Wednesday. 12:10 p.m. 76 degrees. On the road north to New Paltz. The first yellows appeared in the ashes and poplars a few weeks ago. The locusts brgan to turn to butter soon after. There's a sweetgum tree by the college's main entrance whose leaves have already begun to blacken and brown and curl at the tips. There's been rust in the sumacs and a few maples for at least the last week. But today we passed maples that have burst into flame. Fire orange, golden yellow, ruby red. One week till fall.
Friday morning. 6:15 a.m. 49 degrees. Sitting by the front window looking out at the street. Past dawn but the sun not really up. Full moon still is. Almost straight overhead. See it framed off-center in the top right pane of the side set of mullions. Looks smaller than a dime. Sky light. Colors and shapes of houses, trees, cars are clear but don’t yet have their daytime vividness or sharpness of detail. Blues are still gray or nearly black. Reds just beginning to insist on themselves.
Tuesday. 10:07 p.m. 82 degrees. Thunder storm passed right over the house. Multiple flashes of lightning with each crack of thunder. Storm front has moved on. Thunder far in the distance. Listening to the patter of the rain, stretched out on the family room floor, reading Laura Dassow Walls’ new biography of Thoreau.
“In later years, he kept a detailed journal to record his observations of nature (including human nature), noting the date each flower bloomed, the date the ice melted on Walden Pond, when eaves turned color, and the dates and depths of the snowfalls. He bragged that from looking at the flowers, he could tell the day of the month within two days. Scientists are now using his meticulous records to track with precision the ever-earlier onset of spring and the lingering of fall, as year by year climate change shrinks winters and alters the composition of Walden’s plant community.”
Rain and wind picking up again. Can’t decide if, lying here in the near dark, reading by the light of my little battery powered lantern, I’m identifying with Thoreau in his cabin at Walden, the fourteen year old me reading Walden for the first time, or me just being me.
Saturday evening. 8:10 p.m. 69 degrees. On 300 escaping to Barnes & Noble for coffee. Road deep in shadow. Sun has set but the sky’s still light and there’s a pale orange tint on the high clouds. The air cleaner and fresher than it’s been in weeks. Drove the whole way with the windows wide open. Arrived at B&N shivering. Feels great.
Thursday. 8:53 a.m. Bright sun. Blue skies. 77 degrees. Chicory, mullein, Black-eyed Susans, trefoil---Birdsfoot trefoil. Purple loosestrife in ditches and low, wet spots. In case you were wondering what’s springing up along the roadsides here in the Northeast. Day lilies mostly gone. Seems early.
Out of the porch, writing. 73 degrees. Sun shining, Soft but continual breeze. Just saw a pair of birds race each other into a bush across the street. One gray and one a sort of peachy orange that was probably a trick of the light and they were likely goldfinches. But they might have been a pair of nuthatches, the male flying with its belly turned outward. Very pleasant here now that the neighbors' lawn guys have finished up. You're welcome to join me. There's coffee.
Thursday. 9:42 a.m. Ken Mannion’s college campus. 83 degrees. Sun blazing. Thin undergrad in a periwinkle blue mini sundress, light brown ponytail with a twist over her shoulder, walking up toward the student union under a battered black umbrella that rides on her shoulder like a parasol in a painting by Winslow Homer. Not to far behind her a young male professor with brown beard and close cropped hair, wearing sunglasses and lighting up a cigarette. Shakes match to extinguish it. Exhales a long white cloud of smoke.
Saturday. 10:09 a.m. 39 degrees. Dropped Oliver off at school for his Saturday shift at the library. Lingered after he went inside to enjoy the view from the hilltop. Mist on the mountain tops down river. Straight across the river, an Amtrak train pulling out of Beacon, headed south for the City, looking, as trains do from a distance, like a toy train. N-Gauge.
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.