Monday, February 28, 2011

Frontal Boundary.

This is spring: the loud sound of the train through last night's open kitchen windows, so loud I thought it would wake the Toad. It did not wake the Toad. See also: gentle rain to shut the day down yesterday; the front porch and a cold beer; the dog long and panting and stretched just out of the Toad's reach, or mine. See also: daffodils blooming in the back yard. And crocus. See the new bird feeders strung from the maple. See the double doors opened wide all morning back there in RevisionLand. See also, ah, this:

Friends and fans of weather, boys and girls of all ages, the fancies have not yet dropped a watch box on us, but they are about to. What they are already advising about are the 45 mph winds we should be looking for before these storms even get here. When they do arrive, we may see 60 mph winds. Then what—an easy inch of rain, maybe two or three? This is tie-down-your-tarps weather, people. This is a cold front. The next time you're wondering what a cold front might be, see also this. See the temps in the mid-seventies right now, and see that woodstove cranking hard tomorrow morning.

So much wind already that I'm glad we're not leafed out yet (though the willows, always the first, have started). If this had come through a month from now, we'd already have trees down. And it hasn't even come through yet. Shut the windows. Nap the babies. Get ready.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Spring Rain.

Two days' worth. This'll bloom the flowers. Cold and not cold all at once. Beautiful. It hadn't rained in a while—not real rain, anyway. I'd forgotten. We'll leave the small matter of a couple of tablespoons of water leaking past the edge of the shed chimney for another time. For now, coffee and rain. Coffee and storm, even. Beautiful.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Forty Degrees.

See? Make a big deal of it and this is what you get: Leaden overcast to open the day, leaden overcast to shut it back down again. When the sun was out earlier there was maybe some hint of hope, but also it was so cold—comparatively, anyway—that it didn't matter, and standing in the wind tunnel of a parking lot over at the smaller Harris Teeter all one wanted was to get back home, try for the afternoon nap, hope for some writing time inside that nap.

Toad nap duration: Thirty-three minutes. Pages revised: Two. Forecast mood: Leaden.

If I hadn't known better I'd have said this morning's sky looked like snow.

Successes, however small: We have olive oil, which I bought at Olive Oil Depot. I have new line-marking pens, which I bought at Ink Pen Depot. I have eaten a banana. That was already in the house, so I cannot attest to the depoted provenance of same. I'm trying the Toad for a second afternoon nap, as the first one was a joke. That endeavor, though it's not yet succeeding, has also not quite yet failed.

Looking ahead? Aren't we all? Tomorrow: Chilly and Januaryish. Thursday: Tornadoes? Ah, spring. Or whatever this is. And there's the sun back out, however briefly. Maybe it just slipped beneath the clouds off to the west. This is both seasons concurrently. This is the bluejays building nests, the squirrels trying to get back into the building, the daffodils showing color, the woodpile looking meager. This is all the clothes all the time. This weather is for both bad beer and good beer. If the Toad doesn't end up napping, I'll be aiming at each of those.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Seventy Degrees.

I missed Friday's seventy degrees, but no worries: Here they are again, a windows-down-in-the-truck kind of day, a day so fine that even on top of flu shots the Toad rode the center of the bench seat all the way out to the doctor hollering and happy, and all the way home in a kind of sunsmacked stupor, resulting in the first documented instance of Toad sleep in the pickup. In other news, trees bloom in the Harris Teeter parking lot. Buds everywhere else, on everything else. And it makes sense, I guess: I missed most of February, somehow, or it slunk away under cover of night, but things bloom in these parts right around my spring break, which has been for ten years right around March 17th, so get ready. Threeish weeks. Daffodils will probably pop before February is up, at this pace. And the fancies have scaled our forecast up out of the fifties and into the sixties for the week. When we move, we move. Remember winter? Wasn't it last week? It was colder in the shed than out of it this morning. Get them windows up and open, please and thank you. Swing wide the double doors.

What else is in the forecast? Frantic revision. Line editing. Making clean and crisp that which is not. Sending soon to NYC. One big game of chicken. Holy hell.

I'll tell you what's simpler: the weather. A beer on the porch. The Toad sitting out there, delighting in the cars running back and forth. The dog overseeing the proceedings. Things are greening damn near daily. A woodpecker wanted into the shed this morning. I ran him off. Noisy fucker. I'd tell you more, but I'd have to sit inside to do it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Western Expansion.

Good evening, Fort Collins, Colorado. Many thanks to you and yours for the blazing big sky, the temps solidly in the 50s, and all the wind there is. I guess when the landscape runs flat for three million miles and then out of that comes a Rocky Mountain without a hell of a lot of warning, why then, you get wind. Wind warnings on the interstate north out of Denver. Actual tumbleweeds. Additional wind. And this isn't that windy, say the locals.

So, so strange, the age of the jetliner.

The forecast returns to the Gate City tomorrow night, and what I hear is that tomorrow will be seventy degrees and trying for eighty, a day not to be missed—unless, perhaps, you can stand in the shadow of the Rockies and think about just how far away you are from everything else, just how wee you are, just how much those folks riding west out of St. Louis must not have been able to believe it when these things popped up on the horizon however many days—days—before they got to them. And it'll be 70 again in 2740Xland, right? Right. But somebody take a picture of it for me, would you? Put it in a Mason jar and save me some. In the meantime, I've just discovered fresh-ground coffee in the hotel room, which means if I can survive the night—an MFA reading and the postgame that arrives with same—that all will be well and good come tomorrow.

I do love it out here. All the largeness. I realized I'd missed it from the last time I came west. But it makes me miss home.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Draft.

Just because I did not manage to speak to you of things weather yesterday does not mean that there was none: It was straightforwardly late winter out there, a breeze, a chilly morning, a fire in the shed well into the afternoon. There was, as there is this morning, an underlying warmth, even in the thirties. There was not what we're seeing now, though, which is a truly lovely skate of high strange clouds through the southern sky. We look like another town entirely out there this morning, a town closer to a larger body of water. We do not look landlocked and featureless. And forget all about late winter for the next five days, friends and fans of the sudden change of season. Your Gate City highs for the next five days look like this, say your tax dollars at meteorological work: 60, 65, 73, 65, 62. Something's going to bloom early and get crushed on March 10th. You heard it here first.

For the first time in a very long time the Toad at school does not mean a fire in the stove, a slow bleed of words. Instead, magically, impossibly, it means a trip to whatever Kinko's is called now to have the thing copied twice or thrice and bound all pretty and in the lucky style so that there might be by god and by hand line editing, so that we might see if indeed the new thing is the new thing, so that we might just send the fucker off to the big boys in Gotham to see what they think, to see if they want to take another ill-advised chance on another three hundred pages of mayhem and foolishness and underskilled kissing. Surely we'll have to get someone involved to teach me to end a sentence. Surely we'll need some of these comma clauses surgically removed.

There is a yellow Camaro in it. There are also boats. And parachutes.

Copy store, gas station, grocery store, copy store, home. Maybe the ink pen store, too. Then Toad needs. Then more Toad needs. That is one way to have a day.

Monday, February 14, 2011

True Thaw.

I think if you're burning a fire to take the chill off your building, then you can't say it's warm, but I've been outside, people—I have walked the Toad to his morning whistle and I have back-and-forthed to the woodpile from the double doors and it is something. More accurately, it is something else. We come out of a long low winter in much the same way we hit late September out of August and whatever else comes before, which is to say, suddenly, and by fits and starts. Which is also to say that I know it will be cold again, know we have the various heartbreaks of March still fully in front of us (sleet, a week of cold, snap freezes to take the blooms off things, general slowness in the change of season)—I know even that it'll be chilly on Wednesday of this week—but I have been outside.

I will miss, viscerally, lighting that fire back there each morning. The aforementioned double doors, purchased specifically so they could be open and screened, had better be as good come actually warm mornings.

I've been remembering the way it felt the last time I finished a draft—my head buzzing at the corners, everything up and off the desk seeming a little sharper, a feeling like I'm just outside the world. Today could be a good day, and if not today, one of these days here shortly. Self-imposed deadline coming up, and I look good to make it. Goddamn I'm ready.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Various Religion.

The heavy smoke from the chimney—I've laid better fires; usually that thing's running pretty clear by now—says the wind is from the south and west. So even though that low did in fact set up off the coast and may be bringing the beaches and Outer Banks some showers today, here on the Piedmont we're in the warmup they said was coming: through the upper forties this afternoon, and into the fifties and maybe sixties as we round out the weekend. In other words: It was a two-hat two-block walk to the Toad's place of three-days-a-week business this morning, but you could tell he'd only need a jacket on the way back. Score another one for the local fancies.

If today goes badly, then I'll be in the back corner of the yard chewing on fenceposts—but if all goes well, I'll be close enough to printing a draft I can nibble at the edges of that, instead.

Do you want to know about the buds on the blueberry bushes? The redness of the ends of the cherry tree branches? The perceptibly slight greening of the lawns? The difference in the angle of the sun through the corner windows of the building? The long morning shadows on the back porch? The second kind of daffodil breaking through the soil? The new thought that I may yet have enough in that single half-cord of lumber to carry me through the winter? No. Let's not speak of those things just yet, lest we bring sleet down as punishment for non-seasonal thinking. It is February, after all. We're allowed to hope, but not to gloat or covet. If you do set a table, leave a spot for Elijah.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Warmer Pattern?

So I'm watching Van Denton on the local Fox affiliate—people, I'm sorry, but I will watch any local weather, and though I do now and will forever keep Lanie Pope (NBC) number one in my heart and on my radio dial, I don't at all distrust either Eric Chilton (CBS) or Van Denton (has he had work done?)—and Mr. Van Denton did say that outside of today and tomorrow, he doesn't think we've got much in the way of frigid left... for the month.

What to make of this? Do I say, after-the-fact (or forecast), that even though the semi-late-night dog-out saw the ground either refrozen or nearly so, it felt less like winter out there and more like something else, that I was afraid to say so until after the early late news? Does that sentence hold? Is the late news late if it's on at ten? Has Van Denton had work done?

(That sentence does not hold. Or did not. I tried to fix it and became exhausted. Take it or do not take it. It is like Super Supper, a hated meal of my childhood. Our argument: We hate it. My mother's argument: It has all the things you like in it. Still it was awful. Ground beef and Ro-Tel topped with boxed mashed potatoes and sadness.)

It is late. It is cold. It was cold all day, and yet the light looked better, the ground got soft midday, even with the snow, and there was the idea of this weekend planting the downhill mouse's Christmas gift blueberries, still languishing in their pots, standing there on the front walk like the rebuke that they are to my sense of industry, or gratitude—

Let's do this, Weatherheads: Let's say that it should probably not be sixty in February with any regularity, but if they want to give us three or six days of that in the next fifteen, then dear sweet baby Jesus in a canister of cashews let's take it. Plant. Dig. Pull the gutters off the daffodil bed back there in the corner. What gutters? The leftovers from the shed, six or sixteen months in. It is all like this, all the projects. Bring a Toad in and see what you get done. Except: People everywhere get more done than we do, than I do, and with two toads, or three. I could not get it done before, and I cannot get it done now, and it is neither worse nor better. If it's got 28 days, then that's how much I'll get in under the wire. Same same 31. I make the deadline. I file on the 15th. I buy cards on the 14th. That's coming. Maybe buy flowers. Find a professional. Nothing's blooming here except the winter jasmine/forsythia (I can never tell the difference) on the corner. I tried to show the Toad this on the way home yesterday. He was having not much of it. Maybe if it warms up, he'll take notice.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Coal Mine.

There's an empty pot-pie shell sitting in a paper towel on the curb one block home from where, last night, I said in a coffee-and-booze-free haze (thanks, food poisoning!) the Toad 'goes to work.' A block past that, they're jackhammering out some concrete steps to nowhere. It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. I remember when they walled off that porch door around the corner and left the steps; seemed a bad idea then, but I figured: spendy to jackhammer out the steps. Maybe they were just waiting, as I am to side the last side of the building, for the cash flow to flow again. As for the pot pie: nice to think of the highschoolers hitting the 7-Eleven and waiting in the parking lot to bribe some dude to go in there and buy them some Swanson's.

Cold and cloudless, and the only thing that says something's on its way this evening, as the fancies say it may be, is the little persistent breeze out of the west. It's just enough breeze to send the sawdust from cutting the too-long stove logs blowing back in your face. Remember, friends and fans of weather: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these: safety glasses.

Been enough time for the stove back there to take the frost off the insides of the windows, I hope, and so now to make the Toad's having to be a working baby worthwhile. Picture him in a hardhat with a canary. Picture him driving a snowplow. Picture him slinging paper on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile. Picture me watching the clock until one, hoping it both slows down and speeds up.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Two Words.

That light out there—though the sun's six weeks higher in the sky, the right-hand sides of the trees lit by the afternoon sun look wintered, positively. I just now tried to nap through the Toad's nap and failed, owing mainly to the windows bouncing in their frames from whatever wind is bringing first a cold night tonight followed by a chance at snow tomorrow night. The daffodils come higher out of the ground in the back yard, and maybe it is not as cold as it could be, or as it has been, but still: winter.

Autumn gets two words. Seems the other seasons get shorted.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Writers' Bloc.

A convention hotel is, to misquote and half-elide a friend of mine, a humorless place. Good Saturday morning to you, then, friends and fans of weather, from the edge of Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC, home of this year's beret-and-cheek-kiss festival of penmanship. A writer's conference. This you want no part of. Witness the six quasivirginal boys downstairs wearing semihispter t-shirts staring at the grad school girl who's come down for breakfast barefoot and wearing a tiny tank top and still tinier shorts. And we know who she is already, is the problem: She's the one who's already been in the program a year by the time you get there, the one everybody falls for, the one who leaves a kind of scorched earth in her wake. Students, teachers, teachers' pets—she's equal opportunity. You know better. Everybody does. Doesn't matter. She knows who you are, too: You're the next one she's trying to shock. As another friend said over an eight-dollar hotel bar beer last night: The less people pay attention, the bigger it gets.

That girl—the tank-top-in-winter girl—writes stories with talking giraffes in them. Or maybe that was me when I was just as dumb. Could still be me. We do not know.

You want weather for your Saturday morning? Back home it looks like we got all the rain there was, but here we wake up to a persistent 35-degree mist and a little breeze, wet dog weather, coffee weather, as good a day as any to be holed into a hotel room trying to see if these seven chapters are in fact seven chapters. Look: pretension is never far from the conference. Let me badmouth it and then wear a fucking scarf to the coffee shop across the street—I'm too good, I guess, for the Morning After Cafe here in the hotel—and then skulk back here to talk about The Book. Plus I drove the hell up here to be here. On purpose. On my second try I did manage to get a hotel room with working HVAC. And they did give me a cookie on my pillow last night. With milk. I slept until 8:30. Not all is humorless, perhaps.

I don't know a thing about DC weather except to tell you that it certainly looks set in out there. The picture window in the hotel room doesn't much help things in that regard. There is rumor of some restaurant nearby with lamb kebobs and red wine, though, and that's something to hold out for. And an empty morning to do work. And another sentence fragment.

Valet-park your rented Hyundais, people. Hang on to your chits and your key cards. Don't lose the schedule. Don't mind the panels—just finding the second conference hotel, the other one, The Hiawatha Room, The Pin Oak Ballroom West—measure out a day like this according to the smallest possible success. And maybe don't come downstairs in your Victoria's Secret sweatshorts. Maybe save that for the happy privacy of your own room.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cold Again.

Wander out there in one layer to start the fire and you'll be sorry and sad and halfway through your second cup of coffee before the notion that yesterday existed at all starts to feel like some kind of brilliant lie, a shiny thing just off the horizon. Yesterday: sixties, more sun than not, the smell of spring, a jacketless dogwalk down the hill and into the 6 pm sunset. This morning pulls itself up right around 30, though, with that white-gray winter sky that says February. It's still February. We might be barely starting to tilt—they want fifties for the end of the weekend into next week, and the daffodils are pushing through the ruined backyard soil—but it's so thoroughly cold again this morning that I caught myself appraising the woodpile, counting seasoned versus green, counting February and March days, wondering about ordering a second half-cord.

And then I put match to my neighbor's manila-foldered medical records, Hefty bags of which he gave to me for the express purpose of destruction via firestarting, and that stove hops to life, and all is, if not alright, then certainly survivable.

No squirrels. Flocks of waxwings two days in a row. Closing in on the end of the second-to-last chapter. A little love affair brewing with the Toad. Pickuped him back and forth to the Harris-Teeter yesterday. He liked that. I liked that. I explained to him about cowboys and foolishness and the general dumbassery of men, and told him to avoid all that as long as he could. He considered that on the way home, then put a lemon in his mouth.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Order.

Day one of primary caregiving goes like this: the Toad takes not much morning nap, but crashes so hard for his afternoon one that the kitchen gets half-cleaned, CDs I'm no longer allowed to listen to get dug out, the passive voice gets used, and I get to watch a flock of at least 100 cedar waxwings come through the back yard for twenty minutes and denude La Vieja Nueva's holly tree. I went out to get a closer look and there were so many birds roosting and resting in the Downhill Mouse's walnut trees that their shit hitting the ground sounded like fat rain.

The sun was trying to come through earlier, but I think it's given over to whatever weather this is, which is apparently trainwrecking the center of the country and leaving us largely alone. What they get: feet of snow and breathless disaster live-from-the-scening. What we get: clouds and chill.

Coming up on 90 minutes of Toad nap. What a beautiful thing that is. This gets to be regular, why then, forget about the forbidden music, the countertops, the everything but the waxwings: I'll be outside trying to tack on a few more pages. Tune in tomorrow, then, when you'll hear our hero say: Play, Toad, play. Eat, Toad, eat. Sleep, Toad, sleep. Rinse. Repeat.