Friday, February 05, 2016

the warmth of February

This isn't really a warm month here. We can expect a blast of Arctic air still (Tuesday!). Maybe a storm will pass this way again -- we've not skied enough this year!

And yet, when the sun comes out and when we climb toward the freezing point, my mind shifts. We are no longer in the thick of winter. We're heading out! Onward, toward the next three seasons -- the warmer ones, where Ed and I spend many hours working outdoors.

At least that's my thought process.

It's not a day of great contemplation or much Ocean text. Yes, there was breakfast.


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And yes, there were the long shadows on the patches of icy snow that affirmed the sunniness of the the morning hours. But I was in a bit of a rush. Shopping for groceries was slightly at a higher level of care as I have a bigger meal to prepare this weekend. Too, Snowdrop was with us at the farmhouse until her bedtime and so my attention shifted immediately from restocking the fridge to looking after (chasing after?) the little one.

Yes, a book about penguins, Snowdrop! Many many penguins!


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All that running makes a girl thirsty!


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It's warm enough for us to go out for a walk and I head with her toward the cafe again. I'm afraid I'd rather fallen in love with this winter destination. Yes, Snowdrop likes a crumb of the treat I pick up for Ed, but here she demonstrates that her true love is not for a sugared morsel, but for the children of this world. Once she spotted the boy, she could not take her eyes off of him.


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Eventually she nibbled on a blackberry and smiled at anyone who sent a smile her way.


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In the evening, at the farmhouse, I gave her bangs a trim. After, she studied the (wooden) passengers and suitcases boarding a plane. Snowdrop has some trips ahead of her this spring and I thought this might be one way of introducing her to the idea of airplanes.


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As I gave her a light supper of baked potato (with parmiggiano reggiano!) and cooked carrots and strawberries (she loves all three), I thought about how much she has leaped beyond her baby meals. Is there any adult food that the girl has not tried and liked?


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The little one returns home and I have to admit -- I'm as ready for bedtime as she is. I used to laugh at my grandma for going to sleep soon after sunset. Go ahead, Snowdrop: your turn to laugh!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

thinking about a rainy day

The skies are a glorious cornflower blue... 


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... and so it's ironic that I begin the day with musings about rainy days. Of a type.

It's different in Poland, I say to Ed.

This phrase comes up repeatedly in my conversations with him and it does again over breakfast this morning (a meal in the sun room!).


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How so?
Well, take the village where my grandparents lived. So there was a neighbor across the road. She took in kids during the summer months. She had a daughter. Well, of course, she's long gone.

Who, the daughter?
No, the woman across the road. We knew her well, because we spent all our summers there.
You knew the daughter?
No, actually the granddaughter, who was from the city of Lodz. 
She wasn't from the village?
No, neither was her mother.

So who lived across the road?
Well, the mother's mother, but that's not the point. The point is that the daughter moved to the village when her mother died.
The one whom you knew? From Lodz?
We didn't know her really, but we knew her daughter, who, by the way, herself has a daughter. Who lives in Sweden.
I'm confused! Who lives in Sweden?
The daughter's daughter and her daughter. Why is this so hard??? 

By now, we're laughing so much that tears stream down the face.
A few sips of coffee, a wipe of an eye, I continue.
Should I use names? Maybe it'll be easier if I use names.
I can't remember Polish names!
Alright, let's start again. The grandma in the village dies, the retired daughter moves to the village house, she has a stroke.
She goes to Sweden, right?
Wrong. She stays in Poland, near the village and is well cared for in the regional facility there. The point is it's still part of the social contract: elder care is not the huge financial drain that it can be in this country.
(At least not at this stage of the game.)

It is, of course, a matter of agreement with those who govern: what do you expect to have at various stages of the life cycle? Here, in the States, I think most would like to believe in opportunity. But as you get older and as your chance at opportunity diminishes, you realize that if you've been prudent, you've spent your life saving for your kids' college and once that's done with (and assuming calamity doesn't strike), you have to start worrying about retirement and, too, about long term care -- should you be so unlucky as to need it.

In other words, I am struck by how financially draining are those stages of life (your kids' college, your long term care) that actually have very little to do with your own daily tasks in the healthier years of your life. In a sense, the prudent person, unless she or he is wealthy, should always save (in a volatile market no less!) for the rain rather than for the sunshine.

By choosing to travel as much as I do, I am, no matter what my other frugalities, only somewhat prudent. Perhaps I am still just a tad used to the old Polish way, where you never expected things to go especially right or especially wrong -- you just took one day at a time and did the best you could with that day. So, as I say to Ed this morning -- it's different here. Americans should never quit worrying about the future.   

Sometimes it's good to be an immigrant -- you leave your old country, but never fully. You buy into the new way of life, but you don't forget your lessons. But though you live under the weight of the past, you also carry the hope and the belief in a good future.




And speaking of future, I should now turn to my day with Snowdrop.

Hi, grandma!


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She plays with oranges while I make tea.


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She doesn't exactly turn quiet just because I want to sit with my cup...


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... still, there are moments when I can just hang back and watch.
(Hmmm, does she need another haircut?)


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(Maybe.)


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You have to wonder -- when does worry start, for the average, healthy kid, coming from a stable home? Not too soon, I hope. Not too soon.


Afternoon. You know you've been housebound too long when you take many minutes to ponder over whether your grandchild has a gene that allows the tongue to roll (I know, I know -- it's genes and the environment, like so many things in life, but the fact is -- I cannot do it, I could never do it and I know I'll go to my grave not being able to do it).


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It's not exactly cornflower blue out there anymore and there is even the occasional flake (it's just below freezing), but it's good enough for us! We walk to the lesser lake.


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(I ask her -- where's the lake, Snowdrop? She laughs and points to me. Do one year olds know how to joke?)


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On the return, I am tempted again by the coffee shop we pass. She is too, I can tell! I buy a macchiato and a cookie. The cookie is really for Ed, but she is given a crumb (unfortunately for Snowdrop, I'm not the grandma who is likely to spoil her with lots of sweet treats).


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Though honestly, she loves the smiling faces around her as much (more?) as the cookie. Not to say that she doesn't like the cookie!


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She lets me know that she had a really good time. She is a girl who does not hide her excitement in life.


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And that's just such a good thing. Excitement about a cookie, about a smile in the cafe. Whoa -- such a very good thing.


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Wednesday slush

Well, it slushed during the night, it slushed during the morning commute -- what kind of a winter storm is it that brings with it the slop but not the glory of a beautiful landscape?

I ask Ed to please release the cheepers. I want to stay cocooned in the dry warmth of the farmhouse as long as I can.

At least through breakfast (which is a tad hurried, because it's Wednesday -- an early Snowdrop day for me). I'm not going to get a grin out of you today, am I? Hey, I don't mind dealing with stubborn photographic subjects!


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As I step out and get ready to wipe the wet snow off the car, I do have to say that even in this most unpretty winter wetness, there are scenes of loveliness. You have to really look for it, but they're there.


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Snowdrop sleeps in this morning. I'm not surprised. The girl has figured out that with a bit of a stretch, she can turn the light on and off from her crib. Like a teenager, she sneaks in additional play minutes when the world thinks her to be in dreamland. Because she is, on balance, such an excellent sleeper, we can but smile in amusement at her foray into a more adult control of her environment. Somehow she gets the rest she needs. That's all that matters for now.

And reliably, she wakes up with the biggest smile.

Hey, let's get you out of your pj's and into the tub! There's pumpkin and banana on your face!


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Initially, I think that since I am wearing a warm sweater, she should do the same.


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But I quickly realize that the girl no longer just walks, she positively sprints from one corner of the house to the next. In other words, she's warm, even without the sweater vest.


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I listen to the sound of shovels outside. I suppose slush deserves to be moved as well, especially if we're going to return to our freezing temperatures by evening.

What a curious winter this is! Fewer Arctic blasts, fewer great snowfalls -- a winter of nonevents.

Never mind. Ed and I have a fantastic flower project in mind come spring. And in case you don't remember, that's the season that's next in line.

I'll leave you with a photo that picks up on the theme of ignoring that, which you cannot control:


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And if you do succeed in putting your focus elsewhere, you're bound to have a fine old day. No matter what the weather or the level of cat indifference.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Tuesday storms

When you retire and you live in the country, your attitude about winter storms changes considerably. A big snow is an adventure. So long as the furnace keeps churning out heat and the lights don't flicker, you throw an extra blanket down on the couch (for show as much as anything), cook up a pot of soup and watch the snowflakes fall.

Unless you're the babysitter for your granddaughter. Back comes the worry: will the roads be clear when I set out? When the young parents set out? Will I get home if they don't plow the rural road we live on right away?

And still, there is a slow motion to it. You are in control of your own time, after all. You can pace yourself. The element of wonder is not diminished.

And so when I wake up to see that the snow, predicted and yet unpredictable (no one can agree if there will be an inch or a foot of the new stuff by day's end), hadn't yet started, I feel just a touch of disappointment.

Never mind. I move the day forward. Breakfast. Just a touch hurried, because I luxuriate in the perfection of the morning too long (the orderly farmhouse, the warm shower, the coffee aromas -- these can't be rushed, until it's so late that they do have to be rushed). Look cheerful! I haven't time for anything else!


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And then to Snowdrop's home.

Were I to pull out just a few favorite episodes from my time with her, surely I would have to say that this was the morning for peeking out...


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... and hiding. Only to be found.


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... which makes her laugh and laugh.


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I'd also include what I would call the more thoughtful, contemplative moments.


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... oftentimes with her stack of books.


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In the late afternoon, I wondered if I would be struggling to get home, what with the snow and the winds, but what snow came down, fizzled to something drearily reminiscent of slush. They say we'll get more of the white stuff tonight, but I'm no longer holding my breath. The storm came and went and at least in Madison, left very little in its wake.

I'll leave you with a photo that ought to sport the title: "if I gave you one of these, would you be my friend?"


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It's so cool to see that some will never give up trying to be nice.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Monday

Sometimes, on any given day, themes emerge -- both on Ocean and in the unfolding day. (Sometimes it takes Ocean writing to make me understand that all along there were hints of -- well, whatever the thematic element might be.)

Today, there was no ambiguity. I don't even have to spell it out, right? (Hint: it's positively golden!)

Here's my morning run to the cheepers:


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It used to be that letting the hens out a little after 7 would allow me to witness a sunrise. Not anymore.


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Breakfast -- in that room!


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Of course, there's never just one thread -- there are at least a handful. For instance, today is Monday. A regular Ocean reader would likely remember that this often leads to an uptick in Snowdrop photos, just because she spends the day at the farmhouse and does (photographable) things that are specific to her visit here -- always just a little different than what she might do at home.


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Too, there'll be a lot of Ed. He comes in and out of the farmhouse and, when he's in, she insists on a lift. In the next photo, she and I have just fed the cheepers chunks of bread. She hails a ride back to the house. (But do note that first theme as well!)


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Sometimes we'll be playing and she hears the door open.


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She has to investigate. And again she'll bum a ride. (Here, she caught him eating an orange. She gets a cut of a slice He complains that her pucker causes the juice to dribble. I laugh.)


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Ed'll fix himself a lunch -- we're low on leftovers and so he defaults to peanut butter and jam. She is interested! I ask -- are we sure that peanut butter is safe for a toddler? Web says yes, in small amounts. It's hard to tell here if she loves the pb&j, or just the j, or equally likely -- sharing a bite of something, anything, with the big guy.


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There are the usual vignettes too -- they could be here, they could come from her home, or even across the globe: the beg for a lift to see the world from way up high:


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The concentrated "reading" -- flap books rank high right now.


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The eating -- this time lunch. Beloved orange segments!


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Oh, but let me go back to the first theme, that theme, you know, the one that made such an impression on me, on anyone who loves February sunshine. (There, I've spelled it out for you.) You can almost touch it!


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Tantalizing when indoors, but of course, most evident outside. Here are two photos from our late afternoon walk, back in Snowdrop's neighborhood. Oh, that play of light on her face!


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And finally, our skyline, by the lesser lake. The water is frozen enough for ice fishermen to set up camp (not many women out there), but it surely looks like the few days of warmth have left their mark.


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I'll end with that. Tomorrow there may be storms, today, there was that gentle, beautiful February sunshine.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday

It is a quiet day. Wet and quiet -- we wake up to rain. Not the kind that washes away all remaining snow...


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...but the kind that forms water droplets on branches of trees.


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We eat breakfast in the kitchen, just because. The house is freshly cleaned it seems a happy place to settle in for a morning meal.


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The rest of the day? I'm at the kitchen table as well. The tulips keep me company. I read stuff on the computer about photography. (With a break for yoga. The tulips keep me company for that as well.)


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I haven't done that -- read about photography -- for a while and if you do not pay attention, the world of camera technology moves in bold new directions and leaves you behind. (I have always been a reluctant learner of new technology and so I give myself time today. Okay, with another pause for coffee and cookie treats, which, I suppose, is the counter pose to yoga.)


By dusk, I focus on preparing supper.

The young family comes and the farmhouse is quiet no more.


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What's for dinner, grandma?
Pasta with sun dried tomatoes, garlic and arugula. And parmiggiano reggiano.
Yum!!!!


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One last story for the night...


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...and the little girl goes home and I tidy up and get ready for the week that's before us.