Winter’s Spring Fling

Another blizzard bears down on the East Coast today.  It’s been the snowiest season on record in Billings Montana (99.2 inches), record breaking winter warmth has gripped Alaska, and we’ve had record cold days here in Washington, DC (where I write this, gazing out on winter’s last gasp??) 

The extremes of climate change, indeed.

Today’s snow has brought new characters to our backyard, and they appear a bit spooked by this blast of winter in spring.  

Like a Poe tale, a severed head seems to provide a backdrop.

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This is serious business.

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There’s even a waiting list

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And who should show up but the Red-bellied Woodpecker.

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Then again, who would blame any creature from seeking nourishment…

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…in the winter that still has us in its grip.

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Down Town Union City

I married a Southern lady from Union City, Tennessee, population 10,000.  

As a New Yorker by birth and blood, I had some prejudices to rise above.  My wife’s Southern charm, progressive outlook, and quick intelligence took me a long way.

Union City was named for being at the junction of two railroads–one running east-west, the other north-south.

Wikipedia notes that the town has two distinctions: it was the site of a “minor” Civil War Battle; and it “formerly had a Goodyear Tire plant.”

It’s still high on tires. 

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Visiting Union City is, for me, quite a trip.  And it starts with the town’s historical attachment to the Confederacy.  

This Civil War monument was erected in 1909.

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My grandson Andre and I walked to another monument, this one erected in 1869 and dedicated to “the unknown Confederate dead.”

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Let’s retreat to Union City’s old town center, where one brief block speaks for the city’s entire mercantile past.  

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Look a little closer, and you’ll see shadows of the past.

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And the more overt signs of decline…discard art.

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Lest I paint too bleak a picture, the trains still run through Union City.

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 Albeit in a faded state.

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I chanced upon this nurturing relationship.

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Union City’s grainery is still there for area farmers.  

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Never having come across a grainery in New York City, or its suburbs, it took on a kind of Hitchcock-ian beauty for me.

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Any trip to Union City should end with…the end.

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For my grandson Andre, the Union City cemetary was but a backdrop for vanquishing an imaginery foe. 

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Or being vanquished?

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Only to rise again, to make your own monument…not mired in the past, but

a child’s monument to imagination, and the ever present

present.

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Birds Do It!

In summer life is for the birds.  To live is to eat.

Walking around Victoria, BC is, as Ernest put it, A Moveable Feast.

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Winter in suburban Maryland is a different story.  For the birds and I, it’s a small, backyard world, compared to Vancouver Island’s bounteous banquet.

But small can be beautiful, and all eyes are on the feeder.

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For when winter hits, it good to have a place where everyone knows your name.

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It’s the Cardinal in Winter that makes the biggest splash.

Red, white, and perhaps a bit blue, about all that white.

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But fear not, there’s light at the end of winter’s tunnel

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Icy Plunge for the Planet

On a frigid Saturday morning in January, in the midst of another Polar Vortex, a hearty group of folks chose to take an icy dip in the Potomac River near Washington, DC.

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This was the Polar Plunge, the yearly fundraiser for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a local group working to fend off the extremes of climate change.

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 And for the first time they needed an ice breaker to create a place to plunge.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about climate change lately, what with “Mega-Drought Panic ” in California, weekly winter storms barreling through the U.S., President Obama’s upcoming Keystone oil pipeline decision, and the EPA trying to corral coal. 

And while the “moderate” Mid-Atlantic is dealing with withering cold snaps, the Arctic is confronting the unprecedented possibility of having ice-free summers by 2018.  Scientists worry that the resulting release of methane gases could lead to, as NASA researcher Charles Miller put it, “changes in climate that are simply not reversible in our lifetimes.”

This is what sent this scantily clad community of activists into the icy breach, backed by pledges of support by family and friends.

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Ice dancing for a change.

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A refreshing course of action.

And a reminder that the writing, if not on the wall, is on the retreating Arctic ice shelf.  A wake up call we best respond to.

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Porch Scenes

From a patio perch above a village street, I see the human parade.

Sometimes in repose…

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sometimes in synch.

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People stepping out…

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skipping past…

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or running by…(marathon man)…

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Moving ever forward…on skates

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boards…

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bikes…

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and scooters.

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Taking to town in cabs…

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jump-seats…

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and shoulders.

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Or just standing still…waiting to make a splash.

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To be continued…

A Kid’s Day Off

My 5 year-old grandson, Andre had a day off from Kindergarten.

     A day to experiment, delve and mix it up…

…that started with preparing a breakfast baked (hopefully) good.

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The Kid-Monk casts a cooking spell over the sugar cookie ingredients…

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…making sure none escape…

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the baking dish.

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Alas, the longed-for breakfast desert doesn’t quite measure up.

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Luckily when the cookie crumbles, the ice is nice.

For the second time in his young life, Andre took to the skating rink.

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And over the next hour, the boy and his Penguin performed their own brand of ice-capades…a joyous dance to letting go…

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…falling free…

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and getting back on the bird!

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Time to fly and to show ‘em what you got!

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Other kids may need lessons, but you can skate circles around them.

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No matter how awe-inspiring you may be on ice…keep it cool.

 

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Never let them see how tired you really are.

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Some day off, indeed!