The Erstwhile Marches of Snow-Gauge Clif

Here we are in the middle of this long, long month, when most Mainers are heartily sick of March marching on. We had a nasty little storm on Saturday that prevented us from visiting our daughter and son-in-law. A March gift.

But, if you look at it the right way, we are making some kind of progress.

To illustrate this, I must start with the backyard rather than the front. Last week there were 15 inches of snow. This week, 7 inches at its deepest with the snow gone from the edges of the yard.

Now to the front yard, which still has 15 inches of snow, same as last week.

Why the difference? The pictures provide the clue. They were taken within five minutes of each other, and the contrast between the two couldn’t be greater. The backyard actually gets some sun. Hence the melting snow. The front yard? Not so much, and in the spring, I swear our front yard is the last place on our road to have the snow completely melt.

The pictures below are from erstwhile Marches. I thought readers might enjoy seeing how much snow we had in mid-March for the past four years. The last picture, taken in 2018, reflects the usual amount of snow we once had in central Maine in mid-March.

As the pictures indicate, the trend has definitely been for less snow and earlier springs. And Snow-Gauge Clif, with his trusty red yard stick, will continue to measure the melting snow to see if the trend continues.

March 15, 2021

March 13, 2020

March 15, 2019

March 19, 2018

Friday Favorites: Of Bluebirds & Bluegrass

This week birds, birds, birds are making me oh so happy. A male cardinal sings his spring song in a bush right outside my window, and when I look out, I often catch a flash of red. I wish I could get a picture of Mr. Cardinal, but he’s very wary and flies away every time I go to the window for a closer look. Certainly can’t blame a bird for being wary.

Even more exciting are the bluebirds, which for the first time ever  have come into our yard. Generally, they like fields and open spaces and don’t usually hang around in the winter. However, for reasons known only to them, the bluebirds have decided to stay in Maine during the cold season. To my delight, they have discovered the feeders in our yard at the edge of the forest.

Our dining room has big windows that look out over the backyard, and from the dining room I have been able to get reasonably good pictures of the blue beauties. (I knew they would fly away if I went outside.) A male is on the left, and a female is on the right.

Unfortunately, they aren’t very nice to each other some of the time. In the picture below I caught the male giving the female a look that clearly says “back off.” (I guess we’re still a few months away from mating season when a male bluebird probably wouldn’t be so cavalier.) And although I didn’t get a picture of it, I saw the female bluebirds doing the same thing to the males. It’s a rough and tumble world out there for birds.

Nevertheless, after living here for thirty-eight years, I am thrilled to finally see these lovely bluebirds in my backyard.

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Nifty Posts from a Few of the Lovely Blogs I follow

To carry on with the bird theme:

Julie of From My Window featured fabulous close-ups of a male cardinal. Oh, I am envious.

All the way from South Africa—courtesy of Anne of Something Over Tea—comes this photo of the dignified streaky-headed seedeater.

On Change is Hard, it’s bird central at Kensington.

Coincidentally, Tootlepedel’s recent post is called “Birds, Birds, Birds,” and it is chock-a-block full of those fluttering, flying beauties.

Bon Anniversaire (or Happy Birthday)!

From Touring My Backyard: Bon anniversaire to Ju-Lyn’s “Baker Fiend Younger Child.”

From Rabbit Patch Diary: Bon anniversaire to Michele’s mama.

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Now to music, but from humans rather than birds.

Along with alternative rock, I really like bluegrass. While it has its roots in traditional Irish, Scottish, and English music, bluegrass has its own sound, and to me it sounds American—peppy yet at times melancholy. Sad even, reflecting the full range of human emotions.

I recently came across the Del McCoury Band on—where else?—NPR Music Tiny Desk. Utterly charming, Del McCoury is bound to make you smile, both with his music and storytelling.

The Return of Snow-Gauge Clif

March 1 might be meteorological Spring in the northern hemisphere, but in Maine true Spring doesn’t  come until April. And it isn’t until May that Spring, in a froth of blossoms, really kicks up her heels.

Unfortunately, March in Maine begins in snow and ends in mud. March always feels like a kind of purgatory, an in-between time that seems to last more than its thirty-one days.

However, there are some bright spots in this miserable month. One of them is the return of Snow-Gauge Clif, who, with his trusty yardstick—or snow gauge as readers have dubbed it—makes his appearance the first Monday of March. Then each Monday, until the snow has gone away, Clif is out in the yard, measuring the ebbing snow. (When you live in Maine, north of north, such activities are wicked exciting as we Mainers would say.)

So drum roll, please! Here is Snow-Gauge Clif’s first 2022 appearance.

In the front yard the snow depth is 14 inches.

In the backyard, where the snow depth is also 14 inches. As you can see, Clif takes this noble job very seriously.

How long will it take for the snow to leave our yard? We always hope it will be gone by April 22, our youngest daughter’s birthday as well as Earth Day. But we shall see.

Let the melting begin!

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Favorites: March 4

I’ve decided to bring back Friday Favorites, where I highlight some of the things that have made me happy during the week—music, TV shows, movies, podcasts, food, nature. On the third Friday of the month, I’ll feature books I’ve read and tie in with Donna at Retirement Reflections, who is one of the hosts of the monthly “What’s on Your Bookshelf?”

Each Friday, I’ll provide a short list of nifty blog posts from some of my lovely blogging friends. Let me tell you, it’s not easy to winnow the list down to a few choices. So many good posts from blogging friends near and far. But never fear! I will get to everyone eventually.

In the comments section, if you are so moved, feel free to let me know what has made you happy this week. It doesn’t have to be anything grand or exciting. I’m especially fond of simple pleasures, and I always enjoy getting suggestions of what to read, watch, or notice.

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This week I watched—all right binged—the delightful sitcom Abbott Elementary, a mockumentary about a group of teachers and the challenges they face in an inner city school in Philadelphia. The humor is gentle rather than uproarious, and this a show with warmth and heart. The ensemble acting is fabulous, and each of the actors shines like a tiny jewel.  Abbot Elementary is an ABC show that’s also available on Hulu.

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Nifty Posts from a Few of the Lovely Blogs I follow

The Sydney Opera House aglow with Ukraine’s colors. Birds, gardens, kangeroos. Gerrie, of Canberra’s Green Spaces, features them all in a recent post. As always, this Mainer is agog over the beauty of Australia.

On the blog Now I’m Sixty-Four, Platypus Man takes us on a tour of the Burghley Sculpture Garden. Oh, be still my trembling heart. I have always loved sculpture gardens but had never articulated why. Platypus Man hits it right on the piton—as we Franco-Americans would say. He writes “In galleries and museums sculpture is contained, hemmed in by walls and ceilings, often difficult to fully appreciate. In sculpture gardens and parks however, sculpture sits comfortably within a spacious, natural environment, with room to breathe. And the sculptures and the landscape in which they sit enhance one another: the gardens and parks frame the sculptures, while the sculptures become visual anchors within their surroundings.” Yes, Indeed!

On Going Batty in Wales, there’s a recent post about the kindness and generosity of a blogging friend from far away. This line really struck me: “I never thought that writing about my simple life in this rural backwater would result in my having wonderful friends all over the world.” Same, same, same. And what a delight!

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This incredible performance of songs from the Broadway musical  Hadestown was recorded on NPR in the “Before Times,” as Stephen Thompson put it—just before Covid cracked down on the world. Wonderful, wonderful music, and the last chilling, thrilling song, “Why We Build the Wall” is especially relevant.

 

 

River of Change

Last Wednesday the weather was so warm for February in Maine that it broke records.

The driveway was filled with puddles and melting ice.

On that warm February day, Clif and I went on a rare outing where we got take-out from the Red Barn in Augusta, about ten miles from our town. Mostly we cook and eat at home, and our meals are vegetarian. However, while we will not eat mammals or birds, we do, from time to time, eat shrimp, clams, and scallops.

At the Red Barn, we ordered fries and the Barn’s delectable shrimp. Then we headed down the road to Hallowell, to the parking lot that overlooks the Kennebec River, which is neither wide nor mighty but is nonetheless dear to us.

As we ate, we watched the river. It was iced over, but because of recent rain and the warm weather, there was a skim of water on top. A strong wind blew the water this way and that, as though it were sand.

When we were done, we headed to another spot on the Kennebec, where there’s a turnout with a deck, and you can look down the river into Augusta, our state’s capital. In the distance, a little to the right, is the white dome of the capitol building.

The cropped picture reveals a small black smelt shack, also in the distance. If the thaw continues, the owner will have to remove it lest the shack be carried downriver.

On the deck are posters, in both French and English, that describe how important the Kennebec River was when goods were moved by boats and ships. Back in the day, rivers were superhighways. Because of  this, Hallowell was once a bustling community, and there are many fine old homes that are remnants of a more prosperous time.

But times change. Trains and trucks displaced river ships, cement displaced granite, and refrigerators displaced ice. The Kennebec is no longer a superhighway to and from the Atlantic Ocean. Deprived of a vital economy, Hallowell fell on hard times, and in the 1960s and 1970s, it was a dumpy, depressed place. The river, too, fell on hard times, becoming dark and dirty, polluted by the many factories lining the banks.

But all is not gloom and doom. Thanks to the Clean Water Act of 1972, wildlife now thrives on the river, and the Kennebec is a place of recreation and rejuvenation for humans. Artists and creative types, drawn by affordable homes, moved to Hallowell, and the once depressed town has become funky and vital.

The Kennebec River and Hallowell are object lessons in how change can be both good and bad. Sometimes change is out of our control, and we just have to cope with it as best we can.

But sometimes it’s not. And to borrow from the Serenity Prayer, it’s up to us to have the wisdom to know the difference.

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Nifty Posts from Some of the Lovely Blogs I Follow

Ju-Lyn, of Touring My Backyard, featured the fascinating bat flower.

Despite these turbulent times, small pleasures abound in this post from Thistles and Kiwis.

Tootlepedal’s blog always features fabulous photos, but in a recent post, with some help from his son-in-law, he outdid himself

In a timely post on Robby Robin’s Journey, Jane provides maps of Ukraine that really clarify the geography of the area.

Katie, of the Cozy Burrow, never fails to amaze with her beautiful creativity. Sew on, Katie!

On Retirement Reflections, Donna does her bit to spread peace with with three travelling copies of The Little Book of Inner Peace. What a wonderful idea!

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This is more than a little Christmasy, but I couldn’t resist sharing Aimee Mann’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s The River. The song is so lovely, and it fits beautifully with my own river post.

 

 

 

When World Events Dominate

Most of the time, the posts on this blog avoid the political, and world events are seldom mentioned. Instead, the focus is on life in the hinterlands of central Maine. I’m a homebody who seldom travels more than twenty miles from my town. I dwell in the particular, on the edge of a small forest where the wind moves through the tops of the pines and a snake sometimes suns itself on my patio and a bear once smashed flat our bird feeder.

However even in central Maine—far from the center of things—world events can dominate. With Russia invading Ukraine, now is such a time. If there is one thing the pandemic has taught me is that there is no “there.” What happens across the globe ripples outward, touching all countries, no matter how far apart they are. Once upon a time, what happened in a Neanderthal village might have stayed in a Neanderthal village. But those days are gone, and the United States is now inextricably linked to the rest of the world, from Africa to China to Russia to Europe. And as the twentieth century has illustrated, especially to Europe.

What will happen next with Russia, Ukraine, and the world? Naturally, no one can know. But Clif observed that while Afghanistan felt like Vietnam, Ukraine feels more like Poland. I hope this impression springs more from a sense of unease than from any kind of foresight. A world war with an authoritarian leader who has nuclear weapons is terrible to contemplate.

Amidst the gloom, there is a glimmer of hope. In the New York Times, I read, “Thousands of protesters took to the streets and squares of Russian cities on Thursday to protest President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine…Many Russians, like people across the world, were shocked to wake up and learn that Mr. Putin had ordered a full-scale assault against a country often referred to as a ‘brotherly nation.’ At the protests, many people said they felt depressed and broken by the news of Russian military action.”

But this is just a glimmer. Unfortunately, as we have seen in our own country, tribalism and nationalism are always lurking, and authoritarian leaders know how to whip up a frenzy for conflict and war.

Frank Bruni, also in the New York Times, gives this sobering assessment of Putin and Ukraine: “Embarrassment, vanity, viciousness: History never moves on or gets past these forces, which drove invasions and conquests in centuries past and will drive invasions and conquests in years to come. There should be no great shock about Russia’s audacious attack on Ukraine — only profound sadness and painstaking thought about what to do and what’s to come.”

When I shared Bruni’s quotation on Facebook, I got some pushback from a friend who wrote “As long as most people say war and destruction are inevitable, just part of life, it will be.”

I sympathize with that sentiment. How nice it would be to say war and destruction are not inevitable, and then have no more war.

If only it were that easy.

Christmas in February

After going through two years of pandemic quiet, we recorded last weekend in the excitement column in the Ledger of Life. (Thanks to Tootlepedal for introducing me to this term.) The cause of the excitement? At long last, our daughter Shannon and our son-in-law Mike came for a visit.

With them they brought the inimitable Holly

and sweet Somara.

The title of this post gives a clue as to how we celebrated this weekend. The Christmas tree behind Holly in the first picture is also a clue.

For various reasons, Shannon and Mike were unable to join us in December to celebrate Christmas. But because we knew they would eventually make it to Maine, we decided to keep the tree up until they did come, which happened to be last weekend.

We had a jolly time of gift giving and conversation. We played Christmas music, and outside there was a soft sprinkle of falling snow. Although it was February, it felt like Christmas.

After presents, we introduced Shannon and Mike to the board game Horrified, which they both liked very much.

On Sunday, Shannon, Mike, and the dogs left Maine to head home, and we bid them a sad farewell.

On Monday, we got up at God-awful o’clock—3:45 a.m.—to bring our eldest daughter Dee to Portland to take a bus back to New York, where she has various things to take care of.

Now it’s just Clif and me, and, yes, it’s more than a little lonely.  Yet I can’t help but think how grand it is that we so enjoy being with our kids. Both Clif and I feel that there is no better company than Dee, Shannon, and Mike. We are lucky parents, that’s for sure.

When we returned from Portland, we each took a little nap. Getting up at 3:45 certainly isn’t our thing. Then, down came the tree.

The living room is now back to normal.

As soon as her business is taken care of, Dee plans to return to Maine for a while, and in March, we will to go to Massachusetts to visit Shannon, Mike, and the dogs.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to play a game we bought Shannon for Christmas—The Big Book of Madness, recommended by Carol Ann on her fabulous blog Fashioned for Joy.

More good things to record in the Ledger of Life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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