When the water is still and the sun is bright, a pond or lake can be a mirror.
Here is the world in mid-November, upside down. With ripples.
It was as if we spent all of October in the car. It’s not true, of course. We spent most of October on the ground, somewhere in New England.
Massachusetts to Maine, Maine to Vermont, Vermont to Massachusetts, Uxbridge to Hadley and then once more around. Whoo hoo.
These are pictures we took while driving through various towns in Maine and Vermont. In Putney, we stopped for lunch at a charming local diner.
If I could have taken that diner home with me, I’d have packed it into my car and set it up around the corner in Uxbridge.
With much of the nation having already been visited by cold and snow, it seems like a good time to bring on the winter tunes. Songs by any band with “Cold” in their name is not what we mean here. Nor shall we include song about loves who are as “Cold As Ice” or running “Against The Wind.” Our tunes are really songs about winter, cold, and snow. Some are a bit more symbolic than others, but they will do nicely for my purposes.
Let’s be clear, they are not holiday songs, although some of them only get played in the holiday season. Since the Christmas holiday season seems to start around Halloween and go until New Year’s Day, I guess there is already ample opportunity to hear some of them. You will discover that there is no holiday greeting included in the cold and snowy lyrics. In fact, we will give you some instrumentals just because you can already place them in your winter memory.
Let me start you off with an honorable mention from the movie White Christmas. No I am not sneaking in a Christmas song. This is strictly two minutes of wishing for snow by four big name performers:
There are a number of other songs about snow that may not be classics, but are good nonetheless. Track down “Snow” by Harry Nilsson, for example. Type in “Snow” in a You Tube search and you will certainly see “Snow (Hey Oh)” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. On second thought, you better type in “snow songs” so you can avoid all those home-made videos of people stuck in a snow drift.
Here’s our bottom 5 with everything from a Classical sound to traditional, rock to rolling “down the streets of town” by a snow man. There are winter birds of all kinds if you just let it snow:
10. Wizards of Winter – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
9. Winter – Rolling Stones
8. Frosty the Snowman – by just about everyone with a Christmas Album or two
7. Snowbird – Anne Murray
6. Let It Snow – Frank Sinatra, but there are probably a thousand versions of this by now
The next one earns a place here as much for the back story as anything. This symbolic “A Winter’s Tale” was written by Freddie Mercury from his hospital room overlooking Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The visions he describes are what he could see from his room. He laid down the keyboard tracks and vocals in a Swiss studio two weeks before his death. Queen later finished the song with their parts. It was released as the second song on a posthumous album four years later.
5. A Winter’s Tale – Queen
Winter imagery can be found in a lot of songs by Paul Simon, especially from the Simon and Garfunkel years. A Hazy Shade of Winter was certainly one of their biggest hits and earns a spot on my songs of the Polar Vortex. You will find an intriguing version by the Bangles from years later, but let’s stick with the original.
4. Hazy Shade of Winter – Simon and Garfunkel
One of the most popular songs of the Christmas season is Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson. Although often played only as an instrumental, the lyrics say nothing of the holidays. There is, however, “a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray.” They are rather seasonal as they “pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie,” but the song really is about a sleigh ride through the snow. Find a version with someone singing, if you must. Nothing says “Sleigh Ride” like the Boston Pops Orchestra:
3. Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson – John Williams & The Boston Pops
If you are not sleigh riding through the snow, perhaps you are walking in a winter wonderland. There are many versions of this seasonal classic, but I could not pass by Tony Bennett singing outside in Rockefeller Center. Tony’s nose is so red he could be Rudolph. Despite the frozen crowd, the musicians somehow manage to play as Mr. Bennett looks appropriately cold:
2. Winter Wonderland – Tony Bennett
When I think of cold and snow outside, this is my song. There is nothing that inspires me to go out in a storm. While I enjoyed seeing Joseph Gordon-Leavitt do this with Lady Gaga, of all people, and nothing compares to Ricardo Montalban crooning at Esther Williams or Red Skelton at Betty Garrett in the movies, the best version is Dean Martin and anyone. He recorded the song with a number of people, here with Martina McBride
1. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Dean Marin with Martina McBride
This Frank Loesser penned tune won the Academy Award for the 1949 romantic comedy musical Neptune’s Daughter.
Kaity and I went shooting today. We haven’t done that in a long time and it was a pleasure spending time with this young woman who is my granddaughter.
It was not quite as bright and beautiful as it had been earlier in the week … but it was neither raining nor snowing.
At this point in the seasons, a day which isn’t bitterly cold and when precipitation isn’t falling from the sky, is a good day to be out and about.
Monday Garry and I are off again. Me to Amherst to stay with friends, he from there to Amherst to Long Island, then back to pick up the luggage (me). And home.
I’ll try to get some pictures while I’m out in the western part of our lovely commonwealth.
These pictures were taken somewhere in Sutton. A farm, a pond, a few bright leaves.
We met a big (probably) Greylag (domestic, not wild) goose who was taking a break from the farm and failed to read the signs reminding us not to feed the geese. I hoped I was seeing a rare goose, but suspected, when he walked out of the water and stood there looking cute, he was probably domestic.
I have dogs. I know begging when I see it.
I haven’t seen any swans around here at all in months. The local ponds, rivers, waterfalls were all dry, with their muddy bottoms showing.
Kaity tells me she’s seen a lot of swans, but not in the usual places. I assume they went to deeper water. Before the rain started in October, you could walk across Whitin’s Pond.
The ponds are full again. Full of water, full of ducks. I’ve never seen so many ducks. And today, down by Lackey Dam, one swan … and a lot of ducks. The leaves around the pond are dark red to bronze and so, by reflection, is the water.
A fine day for waterfowl.
When I was seventeen, it was a very good year…
As I turned seventeen, I had finished my Junior year in high school and was looking forward to Senior Year at a new school. It was a bit scary, I admit. No one wants to leave his mates behind and start again, but that was my fate, not my choice. At least the new school was in the neighborhood, and I already knew a few students who were going there. Although we did not admit at the time, the final year of high school put many new thoughts in our heads.
You may think sex or sexual orientation, but those thoughts had already arrived years earlier. All the passing of a few years meant was these thoughts and curiosities intensified. As you might imagine, a few of the boys and girls were a little more advanced than the others. I think that stands out to you a little more at seventeen.
The new school brought new friends, new interests and new teachers. There were subjects and activities the other school lacked. It also proved to be, as I suspect it did for many of my friends, one of the best years of my life. Some of those friends and those memories stuck with me over the decades. I had no idea then I would look back on it as the “best of times.”
When I was twenty-one, it was a very good year…
Four years later, brought a similar situation. It was time to move on to Senior Year of university and hopefully finish my degree on time (I didn’t). It did not hold the lasting thrills of 17, but it did seem in a certain way to represent the transition to adulthood. In reality I was no more adult than at 20 or twenty-two. It was just a symbolic thing. The “coming of age” also allows you to drink legally, but that did not mean too much. I was days, weeks or months older than the friends I hung around with so it is not like we all headed off to some bar. Still, the year seemed to hold a certain energy young adulthood will give you if you let it.
When I was thirty-five, it was a very good year…
I had finally earned my Masters Degree. It was not about career advancement. It was about reaching a goal I had set years earlier. I sometimes studied for the Comprehensive exams with a woman in her 70’s. She was pretty much doing the same thing, reaching for a past dream. I could tell her of courses I had and of books I read, and she pushed me to study things I was certain would never be on the exam again. She was right about the exam questions and perhaps the reason we both marched up to receive our diplomas.
It felt like I had hit my stride at 35, although I can not really point to other reasons why. If you have good friends, good times, and a reason for doing things, all seems right with the world. Well, almost all seemed right. I never found the one right person to share my very good years. Honestly, I can not say I looked all that hard. I guess I was having too good of a time.
But now the days are short, I’m in the autumn of the year…
One thing that you become acutely aware of as you get older is that the days are short. They don’t seem to last as long, you don’t seem to get as much done and you certainly don’t feel thirty-five. You realize, no matter how desperately you try to suppress the thought, that the days are indeed numbered. Even if you are optimistically believing that there are, let’s say, thirty-five years left, you know none will be like the year you were thirty-five. With any luck at all some will be very good.
If your life is like a fine wine, there will be many years that were a good vintage. This wine aficionados will refer to it as a “very good year.” I seem to still have them. None are 17 or 21 or 35, nor will they be again. With any luck at all, I will be able to drink in the rest and enjoy them as if I were sitting in a vineyard in France with one of my best friends while we recall our great adventures together.
And I think of my life as vintage wine
From fine old kegs,
From the brim to the dregs,
It poured sweet and clear.
It was a very good year.
Although many had recorded this song, it won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male in 1966 for Frank Sinatra.
The lens makes rainbows as direct sun passes through it. We call it chromatic aberration, but it is also refraction.