THE DAM IN WINTER: A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

THE MUMFORD DAM IN JANUARY:
A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE


A trip to the dentist also means a chance to photograph the dam in the middle of town since the two places are adjacent.

The cold dam at the end of January.

What made this interesting is that I’ve never taken a picture of this area in the winter. All my other shots began in the spring and through the late fall.

Taking advantage of a rare opportunity to take a few pictures in winter.

Gray, foggy afternoon in January

Light snow on our road

MY HOME TOWN – Marilyn Armstrong

My Home Town

It’s a small town. Main Street, north and south of Route 16 which crosses Uxbridge down the middle and moves on to other towns.

Thank you, Nancy Merrill, for offering such a great topic for photographs. I have had three home towns: New York, Jerusalem, and Uxbridge. With each change of home, my town has become smaller. There are a lot of issues involved in living in the country, but it beats out any city, at least for us. The beauty of our world is unmatched.

I wouldn’t mind a movie theatre and a bit more shopping,  but it’s a good and beautiful place to live. Whatever may be wrong with it, we are not spending our lives fighting for parking spaces, driving through endless crowded roads … and coping with the grime and grit of bigger cities.

WEATHER AND WINTER – Marilyn Armstrong

Our weather is weird. In the past decade, we’ve had winters where we are buried in 12 feet (about three meters) of snow next to winters where we don’t get any snow — or so little, we never need to shovel. Or this winter where mostly, it has been so warm with a day or two of cold, then more warm weather. We’ve had the rainiest spring, fall, and winter ever recorded or remembered. It’s pouring right now.

Cold Cardinal Monday

It’s late January — and our dogs are picking up ticks. The ground has not frozen.

Two days ago it was -4 Fahrenheit (-20 Celsius) and today, it’s 50 Fahrenheit (10 Celsius) and it’s pouring rain. Three days ago, we got snow and then freezing rain, winding up with an inch of solid ice on everything. It was like cement. Immovable.

Today is Thursday. It’s warm, raining hard, and blowing a gale.  Everything is washing away. Not a bird in sight because the wind is too strong and they dare not fly. The wind is so powerful our 150-foot (46-meter) oak trees are swaying in the wind like grass. Kind of scary because should one of them fall we are underneath the trees. Big trees. Very big.

An early January morning

Germany used to be a cold country. So was Switzerland. Now they get spring and summer before us. Although New England has always had erratic weather patterns, we had seasonal winds and water temperature that was typical year-to-year. We knew where the weather came from and what it meant. Now, we know nothing. The northern storms are not coming down. Our storms are coming up from the south or the west. No more “Montreal Express” to bring down the arctic weather.

How come ticks are alive in January? We’re going to have massive invasions of insects because of how warm it has been through much of what ought to be winter. Parts of our house are damp and beginning to rot from the rain.

The sun from the east

We get cold days, but just a day or two at a time. Then, it warms up overnight and it’s sort of spring again. I don’t mind not having icy roads, but I mind not having seasons! I never thought I’d hear myself say it, but I actually miss the snow.

We’ve always been weak on Spring. We used to laugh that we got exactly enough time to race down to the local department store — when we had department stores — and buy a bathing suit between the last snow and the first daffodils.

This year, we also missed Autumn, the one really good season we get around here.

Are we getting climate change? It would appear we are in the middle of it. The winds are not blowing from the same directions they used to. The ocean is too warm. Birds are not migrating. Bears aren’t hibernating.

What is our world doing about it? Not much.

And eastern morning …

As for the depression that comes with winter darkness, that’s the only thing that hasn’t changed. I write my way through it. I take pictures of birds. It helps.

Writing helps most. It gets dreary in the winter. Dark until well into the morning and dark again long before dinner. We may change the weather, but so far, we have not managed to change the rotation of the earth or how it circles the sun — or tilts towards or away from the burning orb in the middle.

Last March!

Even among the many who believe in climate change, no one has any idea what to do about it. It’s such a big thing and we are little tiny people living in a damaged world.

THE TENACIOUS WEEKEND – Marilyn Armstrong

 Holding Fast – Tenacious 
Weekend

Weekends used to speed faster than the mosquito you’re trying to smack. When I was working, there were a few things you knew about them.

1 – You weren’t going to get half the things done you had planned because there weren’t enough hours to fit them into one weekend;
2 – You knew how much you hated your job by how whether you hated it on Friday night or didn’t hate it until Sunday;
3 – Why didn’t people make weekdays an hour and a quarter longer so you could have a three-day weekend?

A three-day weekend was enough time to sleep for one day, do stuff that needed doing on another, and have some fun on the third. That one extra day of not-working was a big deal.

Spring

April canal and river

Towards the end of my working years, much of it was spent working electronically from home, so the pressure to somehow get “everything” done on the weekend was greatly reduced and of course now, retired, I find weekends annoying because offices are closed and I can’t deal with “stuff.” I have to remember to do them on Monday — or Tuesday in case I forget on Monday.

Retirement, after a few years during which you keep time like you used to, starts to be all of a piece. Every day is like every other day. The only reason I have an inkling of which day of the week is passing is that I schedule posts in advance. Also, when I’m planning out bill payments, I need the calendar. And, I need to remember the beginning of the month because that’s when I give the dogs their heartworm medicine.

I check the calendar to see when we have doctors appointments.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – July

August

All of this makes me think about time, calendars, weekdays, weekends. Other than appointments that occur on a specified schedule, do the weekends matter? Are they relevant? Do I care whether it is the ninth of the months or the eleventh? Other than calculating the arrival of our Social Security checks, how does calendar time affect my reality?

Effectively, time barely matters. The seasons’ matter, but I have a better sense of the seasons from being outside and feeling the weather than via the calendar. Summer is longer, winter is long and the in-between seasons — the good time — are much shorter.

September

October

Time slows in winter and the weeks go slowly when you can’t go out much. Winter lasts a long time in New England, especially when the snow begins early and the cold of winter lasts until late.  Birthdays become increasingly less critical as you get older. Not only less critical but sometimes rather unpleasant.

I don’t want to turn 72 in March. I’m pretty sure Garry doesn’t want to become 77 in April and I’m equally sure my son doesn’t yearn to be 50 in May.

First blizzard – January

Meanwhile, today is Sunday. I don’t remember what I did yesterday. I literally don’t remember anything. It came, it went. The weather is cool this weekend, but it will warm up later in the week — and there’s a possible hurricane wandering around the south Atlantic which might have something to do with us, but we aren’t sure.

March

I know it’s the weekend because Colbert and Trevor aren’t on, but football has come again. The Red Sox lost yesterday at home against the Astros. Not good.

So basically, Sunday is a day. On Monday, it will rain.

ABOUT “CLIMATE CHANGE,” WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? Marilyn Armstrong

Sunday is Earth Day. I remember the first Earth Day and every Earth Day since. Earth has changed and I’m pretty sure we’re the ones who have changed it.

Pogo – Walt Kelly

This isn’t a trick . It’s a genuine question based on a few premises with which you have to agree before we can begin:

1 – Climate change is real, based on science and facts. It isn’t a glitch in nature and if we ignore it, it won’t go away.

2 – We used to call it “global warming” – but obviously there’s quite a bit more to it.

3 – You are sure it is going to affect you … but exactly how?

4 – You are not a conspiracy theorist. You do not believe that climate change comes from an angry God or some weird technology.

5 – You’d like to know what you should be doing about climate change — and you are pretty sure that recycling bottles is probably not the ultimate answer.

Jan 9, 2018 – Montecito, Santa Barbara County, California, U.S. – KERRY MANN navigates the large boulders and mudflow that destroyed the home of her friend in Montecito. The woman who lives in the home has not been seen since the early hours of Tuesday. At least 15 people died and thousands fled their homes in Southern California as a powerful rainstorm triggered flash floods and mudslides on slopes where a series of intense wildfires had burned off protective vegetation last month. (Newscom TagID: zumaamericasnineteen760940.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]

These are questions for which I don’t have an answer. I have always believed that we were doing serious damage to the earth, even before it was officially proven. I thought it was pretty obvious. We still have pollution resulting from things we did in European river valleys a thousand years ago and these days, we simply make it worse. Even when we are trying to make it better.

The thing is, I know I had no idea what all of this meant on a personal level. I understood about rising sea levels. I got that part of the equation. I understood the increasing and probably endless loss of species — such as all of our large land mammals and probably all or most of our carnivores.

There will be no wolves, no tigers, lions, elephants, rhinoceros, giraffe. Whales will be gone. Slowly but surely because we are polluting the oceans and I don’t know if there is a way back from the mess we have made.

British storm – Ophelia 2018

The air will become more polluted and we will never figure out what to do with our radioactive wastes. We haven’t even figured out what to do with the filthy, polluted soil in this valley or for that matter, the Rhine valley or along the Yangtze or Ganges.

Off the coast of Massachusetts

Storms will be bigger, encompassing the size of entire oceans eventually. Right now, we have storms in North America so big they go literally from coast to coast. Super storms. Super tornadoes. We will have droughts and floods in sequence. Fires and mud slides in between and let’s not forget the occasional earthquake, just for fun.

It rained 30 inches in Hawaii over the past 24 hours and another monster storm is on the way. The concept of “monster storms” never crossed my mind.

Slowly rising sea water is pretty much what I saw in my head. I never imagined it would all be happening at the same time — and so fast. I thought it would take a lot longer for the water to rise. That the oceans would slowly edge up over the coasts. The rivers would rise and  we’d have flooding.

Snow? Maybe we’d have less with rising temperatures … but I didn’t think we’d have storm after storm with warm weather in between so it would fall, then melt, then fall again, and melt again. I didn’t expect the bizarre alterations of seasons, either.

What did you imagine would happen? Did  you imagine the mudslides in California? Or the fires? Or the floods in Puerto Rico and Texas? And now in Kauai?

Did we realize that the melting glaciers would mean that inland nations like Switzerland would have no viable water sources?

What did we think was going to happen? What do we think is going to happen next year and the year after? It won’t be nothing, that’s for sure. Something will happen and we will be in the middle of it. In the end, there will be few places left to hide.

Atlantic nor’easter

 I don’t think my imagination moved me much past a flooded basement. I never considered we might have an entirely flooded valley … or maybe a state under water. Or even finding myself turning up the thermostat in the middle of April.

Since the season is almost here, I implore you to not kill your early blooming dandelions. This is the food the bees need to keep alive until the rest of the flowers and plants bloom. Remember the bees because without them, we are dead, so skip that lovely Scott’s  lawn for now. Let’s try and preserve life on earth rather than the nicest lawn in the suburbs.

Bee in the dandelions

THE CHANGING SEASONS – MARCH 2018 – GARRY & MARILYN ARMSTRONG

February ended and we all thought — especially me! — that spring was just around the corner. We’d had a lot of snow in January — with warm weeks in between. We had considerable snow in February — with even warmer weeks in between. This being March, I was waiting for the song of the Carolina sparrow.

THE FIRST STORM – March 2

It was mainly high wind and rain. We got a dusting of snow, but we also got the kind of heavy, drenching rain I usually associate with tropical storms and hurricanes. The first storm, on March 2, lasted almost three days — longer on some places along the shore.

For this “Changing Seasons,” I am here to show you the rest of the winter. Apparently winter was not wintry enough, so anything remaindered landed in March. We had three major nor’easters in less than two weeks.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

There is another possibly on the way, but none of the local meteorologists have quite figured out whether or not it is going to hit us or wander off into the Atlantic.

THE SECOND STORM – March 9

This was another heavy wind event with terribly high tides, massive shore erosion … and about 5 inches of snow, inland. The trees were moving in the wind which is more than a little frightening considering the size of these giant oak trees. The less I looked at them, the happier I was.

We didn’t lose power, but we were lucky. Across New England and New York, more than a million people lost power and some still have not yet been connected.

For all the dull months when we took very few pictures, we made up for it big time in March. Tons of snow, rapid melting. More snow. We don’t live on the coast or I could show you 50 foot high waves pounding the sea walls in Scituate (pron: Si-choo-ate) and everywhere along the cape, but especially in Bourne and Barnstable.

THE BIG ONE – THE THIRD STORM – March 13

The predictions for this one were a little different. A heavy blow of more wind along the shore, but massive quantities of snow for our area. in fact, Worcester won the cup — the most snow in the region.

Just under 28 inches.

Worcester beat out Uxbridge by less than half an inch getting a full 28 inches. We got 27.7 inches. It was a lot of heavy, wet snow. We didn’t get any of the wind and the trees groaned under the weight of the snow hanging in its branches.

Digging out

We both took pictures but even so, no one went very far. It was cold, the snow came down for a long, long time — almost 24 hours in total.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

March is by far the most erratic weather month in this region. March came in like a brace of hungry lions. I’m hoping he leaves us gently, trailing flowers. Right now, that seems unlikely.

All the early flowers were killed off by the brutal snow that followed the warming period. I think we will go from winter to almost summer during April. That isn’t unusual, either. In fact, it is more typical not otherwise.

Gibbs enjoying the snow

February is usually the worst month for blizzards and really heavy snow, but March takes the cup for 2018. Just because the month is more than half over, it’s too early to stow your winter gear.

The better news is there’s a lot of melting going on when the sun is out. It’s still cold, but not like it was earlier in the winter. We aren’t getting prolonged bouts of below zero (Farenheit) temperatures.

And, then, there was getting around after the snow. The towns are all good at cleaning up. We may not be good at a lot of other things, but we know how to clear the roads.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Rules — not etched in stone:


Do you want to participate in «The Changing Seasons»?
These are the rules for Version 1 (The Changing Seasons V1):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery.
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.

These are the rules for Version 2 (The Changing Seasons V2):

    • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
    • Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
    • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

Hosted this year by: Zimmerbitch – Age is just a number

THE CHANGING SEASONS – FEBRUARY 2018

As February is ending, it is time for another “Changing Seasons” post. I haven’t gotten the alert, but I’ve been doing this for two years, so I don’t have a problem doing it again.

It has been a truly dull month for photography. A little bit of snow, a lot of rain. Some very warm, shirtsleeve weather, then a little more snow. February and March are the two most erratic months for weather in this region.

February is often the worst month for blizzards and really heavy snow and just because the month is almost over, it’s much too early to stow your winter gear.

This is one of those weird months where it feels like any number of seasons. Today was springtime. I was outside taking pictures in my dress. Not even a sweatshirt. Garry went out in a hoodie and felt he was overdressed.

But tomorrow, we’re expecting a few inches (more? less?) of snow.

A chilly gray day

I have not taken many pictures this month. Everything has been boringly grey or mud brown, with a little snow occasionally to brighten it up. Not very exciting for a photographer.

But — some months are not terribly interesting. I’m just grateful we didn’t get three feet of snow!

Rules — not etched in stone:


Do you want to participate in «The Changing Seasons»?
These are the rules for Version 1 (The Changing Seasons V1):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery.
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.

These are the rules for Version 2 (The Changing Seasons V2):

    • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
    • Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
    • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

Hosted this year by: Zimmerbitch – Age is just a number

THE CHANGING SEASON – YEAR IV – JANUARY 2018 – GARRY & MARILYN ARMSTRONG

The Changing Seasons, January 2018


Home during the blizzard

It started with three years of host Cardinal Guzman — Max — who did a wonderful job. I’m so glad Su Leslie has taken over. It has been a great deal of fun to follow the seasons through the years, especially in this region where we have four seasons, but in some years, more like six or seven!

Right now, it’s deep winter. Except it has warmed up, the snow has been washed away by two days of pouring rain and today the sun was out and the temperature was up. The climate is changing. You can argue about it all you like, but it is happening anyway. I think it’s more obvious some places than others.

The old tractor

Regardless, January is not much of an outdoor month. It’s cold, frequently snowy, with warm breaks and mud between the storms.

And one birthday party

The Duke

Bonnie and Gibbs

Garry took all of the outdoor  shots in the blizzard. Mine are entirely indoors. I don’t seem to have quite the energy to get “out this and into the weather” these days.

RULES OF THE SEASONS

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

  • Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

WEATHER WHINES

Welcome to New England where our most popular regional sport is politics. Football, baseball, basketball and hockey cannot compete with the joys of arguing politics. That this year is politically the worst experience since we drove out the British only means that all our other complaints will have to wait in line until the political rage has been satisfied, at least temporarily.

When politics and sports are finished, we move on to the single sport in which everyone, of any age, can actively compete.

Weather. Or more accurately, complaining about the weather.

Lake Otsego

From bitterly cold to stiflingly hot, we’ve got the weather to cover it.

Winter is too long, too snowy, too icy, and much too cold. I couldn’t agree more. Everyone is cranky and whiny from the first flakes through final melting. Of course, mud season, the inevitable followup to the heavy snow, is no one’s favorite, discounting the dogs who revel in it.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Spring? What spring? Where are the flowers? Why can’t we get a decent spring season? Is this the punishment of a malign deity?

Until the lilies bloom, New Englanders are cranky.

Pink petunias

Some time during May, summer drops by, usually in mid-afternoon. The morning is comfortable until the temperature goes way up and the humidity moves in. The leaves on the trees droop and it is definitely summer. Always too hot. Muggy. Humid.

Or, maybe it’s not hot enough.


“Hey, how come it’s June and we still need heat?”  

In summertime, those triple H days — hot, hazy, and humid — give us a collective headache. Everyone complains. Relentlessly.

Autumn is New England’s winning season. It is everyone’s favorite time of year — except it’s much too short. There are oceans of dead leaves to shovel. We rate our autumn by the brightness of leaf and you can stand on line in the grocery and hear people commenting that “this one isn’t as good as the year before last. Does anyone remembers 2012? Wasn’t that a doozy?”

We live in the “Snow and Long Commutes” region. Especially the snow. And Worcester.

On a bad year, heavy rains from a tropical storm can push all the way up the coast. Those drenching rains ruin the fall foliage. Which makes everyone cranky.

And whiny.

We recover if the Sox are in the playoffs, but become downright grim if they aren’t.

Speaking of whiny, I know people on Facebook who, in the middle of a summer-long drought during which we haven’t gotten a drop of rain, will rant furiously on the day the drought breaks. I bet they’d be even more whiny if their well went dry . That would be a serious rant!

New England. What’s not to love?

BLUE SKIES – A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE

A Photo a Week Challenge: Blue Skies


We’ve had some amazingly blue skies for the past few days. I’m not sure why, but this time of year, the sky seems a deeper blue that in the summer. Maybe it’s the cooler air and the lack of haze. And of course, there’s much less dust now that the leaves have fallen.

Whatever the reason, when it’s clear in the winter — or nearly the winter — it’s like crystal.

In summer, we have more haze, more clouds. More dust. The expression “hazy, hot, and humid” pretty much says it for summers in the northeast. It’s not just the way things look … it’s also how they feel.

Another blue sky day tomorrow, so they say. With all the awful stuff happening around here, it’s good that at least the weather is nice.

BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE! – RICH PASCHALL

My Top 10 Cold Weather Songs, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


With some 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 Arctic Weather. 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 have gone for one you may be hearing a lot on your favorite Christmas station.  It’s a more modern take on the classic:
2. Winter Wonderland – Eurythmics

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 Martin


This Frank Loesser penned tune won the Academy Award for the 1949 romantic comedy musical Neptune’s Daughter.

Click on any title to get the song, or hear them all on my playlist here.

THE CHANGING SEASONS – AUTUMN, OCTOBER 2017

In this third year of watching the seasons change from month to month, Autumn showed up in the middle of October … but not like it has in other years. It is pretty. Colorful, but many areas are still green while others are quite bare. A strange autumn.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

The weather has finally cooled down. It’s still very mild during the day, though it gets pretty chilly at night. Not exactly winter, but it no longer feels like summer.

Garry and I too a lot of pictures this month. It’s not our  most glorious New England autumn, but it’s pretty. At its least, New England’s autumn is forever beautiful.

Please don’t forget to visit:

Max a.k.a. Cardinal Guzman – The Changing Seasons 

Version 2 (link to Max’s new YouTube channel):

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOn2NZfdFcJYCp4Y_fcbOyg

Here’s Max’s Flickr gallery with more photos:

https://flic.kr/s/aHsm59WCD4

FALLING LEAVES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I sat out in my backyard and watched yellow leaves fall slowly and gracefully down from the trees. It was like a sparse snowfall where you can see each snowflake as it sways in the breeze on the way down from the sky.

I looked up and watched leaves falling right on top of me. It was like a close-up in a nature documentary.

I thought: “What a perfect name for a season, ‘Fall’.” It captures the essence of the process of one season melding into another. Things fall from the trees onto the ground. It’s an ending to a season characterized by rich, green foliage. It creates the image of bare trees and a brownish covering to the ground where the fallen leaves pile up. The bareness will last till the leaves ‘spring’ from the tree branches again the following April or May.

My birthday is at the end of October, so I’ve always been partial to this time of year. I get to anticipate a birthday as well as the color changes in the trees. As I get older, I appreciate the season even more. There’s something reassuring about the inevitability of leaves turning beautiful colors and then going out in a blaze of glory. Especially when you know they will return, green and fresh, six months later. The cycle of life.

This is the time of year when everyone who lives in year round warmth is actually jealous of us season junkies. We get the joy of color and the excitement of change. And we get it twice a year: When the bare grey of the trees turn green in the spring and again when the green turns to yellow, orange and red in the fall. There’s always something to look forward to.

I wouldn’t trade my seasonal existence for the world.

PREPARING FOR FALL – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I love summer but I also love fall. I don’t see the signs of the season changing as omens of doom. I like the briskness in the air and the change in the quality of the light. I love to watch the leaves change color in my backyard.

Most of all, I love the change in my wardrobe. I get to swap out the clothes I’ve been wearing for the past six months, for totally different clothes. Over the summer, I forget what I wore before the weather turned warm and the clothes got lighter and skimpier. When I go into my ‘off season closet’, it’s like greeting old friends. “Hi! I remember you!” “I missed you. You were my favorite!”

I really like fall and winter clothes. I particularly love boots. I wear short boots rather than shoes on most days. And I love the look of a high boot over my jeans and pants.

Some of my boots that are now out from storage

I also love sweaters. I feel cozy when I put on a second layer and wrap it around my body. I also love to wear a long shirt over a tank top or a turtleneck. And I adore thick, comfy sweater tops.

Again, it’s mostly the change itself that I love. It feels like I get to be two different people over the course of the year. I’ve always been clothes oriented. I need to wear something that feels right for what I’m doing or feeling that day. Sometimes it’s important that I feel super casual and loungy. Sometimes I need to feel sharp and chic.

My fall/winter sweaters

I even like the process of swapping out one season’s clothes for another. It’s like a new start with new possibilities. It’s also cathartic to rearrange my closet. It gets to start each season so neat and organized. By the end of the season, it needs its biannual facelift.

I hate heat — and this summer was not very hot. So I’m not as desperate as usual for cooler weather. I just look forward to saying hello again to my coats and outer jackets. I have beautiful scarves and I have gloves to go with each coat. So I’m ready for the fall.

Bring on the big chill!

THE AUTUMN OF THE YEAR

But Now The Days Are Short, Rich Paschall

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When I was seventeen, it was a very good year…

When 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 into 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 that 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.  The final high school year 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 stayed with me over the decades.  I had no idea then that it would be 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 that 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 Masters exam again.  She was right about the exam questions and perhaps the reason we both marched up to receive our diplomas on the same day.

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 did not find 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 as the days of youth, 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 still be very good years.

If your life is like a fine wine, there will be many years that are a good vintage.  Wine aficionados will refer to this as a “very good year.”  I hope to still have them.  None are 17 or 21 or 35, nor will they be again.  With any luck at all, however, 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.

It Was A Very Good Year, by Ervin Drake, 1961, lyrics © SONGWRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA OBO LINDABET MUSIC INC