Tag Archives: Iowa

First Flowers of the COVID-19 Spring


The first flowers to bloom early this March–the snowdrops I found when I raked the gardens.

campus sun

Early March morning sun at MMU campus.

Earlier this month came the snowdrops. The first blooms were actually hidden in my gardens under last year’s leaves. On March 9, I cleaned the gardens in back off, there the first flowers were.

Tulips and daffodils have been emerging slowly, pushing their leaves above the thawing ground. No flowers, yet, but the plants are getting taller.

It was a while after the snowdrops bloomed before the first crocus in my yard flowered. I saw some first at Mount Mercy University, and for days the buds in my gardens almost seemed to be mocking me—there, ready to bloom, but not opening.

Now, on sunny, cool March days, there are pockets of colorful flowers. Hyacinth are starting to bud. I have not seen bluebells yet, but they can’t be far away.

And it won’t be all that long until the daffodils and tulips kick in.

I am running low on bird seed. I stopped buying it early in March—which is usually when I taper off feeding. The open ground, the return of insects, the first signs of plant growth—birds will find other sources of food. Still, it has been a comfort seeing them—one of my sisters once called them “winter flowers,” and as this slow spring wakes and yawns and stretches towards the green world that is coming, I’ve enjoyed watching the little dinosaurs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

COVID-19 has robbed us of a lot. I’m lucky—my job is relatively secure, so far (knock on wood) I and my family are healthy. I can work at home, even if I’m not all that good at it.

But as we hunker down in this winter of the virus, which seems likely to be with us for some time, seeing nature go through her rhythms and begin to come to life. I like the coming of the flowers every year, but somehow, they seem more important in this weird spring.

Leave a comment

Filed under Environment, Flowers, Garden, Mount Mercy, Weather

The First Flowers of Spring


March 8–snowdrops in back garden. My first flowers.

On Sunday, while raking leaves off of the back garden, I noticed the snowdrops in blooms. Other bulbs are starting to come up, tulips and daffodils rising up from the cool earth. In front, by the mailbox, some crocus are also poking up.

The crocus will bloom first, but you see the daffodils emerge first, or at least that’s what I’m used to.


Daffodils emerging March 6 on Mount Mercy University campus. It’s still brown and dormant overall here in Iowa, and the last few piles of snow are still about, but spring is starting.

Spring! It’s early spring, still brown, just a few swelling buds in the trees and the slightest hints of green in the mostly dormant lawns.

But, flowers! The very earliest are here, and great to see.

Leave a comment

Filed under Flowers, Garden, Weather

I Am So Ready to Leap Into Spring


Seeds purchased at a local store. My spring planting this year will be from what I find in town.

Iowa in February can be a cold, bitter place. We’ve been lucky in 2020. There has been plenty of winter cold, not but bitter arctic cold. We’ve not been exposed to weeks of harsh winds nor many temperatures with a hyphen before the number.

The month was a bit gray and dreary at times, but the final week was dry. There was also snow this month and nasty cold rains, but not oodles.

So, as Februarys go, this is not the worst one to have an extra day in it. Happy leap day, and a special happy birthday to all those who turned 4 today and are getting their driver’s licenses.

For Christmas 2019, my wife wrapped a seed catalog and told me I could spend $100 on ordering spring flowers. I never got them ordered—I’ve been busy. And we’re traveling over spring break this year, and worried a bit about the possibility of an ill-timed delivery.

Then, just a week ago, stopping at a local farm-and-home chain store that we call the “popcorn store” because it’s where we go after church for popcorn, we saw that seeds were on sale. On a whim, we bought a packet of climbing annuals. I am unsure about when exactly I am planting them, but I like all these flowers and will put them somewhere.

My wife reminded me this week that I had not ordered any plants yet, and she thought I had missed the deadline. I told her no, that I knew one catalog had a March 1 order deadline (and the same company just sent me another catalog with a later date), so time had not run out on my gift.

“Why don’t you just buy plants locally,” she then asked.

Hmmm. Well, I like pink lily of the valley and have not seen any locally—but honestly, beyond my yearning for that one particular flower, I kind of liked her thinking. I am not starting any new garden this spring, so I don’t need a bunch of mail order plans. And if we buy plants at local stores, we would be in total control of when the flowers were “delivered” and could plant them right after acquisition. We would also be putting actual plants in the ground and not hoping for results from mailed roots.

True, we’re also planting seeds. But for the spring plants, I think you see my point.

So, no online flower ordering for me this spring. We’ll instead wait to see what Mother Nature brings and when we have time to shop and plant.

I like that plan, or lack of it. I don’t always mind when aspects of my life are not mapped out. So I’m not sure what my garden plans are this year; they are more organic then they sometimes are. I’ll let them form on the fly.

Like a flower.

Happy leap day to you all, and it looks like March this year will begin on a fairly nice note in Iowa, too—the lion is being polite, at least for the first week.

We’re almost through with February. Moving into early spring. And I’m ready for the change.


In the garden area by the house yesterday. It’s on the south side, the warmest garden we have, and daffodils and tulips are starting their growth even while there is still snow elsewhere. It’s not really here yet, but spring is coming!

Leave a comment

Filed under Environment, Flowers, Garden, Weather

A Tale of Two Nights

amy button

My button on caucus night.

Are the Iowa Caucuses dead? Their obituary has been written by many media pundits, and maybe they’re right. I’m skeptical—it took way too long to release results, and here, more than 24 hours later, results are still incomplete. But a caucus is not a primary election.

Pete Buttigieg got a boost from Iowa, Joe Biden got a brush-back pitch. Amy Klobuchar is still alive but on the endangered candidate list. Bernie Sanders will claim victory, but is less popular this year than in his last election.

And the disaster that was the Iowa Caucus was an odd surprise after my caucus experience. I checked in at Harding Middle School. The room was not as full as I expected, but several hundred Democrats crowded into what seemed to an arch-shaped cafeteria.

The mood was way more collegial than I had experienced. In 2016, we were packed together like sardines in Peace Church, and the mood was rather acrimonious between Bernie and Hillary—the caucus took hours, the count kept having to be redone, we were exhausted by the end.

In 2008, the energy of Barack Obama infused the event. We trudged across the snow of Noelridge Park to Harding Middle School. The crowd was large and the energy transformative as the majority of us were there for the new rising political star from Illinois. But despite that positive energy in 2008, there was conflict and chaos, too. Clinton did not go quietly into the night.

In 2020, things were different. For one thing, everybody quickly moved into their candidate corners as soon as they came in. There was not really any area at all of uncommitted or undecided voters—people came already knowing who they backed. The old people seemed to cluster in Joe Biden’s corner, a mix of middle aged and younger old people joined with us in Amy Klobuchar’s tables. Our daughter was over with a mix of young and old, overwhelmingly female from what I could see, in the Elizabeth Warren area.


Caucus crowd at Harding Middle School. Joe Biden was not viable, and many of his supporters joined those of us for Amy Klobuchar.

Between our daughter and us, acting as the great wall of people that our 4-year-old grandson was constantly circumventing on his trips between mom and his grandparents, was the mixed, but mostly young, Bernie crowd.

Pete Buttigieg’s crowd was a good size, but was blocked from my view, so I’m not sure what kind of person showed up for Pete in my area. Other than they were the only group to chant now and then, which was mildly irritating, to be honest.

We waited, we chatted. My wife and I were on the edge of the Amy Klobuchar group, partly because our grandson kept coming and going. We were right next to the Biden Senior Center and adjacent to the Bernie Sanders Day Care. I chatted for a while with a gang of 80-year-old ladies who were clustered around a tall, thin retired Coe College librarian. I lent him a pen, which turned out to be a mistake since it came from my daughter’s bag and was one her favorites and disappeared into the night like Tulsi Gabbard.

A 10-month old baby was standing up in in his buggy just across the border in Sandersland. He looked at me. I grinned at him. He smiled and squealed and I chatted amiably with his parents. The retired librarian shot the breeze with me too, as did his geriatric girl squad.

The spirit was collegial. We supported different candidates, but felt united in a cause. I think for most of us in the room, we know who we wanted, but even more strongly, we known who we didn’t want.

Heck, even if the Democrats went ape crazy and for some mad reason nominated Tulsi Gabbard, I would vote for her. Bernie Sanders has had a recent heart attack and is a socialist—which I am not—but I would vote for Bernie. Joe Biden is a decent man who is way too connected to old, corrupt politics and whose best days were years ago—he’s not the kind of person who would make a great president, in my opinion. I’d vote for him, too.

Some of these people I would vote for with more reluctance. Others I would have more enthusiasm for. But none would have to work hard to earn my vote.

Because the alternative is four more y ears of Donald Trump, worst president in American history.

Anyway, the caucus meeting, compared to ones I’d experienced in previous presidential cycles, went smoothly. We got numbered cards to write our preferences on, which created a paper record and eliminated much of the counting chaos of past caucuses.

Our precinct chair was surprised at how Iowa Nice everyone was. “Nobody has yelled at me tonight,” he marveled at one point.

That was Monday evening. Later, the phone app failed, the call-in line was understaffed and the state party melted like a Russian nuclear reactor. Perhaps it is the death of the Iowa Caucuses, but it’s good that my final one, should that happen, was the most pleasant.

Then came Tuesday. I was a good boy, I was, I watched the weird, dystopian proto-fascist game show staged by our President, who is due to be acquitted by the spineless Senate tomorrow. On the eve of being crowned King Trump, I think the president gave a speech that was long, fairly effective politically, and downright scary.

Immigrants are criminals. Here is a man whose brother was shot. Build the wall! Economic numbers that didn’t add up—but the economy is good, just not good in the way that lying Don described it.

A Presidential Medal of Freedom was given. To Rush Limbaugh. Bah, humbug. You don’t give such a medal during this speech, the President gives it in an official White House ceremony, it’s not meant to be a heart-tugging moment in a Trump TV show.

But it was. The Trump wave was launched. The Democratic Party, in Iowa at least, is in shambles.

It would easy to be depressed. But I recall that baby in the Bernie crowd and his friendly parents. I think of my 4-year-old grandson moving from Amyland, through Bidenville, past Sanders Village into the Warren Terrace, wearing his “nevertheless she persisted shirt,” along with both Warren and Klobuchar campaign buttons. Everyone smiled. Everyone was polite. Everyone was doing it for his future.

Because we all agree.

It’s time for Trump to be retired to Mar-A-Lago. Effective game show or not, it’s time for the Trump TV program to be permanently cancelled. We need a president who is a president, not a schlocky TV host.

Leave a comment

Filed under Computers are stupid, History

Finding the Beauty of a Gray Winter

Winter in Iowa—low midday sun, icy mornings, limited time outside—despite the fact that we have not really had any heavy snowfalls, the cumulative impact of many smaller storms and consistent morning ice is a bit grating.

Yet, I want to treasure the beauty that can be found in winter in Iowa. To cheer myself up, and hopefully to brighten your day in case you too are experiencing this Midwestern winter, here is a slideshow of what I consider my best beauty of nature images from December and January:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a comment

Filed under Weather

Amy Asks for Fence-Sitters to Commit


Local TV camera operator at Amy Klobuchar event in Cedar Rapids Jan. 3.

Is Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) surging in Iowa?

I don’t know, although she did well in a recent debate, which helps her. And I saw her in person here today in downtown Cedar Rapids at a campaign rally.


Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, speaks.

Complete sentences. Intelligence. Humor. A comforting Midwestern drawl. She seems such a sharp contrast with the current occupant of the White House. And so, I’m ready to commit. I’ll caucus for Amy Klobuchar at my local party meeting as Iowa again goes first in 2020 in the presidential sweepstakes.

The Iowa caucuses are an interesting institution, and taking part is not like voting in a primary. For one thing, candidate preferences are expressed in an open meeting, not via a private ballot. For another, voting can be in more than one round—in the Democratic party, if a candidate earns less than 15 percent support, her or his supporters can continue participating in the caucus by choosing another candidate.

Given the size of the Democratic field this year, with roughly 300 candidates vying for caucus votes (an exaggeration, I know, but only by a bit), there may be a number of runners-up who don’t meet the 15 percent threshold.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So even if I start with Amy, I may end up with someone else before the night is over. Still, I am looking forward to the next Iowa caucus. Amy Klobuchar is the candidate I am looking for—a moderate Democrat who has won in Trump country before.

May she win there again, and may she soundly beat Donald Trump in the fall.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, politics

Light a Candle and Make a Change

I wish that there had been more people there, but at least some people were there, and I hope it’s a start of something.

I attended a candlelight vigil in a parking lot across the street from the Federal Courthouse in Cedar Rapids Thursday night. It was a bit informal, two speakers, the reading of names of victims from El Paso and Dayton, a moment of silence.

The location was just across the street from the handiest local symbol of the federal government, and the building where U.S. Senators from Iowa have their offices.

Memo to members of Congress: It’s 2019. 2020 is coming, and I sincerely we don’t forget what you say or fail to say at this moment.

Anyway, I took my camera, hoping a few images can help boost the signal. It was nice to see my sister and sister-in-law there, and I’m glad my wife decided to come down with me. I also ran into some Sisters of Mercy, who were nice to see.


But my candle kept going out. Somehow, it felt like a symbol of the whole advocacy effort for sensible policy steps to reduce gun violence—our President says there is no political appetite for that at the moment. Sadly, he may not be wrong. If Democrats are to be elected next year in Iowa, we have to hold on, hold together, speak up and fight the headwinds of violent status quo.

It’s not time for gun reform now? Not after El Paso, Dayton, The Pulse, Sandy Hook?

My candle keeps going out. But I will keep on relighting it. The winds blow, but I will not be moved.

Enough. Time for change.


Leave a comment

Filed under History, Mount Mercy, politics