THE CHANGING SEASONS: JULY 2016 – REBIRTH AND DROUGHT

The Changing Seasons: July 2016


This has been a strange year. The caterpillars stripped the oaks and the sassafras trees to bare branches. A month later, it looks like springtime in our woods. The trees all have leaves again, but not the deep green leaves of summertime, but the bright yellow-green of newborn leaves.

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It’s good to have the trees looking like trees again.

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It also has not rained in any measurable amount since May. It’s close to a decade since the spring rains stopped. Not that I enjoyed the annual flooding, but I didn’t have to wonder if the well would run dry.

The riverbeds are dry again, the dams locked up to hold as much water as possible. Water restrictions limit use of water of lawns and gardens. We have our own water restrictions in place. Short showers. You don’t let the water run while you brush your teeth … or anything else. I have no idea how the farms in the area handle the problem, but it must be difficult.

No matter how many wells exist in an area, all wells tap into the same aquifer. When it doesn’t rain for months at a time, the aquifer gets low and water pressure decreases. Everyone’s lawn turns brown and the gardens wither. The whole region is dry, this year. Not going to be a great year for apples.

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Since this is perhaps the eighth or ninth consecutive year of mild to severe drought in New England, it leads me to repeat something I read elsewhere (and I’m sorry I don’t remember the source). She asked “How many years of drought do you need before you recognize it isn’t a drought … it’s climate change.”

This isn’t California and the drought is not quite as severe … but this has historically been an area that suffers more from flood than drought. In the sixteen years we have lived in this valley, we’ve seen it go from annual flooding to a steadily increasing water shortage.

Climate change is real and it’s coming to a town near you, if it hasn’t already.


What’s this «Changing Seasons» blogging challenge?

«The Changing Seasons 2016» is a blogging challenge with two versions: the original (V1) which is purely photographic and the new version (V2) where you can allow yourself to be more artistic and post a painting, a recipe, a digital manipulation, or simply just one photo that you think represents the month. Anyone with a blog can join this challenge and it’ll run throughout 2016. It doesn’t matter if you couldn’t join the first month(s), late-comers are welcomed. These are the rules, but they’re not written in stone – you can always improvise, mix & match to suit your own liking:

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!

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UNEXPECTED WEATHER?

You can’t expect the weather … except … you really can. It’s unexpectedly hot around here. But it’s summer, so this unexpected heat wave was entirely expected and is completely normal.

The electric company apparently didn’t expect it and have gotten quite hysterical about the whole thing. You’d think it was their homeowner customers who created this emergency by our derelict over-usage of electricity. It’s not the mall which refrigerate the entire space to 65 degrees when it’s 100 outside. Oh no, never the commercial customers.

Meanwhile, it’s freaking HOT and the humidity is up there too. A couple of days ago with this weather visible on the map and the television meteorologists getting all excited, National Grid swung into action. It has been a pretty dull weather period, more notable for what isn’t happening (rain) than what is, namely muggy, gray days during which it looks like rain, but doesn’t.

National Grid started sending out (pardon the pun) heated warnings.

I got the first two via email, then two more via early morning robot calls.

Turn down your air conditioning to 78 degrees! Avoid high bills! Don’t stress our power grid. (Subtext: We need all the power to keep malls at 65 degrees. You homeowners are not big customers, so you can sit at home wheezing and sweating.)

If I turn the A/C to 78 degrees in this house, the humidity will turn our home into mold city.

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In the spirit of coöperation — and in hopes of not getting an electric bill that will knock me off my feet — I turned it up to 75 degrees. This is an older house without central air. Just window A/C. and even that, not in every room. We don’t cool rooms we don’t use much. Which is, to put it mildly, not as efficient as we might wish. It’s all we’ve got and summer is short. Our A/C units are less than two years old, so this is as good as it will get here.

By the time evening rolled around, the house was disgusting. We were disgusted.

Sticky. Hot. Everything was damp, especially us. The dogs wouldn’t sleep on the sofas, preferring the hard floors where it’s cooler. They’ll go outside only if threatened. Even so, they were throwing us dirty looks which hadn’t been washed this century.

By nine in the evening, I looked at Garry and said “How hot are you?”

“Bad,” said Mr. I Love Summer. “How are you doing?”

“I’m miserable,” I said. “I was thinking — damn National Grid. I can’t breathe!” I have asthma. The humidity was making my lungs work a double shift.

I turned the air conditioning to a more breathable 73. After an hour, air returned to the house.

I’m betting the people who write electrical usage “guidelines” are not sitting and sweating in their houses. I bet they have central A/C set for their personal comfort. They are not sweating out the heat wave. I know power is an issue, but so is quality of life.

Flash message for guideline issuers: OLDER PEOPLE TOLERATE HEAT POORLY.

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That’s right. You get older and your body is not as efficient at regulating core temperature as it was in youth. Those of us with other physical stuff, like arthritis, asthma and heart problems? Our ability to tolerate days of sitting in heat and humidity is dangerous to life and the continuation thereof.

I’m sure I’ll get the bill for this mad, crazy need to breathe. The bill alone might give me a stroke. Right now, I don’t care. I just want some air.

DAILY POST | UNPREDICTABLE?

SKY OF BLUE, SKY OF GRAY

Yesterday came; yesterday went. I filled out my papers, got fitted for a crown on the surviving forward molar. Throughout the long day, the sky was bright and blue. This morning, gray has returned … and we’ve got something that’s surely “going around.”

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I should have recognized yesterday’s mood as not entirely a reaction to stuff I didn’t want to do. I was coming down with something, which, by last night, had manifested as a headache that won’t quit, chills, and a sore throat. Garry was several hours and a few symptoms ahead of me.

Where do we pick this stuff up? And so fast, too. Today, I woke up with the same headache and sore throat with which I went to bed. We’ll just cancel any plans we had for the day. None is time-stamped.

I sure do wish I could zap this headache, though.

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Why does the color of the sky so much affect our moods? Have you noticed that a bright blue sky makes you feel happy … but a dull, gray one tends to dampen the joy? Is this a built-in reflex? A programmed response that’s part of our DNA? It seems to be nearly universal to human beings … so perhaps.

DAILY POST | SKY

POLITICS, WEATHER, AND LAST HURRAH SONGS – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I promised Marilyn I’d write a little something to ease her burden of SERENDIPITY blogs. It’s difficult to be prolific and creative. I recall that dilemma from my TV news days. It’s a grind turning out daily, quality pieces.

My mind is a whirling dervish of loose marbles, some of which also contain the germ of an idea.

I’ve had enough of presidential politics for a while. My hearing aids are on overload. The Donald’s clown car needs a lube job. Hillary and Bernie need to tone it down and treat themselves to a spa weekend. Together. Maybe spend a little time reminiscing about the good old days in the Senate.

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Politics has taken a temporary back seat to violent weather conditions disrupting many parts of the country. Those of us whining about dreary, endless rain would do well to look at regions battling killer fires, floods, and tornadoes.

The violent weather reminds me about the fragility of life. It also, in the dark recesses of my mind, reminds me of funerals and the music of such solemn gatherings. Weddings and funerals are big deals. They bring people together. Funerals can be awkward. Old animosities are suspended while the deceased are mourned. Music soothes the depressed, the craven, and those barely keeping it together.

I was at my best covering funerals during my years as a TV news reporter. I was allowed to stir the pot of sentimentality. Music was always the key. One time, I covered the last hurrah of a politician who was rumored to have had shady dealings in his past. Shocking, of course. Many were cynical about the praise heaped upon this scion of local politics. In this instance, I chose the high ground. My report was dominated by close up shots of grieving family, friends and colleagues.

I selected the Boston Irish favorite, “Galway Bay” as the music to dominate my piece. We ended the report with the casket being carried out of the cathedral into a gray, overcast day with the strains of “Galway Bay” echoing to the fade out.

I was lauded by many for providing just the right, sensitive touch for a man who was both adored and jeered in his lifetime. Music bridged the chasm.

I’ve given lots of thought about the music for my last hurrah. I’m a card-carrying sentimentalist. It juxtaposes with my cynicism. So,  I have a suggested play list for my final appearance on center stage as I begin the big sleep.

My favorites include “Nearer My God To Thee”, “Amazing Grace”, “Abide With Me”, “In The Garden”, “Shall We Gather By The River” and “Beautiful Savior” (my Mom’s favorite which my youngest brother plays at all his concerts).

The ringer could be “Happy Trails” because I’ll be riding the high country with my heroes – who have always been cowboys.

HOPING AGAINST HOPE

Back in the golden olden days, hope had two meanings: “wished for” and “expectation,” the latter meaning being (mostly) obsolete though we still use it. For example, “I would hope your future plans include a college education” which from a parent really means “I expect you to go to college, young lady!”

Today, “hoping-against-hope” would loosely translate to mean “Who — against expectation (logic and reason) — nonetheless believes that the thing(s) he/she hoped for will (still) happen?”

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Right now, I am hoping against hope that the rain will pause and let the sun shine for at least a little while. It has been a full week of rain.

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Chilly and damp, I’m sure the earth is happy for the moisture. I’m grateful to have the rivers and our well filled. Even so, couldn’t we fit a little sunshine into the mix? Just a bit?

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Our dogs have been extra cheerful since the rain started. I don’t know what that means, since they don’t like rain and are afraid of thunder. But, they’ve been in a super good mood since the first downpours on Sunday.

I asked them (several times and I was very respectful) what’s happening, but they have not been forthcoming.

Daily Post: Hope

IT’S GETTING GREENER DOWN BY THE CANAL

It was beautiful yesterday, one of the nearly perfect spring days with which New England is occasionally gifted. Spring isn’t our best — or even second-best — season.

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It’s usually very short, often going from winter to summer in just a day or two. Sometimes, you barely have time to buy a pair of shorts when yesterday’s 40 degrees turns to ninety or more, with humidity to match.

We are having a reasonably good spring this year. There have been a few setbacks. The couple of early snows in April did some damage to the blooming daffodils, but I hope not permanent damage. The flowering trees are showing young leaves. Here, in our woods and along the rivers and canal, the trees are in bud, but not leaf. Hardwood — oaks and maples, sassafras, ash and others — are the last to fill out. Mid May, usually, though the maples may be a week earlier this year. Our trees are mostly bare.

The forsythia is flowering. The lilacs are full of leaves, but no flowers yet.

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Soon. It’s lovely today. Warm and sunny and delicious. The earth is awake and everything is greening up.

CONTRAST: SPRING TO WINTER AND BACK AGAIN

CONTRAST: SPRING TO WINTER AND BACK AGAIN IN LESS THAN A WEEK

It’s snowing again today. Like yesterday, but more steadily. A fine, dry snow that means business. None of the fat, wet flakes that are decorative, but frivolous — for snow. We had a veterinarian appointment today for Gibbs and Bonnie.

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I looked out the window, realized I was not going to even try wrangling two Scotties into the car, then drive on slippery roads (they don’t plow this time of year; they let nature take its course) for an hour (usually half an hour; longer with ice and snow).

Especially since it’s not an emergency visit. It can wait a week.

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It’s gotten cold out there. Yesterday felt like joke, not to be taken seriously. Temperature rose into the forties before the snow stopped falling. Essentially, it was all gone before nightfall.

Not today.

Today it has that grey, grim sky thing happening that say “I’m gonna get you, sucker!”

When I called the vet, I started by saying “I bet you won’t be surprised when I say I’d like to reschedule today’s appointments.”

“Not at all,” she said. She was laughing.

Weather report

“This is so wrong,” I said.

“I know,” she said. “It’s like Mother Nature felt that winter wasn’t bad enough, so she decided to give us a bit more, just so we didn’t feel cheated.”

A couple of days ago, my woods looked ready to bloom.

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March 31, 2016

March 30, 2016

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April 2, 2016

The forsythia were beginning to bloom.

Now … how about today and yesterday?

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The Vernal Equinox came. You can’t argue with the Equinox. It happens and the earth literally shifts into the tilt towards warm weather. Polar Vortex, be gone! Your time has passed.

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By next weekend, it will be over, finally and fully.

A week from today, the Red Sox will open their season at Fenway Park. Play ball!