How’s the weather


The forecast said rain

Today is the first day of spring semester at Framingham State, and we have a snowstorm predicted for this afternoon and evening, with potentially a half foot of snow arriving by tomorrow. That’s how the so-called “spring semester” works in New England: you start in snow, then you end in spring. In between you navigate the bitterly cold days of January, the interminable month of February, and the spring-fever of March, when every ounce of your being longs for sandal-season. When April, May, and the end of the semester come, you feel like you’ve earned every last moment of warmth and light.

The forecast said rain

Whereas fall semester starts when New England is at her prettiest, spring semester begins in the dreary, dismal days of midwinter, when everything already feels worn and tired. Both the semester and the year are new, but everything else feels like a trudging slog. It’s easy in September to get your fresh-faced students excited about new ideas and new beginnings: everyone has new outfits, new school supplies, and a new resolve, and simply stepping outside into the brisk autumnal air is refreshing and invigorating. Serving up the same inspiration and energy on a cold and dreary midwinter day is much more challenging.

The forecast said rain

On Saturday morning, before the first fat snowflakes of what had been forecast as rain began to fall, I went into our front yard to look for snowdrops. Last week was unseasonably warm, and I’d heard rumors that snowdrops were blooming early elsewhere…and indeed, there were a few grayish-green shoots poking out of the earth beneath our eaves: the first hint of (eventual) spring flowers. Now, of course, those tentative sprouts are buried under snow and more snow: it will be a while, it seems, before our snowdrops emerge from the snowdrifts and bloom in sun. What starts in snow needs to continue in snow for a few months more.

Leaf bags and snow flurries

…you can shoot a single photo showing snow flurries (which appear here as blurry white streaks) falling on a curbside arrangement of brimming-full leaf bags.

Reddened hydrangea leaves

Late November is a challenging time for photographers. Most of the leaves have fallen and been bagged, leaving both the trees and ground bare. Most of the color has drained from the landscape, and there isn’t yet any snow to brighten the scene. The sun is well on its way toward setting in the late afternoon, leaving us to contemplate long, cold nights.

Although I usually rail against Christmas displays that appear before Thanksgiving, in the darkening days of November, I make an exception for Christmas lights. When the days are gray and the nights are long, any source of extra light is appreciated, especially if it is accompanied by a spirit of festive good cheer.

This is my Day 26 contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

As above, so below

Today has been unseasonably warm and humid, a day that seems almost eerily out of step with the natural order of things. Many of the remaining leaves came down in last night’s wind and rain, which means the ground is carpeted with a fresh layer of leaves that are nearly as colorful as those still clinging to the trees: as above, so below.

This is my Day 18 contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Autumn berries and leaves

The sun has been playing hide-and-seek all day, occasionally appearing with gold-gleaming splendor, then retreating behind a stern brow of cloud.

Autumn berries and leaves

Earlier this afternoon when the neighborhood was bright and glowing, J and I set out to walk to lunch, and by the time we’d reached the end of our street, the day had slipped into an ominous gloom. There was a pelting of raindrops and a scatter of sleet before the sun reappeared as if nothing had happened. In “now what” November, you can expect any sort of meteorological mood swing, and that’s exactly what you’ll get.

This is my Day 8 contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.

Fountain and Story Chapel

This past week has been blistering hot in New England, with a string of 90-degree days. Although I don’t mind walking in rain, snow, or freezing cold, hot and humid days sap both my energy and resolve. Although my spirit longs to be walking, my body craves coolness, so I tend to lie low during heat waves, spending too much time inside, all but imprisoned in the two rooms where we have window air conditioners: a self-imposed exile.

Beloved daughter Maria

On Wednesday evening, however, I ventured out in search of shade, meeting a friend at Mount Auburn Cemetery for a sketch-stroll. Sketching is a slow, sedentary activity that works well on hot days, at least once you’ve found a shady spot with a breeze. In a woodsy cemetery like Mount Auburn, there are plenty of trees and quiet, secluded nooks where you can sit and serenely sweat. With no hurry to be much of anywhere, you can walk slowly, staring at stones and eschewing sunny spots. With nothing but a pencil, sketchbook, and random snippets of quiet conversation to entertain you, you can slow and sooth your heat-addled senses.

Celtic cross

After sitting for about an hour with our sketchbooks, my friend and I headed back to the cemetery gate, walking slowly. I had left a bottle of water in my car, but I knew it would be hot by the time we got there, so when one of Mount Auburn’s security guards drove by in his truck and offered ice-cold bottles of spring water—leftover refreshments from an early evening tree walk—I was happy to accept. At the still-hot end of a sweltering day, the only thing more refreshing than sitting a spell in the shade is gulping down a bottle of ice-cold goodness.

Click here for a photo-set from Wednesday’s cemetery stroll, including snapshots of the three sketches I made. Enjoy!

Peony-to-be

Every April-into-May while I’m preoccupied with the long, uphill push that invariably marks the end of the semester, something sly and subtle happens. While I’m busy with paper-piles and end-term grading, Spring somehow slips into Summer.

Honeysuckle - April 12 / Day 132

I know that the summer solstice doesn’t come until June, but I’m never fooled by what the calendar says. Something has shifted in the last week or so, with spring-green leaves ripening into a darker summer hue. The nights are warm rather than chilly now, and we sleep with the windows open. Already the leaves on our backyard hostas are tattered where rabbits have nibbled them, and our backyard tulips have dropped their petals, spent.

Wisteria

Already, in an instant, the neighborhood wisteria are hanging heavy with an abundance of blossoms, and the year no longer feels like a coil that is tightly wound, ready to spring. Instead, the season has sprung, and only a ripening of days stands between us and the fullness of summer: a transition so subtle, you’ll miss it if you blink.

Flowering magnolia

Once spring decides to arrive in New England, it often does so in a dramatic fashion. Yesterday afternoon was warm and sunny, and today is even lovelier, with temperatures in the 70s and plenty of sun. Yesterday was Opening Day at Fenway Park, and at home we celebrated the occasion by opening our bedroom windows for the first time this year, thereby giving our indoor cats their first sniff of fresh air in months. It’s an annual ritual that’s felt long overdue.

Magnolia blossoms

Every spring always features a welcome series of firsts. Yesterday was the first time I wore sandals and capris, for instance, and today is the first time I wore flats rather than knee-high boots to campus. It’s funny how a simple change in shoes is enough to buoy your spirits: after spending months lumbering around in boots and a bulky coat, my body feels significantly lighter and more energetic in sandals and shirtsleeves.

Fuzzy flowers

The landscape itself seems lighter and more joyful, a proverbial spring in its step. At Framingham State, the magnolia behind Hemenway Hall is blooming, along with pussy willows and another kind of fuzzy-flowered tree. After waiting so long for spring to finally arrive, it seem we’ve reached the proverbial tipping point, with flowers blooming and students peeling off winter layers. It’s a welcome relief to see flowers, tree buds, and winter-pale skin after so many months of ice, snow, and thick layers of clothing. Once spring finally arrives, you can’t imagine how you ever survived so long without it.

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