Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The late-winter, early-spring struggle

It snowed today. Real snow, with accumulation (though luckily it did not stick to the streets and sidewalks).

(This is the trunk of my car as I was brushing it off before my drive home.)

(I wish I had taken the time to really focus in on some of those snowflakes--as annoying as they were to see, they were also beautiful!)

Everyone's been talking today about how they're not happy about the snow.

I've been watching carefully for signs of spring, signs that I'll finally be able to put away my winter coat and turtlenecks soon. When we went walking at Deer Haven a couple weeks ago, I was disappointed to find that there were no buds on the trees (that I could see, anyway). There were just the papery-thin leaves on one kind of tree, making a rustling sound in the breeze.

(The leaves looked a bit like butterfly chrysalises--chrysali?--hanging in the trees.)

(Um, Dexter? That's kind of a giant walking stick...)

Lots of browns, greys, and gold all around us, and though I find winter colors beautiful in their own way, I'm kind of looking forward to everything around us greening up. Within a couple days of our walk, it snowed overnight, complete with ice to scrape off the windows. Drat.

But then a few days after that, the temperatures snuck up ever so slightly, and I spied a couple things that made me hopeful: crocuses in a neighbor's yard!

(Just as I took these photos, the neighbor whose yard this is arrived home; we traded enthusiastic appreciations: finally, color in the garden!)

And the next day: our very own crocuses opened to the light!

(Here are our first happy yellow flowers, poking through the winter-drab flower beds...)

And that day I saw a sure sign that warm weather must be coming: the turkey vultures are back!

(Their wobbly wheeling in the sky made me smile out loud!)

Our daffodil and tulip leaves have been growing, and finally on Monday, the first few (on the east side of the house) started to open up.

On my walks home the past two weeks, the weather was pretty chilly, but I was seeing sure signs of spring here and there. Monday afternoon I found some tree buds:

Beautiful and hopeful! And brand new! So today's snow was a bit disappointing.

I had to remind myself of a couple things. First, there's the saying I've heard repeated in Ohio each spring: after the forsythia bloom, we have three snows. Today's snow is the second, so there's just one more left. I can hang on for one more, right?

And, because I've been reading Reya's posts on spring, I am reminded that birth is a struggle, like a chick having to peck its way out of a shell, as she points out, or a shoot breaking through a seed cover. (Reya didn't mention this, but childbirth was sure difficult, too! And it's really, really hard on the person being born!) So even as I'm cheerfully noticing signs of new growth, I can also give respect to the effort that process takes, and wait patiently for it to happen as it's supposed to.

Hang in there! Spring is coming, despite the snow.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Re-entry randomness

On Saturday night, quite late, I got back with the spring break group (doing service work and learning about Lakota life on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota); since then I've been walking around somewhat zombie-like. I'm too tired to write a coherent, flowing post, but I have a lot of scattered thoughts that I want to share... so here goes.

Something I like: it was still light out at 7 p.m. tonight.
Something I don't like: we're getting up in the morning in the dark. Again.
Even worse: In addition to losing time to Daylight Saving, I lost another hour driving from Illinois to Indiana, so I feel like I'm jet lagged. To the point of feeling ill. Yuck.

Something I like: pictures of the prairie, apparently. I have a ton of them. To add to the ton I have taken every other time I've gone out there. It's just so amazingly beautiful!

(These were all taken from the van at various points in the trip... You can see that the weather got warmer as our "going home" day approached. Dang.)

Something I don't like: Ohio, in addition to being dreary and grey, seems to have a lot of homework in it. Hm.

Something I like: taking students out to one of my favorite places on earth, especially when those students are ready to learn and engage with what they find there.
Something I don't like: when it's time to leave.
Something I LOVE: when the students love it, too.

Something I like: playing hand games.
Something I find troubling: even though it's the third time I've been taught, I still am not good at this game.
Something I really don't like: not being able to understand the scoring rules. STILL. Perhaps the universe is trying to remind me of what it feels like to be a beginner...
Something I love: hearing this group talk SMACK during our games. It was hilarious!

(Ben getting fancy with hiding the bones...)

(Can you see Caroline making the call in this pic? Despite the serious faces, there was a lot of laughter and fun that night! Gabby was a great teacher...)

Something I love: the Heritage Center at Sinte Gleska University and the museum at St. Francis, both full of treasures of Lakota art.

Something that's even more awesome: having Steve explain the significance of the designs, materials, and construction of the pieces to us.

(This is a beaded talking stick with winter count images on it. Beautiful, and a new way to think about Lakota writing... You can see a photograph of Sinte Gleska (Spotted Tail) in the background.)

(Here's a detail from that talking stick...)

(I took this picture of the duck flute for Dexter... You can also see a tinpsila braid on the left.)

(Beautiful Lakota designs on a beaded pipe bag...)

(A painted buffalo hide. It was so big I couldn't really get it all in the picture, even from about 10 feet away! The shapes represent what the spirits would see if they looked at the chief who wore it from above--his bonnet of feathers denoting the honor and trust bestowed on him by his people.)

(A beaded cap that reminds me of Linda Hogan's story "Making Do"...)

Something I like: being in a room full of people who, inspired by those works of art, that evening learn how to make tiny moccasins.

(I was so proud of the way that everybody tried--in some cases in spite of never having sewn a stitch!)

Something I'm very grateful for: that Steve and Gabby and C.J. were so patient with us and willing to teach us and share their culture with us. What an amazing gift!

Something else I like: people so excited about making dream catchers that they buy supplies at the bookstore on the way out of town and make them in the van. Inspiring!

(Alyse used embroidery floss in the colors of the four directions and made a kind of medicine wheel dream catcher. Cool!)

Something I like: seeing the moon above lodge (tipi) poles.

(Can you see it there? on the right?)

Something I like: seeing the Missouri River. When I cross over it, I know I'm in the land I love.

(Here's a view of the road over the Ft. Randall dam.)

(On the way out there we saw hundreds of geese over one particular field...)

Something I like: traveling in a flock, each of us contributing to the group effort.

It was really a great trip. I feel very lucky to have been a part of this group!

I hope you feel a sense of belonging today.


Friday, March 4, 2011

A new aphorism

I was thinking the other day that we could have a new aphorism to describe February. You know, like the one we have for March: in like a lion, out like a lamb.

Well, based on this year's experience, my new aphorism for February is: in with an ice storm, out with a flood. Or maybe: in with an ice storm, out with a thunderstorm.

Not as symbolic, but descriptive, don't ya think?

The night of Feb. 27 we had torrential downpour rains, complete with thunder and lightning and even a little hail. There were more power outages and a few downed trees (nothing like the ice storm, though). It was impressive.

Here's a couple photos of the creek on my campus; first, here's a photo of what it normally looks like, a pleasant babbling brook:

(Notice especially the stone walls that make its banks...)

And here's what it looked like at noon on the day after the thunderstorms:

(The water is up to the top of the stone banks! That's at least 3 or 4 feet higher than usual!)

(Over on the left, you can see where the stone wall has been breached and the water's overflowing the banks...)

(I'll try to put in a little fimlet I took of the roiling water, but I'm not sure if it will work; see the bottom of the post...)

It was downright scary!

Several friends reported flooded basements--like, really flooded: a foot or more of standing water. We were lucky to have only puddles. Another friend's car got flooded because it was parked on the street near a blocked storm drain. She's going to have to replace it. Woah. And lots of schools had to call a delay or cancel school altogether because of flooding and power outages.

The day before the Big Flooding Rains, Dexter and I took a walk around the block; it was sunny and not so cold, and this time of year those days don't come often. Everywhere we went, we could hear water dripping and flowing, down gutters and downspouts, down the street. The snow was melting. Hurrah!

(Lots of water running along the curb... and of course the sticks & strewn things the snow leaves behind...)

With all that snow on the ground, then the torrential thunderstorms, it's no wonder there was flooding!

I've been distracted the past couple weeks with getting ready for our big spring break trip to the rez. I'm gonna miss my guys like crazy (they don't have spring break yet) but I'm excited to go! And it's such a great group of students this year, just like in years past.

How did I get to be so lucky?!

Wishing you sunshine and some signs of spring SOON,