Thursday, February 8, 2024

Pre-Spring Ruminations

Dragon figure on the Nankunshen Daitian Temple in Tainan, ancient capital of Taiwan

I got a note on Friday from my local food co-op newsletter that old Phil in Punxsutawni PA hadn't seen his shadow when he emerged from his comfy den, so we may not have to suffer through a prolonged winter. This is good news, even if of dubious folkloric origin, but we've recently enjoyed a few balmy days before having to huddle through another bleak stretch, so the prospect of not slogging through a continuous cycle that lasts beyond the solstice is welcome.

I generally spend February 2 remembering my father, who was born on that day in 1921. Despite his carrying some of the same genes I do (the worst of mine came from my mother's side of the family), he managed to survive two separate coronary bypass operations and several years of thyroid cancer (probably an artifact of his service in the South Pacific during WWII) before he died of that not long after his 83rd birthday. My daughter and I flew out to Porterville, California for a Valentine's Day visit in 2004, and my son drove down from Seattle so we could spend some time with him together, and I made a vast lasagna for dinner one night--which he managed to enjoy a bit of. My Dad was a terrific guy, and these last twenty years have afforded many bittersweet moments. But I never stop remembering how much he helped to steer me towards becoming a more generous and appreciative person than I might have been, and I've never stopped being grateful. One of his final directives was to "write at the end of your stint." So my long rants on this blog are actually a response to my Father's orders.

Four years ago in mid-February, Texans experienced the direst bout of nasty winter weather in modern memory during what we called "Snowmageddon," from the 11th to the 21st or so. The worst day was probably the 14th, during which we had no power for the better part of 24 hours. (I wrote about it in a post called In A Bleaker Midwinter). As I've mentioned recently, we've spent the time between then and now providing ourselves with alternate sources of power and heat. But the state has also been trying to clean up its act, thanks in no small part to the efforts of renewable providers, and the grid held through a spell of sub-freezing weather last month. We did, however, take multi-day advantage of our ceramic-clad cast-iron wood-burner, so we actually enjoyed a few cozy mornings when our house thermostat was registering in the low 50s. Closing off the living room, pulling down shades and drawing curtains all through the house, and using an electric heater in the upstairs bathroom (we don't have a heat source up there, so this was to keep the water from freezing), kept us comfortable until the spell finally broke, with the weather returning to its usual cycle for this time of year. 

As I was writing this (on Monday the 5th) the temperature reached into the mid-60s, which meant that The Beloved Spouse was able to get some tennis practice in, and I managed to do some more garden prep. My usual Phenology 101 exercise this spring (see my 2018 post here) will probably be compromised by the 65-70-degree days we've enjoyed on and off for the last couple of weeks, and which fooled the daffodils into thinking that it's time to start popping up. But we had one brief freezing night that nipped the tips of their leaves, and those of the Byzantine gladioli and the alliums that managed to survive under blankets during the hard freezes and seem to want to get their mojo going. 

Overly eager daffodil

The Lunar New Year begins on Saturday, and this is a special one in our family because it marks the Year of the Dragon. My son was born in 1976, also a Year of the Dragon--a most appropriate zodiac sign for an avid fan of fantasy and gaming. So on Friday night we'll bid farewell to the Year of the Bunny (well, Rabbit to most folks) and hope that the good fortune attached to the Dragon figure will see us through a problematic election. 

Not much sky drama (not much sky, actually) has been visible for the last couple of weeks, but bright blue and puffy white are still worth looking at between grey spells; here are a few that provide a glimpse of the range of possibility, including a bit of yesterday's lovely sunrise:

Happy Skywatch Friday, Folks, and Happy Year of the Dragon!

Photo credit: The shot of that lovely dragon (one of many, but I thought that this photo perfect for Skywatch Friday), "Dragon Roof Sculpture of the Jade Emperor Shrine, Taiwan," was posted on Wikimedia Commons by Malcolm Koo (MK2010). I thought of it when I was looking for an appropriate Year of the Dragon evocation, since I visited this temple as a child and remembered its many wonderful dragons, but haven't yet found a photo among my mother's voluminous archive of negatives.