Snow or Summer Which Shall It Be?

The Lord gave me a huge gift this week-end, He routed the predicted snow storm away from Frankfort. We did have snow, cold, and wind but the inches of snow and ice did not get here. I”m sure somewhere north of us the situation is different. As a kid I loved snow, I couldn’t get enough of it. Snow  meant building snow men or snow forts, snowballs, and snowball wars. It meant sledding down hills and rolling off at the bottom. It meant getting so covered in the white stuff that our pants would be frozen stiff from the knees down. It also meant getting sick with sore throats, and fevers. If we were lucky we’d have some frozen ponds and then we could add ice skating to the fun.

As an old man, I love to look at snow, but despise having to go out into it. It means being cold, or getting the car stuck, and of course it means shoveling walks and driveways clear. It means parking a car is harder, and walking through piles of it from the car is a chore. I would much rather be in a warm sunny climate where snow is something that makes the mountain look pretty. One of my not favorite pastimes is shoveling the drive clear after the Village plow comes by cleaning the street and deposits the street snow onto my newly cleared driveway.

I love sitting in my nice warm house looking out at the bird feeder watching the birds as they feed in a frenzy. I also love seeing tracks made by the squirrels, raccoons, and deer. It is rare to see the actual animals but they are there because after a week the back yard looks like a children’s playground with all the tracks they leave.

Photography in the snow is another favorite passion for an old guy. Winter scenes are among the most beautiful on planet Earth, they project peacefulness and purity.

I guess there is a balance between what I like about snow, and what I don’t like about snow, and I am neutral to it, and if I get really tired of it, I’ll pile onto an airplane to fly to a southern climate. The problem with moving to a warmer climate is that my ass is too firmly rooted in Illinois with family and friends. I recall when I spent the winter months in Arizona with Peg experiencing a strange emotion that something was not right in the Valley of the Sun, I missed snow. Now that is crazy isn’t it? I found having endless days of sunshine without dark cloudy, rainy days boring. I did enjoy not having to bundle up to take a walk. I also enjoyed the greenery and the colorful flowers, but deep inside me there was this nagging feeling that I was out of place there.

Then the days began to get warm, I mean hot. By the end of April ninety degree days were the norm and we had an occasional hundred degree day. The greenery began to turn brown, and It was time to come home. In my mind I envisioned greenery, and colorful flowers and warm, not hot, sunny days. We loaded up and drove home, only to find it still cold, still freezing at night, and mountains of snow piled in parking lots. It would be another eight weeks before we hit the hot humid days of an Illinois summer.

All I can say at this point is that living in midwestern USA prepares one for every type of weather experienced on the planet.

A New Mind-movie Adventure.

Windbeeches on the Schauinsland in Germany (Bl...

Image via Wikipedia

This is probably the longest spell I’ve had between posts since I began blogging. Something has happened to make my zeal for life, blogging, cartooning, and just plain living wane and fall into the universe. All I know is that it ain’t in my soul anymore. I even contemplated shutting down Grumpa Joe’s Place and disappearing into the sunset.

Winter blahs, maybe, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) perhaps, but most likely it is a severe case of LAD (Light Affective Disorder). I thrive on sunshine and there is none this month.

I keep seeing past events playing a loop over and over in my mind. There are never any new adventures, just some really good old mind-movies that can never be duplicated, relived, nor even remembered exactly the same. Even walking does not pump me with feel good seratonin, only aches and pains that spread throughout the joint network.

There is so much in my life to be thankful for, yet the mind-movies continue to play the scenes of Thanksgiving past with all the old relatives, friends, and close family. Perhaps that is it. This year, will be the first time in fifty that my closest family will not be with me at Thanksgiving. Just writing that last sentence has brought on the melancholy.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life! a new mind-movie adventure.

The Monet Vision is Forming In My Mind

Boy do I regret not going to Arizona this winter. I forgot how dreary winter gets. Even though the days are getting longer and the sun shines bright on some days, the chill gets into my bones. It is funny how one can get acclimated to warmth so quickly. I have only spent three complete winters in the desert, but those three winters have won out over the sixty-nine winters spent in the cold. How could that be? If our bodies acclimate so readily to heat why has so much of civilization settled in the northern cold climates? I certainly can’t understand Eskimos at all. I also have a problem understanding Mexicans who sneak into the cold.  A hungry stomach must win out over a cold body.

Our days are getting noticeably warmer. We often see highs in the forty’s now, but the wind makes it feel a lot colder. Yesterday, I toured my yard io review the ravages of winter, and what has to be done to clean it up. Aside from cutting the many annual flowers I left up for the birds and for winter interest, I have a leak in my pond. That one worries me. It could be simple, or it could mean digging up pipes, or it could mean searching endlessly for a cut or pinhole. I don’t look forward to that. It might take Grey Goose and tonic to put me in the right frame of mind to “gett’r done.” Or, it could mean spending a ton of money to watch it get done. Right now, I have more time than money, but  I am short on energy and motivation. Perhaps the warmth of summer will provide the motivation. In the meantime, I look forward to the signs of spring. They are evident and causing the gardening juices to flow. Literally, the juices are flowing into the trees, and the shrubs, and Mother Nature is waking her babies. It is almost time to propagate and multiply.

Here are some of the things I see in late winter:

Nothing beats a late Winter sunset, welll maybe a Summer sunset, or maybe any sunset.

Magnolia Buds Coming Alive

Tired Rose Hips

Winter Lilac Prunings

Daffodils Coming Alive

 

The Water level Drops Four Inches in 72 Hours

Dried Annual Stems Ready to Cut

Barb’s Last Garden Angel Hidden Behind Spent Shasta Daisies

 

More Perennial Debris to Cut

 

Morning Glory Trellis Blown Down in the Blizzard

Magnificent March Sunset

I’m tired just looking at it all, but the Monet Vision is forming in my mind and I can SEE Summer now!

Long Hard Winter

When Grampa Jim stayed in Michigan for the winter, his life was extremely hard.  It wasn’t until he reached his late seventies that mom insisted he come to live with us for the winter.  Even then, he would only last until March, and then one day he would disappear. He took a bus back to Coloma.  God only knows how he made it out to the farm from town.  Other times he took the train from South Chicago to Watervliet.

Gramps winterized the house for the really cold months.  The house didn’t have insulation, but did have storm windows.  The heat came from pot-bellied stoves.  One was in the living room, the other in the dining room.  To conserve heat, he hung a heavy blanket from floor to ceiling over the archway that separated the living room from the rest of the house.  This way, when he fired up the stove, the heat stayed in one room.   He closed the doors to the bedrooms to further seal off the big room.   His cot was in a corner. He pulled the dining room table into the opposite corner by the driveway and the front yard.  This gave him daylight from the windows on both walls.

Grampa Jim got icy cold water from a hand pump in the kitchen, and warmed it on the kerosene stove.  I remember seeing lots of coffee cans under his bed. Others were  by the door.  Some had fluid in them, some were dry.  He used the cans to save going outside to urinate.  The outhouse was  seventy-five feet away from the side door.  God knows what he did when the snow was deep.

Gramps didn’t weigh more that 120 pounds for his  five foot height. His diet was simple. During the winter he subsisted on canned foods like pork and beans and soups. Hot dogs were a treat.  He recycled the grease in his solitary fry pan. Sometimes, he soaked a slice of  rye bread in hot grease for a yummy meal. When he had kerosene, he warmed soup in the can.  Other times he warmed the soup can on the pot belly.

One of his vices was smoking, but in winter he never walked the quarter mile to the store to buy a pack of Camels.  There was always a sack of Bull Durham around, and he rolled his own. After he ran out of tobacco he scoured the ash trays for butts .  Friends and neighbors came by to check on him when they hadn’t seen him for a while.

The pot belly stove kept him from freezing;  he burned coal. It was a chore to drag a few pounds at a time from the basement in a coal bucket.  Winter on the farm was brutal, but he preferred living independently. He lived alone as long as he could. Eventually, he gave in to his daughter’s arguments, and came to spend winters in the city .

Grampa Jim Studies

In the wintertime, Grandpa Jim came to live with us.  The winters in Michigan were hard.  His house wasn’t insulated, and there were only two pot belly stoves to heat the place.  There was no indoor toilet.  So, Mom insisted that Gramps stay with us.

His day began with a breakfast of coffee and bread. He tore one slice of  Silvercup bread into shreds, and plunked them into coffee with milk. Slowly, he spooned up the soggy bread like cereal. After he ate, he shuffled into the living room to sit in the easy chair to read.  First, he read the Hungarian paper cover to cover. The special paper came once a week, but it didn’t matter. He re-read the thing everyday until the new issue arrived. After he finished the Hungarian news he moved to the daily Chicago Times. After the Times, he pulled out a volume of the encyclopedia, and read that.  He was self-taught, and his  English reading skill was not great; but he loved to study. When he returned to the farm, he had new knowledge to share with his friends at Fish Corners.

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