Bill's patio

the vernal equinox

The spring point passed this afternoon. Crocuses are blooming in the myrtle. Daffodils are nearly ready to bloom as is the red maple. And the silver maples are all in flower. So it must be spring here. The tide really turned at the end of February and even 18 inches of wet snow on the 26th plus a bit more before and after the bulk of the storm couldn't hold back the changes. One night about a week ago the rest of the snow just disappeared. Early warmth followed by a cool April and May makes for a long, slow spring. The best kind. I'm rooting for it.
Bill's patio

The end of a journey

"Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living and, above all, those who live without love."
--Albus Dumbledore

We started listening to Harry Potter in the car on the way to Michigan, December 25th. We heard the first book read to us on tape, finishing it as we passed the hospital on the way back into Ithaca on January 2nd. Since then we have been reading the other six books out loud to each other. Last night after 11pm, 68 days after we began, we reached the end of the journey.

"...but someday baby, I ain't gonna worry my life any more."
--Worried Life Blues
Bill's patio

Snow day

Well, I did go to work today. In jeans and gaiters. With a sled which I used to slide down Libe Slope over toward the Johnson Museum on my lunch hour. We had a solid 14 inches of mostly wet snow early this morning when it finally paused snowing. After our morning shoveling routine, I got in five slides down Water Street before the grader came and scraped the snow away. The grader driver had a lot of finesse with that grader blade and used it to keep from leaving big snow rows at the ends of our driveways--good going grader driver!

Things are always a little loose at work on the big snow days. A huge snowball fight broke out on the Arts Quad around 2 pm and continued for an hour or so. About 500 students were throwing snowballs, some from the second floor deck on Olin Library, right above my office, and the rest on the ground below. It was massive--one guy had a gas mask on, another guy was shirtless. Everyone was smiling and having a hell of a time. Every so often, low snowballs would smash on the glass windows of our offices, but the snow was so soft it was no big deal. Loud, though.

This is the kind of weather that makes winter worthwhile.
garter snake

J K Rowling on failure and imagination

As we continue to be fully immersed in reading Harry Potter aloud, I have become more curious about Rowling the person. Who performed this amazing act of imagination? Here's a video of her 2008 commencement address at Harvard (good idea, Harvard) that connects the person with the experience of reading the books. We both found it moving and inspiring. It's on their alumni magazine's web site here:
garter snake

'arry Potter

Instead of posting and a number of other activities, I have been sucked into the Harry Potter vortex. Now finishing Order of the Phoenix. We are continuing to read it out loud. Great thing to do on winter nights. This is so much fun, we may to to find another author to segue to AR, After Rowling. Possibly Robert B. Parker.
Bill's patio

The January thaw, rainy version

Had some days of good sun and above freezing temperatures. Warm enough to pry some previously frozen hunks of compost in process out of the compost barrel to feed to the wormies. And move some firewood around and re-stack it under the porch. Now a hunk of rain is on the way north from the Gulf of Mexico, arriving this evening and overnight.

In the past I would have resented the thaw, melting away the base for skiing and snow play. Now i just imagine all the melting snow and the rain sinking into the ground and replenishing the ground water, priming the earth for the spring growth that is still two months or more in the future. On our south-facing slope the ground is mostly unfrozen so that the water can sink in. It's different story on the shaded, north-facing slopes in the woods. There the ground is still frozen and the combination of the warmer rains with melting snow pack could slide rapidly over the ground and into Six Mile Creek, causing some flooding.

Which reminds me of the big floods I have seen occurring in winter, one in central Ohio in the 1950s and one on the Willamette River near Salem in the 1980s. The winter floods are the big ones here. No tree leaves to break the force of the rainfall. Frozen ground that absorbs almost nothing of the rain.

So the rain will come and we will focus on "inside activities" later today and tonight while the storm does its best.
Pilocura Chile

Eschucha y aprende

After what seems like too long, we're listening to Escucha y aprende tonight, the mixdisk of Spanish-language music that Lucy and Eduardo assembled in 2007 to help us learn more Spanish. It's become an anthemic collection, each song bringing back an image, a set of images, memories of being in Chile. The whole thing stands for a piece of my soul that nothing else exposes in that particular way--a yearning, some kind of freedom from the weight of my birth culture. Yes, Chile has its own contorted and unique history.

My soul feels like a a holey pair of longjohns turned inside out and tossed on the floor.

Related: I've signed up to take the CUSLAR Spanish conversation class this spring, after a long break. I'm terrified to start again, but surely I have more to work with now than I did when I stopped two years go, halfway through the intermediate level.
garter snake

Harry Potter

Jane and I began a round of Harry Potter by listening to the audio tapes of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on on the way to Michigan with Kate. We finished listening to the first book on our return trip to Ithaca the day after New Year's. Since then we have been reading the books out loud to each other in sequence. We are now five chapters into book four, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It's great fun reading it out loud.

Before this, I had seen the movie of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban a couple of years ago,but that didn't decrease my enjoyment of the story when Kate loaned me the book version last year and I read it to myself. Rereading it out loud with Jane was another equally enjoyable experience. Now we are both thoroughly hooked. I'm sure we will read the remainder of the seven titles out loud. I'm surprised how different is it to hear a book read aloud by a professional reader, read it/listen to it being read aloud by me and Jane, reading it on page silently, and seeing a movie adaptation. Each medium is unique and alters the story.

I also noticed that I can read aloud for a long time--two hours, maybe--when the story flows. It's almost as good as the Lord of the Rings triology. I do like the existence of a world of witches and wizards behind everyday Britain. But I prefer the evocation of the natural world and its despoilations in the Rings: the forests of Lothlorien and the Ents, the mountains and rivers, the tunnels, the stripped wastelands of Mordor.

Reading aloud reawakens memories of the ancient oral traditions and takes me into Sherman and Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine. I see lots of borrowings from other tales. It's all part of the constant reworking of the stories. Go JK!