9:30 a.m. 18 degrees. Bright sun. Winds at 4 mph. There's a blue jay in a nearby tree calling in his cracking, croaky, irritable voice. Sounds like he's saying "Darn it!" "Darn it!" "Darn it!", echoing my thoughts as I survey our plowed-in driveway.
Saturday night. Ten of seven. Ken Mannion's making dinner. Cheeseburgers and hot dogs. Oliver just got home from work. Mrs M's snuggled under the blankets, waiting to be called for supper. I'm in the family room, normally the chilliest room in the house, but the space heater's warming it up nicely. It's not a fireplace but it does the trick. It's 18 degrees out but we're snug and warm in our cozy little house. Hope you're the same or finding similar comfort and cheer wherever you are and whatever the weather there.
Monday. February 6, 2017. 9:30 PM. 28 degrees. No wind. Did something tonight I haven’t done in a long, long time. Took a night walk. Didn’t go far. Up the street and back, two times. Can’t remember last time I went for a walk at night. Was back before I started having back problems, although maybe that I stopped going for walks at night was a early warning sign.
Low white clouds with lots of breaks and tears of different lengths and widths. Only three stars in view to the south. Two stars and a planet. One's probably Jupiter. To its left and down a bit 's Spica, Alpha Virginis, brightest star in Virgo. Actually a whirling double-star. Gibbous moon with a halo---a ring aroud the moon---straight overhead. Looked to be moving west at quite a clip, but it was the clouds blowing east playing tricks with my eyes.
Tuesday. January 31, 2017. 6:48 PM. 26 degrees. I'm snowed in at Oliver Mannion's college library! He’s working tonight. I drove him in, planning to head over Barnes & Noble and wait there until he shift ends at 8, but the roads were pretty bad when we started out and they've gotten worse. So I'm just hanging out here till he’s done and hoping the plows do their job and the snow tapers off or we're stuck. The good news is the library has a snack bar that's open till 9 and they serve good coffee.
Tweeted this news out as if it was an SOS, got this in reply from our science blogger, philosopher, ethicist, and lapsed chemist friend Janet Stemwedel:
I hope you won't need to burn books for warmth!
I assured her things are fairly toasty here at the moment and the books are safe for now. But her bibliophile’s concern for my welfare and/or the library’s collection reminded me of an interesting fact I picked up the other day from Adam Hochschild’s new book about some Americans and volunteers from other countries who fought on the side of the Republicans against Franco’s Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War, Spain in Our Hearts, that I've got to share. During Franco’s siege of Madrid, Republican and Nationalist troops fought it out on the University of Madrid campus.
Each of its red-brick dormitories and majestic Bauhaus classroom buildings, spread across a hillside, became separate fortresses. At one point the Republicans held the medical school; the Nationalists, the Institute of Agronomy. Buildings, sometimes single floors, changed hands over weeks of fighting. British volunteers [with the Republican International Brigade] found themselves quartered amid the marble corridors, ornate doors, and paneled lecture rooms of the Philosophy and Letters building until dispatched to fight nearby. Franco’s troops took the building; French volunteers recaptured it with a bayonet charge.
When they returned to the Philosophy and Letters building, the British volunteers stacked up books for breastworks. They figured out that a bullet would penetrate up to 350 pages so they used the thickest books they could find. German philosophers worked best, an irony, considering Hitler's support of Franco.
Update. 7:30. Still warm. Books unlit. Condition of the roads unknown. Coffee’s still good. Very friendly counter guy in the cafe. Gave me my second cup for free. “It’s on me!” he said.
8:30 AM. 43 degrees. Decided to take a walk around Downing Park after dropping Oliver off at school. Seemed like a perfect morning for it. Sunny. Sky clear and blue. But not a bright blue. Pale as faded jeans. Should have been a warning. That’s a November sky. Should also have checked the temperature before I got out of the car. Chilled to the bone before I’d walked twenty yards.
Only other human being in the park a man I immediately described to myself as old although he probably wasn’t much over 60. Which means not much older than me. African American with a pale gray cast to his cheeks with a woody brown showing through like the bark on certain trees. On the shorter side of average height. Thin in a way that suggested age overtaking him but might also have been evidence of exercise and healthy eating habits or simply genetics. He does get some exercise. A good walk at least. His dog sees to that. He was out with his poodle. A full-sized poodle. Biggest poodle I’ve ever seen. Standing on its hind legs it would have towered over its master by a head. If it wasn’t for the poodle cut on the top of its head and the ball on the tip of its short tail I’d have taken it for a wolfhound. Also it was chocolate brown and I think most wolfhounds are gray.
The dog was off its leash. Rooting around in the leaves, throwing up leaves with its nose. Man and dog seemed to be taking each other’s company for granted, neither paying the other much attention, until the man started off on his own across the park, hands in his pockets, eyes ahead, not looking back. At first the poodle didn’t notice or care. It tossed about in the leaves for a bit and then, when the man was a good ways away, fifty yards or more, it turned away from whatever in the leaves had fascinated it until then, and loped off after him, without showing a sign it was surprised or concerned the man had left it behind. It was as if it knew he’d have gone off and where exactly to find him. This must be their routine. The man continued walking, hands still in his pockets, and the dog followed, running but not in a particular hurry. It ran with goofy, loose-limbed joy, its tongue hanging out, and I swear a smile on its face.
8:30 Tuesday morning. July 5, 2016. 77 degrees already. Coffee in the park. Off the beaten path in a lot not visited much, judging by weeds and grass pushing up through the pavement.
Parked at the bottom of a hill next to a stand of tall yellow grass still drooping from overnight rain and long-stemmed blue flowers. Forget-me-nots? Note to self: stop going places without your guide books.
Looking out on an old fieldstone farmhouse and beyond it down a sloping field of green and yellow then a rise up to lines of lush-leaved trees.
Windows open. Crickets insistent and incessant. Birds less voluble but not quiet. Can't be sure if I'm listening to a towhee---drink your tea---or a blackbird---oke a leee. Most likely blackbirds, considering towhees like woods and the woods are a ways off and redwing blackbirds like wetlands and there are marshy spots in the field.
One very little bird, sparrow sized but gray, silent as it takes a bath in a nearby puddle. Splashing with flutters of its wings.
Overcast with a light breeze but muggy. 77 degrees. Supposed to rain on and off all day.
But the clouds are on the move and when they thin now and then the sun burns through..
And you can feel the heat building. Day might turn into a scorcher instead.
That's the weather report from here. How is it where you are?
6:30 a.m. Thursday. October 29, 2015. 61 degrees. Packing up the car for the drive to Syracuse. Warm now but temperature’s predicted to fall steadily through the day. In the 40s by 10 tonight. Still dark. Moon, swung round to the West, still high, still bright. The sky turning blue around it. Mars, Venus, and Jupiter lined up the other day. They’re still lined up, it appears. I think that’s them. I’ll go back out with my binoculars when I finish this post. Clouds might have covered them by them. Large bank moving in from the southeast. Lit white by the moon, they look like what they are, large, rolling, fists of snow. Tumbling in the moon’s direction, they look like an avalanche about to bury it whole.
Newburgh. 7:25 a.m. 71 degrees. At the Riverfront. They have WiFi here! What they don’t have are benches. Sitting on the wet grass, watching the ducks dabble. One young drake taking a snooze on the water, head turned nearly 180 degrees, bill tucked into his wing up to his tightly closed eyes, slowly spinning in circles as he drifts. Must feel it when he drifts close to the rocks. Without untucking his head or opening his eyes, he starts paddling. Paddles himself back out into the middle of the channel. Goes back to sleep.
Newburgh Waterfront. 7:10 a.m. 70 degrees. Pleasant but you can feel the heat building. Friday dropped Mrs M off at the ferry so she could catch the train at Beacon and saw that a tall ship was docked among the speedboats and cabin cruisers at the marina. Didn't have time to investigate but went down this morning to see what it was, thinking, probably one of the two replicas that ply this stretch of the Hudson, the Half Moon and the Onrust, both of which visit here regularly. Whichever it was, it was gone. No tall ships in view but there was a type of craft I haven't often seen along here. A rowing scull.
Not really a surprise. The colleges nearby, upriver and down, which include Marist, Vassar, and Bard have crew teams. Probably some high schools and prep schools do too. This was a four man boat---or four women. Couldn't tell. The rowers were silhouetted in the glare off the water.
The scull was accompanied by a small speedboat with a coach standing up behind the pilot, both of them also hard to make out in the glare. The boats were drifting, the rowers leaning on their oars and listening to the coach whom I couldn't really but whose voice I "heard" anyway, probably because I knew it was there to be heard. When the coach finished, the rowers grabbed their oars and pulled and the scull shot away, headed north towards the bridge. The speedboat held steady for a count of ten and then motored after the scull, catching up with it about a quarter mile upriver where it was waiting, the crew having been apparently told how far to go.
I moved up along the waterfront to the parking lot of the Blu Pointe seafood restaurant, hoping to get a photo and found a good spot but the glare was still too blinding. But now I could really hear the coach's voice, although I couldn't make out his voice, and he was a he. The rowers were still silhouetted but they looked big, a lot bigger than I think women rowers are. My friend who rowed for the women's crew at BU was five-eight and although not nearly the tallest on the team there were only a few taller and the tallest was barely six feet. But who knows. They're building them all bigger these days, men and women.
That's the whole of this story. I know. A Thomas Eakins in words I'm not. The coach finished talking and the crew set to work again. The scull took off and I ran out of room to chase after them anymore. But if I could have, I might have followed them the whole nine miles upriver to Poughkeepsie if that's how far they were going, it was that thrilling to watch and that pleasant to be be outside and if not on the water then at least by it.
10:59. 67 degrees, according to Weather.com. Feels cooler. Was on the porch listening to the Red Sox losing to the Astros. Had to move inside. The air conditioners are off but Mrs M closed the windows before going to bed. Temperature’s supposed to drop into the low 50s overnight. I’ve grabbed a sweater. Going back out. Taking a book. It’s 4 to 2 in the top of the 9th. The Red Sox are down to their final out.
Monday. June 1, 2015. 7:15 a.m. 54 degrees. Rain. Fog. Heading west along 300. Composing a note in my head to the driver of the car behind me:
Dear impatient driver riding my bumper and flashing your headlights trying to make me speed up: It's not my fault you're late for work. (Again. I'm sure.) This is a winding, hilly, two-lane road. It's raining. It's foggy. The speed limit on the straightaways may be 55 but it drops down to 45 on the curves and there are lots of curves. There are other cars ahead of me. And it's a school day. There are buses slowing things down going both ways. Which means there are other impatient drivers coming the other way late for work like you who are going to take the first opportunity to pass without looking, like I expect you will try the second you think you see an opening, so I have to be on the lookout for them.. 50 mph tops is about right for this road in this weather at this time of day. There’s no way I'm going to go 65 so you don't get yelled at again by your boss. Deal with it today and get up 15 minutes earlier tomorrow. And, if you didn't get it, my slowing down to 30 for a stretch there was my way of telling you all this plus something else.
Sunday night. 11 p.m. 72 degrees. On the porch. Night warm and still. No breeze. Some haze. Usually, even with the porch light on, I can see some stars. Only light in the sky right now could be a planet but is probably a plane heading this way but too far away to see it’s moving. Quiet. None of the usual night music. No traffic. No voices carrying from anywhere. No geese arguing and complaining down by the river. No peepers! Past their bedtime? The only sound at the moment is over my shoulder. The buzzing of a bee.
Since when are bees nocturnal?
Do hives have a night shift?
It’s attacking the porch light, furiously trying to get through the lamp glass to the bulb. Been at it for the past 15 minutes. Driving the both of us nuts. Time for me to head in anyway. To end its frustration I turn off the light as soon as I’m through the door.
The buzzing continues. But now it’s above and ahead of me, coming from the ceiling light.
Little blighter followed me inside.
Did some research. Turns out there are a few species of bees that are nocturnal, but what there also are are zombie honeybees:
There's more trouble for your hard-working backyard honey bee. Researchers have confirmed the first cases of "zombee" bees in Washington state and in the Portland area. Infection by a parasite prompts the bees to embark on what's being called a "flight of the living dead."
The initial Washington detection came from an observant beekeeper in the Seattle suburb of Kent.
"The odd thing is they're attracted to light. Bees normally aren't attracted to light. And they're flying at night. Bees don't normally fly at night," says Mark Hohn. He keeps bees as a hobby.
Hohn sent some of his casualties to entomologists at Washington State University and San Francisco State. They confirmed infection by a tiny parasitic fly.
"After it lays its eggs in the bee, the eggs hatch," Hohn explains. "Then the maggot is inside the bee. It's actually eating the inside of the bee and it affects their motor skills."
Eventually, the disoriented bees flutter to the ground and die.
Saturday afternoon. 1:30 p.m. 70 degrees. Sun shining. Blue skies. Should be outside. But the window’s wide open, there’s a breeze coming in, birds are singing in the bushes out front, I’ve got a book to read, and baseball’s on the radio. Red Sox are playing the Yankees at Fenway. Perfect day in May.
Friday night. 8 p.m. 57 degrees. At the bus depot waiting for Mrs M to get in. Parked facing into the cattail marsh at the edge of the lot. Windows down to let in the cool but fresh breeze. Across the marsh and through the trees can see the lights of cars and trucks coming down the exit ramp from the Thruway but I can’t hear them. They’re drowned out by the peepers singing with mad joy in the marsh. How many peepers can one marsh accommodate? However many this one is home to, it’s enough to fill the night.
Friday evening. 6:50 p.m. 37 degrees. On 17K. Passing the airport. Fog. The red and blue runway lights refracted, vivid in color as gemstones. No other colors but black and gray and the ghastly yellow of far off halogens left in the world. Three Canada geese come out of there and fly across the road, looking as they do in flight as they are pulling themselves along by their necks. Black as bats.