Category Archives: Weather

England Day 2: Art and Dead People


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Daughter and grandson on our cemetery walk.

After leaving the grandchildren off at school, my daughter suggested a walk through a cemetery.

We’ve been there before, but not this year. It’s a pleasant place to walk, an old cemetery with fading gravestones, at least the part we walked in. I understand it has modern areas, too, but this old part is part burial ground, part urban nature preserve, and it’s a peaceful, interesting place for a stroll.

At one point, my toddler grandson wanted me to pick him up so he could bat his hands at low-hanging leaves on trees. He has an infectious chortle, and we heard it sounding out a bit in the quiet among the dead. It was a good place to be alive.

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Another view of the cemetery.

Following the cemetery stroll, we decided to walk across town. Rain was in the forecast today, but not until later in the afternoon, and we gambled we could cross the distance to the rail station and return before the rain set it. It felt very muggy today, but was a bit cooler than yesterday, so it was a nice day for a walk.

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Art in the church.

Along the way, when we got downtown, an old church used as a civic center was advertising an art exhibit/sale, so we went in. It was nice to see the church, even if it being filled with contemporary art felt a little dissonant. Much of the art was several hundred pounds in price, which was one discouragement—and also was bulky enough that fitting it into a carry-on could be an issue, so we merely viewed the art and church and then moved on.

The walk across town felt like several miles, to me. I’m hoping it was good cross training for RAGBRAI—and being comfortable walking some distance isn’t just cross training, it’s also training, since RAGBRAI can involve a fair amount of walking, too.

We have a bold plan—we are to care for the grandchildren this weekend while our daughter and son-in-law enjoy a weekend alone in London. The walk today was so that our daughter could get her train ticket.

We also stopped at a bike shop downtown where I arranged to rent a bicycle for next week and also purchased a biking map of Norwich.

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One display in the church was a table set as “The Last Brexit Supper,” which was not exactly pro-Brexit.

Lunch was at a falafel eatery downtown—my daughter got us a group platter that could have fed four or five. The three of us, plus the toddler, gave it the old college try, but we ended up with a significant take-home box of leftovers, too. The platter was falafel and pita sandwich veggie fixings, including nice humus. It was filling and delicious.

We arrived still dry back at my daughter’s house about 2 in the afternoon, and I skipped the walk to school to pick up granddaughters so I could nap. I’m struggling a little to say awake right now, but the sunny walk today hopefully helped reset my bio clock, so I may not be blogging at 3:30 a.m. tomorrow morning. Knock on wood.

So today featured a long walk in a pleasant English city, including art and a cemetery stroll, a great lunch and the promise of future adventures—biking in the UK!

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Filed under Food, Grandchildren, holidays, Travel, Weather

Love in the Time of Peonies


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Peony blooming in front garden. With ant.

I feel like I’m visiting my gardens now and then. We are travelling a lot this summer, so my relationship with the changing scenery outside is snapshots rather than the continuous story.

Not that I’m complaining. I loved the time in California, and I look forward to journeys to Okoboji and then England.

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June 2019–Milkweed getting tall.

Spring has turned to early summer. Biking to campus today, I noticed a great patch of peonies on the back entrance leading to the library.

Peonies are popping all over town. They are barely getting going in my own gardens, but they are starting. Early in June, I’m enjoying irises, clematis, new phlox we planted this spring. It was a hard winter in my yards—four trees either completely died or were severely damaged, including a cottonwood (what kind of cottonwood can’t take a Midwest winter?).

But you can’t feel sad about winter losses in the time of Peonies. A soft scent, big showy flowers, vibrant colors. I love peonies, and they are a sign that summer is underway.

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California Day 7: The Nature of the State


During this visit to California, I’ve been in two cities: San Diego and San Francisco. I haven’t had the opportunity to visit many natural places, beyond the hillsides north of San Francisco that my son and I experience on a bike ride, which I describe on my other blog.

It’s an odd time of year, this May. It’s been in the 50s and 60s here in California, the kind of days where you sometimes wear your jacket, sometimes carry it. We’ve felt the warmth of the California sun, but also the coolness of Pacific breezes.

Meanwhile, we’re watching news reports of all the crazy weather in Iowa. We’ve missed a stormy time there, and it’s been warmer in Iowa than it has been in California.

Anyway, even if it is a little cooler here for these few days, spring and summer are clearly further along. So here are a few images of summer-like views in cool California:

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California Day 6: The Benefits of Walking: Views and Plants


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Walking in San Diego on Memorial Day.

I am not sure if I have lost any weight on this West Coast adventure. Hearty restaurant meals and afternoon ice cream or other treats are on one side of the ledger—balanced against 6 or more miles of walking each day.

But I have enjoyed the walks. I’m not a fast walker, and usually lag behind, but I do walk and can cover some distance. We returned Tuesday to San Francisco from San Diego. The weather was breezier in the bay city, and the ground undulates a lot more here—a lot more. Still, California has been kind—I’ve been following all the stories of storms in the Midwest, and I hope the pattern there dries out soon.

Anyway, I’m fonder of bike riding—the pace is so much faster than walking, you cover more ground, and get to enjoy the same sense of being outside and experiencing the birds and bees and flowers and trees. Still, there is something to be said for walks, too. For one thing, conversation is much easier and more effective. On bike rides, I often find myself projecting my voice strongly to try to be heard, or straining to catch another riders’ remarks, often failing to hear what was said.

Walking promotes chatting.

And plants. We flew back to San Francisco Tuesday morning. Our daughter-in-law had to spend the afternoon working. Our son had a work meeting via computer, too, but it did not take long, and soon we took a Lyft to an older neighborhood for lunch and an afternoon stroll.

We purchased sandwiches at “Say Cheese” on Cole Street, and if you want excellent lunch sandwiches in San Francisco, I recommend it highly. We walked to a nearby park—San Francisco is graced with many small neighborhood parks—and enjoyed our meal.

Than we strolled up to Tank Hill, a bit of a climb, but I guess that makes the walk more effective as exercise. We enjoyed the views there.

And then walked off to find ice cream. Because, you know, vacation. The intended shop was closed, and the next almost a mile away, but since we were headed towards treats, we decided to go ahead and do the walk. We passed through the Panhandle on our way. We were in an older part of town, and there was some comfort in seeing all the Victorian townhouses—it felt very San Francisco.

On the sidewalk outside of one, someone had set a small table with several succulent plants. “Free to a good home,” the sign read. The plants were rooted in carboard cartons, and because our son keeps some house plants, we decided his was a good home. So we picked up what my wife first called “baby,” but which I said was “Audrey III,” and carried on.

We got our ice cream and walked to Alamo Square. It was a nice day, and the side of the square facing the famous “painted ladies,” as those colorful Victorian houses are known, was busy with tourists making images.

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Park where we ate lunch. And climbed a hill. There were several hills on our San Francisco walk.

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Tank Hill, great views of the city.

I’m not sure exactly how far we walked. Most days, we have gone 6 miles or so—this was probably a shorter stroll, but a few miles anyway.

Once we get home, I know that I’ll try to get as many biking miles in as I can. Still, it would be good to make some time for a daily constitutional, too. A walk on a fine day if good for the body and soul.

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Iowa Spring: Buds and Crazed Monkeys


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Crocus in my yard. Many coming up, will have to plant more next year.

Spring! When the thoughts of young men and women turn to crazed monkeys.

A student at MMU recently wrote a blog post about that second idea, which I find very amusing. It reminds me of how Mexican birds once seemed to hate me, and on a service trip some years ago, I go the nickname “bird boy” for all the times birds dropped their poop bombs on me. All things considered, I suppose I was lucky I was not the target of monkeys.

Anyway, we’ve turned the corner. There may well be frost or snow yet in our future—it’s early April, after all, but spring is for sure here. It is a compressed spring, with maples blooming after the flowers started, which does not seem like the usual order, but buds do show that plants are waking up:

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I already posted about my first flowers, but the Crocus is being joined by others in my gardens, which is nice to see:

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A Man Walked the Walk Despite Cows


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Books for sale at evening presentation.

The Great Plains seems to be a beautiful place—a place of big skies, great distances and cows.

Beware the cows. A city kid from Buffalo, New York, Ken Ilgunas set out in fall several years ago to walk the route of the Keystone Pipeline, planned to go from Alberta to Texas. His purpose was to write a book about the land the controversial project would cross.

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At the evening speech, in the light.

But his worry, besides being shot for trespassing as he followed the route, was the potential for cattle catastrophe.

Although he did have some scary encounters, cows, it turned out, where not the bad.

And the people he met were mostly willing to help a scruffy looking stranger walking across their land. Ilguan, who spoke March 5 at Mount Mercy University, told both a journalism class and an evening public program that he had a particular approach to strangers.

 

Ilguna would walk up to a house, knock on the door, and then say, “I’m walking across America. Can I trouble you for some water?”

The answer was almost universally “yes.” One-on-one, as it turns out, Americans are not hostile or violent. They’ll invite you in, give you water, sometimes offer a meal or even a couch for the night.

I enjoyed both of Ilguna’s presentations, and hope to get and read his books—I did not have enough cash in my pocket to buy one tonight, but I’ll shop for “Trespassing Across America” soon.

Besides being an interesting and entertaining personal journey, Ilguna was also recording what he called, in scope, one of the biggest of all human-made environmental disasters, second perhaps only to global warming. Great swaths of land in Canada are being stripped to get at the oil tar, and great damage is then done to extract the oil from the sand and clay it is bound to.

The afternoon session, in which a social work professor kindly allowed my introduction to journalism class to sit in, included some interesting thoughts on launching a writing career. Among other things, Ilguna urged students to have their own web site—which validates a requirement I made in my writing classes for students to do that very thing.

The class also included an interesting discussion of the reality that Ilguna was a white man walking across the whitest part of North America, which was to his advantage. He and the students speculated it would be harder for any person or color, and several women noted that it would be difficult for a female to make that kind of solo journey.

It was an interesting day. More images. I’m glad Rachel Murtaugh and the MMU sustainability effort brought this interesting writer to campus.

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In Praise of Snow Removal Technology


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My snow blower Monday morning, when I had just cleared the drive from the last snow storm.

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It must be a sign of advancing age. For much of my adult life, I clung to the romance of the snow shovel—if white ice crystals were to be moved by a human, I would do it the manly way, with back and arm and muscle and bone and grit.

And now, the heck with it.

Several years ago, concerned, legitimately, with the health of my aging body, my wife suggested that we purchase a snow blower.

I do not seek proximity to gasoline fumes, and the noise of an engine totally lacks charm, for me. Yet snow removal can be back-breaking labor. I have arthritis in my knees and a history of lower back pain—where my bones meet other tissue, there seems too often seem to be issues that aren’t aided by heavy shoveling.

And there is the heart, that key organ of life, which I would like to keep going, thank you. Old men sometimes expire from the exertion of snow shoveling. Walking behind a smelly, noisy snow blower might not be all that pleasant, but I’m sure it beats having my heartbeat interrupted by a heart attack.

The blower that my wife and I purchased was the second one that we owned—I had many years ago inherited a small electric blower from my father, but it had a gap in its auger (the turning thing at the front that lifts snow), and never worked all that well. The gasoline using model that we purchased for ourselves seems to do the trick more effectively.

Except when it’s broken—a year after we purchased it, I broke the starting chord. I purchased a new chord at a local hardware store and attempted to replace it, and failed badly. The snow blower sat idle through a couple of mild winters, but, thanks again to my wife and to my two sons, over Christmas this year a new chord module was installed.

The best kind of mechanical work in my house happens while I blog and stay away from tools.

Snow is falling tonight. I had to babysit some grandkids, and was out in it. Please don’t hate me, but when I went to drive home in it, I did think it was pretty—silent white flakes drifting from the sky and coating the world in a fresh white cover. Yes, it’s the second half of February, yes, the active weather pattern we are in will be best looked back on than lived through. But snow is pretty.

Then again, I’m ready for spring. Nevertheless, come what may, this fragile old coot feels he can handle the Iowa winter.

I have a snow blower.

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