Archive for March, 2013

reflecting on clouds

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

A blogging friend of mine writes often about the clouds she sees above her home in this place called California. (It’s out west somewhere.) She clearly has a good eye and an excellent camera, but even more importantly, she is inquisitive and always curious.

The clouds you see in the photo above are reflected in my lake at Roundrock. This was sometime last summer; you can tell because the trees reflected on the shore are a deep green.

a single chair

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Another photo from the archive, and another chair by a body of water.

This particular chair was in Providence, Rhode Island. Libby and I had gone there last summer for her niece’s wedding, and then we took the train to New York where we knocked around a bit with our daughter and fine son-in-law. We had some time before our train left, so we went for a walk around Providence, and I spotted this chair in such an unlikely spot.

Someone obviously went to some trouble to perch it there. I’m guessing that concrete structure once supported a bridge; I was standing on a newer bridge nearby. It looks like a pretty fine chair, so I wonder why someone chose to stick it there. A high water event could easily sweep the chair away, destroying it in the process. And it seems unlikely that anyone is going to go on a long hike and wind up at that chair, grateful for a place to rest.

a pair of chairs

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Another random photo from the archive. These two chairs sit under a spreading white oak tree beside the pond in our forest. When we first came to the land more than a decade ago, this was our favorite spot. We cut a hiking trail from the entrance corner all the way to the pond then carried these chairs there so we could sit and contemplate our good fortune. We kept hoping that one time while we sat there that some ducks would fly down from the sky and land on the pond, but that never happened. (Came close once, but as soon as they saw us they just kept flying.)

More times than not these days we drive by the pond (the road goes right by it) rather than stop for a visit. Often I’ll slow a bit and look across the water to where the chairs are. Or aren’t. Nearly every time, the chairs have been knocked back onto the ground. I suppose the wind does that. Several times, however, one or the other chair is far from the oak tree as though some critter tried to carry it off into the woods. I suppose the wind could blow a chair twenty or thirty feet, but if one, why not both?

When we take a long hike from the cabin and our feet lead us to this part of our woods, we’ll sometimes take a rest here. The chairs look rather scuzzy these days, but after a long hike, they still work perfectly fine for resting weary bones.

dam Queequeg

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Well, I’m back, I think. All of the domain settings are fixed, and the robots have crawled over whatever it is they crawl over to make everything all better again. So Roundrock Journal should be fully functional again. (Special thanks to my crack technical team, who showed remarkable patience with this not-techno-savvy person.)

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get out to Roundrock in I don’t know how long. I certainly haven’t been out in March that I can recall. The weather and competing activities have gotten in the way. The good news is that all that weather has probably kept the lake nice and full, so when I finally get out there, I should see something pleasing to the eye and the heart.

I have no new images to share with you, so I grabbed this one from my photo stash. That white puffball about halfway across the dam is Queequeg. He’s a willful dog and does what he wants. (I’m not sure that “willful” is the correct word. “Untrainable” might be better.)

But look at all that water on the right. The lake was nearly full in this photo!

I’m still here

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Hey, everyone! I’m still here, but a combination of harsh winter weather, lack of opportunities to visit my woods, and some technical problems here on the blog have kept me from posting. I’m not even sure if this post will appear, or if it does, how long it will stay up. I’ve had several posts that went up and then disappeared.

The weather forecast doesn’t look too promising for this weekend, but we shall see.

Whiskey Run 5K

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

I don’t want to talk about it.

 

But you know I will.

 

Oh, the irony. The stinging, stinging irony.

’twas a cold and rainy morning, forecasted to get colder as the day progressed, with chances of actual snow. We’d signed up for the Whiskey Run 5K because we were going to be traveling home from Kentucky on Saturday when the better-known St. Patrick’s Day run was being held in Kansas City. The Whiskey Run was part of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration in nearby Martin City. It was also an inaugural run; this was their first time. Libby and I committed to it months ago; I to run it, she to walk it.

We managed to get home from Kentucky in time to get our race packets the night before. Coincidentally, or maybe not, the packet pickup was in the bar of a locally famous restaurant (Jess and Jim’s). I asked the woman at the desk how many runners had signed up. She said that they had 79 so far. That’s not too bad for an inaugural run on a rainy weekend, but I’ve run in packs of thousands before, so this littler number meant a different sort of crowd. (Note the very low bib numbers we got.)

The run was scheduled for 1:00 in the afternoon, which I guess makes sense on a Sunday so the church-going crowd can get that business out of the way. But I had an odd feeling about this run from the start. It was supposed to be in observation of St. Patrick’s Day (a little early) and the organizers chose to associate it with whiskey. Was this an Irish stereotype? Or was it because Jameson Whiskey was a major sponsor? But was the late start also suggestive of people needing to sleep off a hangover before running?

But we decided to run our race anyway, though from the look of the crowd at the starting line, only about half of the 77 other runners decided to show up. Well, it was raining off and on, and the temps were barely above freezing, and falling. Plus the wind was whipping the tents around. So I can see how some might have chosen to stay home.

The run started in the parking lot of a large shopping center and proceeded uphill. That was no fun, and it was about a half mile before the route leveled off before heading uphill again. As usual, the pack left me far behind, and I was hoping merely to keep a few of them in sight so I’d know where to make my turns in tiny Martin City. It turned out that you can pack a lot of uphill running in only 3.1 miles of Martin City. Somehow the corresponding downhill stretches did not seem comparable.

Libby chose to walk the route (though she confessed to running parts of it), and this left her far, far behind the pack. There were two other walkers in the bunch, but they went much more quickly than she did, and she reached a point where she couldn’t see any other participants. She called me to ask me where to make her turns. I was still completing my run at the time, so I could only pant directions to her, calling out landmarks as I remembered them (though most of the landmarks I knew were the cracks and breaks in the pavement at my feet).

As I turned into the final stretch and the finish line arch came into view, I summoned what little energy I had in me to make a halfway decent-looking runner. And I remembered to smile and look fresh as I crossed the line because there was a photographer there. (The finish-line photo I have from the Groundhog Run shows a man defeated and about to collapse.) I stopped briefly to catch my breath and to get the timing chip removed from my shoe, then I turned around and reversed the course of the run to go out and meet Libby, wherever she might be, to come in with her. I did not run the whole way to find her (walking parts of it), but she still had nearly a mile to go when we met. We walked that last distance together, but she was not pleased. She had been uncertain at many points where the route went. It was adequately marked, but by the time she was coming along, most of the markings were already collected and gone. So were the police and other volunteers who were supposed to be there to steer the runners on the right course. She was embarrassed and even angry to be the only walker and the last one to finish. She told me she wanted to support my running mania but that this was the last time she was ever going to do this kind of thing herself.

As we approached the finish line, she put on a happy face and smiled for the photographer. Then she had her timing chip removed and we wandered over to the officials’ table to get the free granola bars and bananas. They had posted most of the runners’ times by then, and I wanted to see how I did. My ambition, you may recall, is to someday not be the last finisher in my age group.

And that’s still my goal because I once again successfully defended my position as slowest in my age group.

Yet as we were standing there, the man at the finish line came running up and told Libby that she came in second for her age group! They promptly hung a silver medal on her!

Well, her attitude changed in an instant. Now she wants to do the Mother’s Day Run, the Trolley Run, and the Color Run. Look out! So she gets the medal, and I get to continue dreaming about not being the slowest. Oh, the irony!

Little Free Library

Monday, March 11th, 2013

This post is only tangentially about my running — a subject I’m sure I’m beginning to bore you with. So I was in Paducah, Kentucky last week for my mother’s birthday and went out for a run. My intent was to run from her house to the downtown and then down the levee to the Ohio River, where I would dip my hand (for whatever reason — I don’t know). That route gave me only 2.85 miles, so I thought I’d explore more of the town on foot, and since the city is built on gloriously flat land, I did.

The artsy part of Paducah is called Lowertown. It’s a cute place, full of some magnificent old homes and tidy bungalows. In the middle of the morning during the middle of the week, however, most of the galleries and studios were not open, and since I was in the middle of my run I wouldn’t have stopped anyway.

But one thing did make me stop: the little box you see in the photo above.

This is a Little Free Library. I’d heard about these before, but as far as I can recall, this is the first one I’ve ever come upon. (And shame on me since there’s one in my neighborhood it turns out.) The idea of a Little Free Library is that you can help yourself to a book to read, at no cost, and/or leave a book behind for someone else to enjoy. (Probably would not work too well with an electronic reader.) Of course your options are limited to whatever happens to be in the collection that day, but just the idea of such a community-spirited effort makes me feel good about humanity.

You should go to the link to read more about the Little Free Libraries worldwide. And check out the map to see if there is one near you. (Curiously, the one in Paducah is not on the map.)

Skywatch Friday – Ohio River

Friday, March 8th, 2013

I spent a few days this week in Paducah, Kentucky for my mother’s birthday. While there I ran from her place to the downtown and then down to the Ohio River, where I dipped my hand in the (cold) water.

The sky was gorgeous, however, especially compared to what I’ve been enduring in recent days.

By the way, Paducah is a great town for running in — it’s very flat!

Wordless Wednesday – just a round rock

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

hydra

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Okay, so it’s a pretty miserable photo. But I think it illustrates my point.

Long-time readers will know that I’ve been waging a poignant battle against the mullein that is sprouting in the open area on and below the dam. It’s a non-native, and part of my stewardship ethic is to foster native plants at Roundrock, which means non-natives like this must go.

Generally, when I found these, I would kick them at their base until I separated the leaves from the root stalk. If I was persistent and struck just right, I could get a clean break and, presumably, ended the plant’s earthly toil. (I’ve never verified if they can re-sprout from their roots.) But that method only works about half the time; I often will leave too much of the plant above the ground, which I imagine can grow back with zest and fury.

So I’ve recently taken a different approach. When the plant sends up its flower stalk, I simply chop it off with the loppers. My thought — my naive, naive thought — was that I was interrupting the long-term life cycle of the plant. If it couldn’t flower, it couldn’t set seed, and though the plant might survive, it would die at the end of the season, and that would be that.

Except these plants seem to have evolved a solution to this problem. Apparently, if they lose their main stalk, they simply send out several more to replace it. So not only does my plan not work, but the plant doubles down on reproduction and laughs at me in the process.