April 2007

The moral to today’s picture is “She who hesitates is scooped.” Early last Monday morning on my way to Zen practice, I noticed a mischievous Red Sox fan had “corrected” the sign for Varick Road in Waban, MA so it now pays homage to Red Sox catcher and captain Jason Varitek. “That’s clever,” I muttered to myself, knowing that Varitek lives somewhere in Waban. “Someday when I have time, I’ll have to take and blog a picture of that.”

Imagine my chagrin, then, when I discovered on Tuesday morning I’d been doubly scooped, first by a blogger with the Newton TAB, and second by a mention of that post on Universal Hub. Hmmmph. No blogger likes to be second on the scene with a particularly blog-worthy bit. This morning when I stopped on my way to Zen practice to snap my own no-longer-original photo of Varitek Road, I solaced myself with the thought that I’m probably the first New Hampshire blogger to break this bit of Red Sox news.

Sometimes, it’s comforting to know exactly where you stand. In lieu of a “You Are Here” arrow, this sign imbedded in a Boston sidewalk told me exactly where I stood this afternoon as I snapped this shot, a helpful bit of information if I’d known (or cared) who owned the properties on either side.

Today, that girl posted a collection of interesting signs she’s seen in New York City. Not to be outdone by that girl’s globe-trotting junket in the Big Apple, I thought I’d share some signs I spotted during today’s daytrip to and from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

You might be interested to know that some portions of Boston’s Great Outdoors are Smoke Free.

And in case you were wondering about a certain celebrity’s sexual preferences, one Boston sign can clue you in about that, too.

If you’re looking for some cutting-edge advice from Boston’s top medical authorities, pay heed to this sign from the Longwood medical district, home to a handful of Hub hospitals.

And if your bundle of joy is more than you can handle, know there are loving arms in Boston who will accept him or her, no questions asked. Just be careful where you “pahk your cahr” when you make your special delivery.

There’s nothing more relaxing than admiring Keene–or watching the sun go down–from the rocky outcrop atop Beech Hill: exactly one year ago today, in fact, I posted my favorite version of the view from the top of Beech Hill. But if you and your friends are planning to drink a couple brews while lounging on the Beech, please take your empties with you. Nothing ruins someone else’s Relaxation than the reality of litterbug droppings.

    This is my contribution for today’s Photo Friday theme, Relaxation…although it could also qualify as one of my Top Pet Peeves.

Here’s photographic proof of two things. First, we have indeed had some lovely blue-skied days here in New England over the past week. Second, Keene State is a kinder, greener campus that uses energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs in its various indoor and outdoor fixtures. I’d like to think this latter fact makes Al Gore a happier man.

This week marks the end of Spring Semester classes at Keene State College, and it’s also the last week of the present term for SNHU Online. This means I’m running ragged (and not feeling very energy-efficient) tending to end-of-term details for both schools. The challenge of multi-tasking is one fact of an adjunct instructor’s life: if you want to stay financially solvent during the under-employed summer months, you have to work double- or sometimes triple-time during the academic year. As a result, full-time adjuncts teaching a more-than-fulltime courseload at several institutions–i.e. full-time adjuncts like me–typically reach Spring Semester feeling completely spent: there aren’t enough hours to do what we must, let alone what we’d wish.

This means I’ve been spending a lot of time this past week looking at my favorite failing tree, making the usual end-of-term resolutions to work both harder and smarter next year than it feels I’ve done this time around. It will be another week, at least, before I’m done with Spring Semester grading; it will be another week, at least, before I have the time, energy, and mental bandwidth to relax with a book and a lawn-chair under a sunny tree. In the meantime, I secretly wish someone would change my less-than-efficient mental bulbs, leaving me with a Bright Idea to light my way from Now to Then.

Although lawns and gardens are greening in the finally sunny aftermath of last week’s rainy nor’easter, the woods here in southwestern New Hampshire are still denuded and gray. In a few weeks, the first new beech leaves will unwrap from their scaly buds, but in the meantime, the only leaves that remain on Beech Hill are desiccated skeletons from last year.

Spring in New England is a time of feast or famine, a season for jumping out of the frying pan and into the fryer. Last week, days of incessant rain brought floods threatened and actual; today, my email inbox contains warnings about fire weather. How is it that woods that were as soggy as soaked sponges now pose a fire risk less than a week after the rain stopped? Apparently a drastic drop in humidity has sucked the moisture from last year’s leaves and leaf litter, leaving woods carpeted in kindling even as wood frogs quack from vernal pools and muddy trails make dog-walking particularly problematic.

It would be nice, I think, to enjoy a week or more without the threat of natural disaster: why must we go directly from tales of Noachian deluge to threats of woodland conflagration? To me, the dry leaves that cling to Beech Hill boughs are more than fuel for Mother Nature’s tinderbox; they are a worn and tattered reminder of future hopes. The leaves that were so tender last May are now dead and dried to a crisp; they’re all we have to cling to while we wait for this year’s crop of fresh, furred, and newly chlorophyll-filled greenies to unfurl from dead-looking twigs.

They say that hope springs eternal, and so too does spring. Less than a week since I’d given up hope that the days would lengthen and grow warm, I’m barefoot and in short-sleeves, wearing cropped pants on an 80-degree day. Is this, I try to remember, how past springs have sprung, going almost instantaneously from winter to summer with nary a pause in between? Spring’s a thing, I think, that typically hits me by surprise, arriving right at the point each Spring Semester when I’m the most distracted by work, and the most wanting to be distracted by anything-but.

On Thursday, my afternoon Expository Writing students barely had to beg to convince me to hold class outside. I more than any of them, I think, was loathe to teach inside a windowless basement classroom on a day when everyone else, it seemed, was outside sunning, tossing frisbees, and otherwise lounging on the campus quad. In a region where school is occasionally closed because of inclement weather, why not cancel classes when the weather’s simply too good to stay inside?

I don’t, alas, have the authority to call a campus-wide Sun Day, but I can cling to the hope that the sun and spring are here to stay while the school year’s days are numbered.

On Thursday afternoon, the rain stopped and the sun shone in Keene, NH…and ever since, New England has been basking in the closest thing to spring that happens ’round these parts. During a sunny, sandals-and-capris stroll at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick, MA with Leslee yesterday, we spotted three sunning garter snakes, one of which obligingly posed for photos.

Less outgoing were a dozen or more clumps of skunk cabbage which, although stationary, insisted on facing the opposite direction with their shy, nubbly spadices hooded in purple-streaked spathes. Since skunkies prefer wet, squishy places, I wasn’t game enough to wade off-boardwalk to get a proper close-up, so this zoomed shot will have to suffice.

Before Leslee arrived for our Broadmoor stroll, I sat watching a newly arrived flock of tree swallows checking out a handful of inviting nestboxes. Also shopping for real estate was a bluebird of happiness.

Meanwhile back in Keene, even domestic felines are getting in touch with their Inner Wildcat, like this tiger tabby who was spotted stalking the wild-walking Reggie.

    Check out Leslee’s shot of a pile of painted turtles we spotted at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s a jungle out there, people.

Nothing says “country” like a fella taking his draft horses for a walk. This photo, snapped at last month’s Sap-Gathering Contest at Stonewall Farm, is my submission for today’s Photo Friday theme, The Country.

Just as I did last October, this morning I went dog-walking toward Beaver Brook Falls just to make sure the brook was behaving herself and not breaching her banks.

Even at the height of a dry summer, Beaver Brook wends dangerously close to the now-abandoned highway that skirts its banks. When swollen with a weekend’s worth of rain, this otherwise tranquil tributary becomes the Beaver That Roars, sloshing beyond her usual boundaries and spilling into wooded shallows. Usually, you have to walk about a half mile to the modest waterfall that gives Beaver Brook Falls its name…but when the brook is swollen with rain or snowmelt, the gorge that hems her sprouts several side falls that channel run-off from surrounding woods: water on the fast-track down, down, down.

Because of the microclimate fostered by the stone-choked gorge that shades and shelters Beaver Brook, there are still patches of snow on the road alongside her, and the spring freshets that fringe her are hooded with ice. It’s a picturesque scene if you don’t live within Beaver Brook’s floodplain or if you’re a dog-walker with nowhere to go. Now that the road to the falls is closed to cars, you needn’t worry that a swollen stream, eroded bank, or buckled pavement might keep you from your official destination: if you’re walking along Beaver Brook, you have no destination, the walk itself being ample reward.

Even more than a year after the flood that soaked Keene and scoured away several surrounding towns, I feel unsettled whenever it rains more than a day here in New Hampshire: the sound of day-long drizzle still sounds like disaster to me. This time around, Keene has been spared damaging floods while other parts of the state are drenched and drowning. On a day when downpour has been downgraded to an almost-invisible, spitting mist, it felt calming to visit a place where water is moving down, down, and outta here, wending its way downstream to some Nowhere that can capably contain it.

If you live in the nor’easter-buffeted Northeast–or if you’ve seen news reports of the storm that’s been drenching us here in New England these past few days–you know what this picture shows: a nor’easter breather, a spot of blue-skied tranquility in the midst of several days of constant precipitation.

It was raining when I shot the above photo. In fact, about 95% of the sky was overcast and spitting rain, rain, RAIN when I saw an odd glint of light angling through my living room blinds. “Is that sunshine?” I asked myself audibly and incredulously. Never mind the risk of taking my digital camera outside in the midst of a several-day rainstorm; never mind the risk of pointing my camera lens straight up into the drizzle. Hell be damned, I was going to record this momentary spot of hope in the midst of weather alerts and flood watches. Yes, we’ve had the blues here in New England since Friday–yes, we’re forecast to have rain, snow showers, and wind through Thursday. But for a brief few moments around 11 am this morning, The Blues magically transformed into The Sky Blues: a moment’s respite that was gone almost as soon as it arrived.

Even Mother Nature, it seems, gets tired sometimes, growing weary at the sound of her own incessantly drip-droppy voice. Even a weekend-long monster nor’easter occasionally needs to take a breather, giving the drizzle-drenched folks below a reminder of the blue skies that span beyond.

This is what my walking commute to campus looked like yesterday: gray and sleety. At least when it snows in April, the result is photogenic. Both yesterday and today, on the other hand, have been dull, dull, dull, with a sludgy, sloppy mix of intermittent sleet and snow providing a yucky and alarmingly unseasonal backdrop. As I sit here at my desk, this is the cheery April scene I see on my calendar: will we ever see the likes of that again?

This is what my walking commute home looked like last night: a handful of poor souls doing laundry while the rest of the world slogged through the slippery slop. It’s difficult to get excited about much of anything when the skies are spitting and everything’s slushy. Today I’m the one doing laundry while playing another round of Perpetual Grading Catchup: what else are you going to do when the world outside is one big mess of Yuck?

Yesterday’s only aesthetic Bright Spot–and believe me, I use that term loosely–was this: a zoomed shot of the sugar-sprinkled hills that circle town. Had I the time and courage yesterday to grab the dog and some good raingear, I could have taken a sunset walk through pine trees rimed with white…but there was no sunset on a day without sun, and the prospect of returning with a slush-spattered dog kept me home. Last night, I spent some Quality Bonding Time with my couch while the skies continued to spit slush on my windows. Is it any wonder that these days in New England, almost everyone has The Blues?

    This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, The Blues. If you think I’m the only one bummed by this week’s unseasonal weather, check out Leslee’s report from Massachusetts. You know spring’s a dud when you’re forced to post pretty photos from last year.

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