Saturday, March 31, 2012

failure can be beautiful

I must have had settings on the camera a little off today without realizing it. But you know what? I find these pictures beautiful anyway. Without further ado…
DSC_0123 (4)
Eastern blue eyed grass – a whole rash of which popped out yesterday.
DSC_0125 (4)
Vinca aka myrtle.
DSC_0129 (4)
Another vinca, just starting to unfold.
DSC_0137 (3)

DSC_0141 (3)
Black-eyed Susan. Scrum-diddly-umptious. I hope everyone’s having a great weekend!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

gray and cold out, but undaunted

Three minutes of looking around at the end of the work day can be quite profitable:
eastern blue eyed grass

the daffodils were undeterred after yesterday’s freezing rain kicked off the day. “screw it,” they said. “we’re opening up.”

siberian iris shoots. just you wait.

gray birch catkin. a reminder that we live on a strange planet.

gray birch female flower, I believe. (still learning whose bits are whose).

wild rose, which just started to leaf out last week, and has since thought the better of it and suspended the proceedings.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

on pain, comfort zones, and a bit of the hair of the dog that bit me

I am, sad to say, sensitive to pain. I’m just wired that way. I like to think of it as being the downside of being such a lovely, empathic person (cough, cough). You know, all tenderhearted and whatnot, on the inside, and the outside. This has been on my mind lately, starting with the other day, when I had a crown installed. That’s where they do to the top of your tooth what the coal industry has done to the state of West Virginia: file that puppy down to a nubbin. And then pop a cover on it that’s modeled on your own tooth.

I knew from experience to get a block shot – that’s where the Novocaine goes into the nerve that affects about a quarter of your face, way more than just the tooth to be worked on. Just to be safe, since the last time I had a crown, this became a rather urgent necessity partway through, I also got a handful of added bonus shots all around the tooth itself. By this point, I’d say my whole head was nicely anesthetized and I was a happy camper.

Fast forward to yesterday, the day after the Tough Mudder exercise class. Now, that was a tough workout. But I didn’t realize how tough until yesterday. When I couldn’t move without pain. My quads were in agony. My hamstrings were even worse. Searing stabs of pain lit up muscles in my stomach I had previously only a passing acquaintance with. 

And, interestingly, I found I had no energy of any OTHER kind, either. I mean, it’s not like “well, at least my brain’s on fire with shiny ideas!” Nope, all was blaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Mondays are normally my day to be kind to other people (via giving Reiki to folks at the chemo unit at the hospital), but I couldn’t even envision that happening. Sigh. (Like my post-exercise pain even compares to the side effects of chemo.)  I managed to turn that particular toxic brain channel off, since I find that inspiration is a better fuel mix than guilt. And I just took it easy yesterday.

Today was only marginally better. In the afternoon, I wondered what I should do about my planned run. When in doubt, turn to more experienced people: in this case, my cousin Emily, who’s run like, five marathons.


Aww, crap, I knew she’d say that. Why’d I even ask? What do you MEAN, lying on the couch eating 70% dark chocolate isn’t the recommended remedy? Grumble, grumble. So I hopped gingerly stepped on the treadmill, walked a few minutes, dialed it all the way up to “old lady” speed, and ran for a mile and a half. I only winced for the first four minutes. And then by gum, I felt a little looser. Yay.

You may ask, what’s a wuss like me doing the Tough Mudder for? It’s not because I want to overcome my sensitivity to pain – I figure that’s how I’m built. It’s more that honest to god, it looks like fun. But it’s really only fun if you’re strong enough. And the only way to get stronger is to challenge myself. That’s just how it works.

To borrow from a friend:

where the magic happens

Now, the daffodils out on the side of the driveway are going to disagree with me on this. They have a comfort zone. And that comfort zone does not include overnight temperatures well below freezing.


Good luck, little one.


These little heath buggers seem tougher – I’ll bet they’ll be OK.


The crocuses by the woodpile are looking a little worse for wear – like when the fridge settings are off, and the lettuce freezes.


I’d move, but he’s standing on my foot. He’s eating grass. Which, with any luck, he’ll puke up on our nice Indian carpet later on. That’s my boy!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Don’t worry, buddy. The sun will come out again soon.

…said the one forsythia flower, to its neighbor. 


Gone are the 80+ degree temperatures that no doubt prompted these guys to open up weeks ahead of schedule: we’re back in overcast, rainy, 50’s-territory. This particular forsythia is actually at a friend’s house down in the subtropics of Massachusetts. Our forsythia is biding its time – it hasn’t bloomed yet, which is probably good, since it’s supposed to dip below freezing tonight.


Red maple buds in the parking lot at the coop. They happy.

Can we interrupt this alleged nature blog to discuss just how exhausted I am? I got up at O’ Dark Early to go to that Tough Mudder exercise class I mentioned the other day. Holy Mother of the Baby Jesus, it was a workout. It was a circuit of a bunch of random exercises, ranging from quarter mile sprints on the treadmill, to bench presses and push ups, to weird stuff like starting in a squat and hopping up on to a 20” tall surface. Oh, and flipping a truck tire over – that one took two people. Well, two of us females, anyway. The guys were doing it themselves. I can’t remember if that thing was supposed to weigh two hundred, or four hundred pounds. It may as well have weighed a thousand pounds. Anyway, you do all these exercises, boom boom, boom, and then you do them all AGAIN, and then – now that you’re a limp noodle, you do ‘em a third time.

I didn’t do all of them.

But I came close. I’m not going next Sunday, because I’m running twelve miles instead, thank you very much. But I’ve signed up for the week after. Incidentally, the reason I’m telling you all this is so that I will actually do it.

This afternoon I went to a friend’s birthday party and had a good time, and inserted chocolate cake into my chocolate cake hole, figuring if I couldn’t have cake after having run five miles yesterday, and endured an hour and a half of solid heart-exploding exercise this morning, there was no justice in the world.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

the unfolding of spring: blink, and you’ll miss it.

I don’t know about you, but my brain melts at temperatures above 80 degrees. It’s Vermont. It’s March. Good Lord. The process of documenting spring’s awakening is UPON US, baby. The frogs started hollering yesterday afternoon. All kinds of things are happening-all-of-the-sudden, and here I am, with a melted brain. Here’s what I was able to capture today:
The lilac buds started opening. Today. Last year, the buds were closed on April 6th, and it took them until April 22nd to get to the stage shown above. This year, they went from closed, to open, in two days.
DSC_0015 (4)
The lone miniature lawn hyacinth poked up.
So did these guys. I never did really ID ‘em last year – I think I went with white blue-eyed grass.
Here’s one of my world-famous time-lapse sequences of buds opening up. I believe this is an introduced species – Cornus mas, or a cherry dogwood.
The terminal bud.
The next set of buds. No news.
The next set of buds…hello!
…the next set of buds…
An explosion of yellow. I swear, I’m going to have to just camp out next to this and try and spot how this happens. Sproinnnggggg!
Ta da!

DSC_0055 (4)
Along the driveway, the wild rose is leafing out today. Last year? Late April.
As for the gray birch – already, the buds are sporting their magenta headdresses while nearby, the catkins open up. This is a process that started last year on April 11th. So yeah, it’s been an accelerated spring.

DSC_0086 (4)
DSC_0069 (4)
I’ve got my work cut out for me, to run around and keep up with all of this – wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

now we’re cooking.


FINALLY, three crocuses (crocii?) manifested out of sheer nothingness in the lawn today.


The willows out by the mailbox puffed out yesterday, but it wasn’t until today that I ventured forth to visit…


…as it’s a little wet out there.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

mud, mudder, modest

It’s crazy warm here in southern Vermont at the moment. Which is disconcerting, because – at least in our corner of this little corner of the state – there’s not actually a lot to report. Just a lot of dusty, dry leaf litter on the sides of the road. It’s mud season, folks.


The magnolia’s got nothing to say.


Wild ginger (Asarum canadense) has allowed as how a leaf here and there might be appropriate, but is otherwise silent.


The vinca, on the other hand, is confident that all is happening as it should. That’s hardly surprising, though. Vinca (also known as myrtle) is pretty gangbuster about just showing up. It was still throwing off flowers last November, for crying out loud.



There are a bunch of these skating around on the surface of the brook, in a calm spot free of ripples. They didn’t get the memo that they are, in fact, on water. Maybe I’ll call them Jesus bugs for the time being. 


DSC_0004 (4)

Across the way, on the path that leads to the newt/tadpole pond, the trees have all been dipped in moss.



In other news, my apparent lack of modesty regarding my running routine has landed me in trouble. I’ve been recruited for not one, but two, kick-ass events. Up first, the Tough Mudder. This is a ten-mile slog up and back down a local mountain, with a bunch of spiritually annihilating obstacles thrown in, including walls to scale, mud pits to traverse, 15-foot leaps into water, greased jungle gym bars over a water pit, and various other hazards like, uh, getting an electric shock at the end. Doesn’t that sound like a peach? That’s mid-July. A friend of ours just turned 50, and since a sports car was apparently not in the budget, he figured this was the next best thing. So he’s putting together a team.

So I’m at the gym today, doing my eeensy-weensy girly girl weight lifting routine, and I learned that one of the guys at the gym has put together a Tough Mudder workout class. On Sundays. At seven a.m. Jeez, Louise, WHAT have I gotten myself into?

photo (2)

Another friend has lured me into joining a twelve-person team for some kind of ludicrous 48-hour thing where you run a relay from the mountains of New Hampshire, to the beach. As in, running 24/7, in shifts. Lucky you, if you pull the 2 a.m. slot. This isn’t happening for months and months, but still.

I’m at the point in my life where I’d rather have an epic fail at something like this, than never have tried at all, so I’m all in. My most recent long run was 11 miles, this past weekend, the highlight of which was nearly losing a shoe in some muddy ruts that were a little squelchier than I’d anticipated. So that’s what the “road closed” barrier was all about. Go figure. 

In other news – and this is, believe it or not, why I didn’t get outside with the camera much over the weekend – we are now the proud owners of a magical device that translates our cable capacity into a cell signal. Which means that we’ve gone from no bars, to four bars, of service. This all happened because our cell phone contract was up for renewal, and we went into the store, thinking we’d upgrade from our low-tech, but perfectly serviceable flip phones, with the bottom of the barrel no-frills plan, to perhaps ever-so-slightly newer flip phones, with the same bottom of the barrel no-frills plan.

Once we learned about the 'network extender’ gizmo, one thing led to another.

And now I have an iPhone. Not the one where Siri nags you in her dulcet tones about what you should be doing to train for your next event, but the next one down, the iPhone 4. I will now text. As a friend drily noted, ‘welcome to the 20th century, Sarah’.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

our first spring flower

DSC_0127 (3)

It’s a heath! I couldn’t figure this one out last year, so I wound up calling it the playtex tampon applicator flower.

I know, I know: I’m overdue for a post. Sorry, world! Maybe tomorrow. I’ve got a long run in the morning, and then some errands to run. G’nite! (Or, good morning, as the case may be.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

who says trees can’t fall in love?


Act I: I Will Hold You Until Long After I’m Gone

DSC_0010 (3)

A yellow birch root encircling the base of an ash. This one’s weird, actually: I can’t find the rest of the birch. Just its root. Which is weird, because normally, yellow birches get their start as seedlings, on stumps and downed trees. That’s why they have such great, exposed roots – when the stumps decay completely, it looks like birches are standing on their toes.

DSC_0017 (3)

And if that’s not cool enough, check out their bark. Thin narrow strips…

DSC_0027 (3)

…of gold.

Act Deux: You know who else loves stumps?

DSC_0040 (3)

DSC_0050 (3)

DSC_0100 (3)

DSC_0104 (3)

Mosses and lichens, that’s who.

Part C: Our Love Story

Saplings of white birch (on the left) and yellow birch (on the right) got their start right next to each other.  As tiny saplings, a couple of feet tall, they must have been less than eight or so inches apart. As they grew, they filled in the space between them…

DSC_0117 (3)

…until their bases practically welded themselves together.

DSC_0118 (3)

A couple of feet up, still going strong…they start to twist around each other.

DSC_0122 (3)

…so that the yellow birch is on the left now.

DSC_0124 (3)

Once they hit light, they spread out…sort of like when a middle-aged married couple finally gives in and gets a king size bed.

This post is dedicated to my first real mentor, Howard Brown, who was infamous for starting lists with “1, 2, 3…” and switching over to letters (“a, b, c…”) partway through. He was also the king of mixed metaphors, to wit: shooting from the seat of one’s pants…keeping your ears to the grindstone… etc.