February 2010


A sight no one wants to see

As much as I would have liked to see the U.S. men’s hockey team win Olympic gold in Vancouver today, I was happy to see Patrice Bergeron receive his gold medal as a member of Team Canada a little more than a year after a hit left him lifeless on the ice before stunned fans at a game between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes in December, 2008.

Racing and reaching

Hockey is a rough and sometimes brutal sport, so you don’t reach the Olympic level without taking your share of bumps and bruises. After lying motionless after that 2008 hit, Bergeron left the game with help of several of his teammates; today, just over a year later, Bergeron skated off another sheet of ice triumphant and golden, metaphorically buoyed by a team of his countrymen.

I would have loved to have seen Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and other members of Team U.S.A. win gold in today’s game, but it was quiet consolation to know how hard all members of both teams have worked to get their chance at gold. Every athlete knows you win some and you lose some, and hockey players in particular know any game can leave you face-flat on the ice. Second-place silver isn’t as precious as champion gold, but any day that ends with a medal is still pretty sweet.

Beaded snowmelt

It feels like we’ve experienced every conceivable kind of precipitation in New Hampshire and Massachusetts this week, and plenty of it. On Tuesday, the snow flurries in New Hampshire pelted like scatter-shot; on Wednesday, I used a snow-shovel to scoop a dense, sticky snow better measured by weight than by height. On Thursday, it drizzled all day in New Hampshire, and I drove to Massachusetts on Thursday night through a torrential downpour. It feels like we’ve experienced several distinct seasons in New England this week, all of them wet.

First snowdrops

There’s nothing particularly natural about snowdrops blooming during this week’s February thaw. Snowdrops aren’t native to New England, but they are a popular perennial in yards and gardens, given the jolt of hope they provide after another long winter. This year’s winter hasn’t been particularly natural, or normal: we’ve had relatively little snow, and these snowdrops are blooming a full two weeks ahead of last year. It just doesn’t seem right to have so little snow-cover and blooming snow-drops in February, an unsettling reminder that global climate change causes all sorts of unpredictable weirdness.

Budding snowdrops

Year after year, snowdrops obediently bloom where they are planted: J and I aren’t gardeners, but every year we enjoy the perennials planted by our house’s previous inhabitants. Perennials are a bit spooky that way: their cellular memory easily outlasts the lives (or at least the addresses) of the folks who plant them, and their annual appearance serves as a reminder of time’s brevity. As much as we long for spring flowers in the depths of winter, when snowdrops appear, there’s always a sense of untimely surprise: you, already?

There’s nothing particularly natural about non-native, ornamental flowers blooming exactly where they were planted along the edge of a neighbor’s walled yard, but there’s something intrinsically natural about perennial tenacity. I once attended a housewarming party where the hosts asked their guests to bring any sort of flower bulb which they collected, mixed, and planted at random throughout their yard and garden: a sort of spring surprise. What kind of world do we live in where housewarmings never end, the ghosts of guests returning every year via the bursting bulbs they left behind?

Snowdrops aren’t native to New England, and neither are most New Englanders. Long after you and I have moved on to the grave or other climes, these tough, tenacious flowers will continue to bloom, naturally.

This is my belated contribution to this week’s Photo Friday theme, Nature.

Snow, slats, and shadows

We’ve reached that point of the semester when keeping up with work feels a bit like trotting on a treadmill running several steps faster than my usual stride. I’ve given up hope of catching up, so all I hope for is not to fall too far behind.

Courthouse with snow

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just a busy one. Yesterday morning, after Tuesday night’s snow, I shoveled my driveway when I’d normally meditate, replacing one sort of repetitive, mindless activity for another. It felt good to be moving, and it felt good to see my car and driveway emerge from a half-foot of fresh snow, one shovelful at a time. Now that I’ve settled into the stride of yet another busy semester, the repetitive tasks of paper-reading and class prep are almost soothing as snow-shoveling in their monotony: just like this, each week greets the next, and no sooner do I dig out from one to-do list than I find myself facing another.

Winter Street in winter

There’s a certain, albeit circular, sense of accomplishment that comes when you surrender to the task at hand, no matter how boring. Shoveling snow, walking the dog, grading papers: none of these tasks is particularly interesting, but each is essential. No sooner do you cross off one of these tasks Today, you have to do it Tomorrow. But when you come inside after shoveling the driveway, walking the dog, or teaching another full day of classes, you have a sense of contentment knowing you did what needed to be done, and now it’s time to relax. Coming home from a full day’s teaching, or a good long dog-walk, or another stint of snow-shoveling feels like a good kind of tired, like when a basketball team gives every ounce of energy on the court and then walks off to the showers knowing they left it all on the court. It doesn’t matter if you won or lost, and it doesn’t matter if tomorrow you have to play the same damn game all over again. What matters is that for whatever span of time you ran on your own metaphorical treadmill, you gave all your attention and energy to every blessed step.

Feather on frozen sidewalk

Although I don’t typically enjoy walking on frozen sidewalks, I never would have spotted this fallen feather had I not been watching my (icy) step.

This is my day-late contribution to this week’s Photo Friday theme, Lightness.

Ashuelot River ice

I walked Reggie along the Ashuelot River early this morning, figuring we’d spend the rest of my usual grading day at home hunkered down against the predicted snow. Instead, the predicted snow never showed up, this morning’s flurry of dandruff-flakes leaving nothing to shovel or even sweep: a tease of a snowstorm that swerved south.

February sunset

Because, perhaps, my Thursday night commutes to Massachusetts happen in the dark, on Monday afternoons I’m eager to arrive back in New Hampshire while it’s still light: a chance to get settled into my workweek apartment before darkness falls.

Sunset clouds

Today, I left Massachusetts later than usual, so I had to chase the sunset all the way back to New Hampshire, the sinking sun and a single sun dog blinding me with their double-barreled glare. Sun dogs, I decided, look like a sliver of rainbow; I wish my car had its own camera so I could have photographed the low-leaning sun with its polychromatic twin. Instead, I shot these photos of twilight clouds after arriving in Keene and stopping at the store for this week’s groceries, for woman cannot live on sunsets alone.

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