158: The annual flood

(A crocheted coral reef.)

The photos I’m using in this post were taken at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History when M and I went to Washington, D.C. last December.  The exhibition is called The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef.  This is another of those instances where photographs are not nearly as good as the real deal.  It is pretty amazing what the local crocheters and crochet groups managed to create.  I saved the photos for a watery post.  This seems to be it.

Apropos of nothing in particular:  My mother taught me to crochet.  It has been a long time since I sat down with a crochet hook and some yarn and created something.  Hopefully it’s like riding a bicycle.  All I have to do is pick up a hook and I’ll remember how to do it.

It stormed here in the Bogs last night.  And I mean STORMED.  There were many, many bright flashes of lightning and loud booms of thunder that rattled the house.  The rain POURED.  Torrents of rain.  Early this morning one of the local weather people said we had gotten 3 inches of rain overnight.  The rain, of course, melted the snow.  The result?  Water, water, everywhere.

M went down to the basement to discover that yes, indeed, the water made its way into the basement.  It’s the annual February flood.  Sometimes it waits until March if the rains start late.  One year we had no flooding at all in the spring, but a hurricane blew through and left behind so much water that the ground was over-saturated and there was no place for the water to go except the basement.

Yesterday, without thinking about the rain and the snow melt, I sorted the laundry and left it in piles on the laundry room floor.  We found it all thoroughly soaked this morning so today has been a laundry intensive day for me.  It all has to be washed and dried before it starts to become moldy and musty.  You’d be surprised how fast mold can form.

I had planned to start my Spring Cleaning Fest in a couple of weeks.  Once again Mother Nature has decided I should start earlier than planned.

M and I had to carry out the throw rugs and area carpets that soften up the basement floor.  It’s still gray and misty outside right now, but the sun is supposed to come out eventually and that should dry out the rugs and carpets.

This morning I was thankful for a lot of things, but two stand out.  The first is the shop vac (or wet/dry vac).  It is so much easier to suck up all that water with a vacuum than with a mop.  There is one little area in the basement bathroom where the water continues to slowly stream in, and I’ve had to keep at that all day, going in every half hour or so to vacuum up the new water.  Once that stops, I’ll do a good mopping with some bleach.

The other thing I was particularly thankful for was the return of my photos on the external hard drive.  It just needed a reboot.  But I like to think that talking nicely to it while turning it on helped.

(Hmph.)

Today’s outdoor adventures

With all the early spring cleaning of the basement upon me, I did not have a lot of time to spend outdoors today.  I went out periodically to hang things on the line, to feed the birds, and to get in my full 30 minute minimum.  There is a great deal of water out there.  And mud.  Lots and lots of mud.

The birds are enjoying all the mud and water, though.  There were hundreds of them covering the front lawn when I went out this afternoon.  There was even a small flock of robins.  I haven’t yet seen the red-winged blackbird, our harbinger of spring.

One nice thing is that walking around the pond is much easier without the snow.  I did not go down into the woods as the creek has taken over and it’s mostly flooded.  See the two crossed trees in the center of the above photo?  The creek bank is usually somewhere behind that.  I’d like to take a ride around and have a look at some of the other creeks around here, but I don’t think I’ll have the time for it.

I did find this lovely surprise:

Crocuses!!  The little squiggly green things from a couple of weeks ago are now flowers and leaves.

The daffodils are pushing their way up out of the ground, too.

(The ice on the pond is thawing.)

Tomorrow morning should be interesting.  It’s going down to 20 degrees tonight.  I expect there will be plenty of ice out there in the morning.


107: Commitment. Act 2

(U.S. Capitol Building at sunset.  Washington, D.C.)

I will not include a resolution in this post because I want to discuss resolutions in general rather than something specific.

The disclaimer: I’m not singling anyone out.  Really.  I’m not.  I’m pondering and wondering and, perhaps, wandering while I’m at it.

When I asked about resolutions a few posts ago, a couple of you responded that you don’t make resolutions.  That’s cool.  There was a time when my only resolution was to give up making resolutions.  They are, as many have pointed out, easily made and easily broken.

(Playing in abstract.)

I’ve been traveling to a wide variety of blogs, some new to me, since the new year rolled around and have been surprised by how many people are anti-resolutionists.  (Yes, I know.  Anti-resolutionists is not a word.  I like it.  It fits.  I’m using it.)  Vehement anti-resolutionists.  This caused me to wonder about how afraid we (“we” in the general sense) seem to be when it comes to commitments and making promises to ourselves.

That’s how I see a resolution (whether it’s made on New Year’s day, the Winter Solstice, or a random Thursday in May).  As a commitment or promise to oneself.

I am good at keeping my promises to others. I have not always been good at keeping the promises I make to myself.  Usually that stems from going too big, making a promise that is unrealistic in terms of time, skills, possibility, or readiness.  Judging by the number of anti-resolution blog posts I’ve read in the past week, I suspect that there are many like me who have trouble honoring promises they make to themselves while at the same time being a success at honoring promises made to others.

Now I’m not saying you all should rush out and make a few resolutions.  While a few good resolutions that are honored and kept might change the world, I find it difficult to see that happening anytime soon.  I’m mostly thinking out loud and trying to bring it out for discussion as well.

  • Do you find it easier to keep promises made to others than those promises you make to yourself?
  • Have you given up on resolutions because of past failures?

I know some folks have decided on a word for the year.  I’ve done that too, this year and in the past, although I call it my “theme” for the year.  Same difference, no doubt.  Do you think a word for the year differs from a resolution?  How so?

My theme for this year, as you all know, is De-Clutter.  Last year it was Simplify.  The problem I had with last year’s theme is that it was too broad.  I couldn’t exactly fail at it because I hadn’t exactly focused on anything specific.  However, I do feel as though I didn’t succeed at it because my life seems more complicated this year than it did last year.  That said (and having just experienced a sudden moment of clear hindsight), it’s possible life just seemed less complicated last year because when 2010 arrived I was still encased in a bubble of grief, not yet ready to make my way out.  Simplifying at that moment in time meant getting through the grief process in my own way and at my own pace, and giving myself permission to let life and grief play out as they would without feeling guilty about chores that didn’t get done or spending the day wrapped in sadness.

Looks like there was a success there after all.  Still, I find a theme or word needs some sort of specific focus, but that’s just me.  Your mileage may vary.  I have been working on specifics for my De-Clutter theme.  More about that in a future post.

As the snow flies

I have learned that when it’s in the 20’s, windy, snowing, and you’re pretty sure you’re going to end up as frozen as a popsicle, you can’t be any place other than in the moment.  The body and mind, for once, are perfectly in sync.  My outdoor adventures this winter are almost better than meditation when it comes to mindfulness.

(Waiting for snow.)

Today’s walk was no different.  Snow, cold, wind.  The usual January conditions prevail.  We had a couple of inches of snow since I last posted.  Predictions are for 14 or more inches to fall and accumulate this weekend.  Woo-hoo!  We can go skiing again!

(Bristled.  A lump of grass in the snow.)

I didn’t wander far today.  I’m feeling a little tired.  Truth be told, I want to hibernate.  Sleep in every day.  Meditate for a while.  Curl up by the fire and read.  Stay close to home.  This is the time of year when I normally do that.  In a way, staying close to the house for my walk wasn’t such a bad thing.  It allowed me to look a little closer at things I usually pass by without much more than a glance.

(Fallen branch.)

The daily blog posts are beginning to be exhausting.  More work than fun.  But this too shall pass.  In the meantime, I appreciate your visits and the fact that you’re still soldiering on with me.  Thank you.


105: Commitment

(Sunset by the frozen reflection pool near the U.S. Capitol Building.  Washington, D.C.)

It’s been kind of a crazy day today.  It feels like I’ve been trying to catch up with myself all morning and into the afternoon.  I finally took a few deep breaths and decided to start where I am and work from there.  Really, there is nothing else I could do except stress over it and what’s the point in that?

(Same as above, different angle.)

Today’s outdoor time was all about running errands and doing chores.  The only photo I have for you in regards to today’s outdoor time is the daily view of the pond:

We had some flurries overnight and into the morning.  The ice on the pond is now snow covered.  This is bad for ice skating as the snow will likely to stick to the ice.  If the ice was a little thicker (therefore safe to walk upon), we could go out and shovel off some of the snow.  But since the thaw, it hasn’t been cold enough for long enough to make the ice safe for human foot traffic.  Some of the animals, however, have found it perfectly safe and are leaving their little tracks all over the place.

I resolve…

To continue to honor my 365 commitment to step outside and enjoy the great outdoors every day.

(Trees at the edge of the meadow.  Taken yesterday.)

Some of you might be thinking I’m cheating with this one.  Stacking the deck, as they say.  Maybe.  But not entirely.  You see, I’ve learned that with some long-term commitments it’s a good idea to re-commit every now and then.  This is especially true with promises I make to myself that involve things that will (seemingly) not affect others if I should decide to give up.

When I quit smoking I had to recommit every day for pretty much the entire first year.  The first year is the hardest, no matter what the so-called experts say.  It takes that long to come around to a new state of “normal.”  I think that’s because it takes that long to cycle through most of the circumstances a smoker normally associates with smoking.  The first winter of being an ex-smoker is different than the first summer.  Or spring or fall, for that matter. The first year of quitting smoking is a year of many firsts.  Exciting, if you look at it in a positive way.  Recommitting daily helps most on those days when it doesn’t seem exciting, and positive thoughts are difficult to find.

I still recommit to my Quit every now and then, usually when I feel the urge or craving to light up and take a few puffs.  The recommit keeps me from following through on those urges or cravings.

(Visually climbing the tree.  Taken yesterday.)

Anyhow.  I have decided to start applying that lesson of recommitting to other commitments I make, especially those of the self-improvement variety.  My outdoor commitment is a good place to start as it has brought with it self-improvement side-effects including (but not limited to) those benefits I get from exercise, fresh air, sunlight (for that all-important Vitamin D), and stress relief.  Bonus:  Some of the blustery and cold days can be more invigorating than caffeine, helping me cut back on my tea intake.

I have 260 days to go with this commitment.  Hopefully recommitting from time to time will keep me moving forward with it.


104: Honing

(“Monkeys Grasping for the Moon.”  Sackler Gallery.  Washington, D.C.)

(To read more about “Monkeys Grasping for the Moon,” click here.)

One of the things M and I did while in Washington, D.C. was pay a visit to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery to see two exhibits that we thought would be interesting.  The first was Shahnama:  1000 Years of the Persian Book of Kings.  Honestly, that was my pick (not M’s).  The description intrigued me and for some reason I thought it might be similar to seeing the illuminated manuscripts we saw at the British Library in London.  It was, in a way.  I’m fascinated by books, all books.  Ancient.  Old.  New.  Yep.  All books.

We arrived at the Sackler Gallery at just the right time.  When we asked at the information desk about the exhibit we were in turn asked if we would like a tour.  After we responded in the affirmative, a docent led us off to the exhibit and spent quite a bit of time telling us the story of the books as well as the stories told in the books themselves which recount the myths, legends, and history of Iran.

I enjoyed the stories while M, being more visual, enjoyed the art itself.  The pages of the books displayed are about the size of the pages in a coffee table book or large bible (portrait orientation), and to experience the intricacy and details of the artwork you need a magnifying glass.  It was pretty amazing.  I also found the period and stylistic differences interesting.

(Behind “The Castle.”  Washington, D.C.)

We also saw Perspectives:  Hai Bo at the Sackler Gallery.  The exhibit consists of five large-scale photographs from Hai Bo’s Northern Series which, among other things, shows the changing seasons in one place.  The reasons for my interest in this exhibit are:

  • The obvious — my interest in photography.
  • My experience photographing the pond on an almost daily basis since beginning my outdoor commitment.  (You can see the slideshow here if you’re interested.  Or even if you’re not interested.  It will still be there.)
  • Scott Thomas at Views Infinitum announced a Four Seasons 2011 assignment not too long ago, and I decided to participate.

I’ve been photographing similar views of the pond here at Breezy Acres ever since I got my first digital camera.  When M and I were off on our sabbatical adventures I became interested in photographing one particular tree during the various seasons, but we were there for only three of the four seasons so I missed one.

(In the garden behind “The Castle.”  Washington, D.C.)

I resolve…

To sharpen my knives more often.

More than a few weeks ago, M and I borrowed a sharpener from friends so we could hone our knives.  When it comes to food preparation, I do a great deal of chopping, dicing, mincing, and slicing.  It’s pretty much a requirement when one is pursuing a healthful, almost-vegetarian lifestyle.

Would you believe I have never had my knives sharpened?  Yes, it’s true.  Never.  I use the wand-like thing that came with the knives, and I have thought about taking them to someone and having them sharpened, but never got around to doing it.  While celebrating Thanksgiving with our friends in their home (thank you Chris & Jeffrey!) I mentioned this amazing factoid about my cooking life and, being good friends, they loaned us their sharpener.  (And hey, C & J, we need to get together again soon so we can return the sharpener!)

So.  We used the wonderful sharpener and my knives are now wonderfully sharpened.  Cutting through vegetables is almost like cutting through butter.  It’s that easy.  I’m afraid I will quickly dull the knives again by using too much force, something I got used to doing with less-than-sharp knives.

This experience was a good reminder to me that if I want my tools to work well, I must keep them honed and in good condition.

Not a Flurry

We were supposed to have snow here today.  There might have been snow somewhere around this area but nary a flurry was seen here at Breezy Acres until late this afternoon, near the end of my walk.

(This morning’s view of the pond.)

The day started out sunny but by 2:00pm it was dark and cloudy.  By 3:00pm the first of the flurries flew by.  The snowflakes were few and far between.  Widely scattered is probably the best way to put it.

(Blowing in the wind.)

Today was one of those days when I had to stretch to find something to photograph.  I feel as though I’ve been taking pictures of the same things over and over and over to the point of it becoming boring.  The good thing about it, I suppose, is that my eyes are getting a good workout.  Good enough that I was able to spot this feather which, unlike the objects in the side mirrors of a car, is in actuality smaller than it appears in this photo.

(Cattails and tree reflections on ice.)

And that, my friends, is about it from The Bogs for today.  See you again tomorrow!


103: A sunset

We had a lovely sunset yesterday.  If it hadn’t been so cold (and I hadn’t been so lazy), I would have taken the tripod and camera and gone out to the meadow to take a few shots of the gorgeous colors in the sky.  Alas, both conditions prevailed and this was the best I could do from balcony.

I resolve…

To practice gratitude.  I have already started a gratitude journal, something I’ve done in the past that I know works quite well in helping me focus on the positives in my life.  However, I want to take it a step further this year by pausing occasionally throughout my day to center myself with a quiet “thank you” or two.

For example, while washing dishes this morning I said a silent thanks for the clean, running water I am privileged to have available to me.  Many of us probably take that sort of thing for granted.  I know there are times when I do.  But there are millions of people in the world who would find clean water a luxury so I wanted to be sure to acknowledge how lucky I am to be able to turn on a faucet and have fresh, clean, potable water.  So lucky, in fact, that I can use it for washing.

This line of thought then diverged to being thankful for the dishes and for the food that not only dirtied the dishes but nourished us.  Taking the time to do this turned a chore into an act of gratitude.  It no longer felt so chore-like and I was happy to be doing it.

(Note:  The flower photo was taken at the U.S. Botanic Garden.  My camera was cold from being outdoors.  The heat and humidity in the garden caused the lens to fog up.  I took a few photos while I was waiting for it to clear just to see how they would come out.  I processed this in Photoshop to give it a more painting-like feel and to reduce some of the noise caused by the fogged lens.)

Clear and bright

We have been gifted with another bright, sunshiny day here in the Bogs.  Not a cloud in the sky.  Of course the clear sky means cold temperatures since there are no clouds to hold in the heat.  It was 16 degrees when I rolled out of bed this morning, but a balmy 34 when I stepped outside in the afternoon.

I planned to skip going into the woods today since I took the high meadow path.  I thought I’d hang out there and by the pond.  But as I came around the back of the pond I looked down into the woods and saw great sheets of ice where the creek had come up over its banks.

I noticed  a variety of patterns and shapes in the ice.  I even found a few interesting ice formations sparkling in the sunlight.

Although it’s still early winter, I’ve already started looking for (and almost craving) spots of color…

… or patches of sunlight in the shady spots.

Sometimes I get truly lucky and find both.


101: What’s around the corner?

(Looking forward.  Washington, D.C.)

Note: This is a mega-post, for which I apologize.  I am trying to fit in a little about the trip as well as some current stuff.  I am pondering “learn brevity” as a New Year’s resolution.

Happy 2011!  I wish you joy, love, laughter, and prosperity in the new year.  How you apply those wishes is entirely up to you.  🙂

M and I have already celebrated with our traditional pork and sauerkraut dinner that is said to bring luck, prosperity, and other good stuff.  Weight loss, obviously, is not part of the “other good stuff.”

It seems like much has changed between the old year and the new year.  There aren’t many years when I can honestly say I see such a great contrast.  Stepping away from the familiar has a way of changing one’s perspective in a way that allows you to see the contrasts.  Even so, the difference between the day M and I left home early Wednesday morning and arrived home yesterday evening is amazing.

(Stepping out of the Christmas holidays.  Fogged lens.  The U.S. Botanic Garden.  Washington, D.C.  This looks better large.  As with all of the photos in this post, click on the photo to view it larger.)

When we left home we had about 2 feet of snow on the ground and it was cold.  Frigid is the word I last used to describe it here on the blog.  When we returned, most of the snow had disappeared and the temperature was in the mid-50s.

(Watery sun reflections on a Smithsonian window.  Washington, D.C.)

I’m guessing you may have figured out by now where we went.  Washington, D.C., of course.  For my friends outside of the U.S., I didn’t assume you’d know from my hints but I also didn’t want to assume you wouldn’t know as it seems like people outside of the U.S. are better informed about the world beyond their borders than a lot of folks within the U.S.  The building in the pictures posted yesterday is the U.S. Capitol.

(In flight.  U.S. Capitol building.  Washington, D.C.)

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