Tag Archives: weather

A gray day spent well is brilliant

22 Mar

catzen.jpgSometimes when the day is overcast and dreary, like today, I hate it. But other times, I let go of my judgement and simply enjoy what’s there.

The gray of the day feels like a texture.

The day seems laden with stories. Everywhere you look, the houses, the duplex apartments, the empty storefronts–all are draped in the gray blanket of the day and you
can sense, just beneath the surface, each place is rich with stories.

This is a day that demands a fireplace, if you have one. (I should totally have a fireplace!)

There should be wine (now, that I have) and music (Mozart or Billie Holiday, I dunno–something!…)

Sip wine while staring at the flames, silently listening and deciphering the stories cloaked in the code of the crackling fire.

Even a day uphostered in dreary gray can be brilliant. In the way that being fully present in the moment–either by design or startling inspiration–is brilliant. For
each moment is a story and each moment carries its story into the next moment, joining all stories into one amazing volume (or tapestry, or–insert preferred metaphor
here.)

The wine in my glass has a story. It is a pomegranate wine from Armenia–how could it not have a story?!

I have a story. Sometimes I think I have a million of them. My own story and stories I have imagined.

I was born in Dothan, AL, the son of a peanut farmer and his wife. Or, more precisely, I was born in Dothan, AL, the son of a
peanut product company salesman and his wife.

Either version, there is much more to the story than those few simple details.

A man, a woman, a baby and some peanuts. Most importantly, there were peanuts.

Some days I fear I am out of stories; sad that the arranging and rearranging of words (and punctuation–there must be punctuation!) may be a lost art to me. My mind a
sieve, the stories slip from my cranium, dripping into my hands for the sole purpose of slipping through my fingers, then falling to the floor.

No matter how hard I may try to scoop them up from the floor, declaring the 3 second rule as I attempt to bring the words back together, the stories pool up, quickly
regroup and then slither away.

Where do they go? Do they wind up with some other, somehow more deserving writer? Perhaps a writer who has a fireplace…?

If there can’t be a fireplace, there should at least be a loft–at least one story up, in a city (Paris would be nice. New York or San Francisco are also more than
acceptable) with large windows and an easy chair or a divan or a day bed–something on which you can sprawl, right by the window, with a truly amazing book, and a
glass of wine (that wine travels well, no matter what the tale…) distracted from the pages of the most excellent book, only as the gray of the day fades into night,
causing the lights of the city to ignite, like a fire. (Not necessarily a fire in a fireplace, but some other good kind of fire, you know?)

The glorious view provides the perfect punctuation (for there must be punctuation!) for the day.

A cloudy, dreary day.

Present moments strung together, shining like the lights of the city, viewed from the window of a loft, while reading a book about drinking wine in front of a
fireplace. The stories. The crackle of the flames.

The city lights through the loft window or the warm glow from the fireplace reveal a spot, previously unnoticed, where the stories that have hit the floor have left a
residue made up of words that were left behind when a story slipped through fingers and then escaped. Perhaps these words were slower than the rest and got left
behind. Perhaps these are rebellious words who simply refused to leave.

By the florescent light of the kitchen, I gather the words carefully. All words are salvagable.

I will go locate some punctuation and see what can be made.

A gray day, with clouds, well spent, is brilliant, like the present moment, fully noticed, whether by design or sudden inspiration, is brilliant.

Winter Will Be the Death of Me Yet

9 Jan

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We had “snow flurries” yesterday.

Floridians call that “a near blizzard” and I am sure there are some enterprising souls who will be expecting their employer to declare a “snow day” today. But they won’t. They will expect everyone to scrounge around in the back of their closets, find something that will serve as a winter coat, bundle up and come on in to work.

Employers are like that—wanting you to show up for work and stuff.

I used to have a job that required me to travel to Maryland–often in January or February, as luck would have it. I stayed in a hotel that was less than a half a mile from the office.

One night it snowed big time. When I got up, there was white as far as the eye could see! It was hard to distinguish my rental car from all of the other big snow lumps in the parking lot because all of the cars were completely covered. “Oh, heck no!” I exclaimed–I am sure this had all the makings of a “snow day.”

Surely my employer will not open their offices today!

So I called the “Incliment Weather Hotline” with baited breath. The recording answered. A man’s voice recited the
date and then advised that the office would be open and said that everything is “business as usual.”

Business as usual?

Business as usual?! Has this guy even looked out his window? How is anyone expected to get to work under these conditions? A person could freeze to death or go snow blind (not sure what that is) or get snow sickness (might be making that one up) or something!

It is a good thing the rental car people had the forethought to provide me with a scraper-thing to clear my windshield. You can’t even buy one of those in Florida. You can buy pecan logs and gator repellent in Florida, but the scraper thing? Forget it!

As I was scraping the glaciers from the windows of the car, I felt the urge to share the experience with a friend.

“I know,” I thought (and it is a wonder I could think at all because you really would have thought my brain would have frozen solid by this point,) “I will call my friend and co-worker back in Florida–the one who grew up in New York, but was smart enough to move to Florida some years back.”

It is a miracle I was able to dial my friend’s desk phone–I don’t know how cell phones can even work in such bitter cold. Don’t the cells freeze up? I guess not because her voicemail answered.

After the beep I said, “Hey, Terri, this is Bill. And this is the sound of me scraping the ice off of my fucking windshield!” Scrape! Scrape! Scrape! said the scraper as I attacked the ice with all of my Flordian might.

When my friend got to work and listened to my message, she laughed and laughed.

Then she forwarded the message to HR and filed a formal complaint about me leaving obscenities on her voicemail.

True story! Except that last part about her forwarding the message and the formal complaint. She would never have ratted me out to those goons in HR!

After I got the windows cleared–all the while feeling just like William H.Macy in “Fargo”, I began the trecherous quarter of a mile journey to the office. While I was driving, I listened to local radio. The morning banter zoo crew people were going on and on about the weather and then they mentioned two things I had never heard of in my life:

  1. Did you know that car doors can freeze shut? Not helpful I am learning about this after I am alreay on the road. If I had had more advanced notice, I could have used this as an excuse not to go into the office. I bet those bastards would have expected me to walk! “It’s only a quarter mile…” Have they no heart?!
  2. Then they explained about the scariest cold thing of all. Have you heard of this “black ice”? It seems that sometimes during the day the snow starts to melt, but when it gets dark (which it does in the frozen north at like, 3:30pm) and the temperatures drop to below freezing (below freezing!) the melting snow–especially the snow on the roads under overpasses, freezes into sheets of ice that look for all the world like normal, la dee da, go ahead and drive as fast as you want road surface.

So your car slides, spins, maybe even rolls over–and you DIE!

That was many years ago, but I am pretty sure that is what they said–“If you drive on black ice, Bill, you will DIE!”

So of course I just assumed my employer would let me leave work well before sundown because they cared about my safety, right? Not so much, as it turns out.

Not only did they make me drive a full quarter of a mile to the office in post-blizzard conditions, they also did not let me leave early. I didn’t get out of there before 5PM. And, as I have already established, it was dark.

Time for the Black Ice to rise up and menace the innocent!

I white knuckled my way back to my motel. As I traversed inch upon inch of road on that harrowing quarter of a mile journey from Hell, I was convinced that at any moment the black ice was going to reach up and grab my rental car (I knew I should have taken that extra insurance!) and throw the vehicle, with me in it, into a dark, cold ravine.

Where I would DIE.

I don’t really know if there were any revines between the office and the hotel, but at that moment, as I was being terrorized by the sinister black ice, I was pretty sure that I knew exactly how that soccer team felt–you know, the ones who crash landed in the Andes Mountains who had to survive by eating their dead comrades.

Just like them, I was cold, I was scared and boy, was I hungry!

Fortunately the hotel had a happy hour buffet–after a few pigs in a blanket and two for one beers, I regained my normal intrepid composure.

And that is what winter means to me.

I had best scrounge around in my closet and find that winter coat because I need to get to work. I can only pray that those snow flurries did not freeze into black ice. At least I can take some comfort in the fact that between my house and the office, there are no ravines.

Happy Friday everyone. Stay warm!

Riffs on the Rain

28 May

“It was a rainy night. It was the myth of a rainy night.”
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Our holiday weekend is soaked by a tropical storm named Beryl. Beryl came early–hurricane season does not begin until Friday. Beryl did not bother to read the calendar. Beryl just formed anyway. The center of the storm moved ashore overnight at Jacksonville Beach packing 70 mile an hour winds and a lot of  rain.

Beryl has been downgraded to a tropical depression and is moving west. One of the things (besides the wind) that makes these things such a pain, is storms like this move very slowly. On the up side, it makes it easy to predict where the storm is going to hit. On the down side, once it gets to your neck of the woods, it just sits there, raining its heart out.

I went out earlier to survey the neighborhood (and walk the dog.) A section of my privacy fence was blown over. Hey–so much for privacy. We’ll be restoring that later today. Mostly there are downed limbs. One of our garden gargoyles lost a wing:

He looks a little grumpy about it.  Other than that, nothing too serious from what I can see. We did lose power last night, but it came back on in about an hour. Then it went out for about 15 minutes, came back on, and has been on ever since. (Knock on wood! If the power goes out again I can’t make coffee and if I want to blog, I’d have to use my Blackberry–and that just ain’t happening. It is all I can do to post a Facebook comment on that phone.)

I live across the street from a church. For several months, the steeple on the church has been damaged, so the cross at the top of the steeple leans. I have been fascinated by this listing cross. Sometimes birds land on it and it straightens up a bit, but mostly it leans in a fashion that looks a little dangerous. I keep expecting some sort of freak accident, like something from The Omen, to occur. I fear I’ll walk out my front door to find some pedestrian has been impaled by the falling cross.

I have taken a number of pictures of that cross. Here’s one from April:

See what I mean. That baby is listing badly.

Guess what I found when I went out this morning to see what Beryl had been up to?

That’s right–the cross has been blown straight.  I have no idea if it is going to stay that way, but I thought I’d share. I will leave it to others to determine the spiritual implications of this event, but it is, at the very least, interesting.

I usually blog early in the morning, before work. I generally hitch a ride on my stream of consciousness and start typing. It a quick, drive-by way to blog.

But today is a holiday and there’s a tropical depression swirling outside of my door. I might as well keep on typing.

I was really thinking when I sat down to write this morning, that I’d riff about rain. James Dickey, the poet and author of Deliverance said, “A poet is someone who stands outside in the rain hoping to be struck by lightning.”  I think rain appeals to the poet in all of us.

Rain. We all have a love/hate affair with it, don’t we? Sometimes you blame it on the rain and sometimes you find yourself singing in the rain. It can screw-up your picnic, or provide the perfect background music when you’re making love.

Rain can also be a contemplative experience:  “I, too, seem to be a connoisseur of rain, but it does not fill me with joy; it allows me to steep myself in a solitude I nurse like a vice I’ve refused to vanquish, ” wrote Julia Glass in Three Junes.

As a person who would rather walk or ride a bike than drive, I have had many experiences getting caught in the rain. Sometimes riding a bike during an afternoon shower feels liberating.  Walking in the rain with someone you love is generally considered romantic, although the thought of it reminds me of  The Pina Colada Song–“if you like pina cola/getting caught in the rain”–and I would truly rather get caught in the rain than have to listen to that terrible song ever again. However, this thought also evokes Billie Holiday:  “Don’t threaten me with love, baby. Let’s just go walking in the rain.”

As Roger Miller wrote, “Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.”

I think we can all recall memorable downpours in our lives.

In 2003, I got caught in the rain in Times Square in New York. A hustler from Montreal invited me to his room for $200. I told him I didn’t have $200. He lowered the price to $100. I took a  cab to the Metropolitan Museum of Art instead.

In 1981, my significant other and I set up housekeeping for the first time in San Francisco. We soon learned that in the City by the Bay, there is not only fog, but it tends to rain incessantly all winter.  The weather depressed two boys from the Sunshine State and was one of the factors that sent us packing in 1983.  Our roof leaked and our landlords were rather indifferent. Unfortunately, the leak was located in the bedroom closet.

Still, I remember good things about San Francisco in the rain. One particular Sunday,  we went to see The French Lieutenant’s Woman, then came home and spent hours in bed, having rainy day fun. I don’t know if it was Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep that got us going, or perhaps just the fact that we were still in that phase where two people cannot keep their hands off of each other, but the rain provided beautiful music to the soundtrack of  a wonderful memory.

Sometimes rain can cause you to change your plans. A twist of fate that can alter your life. Sometimes rain forces the kids to stay inside on a day you really needed to be alone.

Rain is both a blessing and a curse.

“Rain is grace; rain is the sky descending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.” – John Updike

Sometimes rain is sad:

“I always like walking in the rain, so no one can see me crying.”― Charles Chaplin

Sometimes rain is happy:

“Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head
But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turnin’ red
Cryin’s not for me
‘Cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complainin’
Because I’m free
Nothin’s worryin’ me..”

-B. J. Thomas

B.J. Thomas was right when he wrote, “I’m never gonna stop the rain by complain’.”  I like what Denzel Washington said too, “You pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too. That’s a part of it.”

Too much rain, we run for the hills. Too little rain, we beg the gods for respite from the drought.

For those of us who live in a tropical climate, rain is just a fact of life. During the summer here, you can almost set your watch by the afternoon storms. The sky turns dark, then opens, and it rains like there’s no tomorrow. Then, an hour later, the sun is shining and the air is thick as the puddles evaporate in the summer heat.

It is hot in Florida. And it is a wet heat.

While I have been tinkering with this blog, making coffee, dealing with my restless dog, the sun has come and gone and so has the rain. Now it is pouring again. One of Bery’s bands passing through.

I wanted to take a few more pictures for this blog and I didn’t close the front door all the way. My dog took advantage and sprinted into the yard.  Usually when she makes her escape, I play hell getting her back in. She races off, loving the life of a free range dog, and won’t come when her name is called. I pretty much have to trick her or tackle her if I want to catch her. Interestingly enough,just now she ran out, ran around the yard, saw me on the porch and must have decided she’d rather be dry than free.

The view from my porch:

One more reminder of why the rain is ultimately worth it:

“Because nothing can be done about the rain except blaming. And if nothing can be done about it, why get yourself in a sweat about it?”
― Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion

Happy Monday. Stay dry. Or not…

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