Friday, February 26, 2010

Sticky Pudding.

The thing is, it doesn't look like winter out there any more. I'm not saying it doesn't look cold, or that it isn't cold, or that anything's anywhere near the kind of green we'd like to see, but the morning sun's shifted off the corner of that apartment building in the ANYLF back yard and slid back almost to its middle, and by mid-morning it's higher in the sky, is starting to trace a rounder arc. We're a handful of weeks away from the equinox now. The daffodils are taller every day. Those who celebrate are Lenting. Those who don't are tracking the sun across the buildings in their back yards.

"It has been a long time since I have written a poem," Rexroth says the poet Ou Yang Hsiu said in the mid-to-late 1000s. "My ideas are like sticky pudding."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bright Sunshiney.

We come up this morning cold and bright under a white-blue sky, birds and birds and birds, delivery trucks all in the streets. There's a wind. We're not supposed to see 40 degrees. What's in the shade is ice. What's in the sun is water. Winter slides back in for the short term, at least.

Three weeks in and I'm finally starting to carry around a vague memory of what the pace of the classroom is supposed to feel like, which this morning leaves me still in my robe and three marked stories in and cups of coffee drunk and no time spent in the shed, which is all at once bad and good, because if I was out there, at least I'd be out there, but I'm so deeply stuck right now it's hard to say what's next or why. I'd be staring at the screen, adding a log to the fire, sitting back down, staring some more. Though now that I set that down in pixels and light it seems better than inking up the margins of stories not mine. No offense, younguns, but if I'm worth a damn in those four walls it's because I try to like working on my own work better than I like working on yours. And if I've failed at that this morning, why then, this afternoon's exercise out at the puppet show ought to come off like a sack of potatoes. At least the sun's shining.

Cold. We'll see the mid and upper forties through the weekend, but set those bloom calendars back one week. This'll hold us up a little.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Missed Forecast.

Though it's too warm on the surface streets to cause any real problem, the forecast would like to hereby note that in yesterday's wee paragraphs we mentioned not one single thing about the possibility that it would right now be pouring snow. That's something of an error, we feel, and we'll be seeking to win back the hearts and minds of the reading public later on today. Keep it tuned right here for the very latest on little or nothing to do with what may or may not happen in the outside world.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shifting Pattern.

Warm enough this morning to ride in to the puppet show with the truck windows down. And it wasn't warm-warm, and by the time we picked up the front spitting edge of our rain showers this evening it had gone in fact cool, but we may have turned a corner here. Do not worry: it will snow in March. We'll catch an azalea freeze in April, as we always do, everybody's front lawns blanketed and sheeted over. It'll be twenty-something tomorrow night, even. But: that rain tonight, that dogwalk this morning, those daffodils six and eight inches out of the ground now out there at the 27244 and back here home in the 27401—we're coming, we're coming, we're coming. Every day the shadow of the house slides back closer to the house, gives us back our summer lawn. Today I wore a shirt out of the other season's closet.

Here's what I could almost smell today: that first evening beer on the front porch, the thing you can taste when you leave the office and line the left tire up with the yellow line on 70 and aim back toward home. The mint coming out of the ground. The dog readier to get out of the bed and come downstairs to greet you. The high blue dome of sky. Spring. Somehow it seems like I want it more this year than I ever have before.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Compound Adjectives.

This may be a little too Humphrey-Bogart-in-The-Maltese-Falcon, or it may just be a tired, used-up image, rode hard and put away wet, but I do love to walk across a college campus after dark in the fog. I love the lights along the sidewalks, the occasional classroom burning away, the quiet hurrying. What a fine fog we have going out there, both back home here in 27401 and yes, friends and fans of higher learning, out at the puppet show, as well. And I know there's no college campus scene in The Maltese Falcon. I just love fog, and then I get carried away, make dumbass comparisons. Like this one.

Good hard rain this morning. A daffodil rain. A snow-removal rain. A now-is-the-time-to-finish-up-the-rotten-gable-end-trim-situation kind of rain. The staff here at ANYLF was caught by surprise, was expecting rain, yes, but later in the day. Time, perhaps, to retune the instruments.

Curling. Olympic, even. It'd be better outside, in the weather, but the only thing I love more than fog right now is the curling.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Little Preview.

ANYLF comes to you, friends and fans of nascent signs of spring, from the front porch. It is the cooling end of a day full of lies, the kind of day that makes it hard to believe there'll every be anything but this and warmer, even as the snow still covers the northwest-facing pansy bed. The dog's out here with me, three-quarters of the Christmas lights are down and packed away—hey, February—and I'm seriously entertaining the idea of going to the Harris Teeter for a six-pack of Molson I could then come home and drink in front of the open den window whilst winter Olympians send curling stones a hundred feet in one direction, then a hundred feet back again. I love the curling. It just seems so possible.

There are birds and birds out here, and shouting children up the street, and the sure sound of a table saw a block down the other way. The Mousy Downhill has hung a feeder off her front porch, and she's got cardinals. La Vieja Nueva's done nothing on the other side, but birds live up in her eaves regardless. Ralph's got his pickup parked, as always, square in front of our driveway, making entry and exit an Olympic trial in and of itself. The light's long out in the road. I checked under the liriope, and some of the daylilies are sending out feelers. People, it will again, and soon, be miserable. Seems it'll rain tomorrow. Seems it won't break 40 on Thursday. But the ten day, even slowly, shows sparks and signals.

It is 61 degrees and sunny at 5:10 pm on Sunday, February 21.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Slight Thaw.

It feels like I have been out of town a long time.

It feels like I've been somewhere familiar, like maybe out on the Natchez Trace outside of Nashville, living in a house that looks very much like this one, shelves full of books almost the same as the books we have here, almost the same yard, almost the same half-finished building sitting down in the low spot. But not the same. Not here. Somewhere else. This has been a winter crammed with weather, with coastal lows and fronts spinning up out of Texas and the Gulf and across from Oklahoma and we have even repaired and replaced sump pumps and still somehow it hasn't mattered like it should, has been like weather heard through wads of cotton stuffed in my ears. It doesn't feel like I quite remember Thanksgiving, Christmas, January. Can't find the lines between the long drive to Binghamton two Octobers ago and the long drive the October before that. Being in the car feels like being in the car, feels like any other drive. It's been cold for seven or eight weeks straight now. Snow's still on the ground from either the last snow, or the snow before, or both. It's getting lighter earlier in the evenings, but slowly, like a bad faucet. Some of the spring birds are arriving, but even they seem off, seem desperate. Which day was it last week or the week before that saw hundreds of robins eating every berry off the holly in La Vieja Nueva's back yard? There was snow on the ground. That narrows things, but only some. There was a wind that blew some of the junked aluminum siding out of its pile and across the yard. Blew the tarp off my firewood. Blew rain into the catboxes. Blew rain through the windows and under the door in that outbuilding. We have made soups, have roasted chickens, have eaten potatoes. I have learned to tell time in the mornings by the color of the light in the hallway when it's sunny. On clouded-over days, it could be any time I might get out of bed. The rain gauge is broken, is ice-shattered. It has rained and rained, but I don't know how much. The sump pump kicks on, sends the water back where it came from, probably to come back in again. We bought sofas. We needed sofas. We'd been living a life without sofas. It is already past the center of February. The mail comes. The wheelbarrow tire's gone flat. There's a ruined door propped against the fence I'm saving for my old landlord. The maple out back is dripping sap. The rabbits shit in the yard overnight, and the dog goes searching every morning, stands out there and eats. Coffee. Dinner. Bananas in the freezer for some banana bread we might never make. Forced paperwhites blooming on the kitchen table.

And then this morning, big plans in hand to go out back to the building that's either here or there and see if I can carry through whatever it was I was working on the last time I was out there, the dog stood at the door, asked to go out, pulled us down into the park. We take the walk most days. The park's scoured in places from the two or three floods we've had since I last payed serious attention. It's still cold out there, sunny, snow on the ground in the shadows under the trees, up against the houses. Ducks in the sewage creek down there in the bottom. Kids' toys in the playground, half the mulch from under the swings flooded out into the grass. But something felt different, finally, quieter, maybe better. More like here. The sounds were right, the trucks banging by out on Battleground, the Credit Union building whining away up on the hill. Folks around here plant their daffodils in ground harder than I'd try, but they're coming up anyway, out of the clay at the bases of all these oaks. The dogwoods don't look great, don't look like they have enough buds, but we'll see. Whatever owl it is that never knows it isn't dark out is going, is calling out for something. The kids at the church daycare come out on sunny days at eleven, scream at each other, pilot those stationary playsets to god knows where. The dog stopped at everything today, sniffed each leaf there was. Halfway down the hill, there's a house that's got a yard that's greening over in earnest, that's full of those tender wild crocus, dozens of them sending up tight purple blooms, not open yet, but it'll be this week, you can tell. The dog sniffed at the base of the stone wall down there, at hibernating ants and last Tuesday's signal left by one dog or another. I looked at the crocus. I didn't get to write. I have to go to work. I'm beat to shit and the house is a wreck. I have more things to do than time to do them. But I felt better. And the funny thing: I knew I would when I rounded the corner and found the dog at the door.

We are looking at slightly warming weather. We may see the fifties by the weekend. We're going to be dry for a few days. It's going to be a good time to pick up some construction trash, to maybe go out and replace that rain gauge. If we can get that sun a little higher up off the horizon, and if we can catch a day without wind, it'll soon enough be time for sitting outside. Not all of us are greening over. Nothing much out there is blooming. But look closely at some of the trees. They're sending something out. Look at the branch tips in the evenings: they're getting fuzzy. We're weeks away from leaves. But we may finally be trying.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rime, Graupel.

Friends and fans of apocalypse, I don't know what it did here in 27401 today, but out in 27244, right around 6 p.m., we most definitely had rime and graupel. Big black cloud, wind, ice from the sky. Hail, you thought. Sleet. But no. Graupel. I don't know if you learn something new every day, but today I think we can go on and check that box. I can, anyway. Great word.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Outside Chance.

It is a wet, still, gray cold that's set in out there, and it's a little more of all of that down at the bottom of the hill, in the park. Down there it feels like snow. Up here all it feels like is a Winter Weather Advisory. Up here you don't want to be so cavalier as not to tarp over your firewood, but you're not sure it'll do much besides rain a little. This is winter, though, and not ours, not the way I'd come to know it, and so let's line ourselves up with the fancies both local and national and go ahead and put an inch of snow in the forecast for the overnight hours. More tomorrow, friends and fans of watches and warnings.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Big Wind.

One measure: plastic bouquets from the cemetery out there on the Alamance county line blown all across 70 and up into the new development full of mansions that won't sell next to the lake they built in the low spot left over from having clear-cut all that pine.

Got to have been tropical-storm-force at some points today. We're dying down now, calming. Cold and clear. Sandra Bullock's on my TV explaining to Charlie Rose about how serious that role was she had playing that woman who saved all them poor kids via football. I'd sooner kick myself in the head than see that movie. Nothing against Sandra Bullock, per se. I can just imagine a handful or two of people who might could sit across that table and tell some other story. And I can imagine a few other football movies I might want to see first. If I was wanting to see football movies at all. Which right now I am maybe not. She just said, 'If something comes out of left field, no pun intended.' No pun there at all. There is no left field in football.

Pitchers and catchers report shortly. Then it might be OK to be alive and in America once more. Until then, somebody bring forth a wind and scour this place clean.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chilly Week.

On the north sides of buildings, the snow hangs on. And up against, but not in, the French drain out back. And in and among what's left of the construction debris. High, thin clouds this morning say the fancies are right, that another system's working its way usward, that the freezing rain with no accumulation of freezing rain ought to get here overnight and tomorrow. Another system, like this last one, where if the freeze line's north of us, we're probably fine, and if it's south of us, we're snowed in for half a week, and if it's on us, every tree between here and the park will be leaned over or dropping limbs or otherwise engaged in explosions small and medium. Here's hoping for rain, I guess.

Cold week dialed up. When we hit the low-to-mid forties, you're going to want to step out onto the sidewalks to enjoy that. At night: thirties when it's sleeting and freezing, twenties when it's clear. I did find our stolen daffodils and bluebells poking up out of the ground yesterday, so that's one sign of March hanging out there. What would help—what would help with me pining for warmer weather, for green leaves—is if we could just get the snow and ice to melt off the pansy beds out front.

Church bell ringing out back means it's time once again for another exciting episode of I Am Close To The End Of That Book And Still Might Not Have Plot. Tune in next time, when we'll see our hero looking at his woodstove and thinking, how did this happen? Didn't this building used to work? Maybe I should have left all the spiders and mold and rot and cracking storm windows and rusting rustproof aluminum siding. Maybe that's where the mojo was.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Il Pleut.

The airport's only saying something like an inch and three-quarters, but I don't know. The new sump kicked off and on all afternoon and evening, and the outbuilding let some water through there under the sill of the door, and one of the windows spit something at me while I was sitting out there trying not to make too fatal a mistake there at the end of the new novel, and the yard was as wet as I've ever seen it—only problem is, we probably still had an aggregate inch or so of moisture left in places when that all started Thursday night, plus the ground was all but completely sogged in, so there's no real telling what happened by straight divining. We're tied to airport measurements here at ANYLF until somebody remembers to buy a rain gauge at the big box. Been a week since anybody even walked into a big box, but that'll soon change: feels like a dice roll leaving ANYLF 709 1/2 covered only in Tyvek. Time to finish Phase One, or whatever phase we're in out there now. One side benefit, or maybe this is the principal benefit: I did finally woodstove my way yesterday to the point I'd wanted ever since I hired Crazy McPhee of Crazy McPhee's Chimney and Mannequin Legs to drop that stove in through the roof: I had to take off one of my layers. Got too hot out there. Seventy degrees at about 5:30 p.m. Loved it. I loved it so much I was OK with the damn leak under the door.

People, it is 11:45 in the Saturday morning and it is snowing. This won't add up to anything, but it's pretty. Prettier than the box of rain we got yesterday.

I've been thinking about other Januaries and other Februaries and wondering about what's up with our winter this year, being that we seem to be having actual winter, and I have an utterly unscientific theory: We're not necessarily colder, and/or that's not quite what's up. Rather: we're wetter. It rains now. Il pleut. Il pleut des cordes. And all them ropes of rain, in this humble child's opinion, may just be riling the general atmosphere enough to sometimes bring down iceboxed air back behind them, or over the top of them, and viola: snow, ice, rain, what have you. Sit through a still dry December/January/February and there's not much to bring anything your way other than still and dry. That'll give you daffodils eight and ten inches out of the ground by Christmas. That'll give you fifty degrees in the evening. And that's nice and all, and I'm not saying all this cold gray hasn't left me wanting a hint of spring, but there is something, finally, comforting about a sort of everything-in-its-place mode of operation, which is to say, if we're meant to have winter, why then, perhaps we should have it.

We're forcing paperwhites in a glass vase here at the kitchen table. On a gray day, that does help.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ice Storm?

Friends and fans of weather, I know what rain sounds like, and that is not what is falling outside.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Good Socks.

You would want to love the weather to love what we're picking up in the Gate City right now: it may be above freezing, but if it is, it's only just; we've got what looks like corn syrup falling out of the sky and onto what remains, which is plenty, from our weekend sleet storm, which itself was over the top of five or six inches of fine powdery snow; we've got here locally at 709 what has to be something on the order of 75 robins all in the backyard, and in the maple in particular, shitting about a fifty-foot-radius of robin shit down into the slush and freezing rain. The sky's the kind of gray where it could either be eight in the morning or dusk. That rain is freezing to the deck posts, but not to the chairs. So let's call it 33 degrees, perhaps 34. If you were headed shedwards to wrestle the end of that chapter together, you'd want to be thinking about a serious, full-to-capacity fire. Today's a day to consider which of your socks might be the good ones, and to select those.