In a humdrum

Listening to one spring peeper singing

This past weekend, J and I walked at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, where we heard a single spring peeper singing. It was a lonely sound, but if one peeper is singing by day, there must be many more singing after dark.

Whenever I hear even one spring peeper, I think of May Sarton’s Plant Dreaming Deep. When Sarton first moved to New Hampshire, someone told her the winters are interminable there, but just when she’d give up all hope of Spring ever coming, she’d hear spring peepers. Hearing the peepers is a sign Spring would eventually arrive.

Yesterday was the first day of astronomical spring, and although there is no snow on the ground, the mornings are still cold. I haven’t worn sandals yet this year, but I will, eventually. I might doubt the arrival of that day, but the spring peepers know.

Splat snow

How can I describe today’s weather, with a nor’easter bringing overnight rain that is currently changing to snow?

First, I’ll note that most of our storms this year have brought more rain than snow, causing some locals to coin the term “pour’easter” to describe a winter storm that is more wet than snowy. Today’s storm was forecast as a traditional nor’easter bringing high winds and more than a foot of snow to Western parts of the state, but here in eastern Massachusetts, we’re experiencing a storm that is half pour and half nor: a pour-nor’easter?

Second, it’s just before 2:00 pm, and I’m wearing my third pair of pants, socks, and gloves of the day, having changed out of wet clothes after walking the dog in the morning and with J midday. I’ll probably have to change clothes again after getting home from an afternoon errand, it being a cold and drenching kind of day.

Third, while cleaning wet, sludgy snow from my car in advance of that aforementioned afternoon errand, I quietly coined a new term to describe pour-nor’easter precipitation: splat snow, based on the sound it makes when you brush it off your car and it lands as a clumpy puddle on the pavement below.

Soccer ball in sludgy snow

It is March 4th–March forth!–so that is exactly what Roxy and I did, walking this morning at the usual time despite the wintry slop outside.

Last night’s storm left a few dense and sludgy inches on both cars, which I cleaned off this morning: the rain will rinse the first round of snow away before round two arrives again this afternoon.

The streets were empty of other walkers–everyone else chose to stay inside or delay their dog-walks for later–but one blessed house had already cleared their corner-lot sidewalks, which were wet rather than slushy. I admit: I feel infinitely more kindly to those neighbors than to the ones who didn’t shovel at all after the previous storm. Yes, your pedestrian neighbors notice and remember if you shovel a path to your front door but not the span of sidewalk passing in front of your house.

The plows were out, clearing slush and sending up an impressive spray of winter wet in their wake. Since this isn’t my first winter walking, I had the foresight to cross to the other side when I saw a plow coming, and then I watched them circle back down the same street to spray a wide arc of salt.

It’s the kind of day when most folks would stay inside, and from the inside looking out, today looks miserable. But it’s not a bad day once you’re outside in it.

Sunny stairwell

Today is bright and brilliant: the sun between storms. Most of the wintry mess from this week’s storm has melted, and the ground is muddy in sunny spots and covered with a thin film of snow in the shade.

Sidewalks that were shoveled are bare and sun-baked; sidewalks where the snow was trampled by intrepid dog-walkers are crunchy underfoot, with a mottled surface of hard-pack and ice. In some spots, there are thin patches of snow lingering in the shadows of nearby trees: watch your step.

Another storm arrives tonight, bringing an unpredictable mix of snow, sleet, and rain. It’s another spin of the weather wheel: where it stops, nobody knows. Whatever soggy mess arrives overnight into tomorrow, we’ll slog through the slop then clean up after. Snow-turned-sleet-turned rain never lasts long in March: the sun is growing too strong to be denied.

Japanese maple leaf on snow

Every year, making it to March feels like a major accomplishment. March marks the end of Another Interminable February, and although this month’s weather is notoriously fickle–in like a lion, out like whatever the Weather Gods choose to throw at us–at least March is the month with Spring Break as its sweet center.

Yesterday’s snow day was largely a bust. Not much snow arrived Monday night into yesterday morning, so I should have had little problem driving through slush and flurries to teach yesterday’s 8:30 am class.

But FSU canceled yesterday’s classes on Monday night, when the forecast called for significant snow and the campus grounds crew wanted both faculty and students out of the parking lots so they could plow in peace. So I happily spent yesterday sipping tea and cuddling under blankets with Roxy–her favorite snow day activity–while reading student drafts on my laptop.

This morning is sunny, as it often is the day after snowstorms, even if those storms deliver more slush and rain than snow. The forecast calls for clouds this afternoon, when I’ll be in my windowless office then hunkered in the bunker of my basement classroom like a hibernating creature quietly dreaming of Spring.


Roxy and I are back from our morning walk, and I just finished my weekly goals review, where I look back on the previous week and record which of my perennial goals I met and which I didn’t. (I’m doing well blogging and writing postcards; I’m lagging when it comes to reading books and getting 17,000 steps a day.)

I do this every Monday: this semester, I review my weekly goals in the morning before heading to Babson to teach my afternoon-into-evening classes. Today, because of the Presidents’ Day holiday, I’m not teaching on campus, so I’ll take Roxy on a second afternoon walk, play with Djaro in the dog-pen, prepare tomorrow’s classes, and grade papers.

For me, there isn’t much difference, work-wise, between a Monday holiday and a typical teaching day: the main difference is where I’m working and how many things I’m juggling while doing it.

Young reader with scarf

Today is sunny and cold, the inverse of yesterday, which was warm but gray. I check the weather app on my phone every morning to determine what coat I should wear when I walk Roxy, and sometimes the coat I wear in the morning is not the coat I wear in the afternoon.

Last night I dreamed about coats: or at least, one coat. J and I were going to an outdoor sports event–something major like the Super Bowl, but not the Super Bowl–with a nameless group of friends? Extended family? The specifics are fuzzy, but we were car-pooling to the game with this group, so we had to coordinate getting everyone ready.

For some reason, we had to dress up for this unspecified event, and someone had bought me a stylish long tweed coat: the kind of coat a fifties starlet would wear in a movie while tearfully saying goodbye to her secret lover at a train station.

The coat was pale brown, and it was determined by our faceless friends that the cream-colored infinity scarf my personal shopper had chosen to go with the coat definitely did not, so I was rummaging through closets trying to find either of two crushed chenille scarves I used to own–one olive green, the other chestnut brown–in the hope one of them would be a better choice.

After much delay in which I couldn’t find said scarves, we determined online that a store in a nearby mall had a wide selection of scarves, so we tried to gather our entourage–which by now had wandered off, bundling on then off again their own outfits and accouterments–into our carpool convoy. I have no idea if we made it to the game on time.


Already we’re halfway through February, which feels miraculous given how the month normally drags. It’s been a gray day with intermittent drizzle, but no snow. Pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring Training, daffodil shoots are emerging in a neighbor’s garden, and the first snowdrops and crocuses of the year are already blooming from the bare ground.

This morning when I escorted Roxy to the dog-pen before her morning walk, we startled a nuthatch, downy woodpecker, and several chickadees. The neighborhood titmice and a lone Carolina wren were singing, and the scene felt like something out of Snow White, with birds fluttering and frolicking.

It almost feels like we don’t deserve the encouragement of an impending Spring given we haven’t had much of a winter. I tell myself that next year will make up for it, or next month.


Another Sunday morning, the end of another week. This is how we inch incrementally toward Spring, toward the end of the semester, toward the end of days. How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives, so choose carefully.

This morning I’ve already done my morning chores, already walked Roxy, already posted a comment (from my phone) to this month’s Facebook book group discussion. I try to touch frequently the things I value: yesterday I finally found a spare half hour to continue building the LEGO Space Shuttle J bought me in June, and every night, I try to read at least a little, even though I never have as much time as I’d like.

Right now, I’m writing these words, and later I’ll write a letter and perhaps some postcards. I don’t have a lot of time for any of these tasks, but I’m a firm believer in what I call tiny touches: better to check in briefly and frequently than only occasionally in longer bursts.

You get in shape by taking a short walk daily, not by running a marathon monthly. As much as I would love (deeply) to have a weekend writing getaway–just me, my books, and notebooks in a cozy, quiet inn somewhere–how I actually write is just like this: a daily half hour squeezed between daily chores. Slow and steady, ad infinitum.

I often remember a grad school colleague who finished her PhD by working on her dissertation one afternoon a week, during the time her mother could look after her kids. There are, I’m sure, people who have long, uninterrupted chunks of time to pursue their passions. I am not one of them.

Jimsonweed seedpod

This morning, instead of waking up with a song in my head, I awoke with a word: INCORRIGIBLE. This word appeared in my head with absolutely no context, as if someone had decided out of the blue to implant a random mantra in my mind. If a song you can’t get out of your ear is an earworm, is a random word burrowed in your brain a mindworm?

When I tried to think of any reason for “incorrigible,” I couldn’t come up with any. If I’d awoken with “inconceivable” in my head, I could blame The Princess Bride. If “unforgettable” were in mind, I could blame Nat King Cole. “Dirigible” might have appeared due to recent news stories about the Chinese spy balloon. But try as I might, I can’t think of any famous quotes, memes, or news stories involving “incorrigible.”

I did dream last night, but what I remember about those dreams is ragtag and fragmentary, with nothing shedding light on “incorrigible.”

In one dream, my brother and I were a “Scooby Doo”-style crime solving team searching for clues in an odd assortment of crimes. (I should note that in real life, I don’t have a brother.) In one caper, we were sharing a brownstone with random friends, and a group of bad guys broke through our kitchen window looking for guns. Naturally, we suspected a mysterious neighbor who parked his enormous SUV in his spacious kitchen.

In another dream, J and I were photographing a bombed-out building with posters on the doors that said “If you lived here, you’d be homeless by now.” The building had a standing frame, but the walls and windows had been blown out, and for some reason people were filling out raffle tickets for a multimillion dollar prize, slipping those tickets through the mailslot in the (intact) doors.

These dreams are curious enough, but none of them offer any clues into “incorrigible.”

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