight tomorrow.

That???s brisk, baby!

February 9, 2011

Back in December, I shared with you our blizzard of the decade. I declared that if it was winter, it ought to be cold, and there ought to be snow. It’s two months later and winter has not let me down.

Overnight was only the second coldest of the winter so far. It didn’t quite go down to double digits below zero Fahrenheit like the other one did about a month ago, but at a certain point, splitting hairs over a degree or five is, well, pointless. It’s cold! 

I walk seven minutes in the morning to catch the light rail train that delivers me to the office, and thirty minutes hoofing it all the way home after work. It’s a good walk because it’s long enough to be beneficial as exercise, but not so long that it’s boring and I lose interest and don’t do it. The last winter or two have been relatively mild, both from temperature and snowfall standpoints. It’s true I have been overusing my winter boots this year, but I had completely forgotten until today about my wear-contacts-instead-of-glasses technique. It was so fantastic this morning to keep my face covered with double-scarfing and still be able to actually see where I was going, versus my usual alternating between a warm nose and only half fogged up glasses. Seeing is good!

I should have recalled this winter survival method sooner. I feel like it’s been since about October, but really, it’s probably only been since November that I can count on one hand the number of days that the temperature has been above freezing. I’m probably exaggerating by a month. Below-zero probably only started in December. About on Monday after the blizzard.

As a result of the prevailing temperatures, the snow has hung around. At my location in downtown Minneapolis, we got about fourteen inches of snow in the blizzard, then, during the next week, about four or six inches additional. I can remember one “stretch” of two or three days that it was above freezing, but not so radically that much of the snow melted. Not much of the snow has melted. 

If each day were equivalent to 10,000 years, this winter would be an ice age and the snow banks in my front yard would be glaciers. The little birdies that somehow stay alive and function in these temperatures would still be T. rexes and I wouldn’t have to wear my contacts and bundle up with long underwear, winter boots, double scarfing, two pairs of handwear, and two layers of headwear plus the hood of my sleeping bag down coat because the comet wouldn’t have yet struck and it would still be tropical.

So these, then, were the conditions today, at 8:00am and 4:00am. Things improved by a whole 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Crisp and clean with no caffeine. Cold? Yes. Minnesota? You betcha!

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*Those two door slams in the birdie movie are my neighbor Jen coming home. Just in case you were curious.

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Today I was supposed to pick someone and follow them for a while, reporting on where they went. Well, I followed Old Man River and he went south, to New Orleans.

I was going to take pictures of the river (the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis)—the river itself—but it didn’t take long at all for my focus to shift to the bridges. The river is present in a few of the shots, but once again the underneaths of the bridges are the stars. Maybe you remember when I did that last summer on a bike ride.

Ah, summer.

The difference between last summer’s bike ride and today’s walk is, oh, I don’t know, about 70°F/21°C. I didn’t look today, but it was about 15°F/-9°C, based on the forecast high. But being a hardy Minnesotan, I bundled up and went for a nice walk.

So.

 

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1. Hennepin Avenue Bridge (historic). Underneath the bridge, behind where I stood to take my photo, are a couple of pylons from the original version of this bridge built in the mid-1800s. I think the current bridge is the third or fourth version. Oh. According to Wikipedia, this bridge was the first permanent one across the Mississippi River. How about that?

 

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2. 3rd Avenue Bridge (secret passage). Just a bit east (the whole walk wasn’t even two miles), is a more modern-looking, but quite older bridge. This one was an odd duck because it has beautiful arches when viewed from a distance. But when you’re standing directly underneath it, all you see are two doorways like the one in this photo. It looked like it went through three parallel walls. Weird. I was sort of disappointed there wasn’t a drawbridge or something.

 

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3. Mill Ruins Park. Okay, so it’s not a bridge, it’s the riverfront ruins of abandoned flour mills. There is running and dripping water everywhere. The icicle mass was cool. There also seemed to be a model photoshoot going on. The models were not modeling outerwear. Silly catalogs.

 

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4. Stone Arch Bridge (arches). This is the bridge that might possibly have some notoriety outside the Twin Cities. It used to be a railway bridge. Now, it is for pedestrians and bicyclists. It’s stoney and archy and neat. It’s at the foot of the St. Anthony Lock & Dam, which I believe is the first lock and dam on the Mississippi. The first in sequence, I mean. I don’t know if it was the first constructed.

 

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5. I-35W Bridge (strong). This is the sturdy replacement for the bridge that collapsed in 2007. From the side you see graceful arched spans, and from underneath you see these stout legs. I live in the neighborhood. I was outside puttering with my tomato plants when the old bridge collapsed. I heard the sirens and figured there was a big accident on I-94, which is also near my home. It’s still weird to interact with the new bridge.

 

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6. 10th Avenue Bridge (industrial). It’s also weird to be underneath this bridge, just a couple blocks downstream from the 35W Bridge. This photo doesn’t show it, but this bridge looks old and tired from below. The roadbed on top is all spiffy, but it’s a little creepy to look at the chipping concrete when you know what happened to its neighbor three years ago.

Thus concludes today’s history lesson.
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Photos were taken with the assistance of my new friend, Instagram, and the Inkwell filter. (Except for the first one of me, that is. I did that in Photoshop.)