Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

Open Window Season and The Lonely Bullfrog

March 27, 2011 6 comments

So, you didn’t think we had seasons here in Florida? Bah! Of course we do!

We have “Hot” season and “Not Hot” season (I don’t dare call it Cold for fear of being laughed at) and sometimes we get really lucky and have something wonderful in between. I call it “Open Window Season”, that brief period when the breezes blow cool enough to trigger neither the heat nor the air conditioning.

At night during Open Window season, I lie awake and listen to the sounds of the pond out in back. All manner of creatures are waking up from their hibernation, rehearsing their little songs in preparation for the full-on Hot Season cacophony that can rouse the comatose even through closed windows. I swear there is a conductor out there who starts and stops the chorus as he pleases and only seems to want to perfom “O Fortuna” from Orff’s “Carmina Burana”.

The sounds during Open Window season are shy, as if no one dares be the first to sing a wrong note. They sound croaky and rusty and the prima donna peepers don’t seem to have shown up yet; something is distinctly missing in the treble register. Still, the altos and tenors manage a silly warm-up full of self-conscious giggling.

But there is one big frog out there, a basso profundo whose voice is so deep and robust that everyone else stops singing when he starts. I imagine their little froggy faces, mouths agape, looking at each other with wide eyes whispering “Who’s THAT?” It makes me think of those times in our little New England church when my vocally gifted mezzo-soprano sister would show up and put the rest of us to such shame that we hid our faces behind our hymnals. We didn’t dare let her hear our croaking.

I listen to that bullfrog out there, belting out his deep brassy tones, and I feel a little sorry for him. Perhaps he was a boy soprano last year and he is simply trying to join in the joyful noises of his old friends. The size of his voice is like the adolescent boy who grew 5 sizes bigger than his friends over the summer and doesn’t know how to adjust his changed voice to match theirs. He feels like a big buffoon. Maybe to hide his righteous shame, he has become a “bully-frog” and uses his voice to drown out the others on purpose.

He sounds so lonely…

But slowly, one after another, the tiny frogs begin to sing again, beeping and squawking and nyuk-nyuk-nyuking until the big bullfrog is invited back into their chorus, his voice again blending into their song and bringing a depth they hadn’t imagined from him before.

I love Open Window rehearsal season. It allows me to get to know the singers and familiarize myself with their repertoire so that I can appreciate their crazy concerts that keep me awake during the hot summer nights.


The Things I Don’t Know Could Fill a ……

November 15, 2010 2 comments

So, maybe Melatonin is not my friend.

I tried an OTC sleep aid last night in an effort to get through the night without waking up anxious. I stayed asleep all right, but lived out the anxiety in my dreams instead.

What wakes me up most nights is the realization that life is passing me by and there is so much I’ve neglected to learn. Panic sets in when I realize I have no idea what I should have learned by this point. All I know is there’s a lot I’ve refused to study because I couldn’t sit still and focus long enough on something that had no discernible point. When I was diagnosed at age 35 with adult ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and was eligible for special work accommodations according to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), I decided to TKO (Technically Knock Out) my WTFI (Will To Fit In). You can give me the quietest workspace in the world but I’m still going to want to wander around and chat. There’s no fighting it.

More than 10 years later, what really worries me is that I am no more intellectually superior nor highly educated than a certain former Governor of Alaska who is proud of her unworldliness, and I have far less to show for it. Back in the day when she and I were in our formative years (we are the same age), we had little more than our own small pond to swim around in. There was barely a means to connect with our friends who were only 10 miles away, unlike today when we can communicate with someone in Australia in a matter of seconds. Regardless of the physical size of Alaska, it’s still a small pond in the scheme of things. Clear across the country, my pond was no bigger but I had found a way to take up a fair amount of volume, just as she had. The main difference? She’s hot. I’m not.

So here I am living in Florida, an intellectual small pond but with access to the whole world, where I am at least hotter than Mrs. Palin temperature-wise. Yesterday I learned that Tampa ranks in the bottom ten out of 55 large cities for high IQs and their requisite jobs. Our area also boasts a population of less than 25% with college degrees. So with my 150 or so college credits, none of which combine to create an actual degree, I am sort of a big fish again… one that picks up dog shit for a living because I make more money doing that part time than most of the jobs I could have gotten full-time with my college education. And the commute is a lot shorter. Bottom line: shit is shit, whether it stinks or not. Might as well get paid respectably for dealing with it.

But when I get feeling arrogant about my intellect and the fact that I’m not using it for higher purposes, I remember a favorite quote from the movie, “Good Will Hunting”. With the exception that Will is a genius and I am not (quite), I can relate to him. I think Mrs. Palin probably can too.

“See, the sad thing about a guy like you is in 50 years you’re gonna staht doin some thinkin on your own and you’re gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life. One, don’t do that. And Two, you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a fuckin education you coulda got for a dollah fifty in late chahges at the public library.”

Then Will’s therapist brings home the reality of that particular theory:

“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel.”

I learned yesterday that the story I wrote for the 3-minute Fiction contest on NPR didn’t win. I didn’t expect it to, and in fact it would be highly unfair if it had since I was being entirely cheeky about the subject. There are people who pour themselves into becoming good writers as was evidenced by some of the follow-up comments to the winning story. In my usual style of bouncing around and not committing my mind to anything for long, I don’t put much effort into the outcome of my output.

But I wrote about what I knew, about what affects me, and I will continue to do that for the rest of my life because it helps me organize my freakishly scattered thoughts. I could read all the books in the world but none of them would tell me what it’s like to be me.

Maybe someday I’ll publish a book about all the things I know…. but unlike Sarah Palin, I will be ever mindful that the book about all the things I don’t know can never be finished.

Clashing Blues

November 11, 2010 6 comments

Hold me back, I’m getting ready to RUMBLE !!!!

First, though, let me wish all veterans everywhere a Happy Veterans Day. You’ve served us proudly and selflessly and we will never forget you.

That said…..

I am feeling a profound sense of disappointment and disillusionment today and it seems everywhere I look that feeling is compounded.

I grabbed the blue pillows from the chairs out in back and brought them inside so the pressure washer guy won’t spray bleach on them. I tossed them on the couch with the other pillows and the colors clashed horribly. Any of those blues on its own is fine but together they are repulsive.

The television was playing a movie about St. Francis of Assisi and the part I caught was a Catholic church service where the hymn they were singing was a chant in parallel 5ths. Now I know why the rule against them exists in music. My eardrums buzzed painfully.

The first few posts I saw on Facebook this morning were about our President backing down on his pledge to keep tax cuts in place for all but the very rich. Trying to cheer myself up, I Googled GLBT veterans’ organizations to look for something to post about proud men and women who have served in silence and only came across sites that had little substantial information surrounded by pictures of hot half-naked guys.

I am feeling betrayed by everyone I try to stand up for. I see Democrats as people trying to do the right thing in the right way but today they look weak to me. The church I wish could see past its own prejudices only comes down harder in dissonant opposition. The men and women I champion as pillars of integrity turn out to be nothing more than what people claim them to be. When I saw a pile of Silly Bands on the sidewalk just now, all I could think of was New Kids on the Block, INXS, Hanson….silly bands. Save for the bucolic scene of the dad next door playing football with his daughter in the front yard, this day would seem a wash.

And now I think of my friend, Keith, newly arrived in Afghanistan for his 3rd (?) tour of duty in this never ending debacle while our former President, the one who got us into this mess, is parading around the country bragging about the crimes he committed while in office. I am feeling ashamed of what Keith went over there to represent, this country of supposed virtue and openness. It’s bad enough that he has to be there at all when so many of us find it hard to support his efforts in our hearts. We want him home.

Not one of us doesn’t have the blues lately and they’re all different shades. We can’t even be bummed out together because “your blues ain’t like mine”. I wish I could write something that lifts us up, that transcends this color-clash, but I can’t seem to find the words. Nobody seems able to, not even the man whose oratory so inspired us only a few years ago.

Where are the words? Where are the deeds? Where is the integrity?

We’ve always found reason to be proud of our country in the past, and I know we’ll find it again. But this place of unnerving indigo blindness feels hopeless and dark. The Chilean miners probably had more light half a mile underground than we do under blazing azure skies.

How do we learn to keep our spirits up like they did and not succumb to the clashing blues?

Expectations of the Rainbow….

June 19, 2009 1 comment

bs3I haven’t done a good political rant in a long time, but after a conversation yesterday and some recent events, I feel compelled to figure out what in heck’s going on with the blasted rainbow…

The world is a mess right now. The war in the middle east is still going on, the global economy is collapsing, unemployment is rampant, it hasn’t stopped raining for weeks in the north and full-on summer has arrived in the south well before the solstice. We could really stand a break in the pattern already…

President Obama campaigned on a promise of “Change” after 8 years of stormy “WTF?” politics, and many of us were just looking for the sun to come out again and put some color back in our pallid national cheeks and deliver a fresh breath to clear our politically pleuritic lungs (ironic that we chose a smoker to deliver it) but so far it’s still pouring outside, we aren’t breathing any more easily, and our pallor is no more robust . 

The phrase that came up in conversation yesterday was “reaching out and grabbing onto the rainbow” — pretty, promising, exciting. But the rainbow has lost its luster in this long period of global malaise, and most assuredly, the pot at the end has been purged of its gold. I suppose it’s available for anyone who doesn’t even have one to piss in. That’s what we get for daring to have such high expectations of the rainbow…. 

And then there’s the other rainbow, the one whose promise became blindingly bright when Mr. Obama was elected with his pledges to a community that worked tirelessly to get him into office to eradicate the hateful rhetoric that has held them in spiritual bondage for the past 8 years and beyond: the gay community. This week, under great pressure from some increasingly pissed off constituents, the president signed legislation that would protect the same-sex partners of federal employees in a variety of areas except for health care and pension benefits. I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but in this instance, I’m not sure its the mouth we’re dealing with. Thanks for tossing us a carrot, sir. 

I want to believe that things will get better and I do think progress is happening on many fronts. But once an engine finally turns over and starts running, it becomes maddeningly frustrating when the car can only manage 10 mph (Don’t even get me started on the car industry….).

Does any of this directly affect me in a meaningful way? Not really. But it affects those around me, it permeates the airwaves, and the psychic energy that creates change is stifled in a bubble. Looks neat from the outside — if only we could figure out how to let it out (see: Simpsons Movie).

So the next time you see a rainbow, go ahead and try to grab it. Just be careful about what’s actually in the pot — the color might be gold, but it’s probably kinda splashy….

Be Still and Know — It’s only the sprinklers…

May 5, 2009 1 comment

kidding32 a.m. and someone keeps running by and banging on the windows. Mid-dream, the sound becomes part of my  REM-sleep soundtrack…. maybe that’s where the band R.E.M. got their name…. maybe R.E.M. is running by the windows, and Bill Berry  is banging on them with his drumsticks… “I think I thought I heard you tapping on my window” goes the song in my head…. Michael Stipe starts poking me, “Hey, hey, wake up! I thought that I heard you laughing…” Rat-a-tat-a-tat goes the drum beat on the window…. 

WHEW! Weird stuff! I don’t think I like these new watering restrictions that require us to water our thirsty, water-hog of a lawn between 12 and 4 a.m. Not to mention that the lawn guru from Brooker Creek Preserve told us that our sprinkler system totally sucks. We end up washing the windows and hosing down the sidewalks, but instead of rerouting the system, I’m just digging up the dead spots in the yard and replacing them with mulch. My neighbor up the street is contemplating just spray painting the bare spots green.

This drought is really something — it’s making a lot of people lose their religion about having a lush green landscape, which is totally anathema to the Florida ecosystem anyway. The horticultural gods are stepping in and saying, “Knock it off already!” But you know what? In another month we’ll start having daily afternoon monsoons and the hydration fat-cats will have forgotten the whole drought. Bah! they’ll say, There’s no such thing as global warming!

This morning, after my rock-n-roll night of sleep, I got up early to walk the dogs then sat down with a cup of coffee out in back to do some reading. Within 10 minutes, the first wisps of smoke from a brush fire started to creep into our yard. In another 10 minutes it was too smoky to stay out there. Oh, for want of a good rain storm! I can’t even remember the last time it rained….

No, actually, yes I can! It was Easter and we had just drawn a great giant Easter bunny on the driveway with chalk. We got thinking about this and the last time it had rained before then was when we had drawn another cool picture! Our theory has thus become that we can make it rain if we create something fun with chalk. If it weren’t so smoky outside I’d go out and try again just to prove a theory….


I’ve always lived in areas saturated with water so it’s hard to imagine such a lack as we’ve experienced here in FL over the past 3 years. The shortage of rain along with the giant crack in the retaining system that stores water for Tampa means that we are almost out of water, yet Tennessee is flooded. We wondered yesterday: if they can ship oil out of Alaska via pipeline, why can’t they divert water from flooded areas to the parched spots? 

As I listened to the sprinklers spit out their pathetic mist, I was wracked with guilt. Do we squander the precious water to keep our lawn alive or do we pay thousands of dollars later to re-sod the whole thing. Bottom line is always about the money and the trouble. Some of us will do the responsible thing and water when we’re told to, yet 75% of our neighborhood will continue to do it at 2 in the afternoon with the wind carrying most of it off into the road and down the sewers. 

If I didn’t think R.E.M. would be there to keep me up, I’d go right back to bed and bury my head under a pillow….

Hello, IRS? A Tornado Ate My Taxes!

April 14, 2009 3 comments

maybeThis is the call I almost had to make this morning:

“Hi, is this the IRS? Would you believe me if I told you that a tornado blew my taxes away?”  This is what I get for waiting until the last minute.

I drove Mama N’s car down to the mechanic this morning to get new brakes. I’d heard we were going to get some rain today, but as yet, it hadn’t happened. So I dropped off the car and headed down the road to get a key made at the hardware store and then to have some breakfast and kill time at McD’s.

It wasn’t until I was standing at the counter that I saw the color of the sky back up toward the mechanic. Slate gray is not a dark enough description. It had that indigo shade like nighttime just before the sun completely sets — only it was 8 in the morning.

Suddenly, the door behind me blew open and a guy with an armload of miscellaneous paper objects staggered in. “Did you see that??” he asked any of us that were in there. “I opened the hatchback on my car and a whole pile of papers flew across the street — I don’t even know what they were — but I hope they weren’t important!”

My blood turned to ice. My taxes were in the visor of the car waiting to be mailed! Did I put up the windows? I strained to look up the street but couldn’t see the car. Oh, please-please-please be working on it!

I realized I couldn’t do anything about it — I was stuck where I was. As I got my breakfast, the sky broke open with torrents of rain. Someone mentioned that there was a tornado WARNING — not just a WATCH — until 2 p.m.

I started to look around for places to hide. I saw a closet, the bathroom, even the legs of the benches that were bolted to the floor. I figured if the whole window blew in I wouldn’t be hit by the glass there. I started to think of the movie “Twister” and wished I’d put a belt on just in case.

I bantered with the paper guy — told him I had dibs on the utility closet — but I started to get a little nervous. How embarrassing would it be to die at McD’s? That’s totally not the last breakfast I want to have before I die!

But the wind finally slowed down and the rain stopped pounding so hard. Could I make a run for it? I picked up my tray and the paper guy said, “So, can I have the utility closet now?”

Tampa, being the lightning capital of the world, is not a place you want to challenge Mother Nature. She has no qualms about popping someone off at the beach or the golf course and it’s a really lousy way to go. I knew I was messing with fate by trying to get back to the mechanic but I had to make sure my taxes were still there.

Flicker-Flash-Boom-Crash! went the sky as I tried to figure out the least lightning-likely route. Yeah right. Home in my basement would be best. But I didn’t have that option here, nor is there a basement in any house in Florida.

So I put it out there, “If it’s my time, have at it, Mother!” and dodged puddles and open areas, one foot in front of the other, whistling a happy tune in my head. I waited in a low spot for the traffic clear, and then, with my hamstrings screaming from chalking a giant Easter bunny on my driveway the other day, I ran faster than I have in years!

I got to the garage, ripped open the door, and very calmly walked inside. I didn’t feel a need to share my terror with the other patrons. But my soaking shirt and hat belied my calm exterior. “WHEW!” I expelled the air I’d been holding. Then we all took a collective deep breath and thanked the Mother. So far so good.

But what about my taxes? I furtively peeked my head around to look through the window. There was the car up on the lift, and sticking out of the passenger side visor was the telltale envelope. YESSSS!!!! I never thought I’d be happy about sending my hard-earned money to the government, but on this day I was elated!

Several hours later, with new brakes in the car, and taxes in the post office mailbox, I pulled back into my neighborhood. There, running along the sidewalk was one of my pet sitting customer’s dogs, a Sharpei named Frisco. She is terrified of storms. She’ll rip her face off if she’s confined inside so they got a doggie door so she could get out into the fenced in back yard. Well, today, even that wasn’t big enough.

I tried for an hour to get her inside the fence to no avail. She only wanted to go in the front door. I had no key, so my only hope was the doggie door. Fat Savannah, one of the other Sharpeis, could fit through but as I got down on my knees and scoped it out, I had my doubts. I had to get Frisco inside. Hamstrings raging again, I got down and wiggled my head and shoulders through, sliding my face along the kitchen floor. (If anyone ever needs to know my size, my hips just make it through a medium-size doggie door — the vertical way).

I opened the front door and Frisco waltzed right in as though nothing had happened, kind of like me going through the door at the mechanic. But she was exhausted from her trauma and after I dried her off, she went over and curled up on the doggie bed in the front window.

2 p.m. has come and gone, and though it’s still blustery out, I think the worst is over. Trees are down in New Port Richey and pea-sized hail fell in Dunedin, but I don’t think there was an actual tornado anywhere — that I know of.

So Mother Nature gave me a bye this time, saving me from the tax man, AND letting me live long enough to help rescue one of my little dog buddies. I guess I’m feeling pretty blessed and wanted to let you all know it.

But it sure was exciting there for a while!

Still here… (*teeth chattering*)

January 18, 2009 3 comments

goodstuff1Just so y’all don’t think I’ve fallen off the coast of western Florida…. I’m simply freezing my tuckus off!

I know most of you don’t want to hear about it, since you are freezing WAY more than I am, but I equate cold in Florida with heat in Vermont. It just ain’t natural…

When I first moved to the Tampa area, I was sure I’d suffocate during the summer — the heat was SO oppressive! But eventually I learned that Florida was so well equipped for the heat that suffocation was extremely unlikely, much as a blizzard in Vermont was simply a fluffy white inconvenience.

But the cold here is quite literally bone-chilling. It’s a damp cold so it feels like being submerged in ice water. We have heat in our houses, but there is nothing quite as radiating as the warmth of a wood stove. There are few of those here.

Likewise, the heat in Vermont, those two or three weeks of cloying humidity, was inescapable. Even a swim in the West River did nothing to alleviate the hot, hot, hot… I used to go down to my basement and lie on the concrete floor. It felt great, but didn’t allow for a lot of activity unless you could do it while lying prone. Thank goodness for the Sony Playstation. I got really good at Asteroids during those weeks.

So it’s all relative, and I can at least come by my appreciation of both extremes of temperature honestly now. Thanks to my years here in Florida, I DO know what it’s like to freeze, and living in Vermont, ironically, taught me what it was like to bake. Go figure.

My best to all of you as we weather this wicked winter in our various climes. And should you find yourself needing a break, come on down! If you promise not to make fun of me wearing a parka in the 60 degree weather I won’t make any cracks about your lily-white flesh as you bask in the “warm” sun….

Happy Winter to All!

Categories: Good Stuff, Life, Weather
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