Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fool, Again.

Weather report: clear and cool and robins. Hundred-hour days at work. Semi-major revision of the novel coming in a self-imposed six-week boot camp of sorts. Semester dragging to a close. Beginning to learn how to miss the seniors, even though they haven't graduated yet. Long rant today in class about Raymond Carver and Richard Ford and talent not being the (only) key to figuring out how in hell to do this, whatever this is. The impetus for said rant: this shockingly good essay.

I am deeply frustrated with my colleagues and my neighbors but tonight in here in this house in 27408 all weathers are good, are calm, are quiet. Little ice left in the glass and perhaps half a nightcap more before I'll turn in and stretch one foot across to AMR in some vestigial signal that says Yes we have had some hundred-hour days but here is my foot and I swear I will see you sometime next week or hell maybe even this weekend and incidentally I am fairly deeply glad to have you as my friend and also oh by the way what are you thinking about right now is it the robins because right now I am thinking about the robins and I was wondering if you were too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Smells Green.

The weather cleared, turned cold. Autumn cold. Except that instead of the smell of autumn we've got this pervasive green everywhere, sodden, new. Green. We are as green as we ever get, that new spring green all over everything, not the darker, set-in green of July. And I know what you're thinking about parallelism and how the smell of autumn and green aren't. Parallel, that is. Except ANYLF is here to report that, in fact, we smell green out here on the Piedmont. We smell like it rained four feet in two days and now everything everywhere is leafing out and leafing out again. If you've got a late holdout — a crepe myrtle, say — don't worry. That thing's fixing to be green, too. Cold day, cold wind, only a little heat in the sun, but underneath all of that was the clear and sure smell of solstice out there on the not-so-far-off horizon. Let's call it seven weeks or so. Let's say it was eight o'clock and still well light enough out to finish mulching in the impatiens along the front. Let's say that even though Blue-Tick-Beagle Paul came over during said mulching and spoke to me at great, great, great length about the dogs and also then about his wife's now-dead rich New York aunt and his now-dead brother the grifter and how his now-eighteen-year-old son who better straighten up and fly some other way than he's flying now or else he's gone by right darn pay some rent— let's say that even though I could not find any way to escape that conversation and considered, after a while, either breaking into tears or throwing myself beneath the next passing teen-driven jeep, still it was cool and clear, and still it was light out, and still it smelled green, and even as I knew what was coming was a cold, cold night for robins — 40 degrees or so — I just could not help but feel like things might perhaps still turn out somehow OK.

The azaleas stood back up, and so the robins are back to nesting at an angle that doesn't make me want to pull my own head off my body. I thought for a second this evening that I'd seen the third baby, but I'm not sure. ANYLF cannot confirm the third hatchling. Robins. I wake up in the middle of the night worrying for the robins. Last I saw her tonight, though, she was settled in, puffed out over the nest, ready for the cold. Ready for all this green everywhere. We warm back up later this week. Tomorrow, even. Smells like that out there, too, like it's chilly, but like it won't be for long.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Subprime Explanations.

The ANYLF rain gauge is reporting 2.6" for the last 48ish hours. Yesterday and today. We've had the interns all over the interwebs all evening trying to figure out if our rain gauge is magic or broken. But it rained and rained, a steady long overnight rain and then downpours off and on today. Got so dark with that last line of storms out in 27244 that the lights came on all over campus. I was explaining the subprime mortgage crisis (!) to my upper-level interdisciplinarians, and then I was explaining supply and demand in general, using a pig and my love of barbecue as an example (If you have a pig, but barbecue is readily available, I will only pay you $15 for your pig. But if there is suddenly a shortage of barbecue, I will pay you much, much more for your pig...) — I went an hour and ten minutes mainly without pause telling them about how if your house is supposed to be worth x but then suddenly it's worth x-6 and also your ARM has A'd such that your M is unaffordable, often enough you just let the bank foreclose. And then you have nothing, I said. You have zero dollars. And then it got dark and everyone wanted to look out the windows because they too had not in recent memory seen a 48-hour-period where we saw anything like this amount of rain.

Plus they want 38 degrees to go with all this on Wednesday night.

So all, all, all I can think about is the azalea robins, and how with all the rain the azalea is leaning over such that the nest is no longer pointing straight up, and they're exposed, exposed, and she had to sit the nest all night and day in 2.6" of rain, and I just want it to dry back out so that the azalea might lean back up and offer her some kind of cover from if not the elements then at least whatever predators like to snack on exposed goddamn baby robins.

Life — like the kind that animates the planet — has seemed nothing if not so very difficult to me today. Not my life, like the papers I have to grade, or even the larger decisions I have to make about, oh, The Future. I mean Life, as in A Planet That Can Support Life. Life seems exceedingly difficult to sustain, exceedingly bizarre, exceedingly improbable. These birds — these babies — it is difficult enough to believe that they are alive in the first place, much less that they might have weathered all of this these last two days. But they have. The nest is leaning way the hell out and down into the yard, but everyone's hanging on.

My supply-and-demand example involved me personally slaughtering a pig for barbecue. I'm eating chicken for dinner. I can think of nothing, though, but these infant robins, these two or perhaps — we still cannot tell — three new lives outside our bedroom window.

Record rainfall, for ANYLF, anyway. We've gone into surplus for the year. AMR reports visual confirmation of babies in the downspout nest, too.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Brand New.

Cool and gray to start and then a long slow warmup all through the afternoon, and then once it started raining, it felt like we picked up ten degrees in about an hour. We've got a front stalled out right over the top of us, or near about, and a cold front riding in behind that, hinging off a low that's up in Virginia, and we've got another low hanging off the coast, and still another out there somewhere to our west. They want rain and more rain. And goddamn I want that too except that the robin nesting in the azalea out front hatched her babies today, or at least two of the three -- we do not yet have visual confirmation that the third finished making his/her way out of the egg -- and though I know robins have worked for, oh, plenty of decades learning how to get through babies hatching in the rain, the azalea is all leaning over, flowers heavy with all the water they're holding, and she's just out there trying to keep them dry, and every now and then when there's a break in the rain she flies off to get a worm or something, and they drag their necks off each other -- it's difficult to believe something that looks so unready for the world could possibly be ready for the world --and roll their heads around and finally get them pointed upwards and they open their mouths wide like some kind of funnel or a pocket and then what is called for, really, is just to stand at the window and work your way through the endless list of things you cannot, under any circumstance, do to help.

I replanted the front garden today. 200ish impatiens. I wanted to bring each and every worm I turned out over to the nest.

Pairs of robins everywhere today — and new activity at the downspout nest, too, so I've been wondering of today isn't something like North Carolina Piedmont Robin Hatching Day or somesuch holiday, and even though a good part of my head says that can't be, just like an azalea on the north side of the house won't bloom until several days after an east- or south-facing one, still I can't help but think that perhaps however many weeks ago some ancient internal switch went off in all our robins all over town and that was it; they all chose each other and then they all nested and then they all laid at the same time, and they all hatched today. It was odd: robins aren't unusual, but today— today they were all of them paired back up again.

Robins fledge in 12-14 days. To imagine these things flying in two weeks is all but impossible. Quarter-inch of rain at least. I haven't checked again recently. Two new robins at least. It got dark, so we still can't say about the third.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Summer Breeze.

It's not summer. It isn't. But it feels like we're on the threatening edge of one of those years where we never do get the long glorious spring— not that this spring hasn't been glorious, but it hasn't really been all that long, or consistent. We've not had the weeks in a row where the windows in the house are all thrown open. We do get those years down here on the Piedmont where we'll sort of slide along, and everything will bloom, and then it'll be 93 degrees on graduation day in late May, and that'll be it. We bake the rest of the way through summer.

Let me not though lodge complaints against a day like this, which opens cool in the shade and definitionally sunny and filled well up with our late azaleas and sees our two nesting pairs of robins still hanging on and all other manner of bird all over the yard and bluebirds moving into our bluebird house out back, which means I suppose that there are not tufted titmice in there after all but rather, on the doorstep, whatever passes as a FOR RENT sign in the animal kingdom. AMR: Why do bluebirds live in boxes? Why doesn't anything else? ANYLF: That is a deep and abiding mystery, and when you're old enough, my dear, I'll tell you all about it.

Bluebirds want "open country and farmland," Peterson says. Very happy to have the back yard classified as such.

Storms are in the forecast for the next few days. I like that. Brings an urgency to things like yard work. Makes not doing yard work — makes sitting out here on the WeatherDeck with the dog and having another and another cup of coffee — feel illicit.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Settle Down.

Sometimes I get all mad at everything and at the grand injustices of my job and at having to work with certain of my colleagues who behave in such a letters-hating manner as to make it terribly difficult to respect them or even to respect the institution and I get all wound up and decide I hate the world— and then I will remember that in essence I draw a paycheck to sit in these lawn chairs in 27244 and try to be one of the few left standing who's willing to admit to owning books, and occasionally even reading them, and I get to the place where maybe I might be able to settle back down a little bit.

The weather seems to have turned, for what it's worth. Mid-seventies and mid-level clouds and enough sun to want to sit in the shade and a little cool breeze and so basically what anybody else on any other day would call damn near perfect, and as soon as I do settle down — AMR keeps telling me that I have to stop being so damn eager to carry the flag into any skirmish, no matter what size — once I get my pulse rate back to whatever counts for normal for me, I'll be ready to say that it's damn near perfect out here, too.

Today is sundresses and lawn chairs and lunch outside and windows down and a grudging working-through of a backlog of tiny dumbass tasks tempered only by the fact that today is what it is.

Is it too much to say that sometimes weather can save us?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pretty Bad.

The sun finally broke through today at about fourish-thirty and everything got all shot through with yellow and green in all the ways all of the bad songs and poems say they do or did, depending on the era of your bad song or poem. Maybe there's no good way to say The sun broke through the clouds. The clouds parted. A glancing ray of sun snuck through the edges of the furrowed clouds and gave us hope that all prophesies might someday be fulfilled. There was a light in the darkness. There was a light in the considerable darkness. The sun shone on her arm like.

I have been reading some bad goddamned writing at school.

The sun came out. It was pretty. When the sun came out I was myself made happy by it.

And now, your local forecast: more sun, more pretty bad writing. But soon enough it will be May the whatevereth and ANYLF will receive a wee reprieve. Somebody get out the red marker and start Xing off some days, please. It is about time for something like that.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

All Weathers.

The weather's been so odd. Clouds, sun, clouds, sun. Wind. Warm and cool, both at the same time. Gray and sunny, also seemingly both at the same time. We're British. Or Pacific Northwestern. Or coastal anywhere. But this is not the kind of weather we up on the Piedmont are accustomed to. Forget about the fancies and the forecasts. We're changing weathers every half an hour or so. Pull up a chair and watch. Crack your windows. Open up your front doors.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Low Pressure.

Weird weather. A low came in from somewhere — easy guess is west or south — and gave us what amounted to an extremely docile blown-out low-level hurricane last night and today, which is to say, we had rain wrapping around itself and the signature blank center you get with landfalling storms in July and August. We keep adding rain to the total. I want for one of those crystalline spring days, but it's hard to cheer against rain. So. Here's to the big red L on all the weather maps on all the stations. We're meant to be unsettled tomorrow, too. Hang on, robins.

Phil, next door, on his cell phone, navy blue golf shirt tucked into his khakis, putting wiper blades on the Caddy: Well, if you have a Cadillac, you can't put just any blades on that baby. The person on the other end seemed to agree.

He's been so well-dressed since he bought that thing.

What else to say? There is not that much else to say. My favorite student asked me how I was today, and I said I wanted to quit my job. Then I changed my mind, and I told her I wanted to graduate. Then we sat in my lawn chairs and talked poetry until 6:30, gray hurricane clouds spinning by, blue sky opening up and closing back down, cool wind, warm wet air, green everything. Probably I don't get to complain.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

April Average.

There's a second robin. She's in the azalea out front of the house, underneath the bedroom window. When it rained today, she spread her wings out over the nest to keep everything dry.

After the storm, the air was so clean, so empty. Like coming home from the place with brand new eyeglasses. We're cooler. There's pollen running all in the gutters and curbs.

The first robin is as skittery as ever. Open the back door, she flies off into the disaster hedge between our house and La Vieja's. She waits for the all clear, comes back, gets herself settled back down. Then we go out the door again.

That storm took us up and over the average rainfall for the month. Everything we get after this gets aimed at our deficit for the year, gets aimed at whatever it is that happened to us starting in about August.

I pulled weeds off the herb garden after the rain. Mint, parsley, oregano, thyme, sage, chives, rosemary, another oregano. All of it wintered through. Our problem weeds: field bindweed and henbit. Three trashcans full. That's the measure of any good afternoon's work around here, though. I only have three trash cans.

It was Chianti jelly they were talking about, my brother and my sister-in-law. He was spreading Beaujolais jelly they'd made themselves, and he was telling her how they wanted $10 for a half-pint of Chianti jelly at the butcher's. What is this, he wanted to know, looking at the jar. A pint? It's a pint, she said.

There was henbit everywhere in Bloomington. In the fallow fields, it was taking over, blooming, purple, the flowers looking more like they were floating above the fields than like they were growing on the plants. Like a low, specific fog.

More rain forecast. More sun. More spring. When I tore all the grass out of the front yard and replanted with hosta and daylily and ivy and pachysandra, I thought it would be less work. Turns out it's just different work. There's henbit all over the place out there, too. Dandelions. Liriope. Tulips. Last year's miniature iris. Robins.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Toast Caddy.

Greensboro to Philadelphia to Indianapolis to Bloomington to Charlotte and soon enough on little old Flight 3804 back to Greensboro, a trip I think will probably take slightly longer terminal-to-terminal than the drive would. It's overcast and gusty here in the Queen City, and I presume it's overcast and gusty 80 miles north in 27408, too. Warm. Spring-warm.

It turns out a lot of people have children. Babies and toddlers, specifically. People with babies in all those cities at all those gates in all those airports and on each and every plane I rode. Also my brother has got himself a bouncy hungry baby boy.

It is a damn lot greener back here in NC than out and up there in IN.

Gray and chilly this morning in Bloomington, a thin half-hearted rain coming down. It seemed warm, though, if desperately tired, in my brother's house. They had the baby up on this oversize green pillow, had him on the table between them. They were eating breakfast. Bacon, toast, bananas and strawberries. The baby was quiet, mostly. Still, mostly. He'd been neither of those either of the nights I was up there— they say he's up every 90 minutes if they're lucky, every 45 if they're not. There's not a lot of sleeping going on in 47404. But the two of them looked— they looked good sitting their with their breakfast, with their baby. They looked OK. They didn't have any lights on. They had the Saturday radio on low. They had their toast standing on its ends in a little ceramic toast caddy. They were talking about the price of jelly and jam at the local butcher's. The baby cranked up some, and they looked at each other, and my brother got up, swaddled him back tightly down, got him to still himself. He sat back down. He started back in on his breakfast.

I felt pretty intensely like an intruder, but in a way that was comforting in ways I'll try some other time to explain. I just kept thinking I wanted to say my goodbyes and leave them to tend to their little family. I was sorry, in fact, to see her parents pull up to the curb as I was headed out. It seemed like maybe what they really could have used was one more hour in there with their coffee and their child before anybody else showed up. I don't know what else they could use. In a host of other ways, they probably needed her parents to pull up right then, my parents a half-hour later. They could use some kind of manual, probably. A schematic. They could use two consecutive hours of sleep. They could use somebody telling them something that they actually could believe. Maybe they could use a couple of flights with a couple of layovers. There's a lot of people with babies in here. I bet these people know six or eight things that would be of use.

My brother's dogs looked confused as all hell all weekend. I didn't have one thing I could tell either of them. Sometimes I took them outside and threw the ball a little. Sometimes I put my forehead on their foreheads. They seemed to like that well enough. I wanted really badly to be able to tell them what comes next. That is what I wanted to do. Instead I threw the ball.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Baby Pictures.

The weather here in 47404 is bright and sunny and warm: Yesterday and today, my brother the father says, were their first real spring days. It may even be a little muggy. Rain tonight. I'll take a little thunderstorm to go with my earthquake, please. If that thing could be felt here, by the by, I didn't feel it. But ANYLF is on the road, and we can't afford to take all the fancy equipment with us every time.

In other news, there is a lot of fancy equipment that accompanies baby. There is also a great deal of flash photography.

Y'all push your glasses back deeper on their shelves out there. Make sure all the cabinet doors are closed tight. Make sure you know where all the doorjambs are so you can stand under them if need be. Here's guessing these guys are busy today. Here's guessing they know where to stand.

It's nice to have experts in an emergency.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Search, Find.

ANYLF has the distinct pleasure of reporting live this morning from 19153, oddly en route to 47404. Why one must sail through the grand eastern megalopolis to find Indiana is not entirely beyond me — I have a basic and approximate understanding of going one place to get to another — but it's odd to be here, and to be here in this way, which, in an airport, is of course no kind of here at all. Sbarro. Au Bon Pain. The beeping carts carrying the arthritic and the otherwise wounded. CNN playing nearly audibly nearly everywhere. Carpet in that hushed terminal tone, in all the senses of that word.

For the entirety of the flight from there to here, the woman in seat 1A was furiously working her E-Z READ LARGE PRINT SEARCH & FIND #3 word search book. The cover urged her to collect all four, but it looked like she had her hands full with the first puzzle in the book: ________OLOGY: IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. Words to be found included ZOO and ORNITH. Seemed to me like if you found ZOO you'd have at a bare minimum one too many Os, but I'm no expert in the Search & Find field. Enough days it seems like I can't do either. I feel like I should also herein note that she was drawing lines through the words instead of circling them in long ovals, which felt like heresy, but during the course of our 55-minute flight I could not quite find the way to explain to her that she was doing it all wrong.

Crisp and cool here, and it looked from the plane like they're about two weeks behind our spring, but there were blooms in spots as we came in over clear-cut developments and coastal whatnots and shipping concerns. Bridges look really quite fragile from however many thousand feet. Some fields greening over. Some not. On takeoff out of PTI I could see the mountains out of the right-hand side of the plane, just over the top of the word search. I hate to fly. I love the view.

We did, I think, survive both the Tuesday freeze and the Wednesday frost in 27408. We didn't cover anything over last night — took our chances — but I left before sunrise this morning and it was already well into the forties, so I'm feeling fine about the big azaleas. It's supposed to be right at 70 in Bloomington, about which I'm feeling a little less fine: I'm headed in to hear my brother read for his MFA thesis at IU, and I'm headed in, too, by default, I guess, to see my parents and my sister-in-law's parents, both sets of which are in town to witness live and in the flesh the spanking-new 10-day-old grandchild. There's meant to be a cookout tomorrow night for all of us. Possible here to say that maybe all of us don't always get along so perfectly well. Hey, last-minute semi-trans-continental airplane ticket decision. Hey, deeply odd dinner party. Hey, kid my brother made.

Lots of younguns here in gate B-10. Lots of shrieking. Children love this gate, I guess. Somebody ought to buy them a sugared doughnut. Maybe a soda to go with that. Jackson. Jackson. Jackson! Put that down. Put that down. What did I say?

Jackson can move pretty well. They just brought him back from gate B-14, which is way the hell down past the Jet Rock Bar & Grill. Then they just now let him go, and he's headed out the other way, top speed, for other gates. Maybe to Cincinnati. Maybe to Bermuda. They keep paging the passengers for the flight to Bermuda. If I could figure out a way to get myself on that plane, I might even be willing to ride with Jackson. I wouldn't once ask him what I said. I'm pretty sure he'd have no idea in the world. That kid seems pretty busy with other things.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Freeze Warning.

Getting worse. New map. I still can't quite buy it. It's 52 degrees in 27408 at 9 pm. But here's what the NWS fancies out of Raleigh have to say:


Widespread hard freeze is nice writing. Somebody over there is paying a small amount of attention.

Advisory Capacity.

I'm not sure I believe it any longer: last night the clouds held on just long enough and it was still 43 on the WeatherDeck when I went to bed and so I took my chances and left the azaleas to fend for themselves. They did fine— our Frost Advisory got canceled sometime overnight, and the temps held on, and even though we've still got a Freeze Watch up for tonight, I'm not sure I believe it. It's 60 degrees. Feels like it might even yet warm up a little past that. Still: There's not a great deal of heat to the air, and you can tell it'll fall off good and hard once the sun goes down. Somebody's going to get a freeze out of this. Perhaps a frost. I'm just not quite entirely fully sure it's going to be us.

Nonetheless, ANYLF is happy to provide the following diagram so that you can figure out where you might live on the map, or if you live on the map, and then you may feel free to work a little bit on dialing your own level of horticultural panic up to just the right spot:

Pink is frost. Dark pink is freeze. Here's the official ANYLF recommendation: Check the weather one or thirty more times between now and, oh, nine or ten o'clock. Then go ahead with your small, persistent panic, and cover over your delicates with bedsheets no matter what. It's just the one night. Even if you don't believe it, do it anyway.

I'm just doing the big azaleas and the two hydrangeas out front. Leaving the roses alone. Pulling some basil I've got in a pot in for the evening. Not covering the hostas. Not covering the daylilies. Last year during our April freeze I went a little crazy, covered most of the yard with sheets and towels and various shielding contraptionary deviceage. This year: Simple and low-key. Save what needs saving. Let those that do fine on their own do fine on their own.

And probably even those few measures will turn out to be overkill. Probably all will come through just fine. Probably we won't even hit 32 degrees. Probably. But my azaleas are the pink and dark pink, actually, of the frost and freeze advisories, and I don't much want to lose those two years in a row. I missed them last year when they got all crushed and frozen. So. Better safe than. And, anyway, all this may be the good kind of panic, because this — this wee chance of wee freeze — is the kind you feel like you just might be able to take care of. Couple of bedsheets. Any time you've got a problem, and the best good answer is Throw a bedsheet over that, I feel like probably you're in fairly fine shape.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Freeze Watch.

Damn. Alas. Heads up out there, friends and fans of azaleas.

One More.

There's a picture of me I rather like — a rarity — hanging in the bar in the library, a little 3x5 snapshot of me leaning on the car in some worn-through jeans and a long-sleeved Boulevard Bolt t-shirt ( I own no other kind of long-sleeved t-shirt) and a gray watchcap that's long since lost its shape and never fit quite right anyway, and the dog is there, too, huge and orange and full of winter fur and lying there on the sidewalk, and the light is long and yellow and the Carr Street wisteria — this is from when I lived on Carr Street — are in full cascading purple bloom all along the power line running overhead, and it's cold, and you can tell it's cold even from the light and not just the watchcap, and this is all to say: It is always and every year cold in April, and sometimes I will go out there and stand in it.

I have no idea who took the photo. Wasn't me. I'm in the thing.

It's cold and rainy now, and it's supposed to hang on that way until it gets cold and clear tomorrow. The fancies are a little all over the place in regard to tomorrow night — surprise! — but it just somehow feels like tomorrow will be a bedsheets-on-the-azaleas night. NOAA wants frost. Patchy frost, anyway. TWC wants 30 degrees. The locals want it a little milder. We lost the goddamn azaleas last year when it snapped cold and then sleeted all in my bedsheets. At least tomorrow night they want dry. And just one night of it. I can hang everybody on through one night of it.

I love that photo mainly for the dog, who looks like she just could not be any happier than for it to be cold one more time while she's still got the right fur for it. I'm myself today trying for that same state of mind. We have not quite earned spring just yet, even if I do have maybe 75 tulips blooming all through the front yard, or even if the wisteria, Carr Street and otherwise, are blooming all over town. Here is one last little shot of cold. Could be worse: Atlanta's getting freeze watches and warnings. We're so far spared that up here. Our rain came at the right time, for starters. And as long as my azaleas ride it out today and tomorrow, then the weather has my full and complete permission to behave as it likes.

Supposed to be almost 70 on Wednesday. No photographs hanging in the bar of days like that, I don't think.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cold Snap.

Turned chilly. Clouds and sun, clouds and sun. Nobody's calling for a freeze, but I'm nervous. No real rain out of any of this. It'll be spring again by the end of the week. Keep a careful eye out. Have some bedsheets ready for the azaleas. Probably everything will be fine. Probably.

Every time we walk out the back door, the robin flies away.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Thin Storm.

We had a little noontime storm roll through, a line that gave them good rain back west and good rain again down east, but as for us and our kind here in 27408, enough rain to wet the driveway and not much else. The sun's trying to push back through the clouds now, and we've got some breeze, and there's a coolness to the air that makes it seem like that cold snap they're trying to give us for tomorrow and Monday and Tuesday is in fact dragging west to east and will yes soon enough hand us a little bit of March once more.

Feels like I'm having a little cold front of my own. The inside of my head feels clouded pretty well over. We're making chili this afternoon for a party to be held out near 27244, partly in my honor, the kind of thing that makes me feel like hiding under a trash can lid. But still: There's a fairly lovely kind of eucharist to be had in chopping onions, cooking them until they're translucent. And it's my grandfather's simple recipe — one big onion, one can of tomatoes, one can of beans. That's your base. Build from there. Wooden spoon. Even when other things are not so, so good, having a wooden spoon to cook with is good.

Robins have built a nest between the downspout and the screened corner of the cat porch. The male hangs out on the peak of the writing shed, watching. She's on the nest. We think they've laid eggs. The cats are deeply, deeply compelled by this. So is AMR. So am I. Surely the world does not require another robin. Nonetheless, we're trying to move carefully. Hell of a place to build a nest.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Windows Open.

Go outside, go outside, go outside. La Vieja's daughter's son is in the front yard raking leaves with his mom. Little red plastic rake. Lots of questions about the outside world: About geese flying by, about dirt, about sticky thorny holly bush leaves. Stay away from those and they won't get on you, La Vieja Jr. keeps saying. La Less Vieja. Sound advice.

Low clouds racing by, but not much wind down here on the ground. More like a breeze. A cardinal on the motion light on the shed. Sun spilling out over everything. Birds going crazy since well before it started getting light. We slept with the windows open. Pollen all over the back table. Air still damp enough to soften the papers I've been grading.

66 already and they want to give us 80 before we get finished. Maybe a little thunderstorm later on, maybe not. Maybe one or two tomorrow, maybe not. Afternoon projects: Return late-day to the homestead semi-victorious from my noontime meeting, which may or may not require me to behave like an asshole, find somewhere to sit, drink a slow can of beer. Worry the backyard soil enough to get it to hang onto some overseeded grass seed. Invite the dog to join me.

Sunday we snap cold again for a while. Cool, at least. We don't get this back until this time next week. Find things to do out there. Go get your questions. Go get your red plastic rakes.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hey, Sun.

Don't get too, too excited. We're supposed to pick up another cold snap next week. But here today right now it is 75 degrees on the screen porch. We're cloudless. The front yard is on the verge of requiring some work: the weeds are coming back, but at least for right now, even those are kind of beautiful. What we need is a trip to High Point for a truckload of mulch. What we need is some pruning, some weed-pulling. It's time to think about herbs. It is very nearly time to think about tomatoes. The WeatherDeck needs a good sweeping. The grass wants for a mow. The tulips are going crazy. So are the birds. Oh and yes, friends and fans of warmer weather: the mint is in.

Oh, the mint. My god I love the mint. The mint means soon enough somebody will lose their head and decide it's time to play bocce in the back yard. The mint means soon enough it will be time to do the Nobody Cares What Work We Have To Do For Tomorrow Let Us Instead Just Grill Everything In The Freezer thing that seems to happen in 27401-27408 around this time of year. The mint means we have survived, almost, and that May is coming, and that school is nearly out, and a kind of sanity may begin to creep back in around the edges. The mint means it is time to plan the rest of the yard: Flowerbeds. Bell peppers. Okra. How to keep the mint from taking over.

The sun is out. The mint is in. Don't get too excited.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Gray Again.

Although the sun did just one moment ago here in 27408 break through the clouds a small, small amount. We've got a kind of Pacific Northwest thing going on around here of late. But it's a little warmer today, and a little less gray: the light up behind all those clouds seems like it's trying slightly harder. Maybe. Every now and then we are getting shadows, and I confess that even those feel like weather: a reminder of up and down, of depth, of out and back, of a third dimension. We've been a little flat this week. And last.

Again. The sun just broke through again. There was sun through the window on my foot.

I remain an uncle. I remain more than a little stuck fiction-wise. I am not right now a very good teacher to my students. I am still wearing my robe. The JLT vinca, though, which I had given up for dead, is making a grand front yard comeback, is blooming little purple pinwheels out there in the cloud and shade and shadow. And here: even though I swore off this for a while, this little sad bent tulip we brought inside after one of the rainstorms exploded this morning, gray day or no.

We will have the sun again. Hang on and try not to worry. We'll have it so much in August that we'll all want to go on shooting sprees. And if we're good, say the fancies, we may get it this afternoon or evening. Nobody believes in the fancies any more, of course, but you've got to hand it to them: They're still coming on every day at 5, 6, and 11, and having a sad, suited go at it. Still. The dogwoods are coming in. The tulips are out there holding, holding for sun. Me too, dammit. Me too.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Family Way.


Gray, gray, gray, gray, gray, gray, and gray. And cold. Cold and gray on the way in to work, cold and gray to and from class, cold and gray at tonight's Greensboro Home Opener. I am wearing two flannel shirts, one atop the other. Fleece hat. Wee dish of Nilla Wafers. Wee whiskey. Home from the cold gray ballgame. They say sun tomorrow. They said that yesterday. And the day before. I am coming to understand with a kind of primal, intense knowing the term 'stationary front.'

I have said many times that I would not lament the gray, the cold, the rain, the mist, the fog, the drizzle. I will not lament those things. But if, friends, the sun should somehow be out, ah, tomorrow, well then, you can bet your bottom dollar that I won't lament that either.

In procreative news, I am now an uncle. Here it is cold and gray. In Bloomington, Indiana, site of the birth of He Who Shall Be He, it is apparently 75 and sunny. Let there be life.

Oh, Horatio. They've given you an old, odd name, and I am a fan of old names: Not enough Victors and Yoricks and Beulahs any more, sez I. But they've given you a tough middle school, to be sure, and tough beginnings of semesters. They've given you playground troubles. Occasional girl (or perhaps boy?) troubles. May you, though, overcome those of us foolish enough to be fans of old names. May you run fast and jump high. May you be a better man than I am. May you stay up late and not question the name of your brother's first child. May you hope for the best against what all else. May you simply be a person able to say: good luck, good luck, good luck, good luck, good luck.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Cloud Cover.

AMR reported an early-morning rain and wind event here in 27408, and the rain gauge says she's right: another eight-tenths-plus overnight and this morning, taking us to three inches total for April. When it rains, it rains.

I recovered from my slip-and-fall WeatherDeck injuries just in time to do something impressively painful to my right leg playing racquetball today. Pulled a groin. Snapped a hammy. Broke my hip. Something. There's a good knot in there just underneath the surface. I remember being nine years old pretty well. We used to take the bikes out and go ramping. Ramp the bikes. Ramp is a good verb. Put a board up on another board or a log or some bricks or something and jump the bike as high up into the air as you can. At top speed. Ramping. Every now and then one of us would lock up the chain, hit the ground with a bike that had wheels that wouldn't turn, go spilling out across the pavement and into somebody's lawn. Roll two or three times over. If I did that now it would kill me dead. It's like I woke up a week or two ago and it turned out I wasn't nine any more. My body keeps finding new ways to break itself. Or I find new ways to break it. I don't think they meant anything having to do with not feeling up Susan Halbach in the stairwell when they said our bodies were temples. I think they meant, You better enjoy ramping now, because later on, when you do something simple like take one step to your left on a racquetball court, you will fracture your leg in six places.

Something's wrong with the way time is working in that example. I wasn't feeling anybody up when I was nine. Let's just chalk it all up to the pain and move along, shall we?

It is low and gray and gray and gray and gray out there. Little bit chilly. The forsythia along the back fence is so yellow it's like somebody plugged it in. We may, perhaps, see the sun tomorrow. It may be warmer. But we're working on something like eight days in a row where they've had it dead wrong, so: Maybe lay out more than one outfit before you go to sleep tonight.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Drought Conditions.

A couple of weeks back, we covered some of this, but I thought I'd maybe hit the high points for those of you just tuning in: We are officially recovered from D-4 drought, at least for now. We remain in a fairly suggestively-shaped drought here in the mid-southeast, but we're in D-3 now, which means we're Extreme rather than Exceptional. If we get another six weeks of rain, why then, we can move back down into the comfortingly-named Severe Drought category. Still, friends, no one but no one could complain about what we've had the last couple of weeks. Real rain. Frequent rain. Maybe, maybe more clouds than sun, which in and of itself feels bizarre and otherworldy. Driving home at dusk last night, rain just picking up in earnest, headlights in my face all the way back down 70, all I could see was how green all the planted-in hay and tobacco fields are looking, how green the yards are. Trees are just starting to bud and leaf out now in a kind of serious, dedicated way, and so we're getting our annual primer in all the shades of just that one corner of the color wheel. In some ways I like these couple of weeks as much as I like some of fall. I'll take it all back in October, I promise, or next week when the azaleas pop, but for now: green, green, green.

That storm last night delivered unto us one crisp inch of rain, and it's already at it again out there today: some spotty showers and drizzle with heavy showers and storms in the offing, apparently, for this evening and overnight. Some of the fancies are wanting another half-inch, three-quarters, maybe — hold one eye closed and get a little loose with the various math and some of them want to give us another inch in total before lunch tomorrow. If we're not careful, we might start filling the lakes back up. If we're not careful, we're going to find ourselves in a weather pattern that starts to make some kind of sense.

It's a slow, strange Saturday. I'm plotting the death of the beagles across the street, watching a pair of what I think are Tufted Titmice move into our bluebird house in the back yard, and trying decide whether or not now, at lunchtime, it may finally be time to get dressed and start the day. I had Nilla Wafers for breakfast. That and a pot of coffee. All this rain is making me slothful. I'm too damn inert to go across the street and commit some excellent crime. I am probably going to have to find a way to break out of some of this. Revise the novel. Start a new one. Something. Until then, I'm going to keep an eye on the greening yard, on the forsythia dropping its yellow flowers in favor of some leaves. The tulips are up. Those damn dogs are barking. Six of one. It's raining.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Thunder, Lightning.

Good-sized thunderstorm. Dog with the emergency panting. Half-inch minimum already. Much more coming, it looks like. We've gone a kind of odd green here at ANYLF, which only means I was playing with html-type-stuff this afternoon at school instead of grading papers. But this is spring, after all. Hard to grade papers when you're just waiting for it to storm. Which it now is. And if this project is about anything at all, it's got to be about taking care of the storm-scared dog pushing, pushing against you, and also listening to it crash and rumble outside. More on all this tomorrow, friends and fans of thunder. Various small emergencies here to which to attend. Good ones.

Oh: And I'm not saying the drought is broken. The drought is not broken. But this, I'm pretty sure, is what it looks like when it rains.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Digital Age.

I know we don't have electronic data retrieval or self-emptying rainfall-measuring digital rain gauge cups or any kind of interfacing software or anything of that sort here at the largely analog operations center of ANYLF, but we're still reporting seven tenths of rain in the pansy bed, which is located seven tenths or so of an inch away from the WeatherDeck. They were not promising us this. The fancies were not promising us anything at all like this.

In Business.

It's 45 and showery here in 27408. Fiercely gray. Sky about ten feet off the ground. It's a day to have a couple of lamps on even though it's the middle of the afternoon. It's a day for toasted PB&J. Soup. Wearing a hat in the house.

I'm taking laps through the rooms. Shoes on, shoes off. Went outside to overseed the lawn, but decided I had to cut it first. Too damp to cut, so there's one project on hold. Other projects also waiting in line: Clean up finances, clean up kitchen, clean up inside of skull.

Tonight I'm on call for a fancy dinner out in 27244. Dress: Business. The only pair of non-jeans pants I own is/are the pants to my seersucker suit, so that thing's going to have to count as business. My defense: Whatever it is you hired me for, it sure as hell wasn't any kind of business at all.

The dog's in the back, sacked out right dead damn on my pillow. She struggles through the gray days.

I keep picking up stacks and piles of things, like whatever it is I might be looking for might be underneath something else.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Day Job.

The weather forecasts have been wrong for days in a row now. Friday we were supposed to get storms, and Saturday, sun. We got a weekend-long drizzle. Sometimes it rained. Yesterday was supposed to be nowhere near as nice as it was in the afternoon and evening, and today we were supposed to have showers. Instead, we got a kind of clouds-and-sun first-of-springtime redux, a harkening to what early March can sometimes be. Or, hell, I don't know: Maybe this is what April used to be like. They want to give us clouds and mid-forties tomorrow. I have no way to know whether or not they're kidding. All I know for sure and sure is that it looks — looks — like we've maybe had our last freeze. Which only means it's bound to freeze soon. We picked up a hard April freeze last year. The azaleas are all budding out. Here's hoping we hang on.

Keep it tuned here for what the weather was, then, and maybe keep it tuned to your own front porches for what the weather is. I think right now the fancies are just guessing. Last week I wore both flannel and flip-flops. Pretty easy to say this week will be the same. Maybe I should quit all this learning business and go stand in front of a weather map. I can point at the big red L and the big blue H, I bet. I can say Cold front. I can say Unsettled atmospheric conditions. I can say But folks, we need that rain.

So: Current conditions for Greensboro: Getting dark, and a little cool. Clouds building in. Towhees coming back to their nests in the boxwoods along the back of the house. Beagles barking. I haven't turned on any lights in the house yet. Half a half-cold beer here next to me on the table. OK day teaching. I was steadfastly average. I did show the kids in my afternoon Suburbs class how to plant a container garden. We're all of us, starting this week, growing our own front lawns. From seed. In containers. Some hairbrained idea I had about all these silver-spooners being in more intimate contact with the land. Turns out planting a container garden (basil, marigold, begonia, grass seed) in front of 24 22-year-olds is a little like being the host of the strangest cooking show of all time. And when we come back, we'll talk about soil conditioners. Don't touch that dial.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool.

And then when it did quit raining — just for the afternoon, according to the gloriously damp forecast — we got a cleared-off scoured-clean white-blue sky, seventy degrees, that golden early-evening light everybody gets so excited about. Outside of it being so beautiful you want to tear your own head off and kick it around, I don't see what all the song and dance is for.

Rain tomorrow. Rain every other day this week. We might not see the sun again until Sunday. Fine by me. Tonight it is clear and 66 degrees and we've got the windows thrown open all over the house. A little parenthetical something in all that rain. If we'd had a regular climate of late, I might be worried about tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. All that gray. But we will take it, please.

And, finally, a Public Service Announcement from ANYLF: The fallen rained-on petals of your Japanese Magnolia may be, in fact, very, very slippery. I don't think my tailbone is cracked, but a semi-medical event took place not once — wait for it — but twice today out there on the WeatherDeck. I went in to school with slime and mud and all other whatnot all over my jeans because I wasn't changing clothes again.

And still, here as we ride into April, I shall not complain. Let it, if you please, rain, and come with that whatever hazards may come.