He Forgot to Go South

It’s cold outside. The kind of cold I’d bottle and save for July. I’m outside with no coat and untied shoes, starting my car so I can peel out of the driveway in five minutes. The engine protests. I jog back to the house.

My hand sticks to the metal on the door just a little bit and I hear the most beautiful sound. A bird singing over the cold I’d bottle and save for July. One bird, who forgot to go South for the winter. Stayed just for me. Stayed to remind me to stop. To take a moment. To be. Just be, even standing outside with no coat and untied shoes in the cold I’d bottle and save for July.

To listen to the beautiful song.


The Death Smell of Compost in the Joy of a Warm Winter Day

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 6.55.46 AMSeed catalog season. They started coming last month. I really should be planning the garden. I can virtually smell it around me…

Wait, that’s compost. It’s been a couple weeks and a few feet of snow since I took out the compost. That little carbon filter in the top of the pail’s done its duty. Can’t smell it at all. I pick up the pail and collect the mountain of fruit peels on the cutting board in the kitchen. I trudge through the mud.

It’s beautiful outside–a break in the winter that tempts me to get out there and plant something I know will subsequently die. A January thaw–a break in Winter’s show. He got off the couch to get some snacks and a beer, letting Spring fill in for a bit. Still, I can’t plant now. The Farmer’s Almanac would be horrified. It predicts much more snow in February. Not long odds in Vegas. It’s New England.

I dump the compost in the bin. It smells like nothing I’ve ever experienced, having done most of its composting in the house. The death smell chases me half-way across the yard, laughing the moment I take off the lid. I can’t leave it like that. It smells worse than the time I left the chicken in my trunk for a week during summer. That one forgotten bag…

I stop breathing, reopen the bin, and stir the rotting compost into the fireplace ash. I toss a few oak leaves on top. Better. I sniff. The worms will rejoice just as soon as they thaw all the way.

I step into the garden. Mud. Enough to swallow me. I realize I haven’t been outside–really outside–in months. I stop. I listen to the birds who welcome me back. I think about walking around the garden. The mud plots to enshrine me. I sink. I take a step. I sink further. We come to an agreement. The mud releases its hostage. I’ll take my tour some other time.

The seeds will be calling soon. I’ll scatter them everywhere. Many will die as a result of my overzealousness and impatience. The laws of nature don’t bend for one good-weather day. Seeds in the garden–like in life–must be planted at the right time, then nurtured consistently to grow.

I take out the recycling and go to the farm. Eggs are in the red cooler out front on weekends.  Put in some money, take out some eggs. The cooler’s blown over. Scrambled eggs. I manage four dozen good ones. I toss in an extra buck–I was short last week. I still have eggs in the fridge. I stack these on top–always overbuy, over plant, overestimate when nature is involved. Plan well when you can and appreciate nature’s bounty always. It’s better to have just a little too much when it comes to growing, cooking, and eating. Dieters and zen masters have it all wrong.

I take off my muddy boots,  put the compost pail back onto the mantle, and sit back down to work. 

Spring will be here soon enough.


Breaking News: Polar Vortex Swallows Teens

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“You there! In the shorts. Did you take my geography class? Didn’t I teach about climate? It is cold outside.” A balmy New England 12°. With a windchill of 150 below.

Today was the first day I didn’t see teens in shorts. I was looking–there’s always one.  Just hoodies with no coats, and shirts falling off the shoulder. Which is just as bad. School gets canceled in places because it’s so cold and kids won’t dress right. My thoughts–dress right! Now, I’m not talking about preschoolers with no body mass whose faces will freeze off at the bus stop. I’m talking teens who know better. Dress warm. Come to school.

There’s black ice on the roads, piles of snow on the sidewalks, police directing traffic in ice skates…a few clues for teens that it’s cold. If that’s not enough, get the Weather Channel app. It’s free.”Nah, miss, I’m not cold.”
I explain the science behind skin cells bursting, how frostbite works. That teens can’t defeat the laws of nature–water freezing and expanding inside the cell wall, exploding the cell, not a simple game of no brain no pain. Wind whistles in one ear out the other making the sound of a barely boiling tea kettle.
I once thought I was too cool for winter gear. Earmuffs “looked silly.”  One mile of 20 below in the Rochester winter holding my ears the whole time…they’re the hottest fashion on the runway.
That’s what teens must do. Convert ridiculous winter fashion to trends. Then sell it. Make a million. Teens have the power to make the most ridiculous fashion look amazingly cool. Instead of getting windburned butt cracks, try bringing back warm.
Pants without holes–a great place to start. Ones that fit over the buttcrack and even up to the waist. Warm. Trendy. No one is doing it… You, kid, could start the next big trend. 
Legwarmers are back. Bad 80’s fashion–get two sets and call them arm warmers, too. Large circle scarves are in. Wrap them twice around the head if you’re cold, and around the face if you’re ugly. That’s versatility.
For the kid who always wears shorts, be advised–there exists something called “convertible hiking pants.” These allow you to wear pants at the bus stop, then quickly unzip and ditch the legs before your friends beat you up for dressing right. The legs roll up and fit in the pockets most people use for hiking gear. You can use the extra pockets for gum.
And lastly, put away your shiny new shoes. No, I don’t have any sneaker cleaner. I’m sorry that you got snow on them. I feel you. I really do. Wear boots. That way tomorrow you won’t tell me all day that you’re cold and your socks are wet.
If you’re truly renegade and wish to transcend fashion, go balls to the wall and create a new fashion, called “winter coat.” Pick a big, fluffy one, so if anyone throws a snowball at you for looking too cool, it will just bounce back and hit them in the face. More science–angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. You see–this stuff we teach you really does have an application in real life.
Disregard me if you must. Disregard science. You may find it boring. And I’m old and out of fashion. But I’m really, really warm. You could be, too.