Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Evidence that spring really is on its way

March has been dragging on, even threatening to spill over into April. So I was surprised and delighted yesterday when I was out walking my dog and noticed that my neighbor's crocuses had not only emerged, but were starting to bloom. These lovely pale blue buds look so sweet, don't they? This is on the south side of her house, which is on a corner, so she gets lots of sun exposure. When I toured my own yard to see if any of my crocuses or tulips were up, none of them had even emerged yet. But I did discover my chives a few inches high; those are on the south side of my house. I'm thinking now that in the fall I really must plant some bulbs along the south side so I'll get a little early color next spring.

Other signs of spring in Minneapolis I have noted lately:
• On March 15, my husband cleaned out the garage and got his bike out for the first time. He rode it to work the next day.
• On March 16, my favorite mailman started wearing shorts; although I didn't notice whether he returned to long trousers when the temperature dropped again. (I know, how could I not notice?)
• Also on March 16, I spotted ducks in the puddles around Lake Nokomis, even though the lake itself is still frozen.
• There are loads of robins everywhere. I really should get mealworms from the bird seed store for them, they say that there aren't many insects or worms about yet, and the robins and other birds need their protein.
• Yesterday, as I was biking around Lake Nokomis, I heard red-winged blackbirds trilling in the trees.
• The wild turkey in Minnehaha Park has become a more common site, and a couple of weeks ago we even saw four of them all clustered together. Then one day last week my husband witnessed a male turkey chasing a small red car! He said it ran pretty fast.

Today it's rainy and gray, but not too cold. The birdbath water remains unfrozen. But the Eloise Butler Wildflower garden, which usually opens on April 1, has delayed opening for a couple of days. It does feel like April today, though, so that's encouraging.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mom's Stuff, Part 1: Dumpster Diving

My mom is planning to move on May 1, and she's been living in a big house in Roseville, a suburb of St. Paul, since 1960 (with a brief interruption in the 1980s). She's got a big Dumpster in the driveway, and my brother and I (with assistance from our spouses) have been throwing stuff in it as much as we can. There are also boxes and boxes labeled Goodwill, with stuff to be donated to that worthy cause, and then, of course, the boxes of stuff she wants to take with her -- enough of those to prompt Hubby to ask me more than once, "How big is this place she's moving to?"

This has been a good incentive for us to keep to our own downsizing agenda. Sunday, we came back from Mom's with my husband resolving to clean out the garage and the attic -- this weekend.

So on our way to Mom's on Sunday, as we pull up and eye the large Dumpster, I say "I promise I won't climb into the Dumpster and say 'Hey, this is cool!' and pull stuff out." He thanks me for that.

Then we park our '91 Honda (rather a piece of junk itself) next to the Dumpster, and the next thing I know, Hubby is saying, "Hey, that's one of those nice oak wall shelves your dad built, isn't it?" And he's climbing into the Dumpster to pull it out!

It's especially appropriate, I think, that we salvage those shelves, because I know that my dad made them from salvaged wood originally -- oak 2x4s that he reclaimed from some railyard or other. He thought that the wood was too nice to discard, and he was right. The shelves are narrow ("Perfect for paperbacks," says Hubby), but the grain is really quite lovely.

Then I spy the old avocado ceramic cups and saucers that were Grandma's, and insist that those don't belong in the Dumpster either -- at the very least they should go to the Goodwill because somebody could use them; and I know it's my unsentimental just-get-it-done project manager brother who threw those out. So I dig them all out and Hubby gamely assists me in putting them in the car to take home.

So now we are the proud owners of more stuff. But it's good stuff, and I am going to go through the buffet and remove something to make room for the avocado dishes. I have some other cups and saucers that once belonged to my other grandmother -- but I don't ever remember Grandma Parker actually using those dishes, whereas I do remember Grandma Clausen serving holiday meals on her avocado dishes; and since I have other mementoes of Grandma Parker, I tell myself I can let the other cups go.

Although . . ., I've always liked those teacups-on-a-stick you sometimes see in gardens, and I do have a couple of ideas about how to mount them for such outdoor display. Hmmm . . .

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Who cares if it's gray? It's the end of winter!

"I dwell in possibility." -- Emily Dickinson

A friend of mine here in Minneapolis told me today that he finds this time of year rather depressing -- it's so gray, and muddy, and the melting snow reveals a winter's worth of litter, and so on like that.

I was dumbfounded. I mean, c'mon, it's the end of a Minnesota winter! What's not to like? Sure, I can understand if you live farther north and it feels like winter is just dragging on, but here in Minneapolis we have air temps in the 50s, the snow is rapidly melting, the sidewalks, which have been icy and treacherous for months, are nearly dry. I can ride my bike without feeling like my finger tips are going to fall off. I can walk the dog without risk of injury!

On Sunday, my husband got his bike out for the first time since fall. He also cleaned the garage and scooped out all the ice that had accumulated there. Our garage is old and sits kind of low, so when there is a midwinter thaw, water seeps in and then freezes. Sometimes the door gets frozen shut. This is not a problem for anyone but me, since we keep our cars outside (it's a very small garage) and I am the only one who rides at all in the winter. Now it's all nice and clean and it's so easy to get my bike out.

I can be outside, I can ride my bike without freezing, the birds are singing -- and it's only going to get better. Who cares if it's gray? It's better than white! Maybe I'm odd, but I find this time of year exhilarating.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Our Friend in the Park

We first spotted it last fall: the wild turkey that had taken up residence in Minnehaha Falls Park. A stunningly large, long-legged fowl, it was usually walking along on the grass, head down, apparently grazing on the seeds, acorns, and insects scattered under the oak trees. Then, soon after we published Milissa Link’s essay in the winter edition of MOQ, about the coyote she spotted in the area, we stopped seeing it.

I speculated that it had likely become coyote dinner. My husband accused me of being pessimistic. “Not if you see it from the coyote’s point of view,” I had countered.

Despite my coyote sympathies, I was delighted when I spotted it again on a late February afternoon (naturally, I assumed it was the same turkey). It had strolled onto the parkway that runs east of Hiawatha, and there it stood, in the middle of the narrow road, calmly stopping what little traffic there was. It took a few steps to the left, and a northbound car crept past; then it stepped to the right, and a southbound car edged by. It turned and watched these vehicles with a mild and curious gaze.

But as I approached in the northbound lane, I had to bring my rust-speckled ’91 Honda to a complete halt as the turkey planted itself right in the center of the road. It eyed me, then turned to gaze at the southbound car that had also stopped in the opposite lane. It was a standoff. I could see that the other driver was talking on a cell phone and wondered if he was reporting this event to someone.

Convinced that the turkey, possessing all the time in the world, had no intention of going anywhere anytime soon, I slowly eased the Honda onto the sloped curb to my right to edge my way around the recalcitrant critter. As I passed, it turned its magnificent homely head on its long turkey neck to look me in the eye through the driver’s-side window. I felt a certain relief that it was winter and my window was closed. My, that’s a big bird, I thought.

Now we make a point of looking for it whenever we pass through the park, and succeed in spotting it a few times a week. Even though we haven’t gone so far as to give it a name, we do refer to it as “your friend” (“I saw your friend in the park today”). Like a regular at the coffee shop, it has become for us a fixture in this place, its absence as keenly felt as its presence. Long may it wander there.

(From the spring issue of MOQ, which will be available next week.)