Letter From Home: “Boy From Iceland Brings Needed Smile” 5/25/22

James and I had just pulled into our drive. Returning from an unexpected visit to a local hospital so to visit for the final time with a friend of 20 years was emotionally heavy. The lilacs near our home seemed to feel the mood of the day as the rain made them droop and sag. They are loaded this year with blooms, and being so densely packed makes them hang even lower today.

With the weight of headlines waking us this morning with photos of the 19 boys and girls shot to death in a Texas school my mood was already somber. Then a call alerting us to the placement of our friend on hospice forced our day into higher gear for what we knew needed to be done this afternoon. A visit to a hospital.

The lady we visited loved Elvis’ singing. I joked with her that if the music was not soon located and turned on in the room I could sing, but someone would need to move the chairs back as it takes room to swivel the hips. She smiled weakly, and I considered that a victory.

So as we arrived back home I felt sluggish, having only operated on one cup of coffee all day. As I turned up the sidewalk to our front door, I saw a blond-haired boy on a scooter, that seems to be the latest rage for boys about age 10.

A woman was with him and they were looking up into the tree and so I asked “What are you looking at?”

“Just wondering what bird is making those sounds,” the woman said.

“Cardinals”, I replied. “Hear the call and response?”, I added.

She remarked on the many birds to be sighted, and I told her of the catbirds and orioles that are also nesting in the area. But it was not until I spoke of eagles that fly low near the shore of Lake Monona that the boy looked more intently in my direction and then pushing one foot on his scooter made his way across the street, his mom at his side.

“They have huge wings,” he said and smiled at the idea. He had been reading lately about those birds of prey. We talked back and forth about their nests being up to the size of a mattress. It was agreed that sharing such a mattress was not a great idea.

His mom said they were visiting from Iceland, and the lad was homeschooled. His attentive eyes and kind smile made for an odd juxtaposition with the faces on the news from Texas I had looked at hours prior. In a convoluted fashion, so to address the issue without using any language that would be alarming for the boy, I asked her about how news coverage there would deal with the headlines of our country.

“Matter of factly, not sensationalized, but also with the question as to how this is allowed to continue,” she said.

She had grown up in Wisconsin but said very plainly that she would not allow her child to attend an American school at this time. “Just look at the statistics from the past 20 years”, she stated.

Had that kid not been looking up into the tree I would not have lobbed an inquiry across the street. Had he not found an interest in eagles from his reading he might not have pushed himself over to say hello on his scooter.

His mom said such conversations with strangers are not common on streets in Iceland, first often due to the weather, but the stoic nature of the residents makes for such interactions to be few and far between. I told her on snowy days with bitter winds while shoveling I still chat it up with anyone who comes along our way.

“I offer to let them shovel, but they all seem to have read Tom Sawyer”, I quipped.

She smiled, but Mark Twain had not yet left an impression on the boy.

As the rain picked up and we started to head in opposite directions I wished them well and pointed at the boy and said, “Thanks for being you.”

His youthful glee over the birds of the area, his smile, and his willingness to engage with the world was the mood lifter this day needed.

This type of interaction, off-the-cuff, so effortless, and free, is one of the themes of my latest book which is scheduled to be published by August. The tonic for the soul is often these very types of human connections. The book has been my focus since November, with the editing phase now underway.

Letter From Home “Guitar Smiles” 4/29/22

It is often said that certain foods can transport a person back to memories of childhood or the first date with the love of a lifetime. Certain scents can bring back memories of mountain flowers, an ocean breeze, or corndogs at the county fair. Music is also perfect at conveying people to a softer place where smiles and laughs replace current woes.

And even the promise of music yet to unfold can bring a smile. Even tears of joy. Such as the case today at our home.

With truly spring-like temperatures finally occurring I put on shorts and started on my list of outdoor projects. First up, mulching a large flower bed. I was well into the effort when my husband, James, came onto the porch and said, “I found a way to get a guitar!”

I tossed off my gloves and walked over to hear what had transpired regarding one of his clients.

James runs his own guardianship business for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia issues. While there are certainly the usual phone contacts with living facilities, calls to doctors, setting up appointments, arranging for court dates, and at times making arrangments with a realtor for the sale of property he also makes sure the personal needs and better yet, wishes of his clients, are met.

One client, an 80-year-old man, was born into a Menominee Indian family in Northern Wisconsin. He, along with his seven siblings was split up as children and sent to live with eight other families in an effort to acclimate them into ‘white culture’. While I have read about this troubling and absurd policy, I have never before known anyone who personally was impacted.

As a boy and teenager, he did not fare well, was not a high school graduate, and soon found himself in the military. After spending much of his life in the South he recently moved back to Wisconsin for the final chapter of his life. The court system asked James if he could help, and the man became a client.

When in his teenage years he started to play and much enjoy a 12-string guitar. With the ups and downs of life that musical joy was not a constant part of his world. About a week ago he mentioned to a person at his facility that it would be nice to again play the guitar and hear the chords from his favorite songs.

James heard of this request and started looking for used guitars in the city, but also took the next step and started to arrange for some local friends who are also musicians to spend time with the man playing and singing.

One of those contacts, a guitar player and performer we have known for years, called back to say a friend had recently offered him a 12-string guitar. He had originally turned it down, but he had checked to see it if was still available. The guitar had belonged to an older woman who had died, and it was agreed the woman would want the chords to again be heard by someone most needing to hear them.

As I heard this news on the back porch tears came to my eyes.

That performer is picking the guitar up this weekend, will spruce it up, put new strings on where needed, and tune it. Then this coming week he will make a surprise visit to a man who likely does not think his desire for musical memories can become reality.

I trust the placement of the fingers and the chords plucked from the strings will transport that man to an inner place of contentment. Knowing the performer, his smile, and his kind personality I am sure there will be several others at the facility who will find themselves being transported back to fond memories through the chords of a guitar.

Maybe it is the headlines of the day that are gut-wrenching from Ukraine juxtaposed with the genuine kindness from a family we have known in the city for many years, who upon being presented with a need, simply said through actions ‘ let’s make this happen’.

Music remains the connector in life and through lives.

And so it goes.

Letter From Home “They All Want To Be A Christmas Tree!” 12/10/21

It seems the average price for a Christmas tree in the city I live in is about $80.00 this year. Driving near sellers of the green-needled beauties has made me aware that this annual tradition is not cheap. Late this afternoon with a cold rain being lashed against the windows of the car I slowed to get a better look at ones arrayed in a city parking lot. It was then I flashed back to the white pines of home.

I suspect such flashbacks are more common than not for most people as the holidays approach. Be it the scent of fresh-baked cookies, the traditions of decorating, or the pull of memory resulting from certain chords struck by a carol, we are transported backward through the decades. James and I have found a way to include such memories into our lives each Christmas season.

There are those items of special meaning from over the years that are kept, such as an old change purse, a clothespin, or the gift tags with the writing of loved ones preserved with laminating. But then the question is how do we view them after being placed into boxes?

Several years ago James and I concluded our love of the season necessitated there be more than one Christmas tree in our home. (We have three.) One of the trees is what we call a Memory Tree. It is there that we then place the items such as a small photo of James’ mom and dad along with my mom’s old can opener on a tree that might seem to be an odd array of items to a stranger…..but not to us.

Though our home was built in 1892 with one large white pine from the northern reaches of Wisconsin, we have not had a white pine Christmas tree. But when I was a young man that variety was the only one ever to be decorated for Christmas where I lived. Namely, because much of the wooded portions on the 100 acres back home were of white pine. You never saw me buying a tree when a homegrown one was precisely what I wanted.

The memories of those Christmas trees remain priceless to me. As I looked about (simply for curiosity) at the trees for sale today I thought of the axe that hangs at our home on a wall. It was the very axe that I used in my younger days to cut trees that now stands out in my memory.

If the axe could talk, what stories it would tell.

In the family probate process, the items I wanted, as my attorney noted at the time, would not have collectively sold for $25.00 at a garage sale in Hancock. Simply put, I wanted memories.

So what does this ax mean to me?

Before purchasing a VW Beetle, with a minuscule trunk, I used to drive home to Hancock to cut a Christmas tree for my apartment in Madison. It was an annual ritual made special because my Dad assisted in making the simple wooden stand that allowed for the tree to stand upright. My trees at that time were always smaller than what was required for the store-bought stands. There was a reason for that.

As a boy, I loved to walk in the woods populated with white pines and oaks. After I got to a certain age, I would take the axe along and chop on this dead branch, or even take down a very small spindly tree here and there. When I grew to be a teenager, there was one tall white pine that I would wail on with the axe. All the tensions of youth were unleashed on that tree. At the end of my teen years, I had discovered there was far more tree than angst. When I left home it was still standing, but with a very haggard look. Since then, the ‘wailing tree’ has come down with age, and others have grown up in its place.

I had narrowed my stress-releasing axing to a single tree thanks to some thoughtful words from my Dad. I was just a boy when he told me that one just never knows when a tree would be needed to hide under in the rain. He looked as though he were sheltering his face from raindrops as he spoke. One can never foresee, he added, the need to climb up one in order to get away from a wild animal. Dad imitated the noise of a bear and its growl. I discovered then that trees were my friends, and I should respect them.

All trees have value according to Dad. Some small trees seemed to me to lack that postcard quality of rounded beauty we as a culture value most at the holidays. One side of so many little trees on our property seemed to be deformed. They did not get enough light, or were too close to other trees in the woods. Dad would comment about the misshapen trees, “They all want to be a Christmas tree!” As I got older, that message seemed ever more important to me. When it came time to chop down my own trees for Christmas, I always sought out a nice tree, but one that was not perfect. My friends would smile, and gently chide me about the ‘Charlie Brown’ tree. Yet, decorated in all the lights and glass ornaments the tree was always perfect, just as it was for Charles Schulz’s Charlie Brown, and his friends.

Each season for years and years, I took my Dad’s axe to the woods, and dragged my tree through the snow to our ‘barn’ where Dad would eye it up, and then reach for some wood pieces in the pile near the back of the building. He would measure a bit then take the wood, and place it over the side of a wooden potato crate, and cut for perfect dimensions. He would hammer and fashion the pieces together so the small trunk of the tree would fit without slipping out. As he worked, I would look out the door of the barn, and see my Mom at the kitchen window. She carefully watched our progress, ensuring that we didn’t do anything foolish, or hurt ourselves. Steam collected on the windowpanes from something wonderful cooking on the stove for dinner.

Days after I had the tree back in Madison my Dad would phone to inquire as to how it was standing. I always answered that it was up, and decorated without a single problem. Vendors do not put less-than-perfect Christmas trees on the lots in the city, but I can say with all honesty that my little trees could stand in competition with any of them, if the competition were about conveying life’s lessons on love.

I never asked Dad about how or why he came up with his philosophy about Christmas trees. It just fit him, and never seemed to need an explanation. It means we all are needed in life, and all fit in somewhere. And with a little help from someone can be that which we dream.

Merry Christmas!

And so it goes.

Letter From Home “Snow Squalls” 11/12/21

Every year since we arrived at this home in 2007 there are certain traditions that are now part and parcel of our lives. We love to get the Adirondack chairs out as soon as the first hint of spring is in the air. Watching fireflies on a warm summer night with a cup of tea or watching heat lightning on the horizon is utterly relaxing. Raking leaves into piles just knowing there is one neighborhood kid who will take advantage of them before they are bagged.

And then there is the yearly event which occurred today.

It can be generally assumed that in the last days of October, into the first couple of weeks in November, a day will dawn downright chilly. The skies will be somewhat clear so that even though the sun shines brightly at times, clouds can also bank about in the sky. Across the lake, on the Madison isthmus, there will be a whitish-gray that slopes out of the sky and skirts across the gray cold water, and as it does so flakes of snow fall. As the flakes arc across the lake and then up over the shoreline and onto the rooftops and sidewalks the wind picks up and dances the white wonders in the air. In short order, the snow stops and the sun shines again.

There is no doubt about what is happening. The first snow squalls of the season have arrived.

This week, knowing the cold weather was planning its arrival I trimmed the rose bushes and cut the blooms that had sprouted over the past couple of weeks due to unusually warm weather. As I did the work on the bushes I smiled at the thought of allowing them to linger outside, with snowflakes settled upon the blooms. That would be just as Sonny James sang in his song When The Snow Is On The Roses.

I readily admit to a bittersweet feeling when putting the gardens to bed for the winter, storing rakes away, and bringing the snow shovels up from the basement to the outside shed. I love putting on shorts and colorful summer shirts while wearing sandals.

But that feeling fades when the sights of today come down from the clouds, crosses the lake, and the feel of the wind ramping up hits my face, as the flakes fall.

The Catalpa tree in our yard is the last of the season to release its leaves. During the recent brisk winds and rain, the large plate-size leaves pelted the house as they let go, allowing the winds to careen them through the air, making for a nice sound when they plunked on the siding. There was a nice-sized pile after I raked them today.

But as I bagged them, one of the squalls moved overhead. The little ice crystals tinged on my hat and dusted the tar pavement. It was perfectly timed. I cleaned up a few other items needing attention and went inside. After hanging my work jacket up, and my hat in its location I opened the back door to the kitchen.

James had shallots simmering in a frying pan for the start of our ham omelet lunch. I poured another cup of coffee to take off the outdoor chill.

The start of another winter is underway. And it feels good.

And so it goes.

Letter From Home: “Lessons From A Sunflower” 8/31/21

Last winter when the pandemic was racing across the nation I considered ideas that would alter the landscape of our gardens come summer. One way I coped with the sadness of news from hospitals and the ever-increasing number of people we lost to the virus was opening up seed catalogs and planning. Planning big!

Or in the case of my hopes with sunflowers, planning tall.

I love sunflowers, the brighter the yellow, the larger the bloom, the bigger the smile on my face.

When we first moved into our home I planted a long row of sunflower seeds alongside my neighbor’s garage, which abuts our property. The place was perfect with ample sunshine. They anchored themselves to the soil so securely that come fall there was no way to pull them out. Digging their roots out was the only way to remove them.

The glorious tall heads had a variety of birds darting about, with the goldfinches being my favorite as they pecked away while perched upside down. Blue jays were a part of my childhood, but the only time I have had a number of them in our yard was when the sunflowers seeds were ready to be plucked. Some say they are mean birds, but their grand color always gives them a pass in my book.

So with three large packets of a variety of seeds purchased via the mail, I awaited spring.

What I had not factored into my winter-time plotting was the growth of the nine trees we have planted since moving in 2007. One of them came to us our first spring, placed in a large bucket and carted in a wheelbarrow. The man lived a few houses down on our block.

“Welcome to the neighborhood!

That sugar maple was shorter than I was, but now it towers higher than our three-story home. That along with a red pine, spruce, two Pagoda Dogwoods, Pin Oak, Honey Locust, a crab apple tree, and a lilac bush pruned to look more like a tree means that when it came for staking out places with lots of sunshine…..well, I need more space!

So back to the now limited area where my memories of past sunflowers were raised. Alongside the neighbor’s garage.

I planted and watered and remarked to James each day the progress of their germination.

At this point, I should mention my soft-hearted nature when it comes to wild animals. Each winter I put out food for the bunnies. James even felt they needed a better place to stay so fashioned a large rose cone into a bunny home with a straw ground cover. I bought high-fat nuts and even a cheap metal baking pan so as to not just toss their meals into the snow.

I thought of all those little niceties we did over the winter each morning as I soon noticed the sunflower’s fresh green growth had been munched completely off! What to do?

I brought up some of the fencings we use for winter protection of plants and soon had the next freshly planted seeds–thankfully I had ordered large packets–protected from anything that could go wrong.

Right?

Wrong.

In our Catalpa tree this year we had a large squirrel nest with cute little tykes running about. The tree is not far from the sunflowers, or more to the point of this story, from the roof of the neighbor’s garage.

So as my seedlings now truly did grow and reach high up above my head with growth…

…the new squirrels would launch themselves off the roof and land on the top portion of a sunflower, their weight snapping the plant down and thus ending the hope of a bloom. The one pictured was soon taken down by a squirrel. None of those large plants in the back of the house would blossom this year.

BUT, there was a sunflower at our home that did bloom–numerous times in fact– and truly makes for a point about life.

On the front lawn is where we have some of our Adirondack chairs. During street updating several years ago the city constructed a stone wall at the edge of our property that at the corner point is 18 inches tall. It was at that spot in the landscaped portion of a flower bed that one of the animals dropped a sunflower seed. Perhaps it was one from the winter bird feeding, or perhaps one that was dug up on the backside of the house this spring.

The plant took off with ever-increasing growth. Higher, stronger, and then I noticed it was a variety with multiple blooms. Sitting on the lawn and looking straight ahead constantly places this wonder in view.

All my planning and work to create a garden plot had come to naught. But Mother Nature with ease and grace planted a seed, did not require a daily update, and placed it near thorny bushes that little animals are not very fond of.

The lesson from that sunflower is two-fold.

First, perhaps in life, we overthink things.

Second, life continues to be at its best with simple unexpected events.

And so it goes.

Letter From Home “The Dryer Is Empty!” 2/23/21

The past year was the most challenging of our lifetime. I can attest that at this home we were very pleased, due to the pandemic and harsh politics, to turn the calendar and start 2021. But then came January 6th which was dreadful.  The bitter cold seemed unforgiving with its duration. The pacing of the vaccines has caused consternation. While I am an optimistic person by nature it is not difficult to understand why there are times when I need to reach out for the things in life which make for a lifting of the spirit.

The other day in the midst of just random routine household tasks James shouted, “The dryer is empty!” I ran to the place where it seemed someone had absconded with our clothes to find my better half smiling as he placed the wet clothes from the washer into the other machine. “I can not recall the last time the washer was to be emptied and the dryer was not full.”

And we laughed.

That night James made the account his daily written record for something positive and amusing. Since January 1st he has used a Smithsonian Engagement Calendar to put in writing a daily uplifting moment that occurred in our lives.  The written summary now includes such nuggets as an eagle sitting serenely in a neighbor’s tree, a 10 month-old who climbed up on a low-rising rock wall on our property while looking like King of his world, or how we opened a door and the bitter cold air turned our indoor air to steam as it drifted outside…which made opening and closing the door a few more times essential! 

The point of this daily written exercise is to take notice of the small things in life that do go according to plan, or the events that just materialize in front of our eyes and create smiles. With the pandemic still in stride across the nation, there will doubtless be times when looking back on past entries will be required to put a bit of a lift in our steps.

Each day there are myriad examples of worthy moments on which to reflect and smile. Today, the first outside enjoyment of a cup of coffee for 2021 occurred as the temperature reached 50 degrees on our balcony. I had removed large chunks of snow that were compacted there only yesterday and the dropping of them over the edge was cathartic as they crashed and obliterated upon impact. Overnight the melting and drying continued to the point that James sat with his tea, while I drank java as the sun warmed us. The outdoor season has started!

Two weeks ago as the sun was setting and the sky was pinkish-orange I looked out towards the State Capitol. I had looked that way countless times from our top floor but it was only that day when I stopped and just stared as the fading light of day was visible through the windows at the top of the dome. For me, it was an impressive sight. And I just enjoyed it as the light dimmed and ebbed away.

As we move through this year the national and state headlines of the day will be daunting at times. On a personal level, the urge to get back to what was our routines prior to the virus will surely increase as the sun climbs higher in the sky. But it is our determination to see those little moments that exist every day around us and take note of them. We may not have the same outings and social gatherings of the kind we engaged in two years ago but we plan to have as many smiles and reasons to laugh.

And so it goes.

Letter From Home “Old-Timer’s Saying” 1/30/21

“Sure does feel stormy today.”

To me it was a fact given the brisk wind and moisture in the air, but also my way to break the ice as I gave my name to the young man who was to place the ordered groceries in the trunk of the car. He got my name but said he was not sure what I meant about a storm.

“You can feel the storm that is soon to arrive.”

He rather shrugged his shoulders and with a mask on there was no way to tell if he understood what I was conveying or just wishing to move along with his job.

As I stood outside my car, and some distance away to give him space, I heard the murmur of the winds in the trees that surrounded the neighborhood where the store is located. The fluffy snow that had fallen earlier this week was seeping off the store roof and blowing about so to make for a super-thin coating on a nearby sidewalk. I looked up at the cloudy gray skies as the occasional snow dusting from the roof landed on my hat and coat. It looked like and felt akin to the yesterdays of my youth.

That sifting movement of the snow was seen so often wafting off the roofs of our home and the ‘barn’ in Hancock. Hearing the wind in the trees I could almost see the tall pines of my youth, their snow-covered branches moving about as the winter gusts had their way.

And I thought about the young man, who was making the delivery of the groceries to the car, with my deep appreciation for his work during this pandemic. It probably did not register at all with him as to what a storm feels like. I have often encountered that people in an urban environment have a far different connection to weather than folks who live in the country. Having come from a rural upbringing that feel in the air, the clouds that are associated with the seasons, or the switch in wind direction were parts of our lives. Part of the reason for being so attuned was that decades ago people would follow the forecast and then shape their work projects around the weather.

I can recall countless times when weeding the garden was planned after the latest storm was to pass over as the wet ground would allow for the pesky plants to be ripped out with ease. Likewise, there was always a meal more suited for a stormy winter night where the warmth of the oven being on for hours would add to the comfort of the family home.

Those same patterns of living have followed me over the decades. Ham is slated for our home on the isthmus Sunday, and all the mundane projects–like picking up the groceries– are completed so that a nice winter day can be enjoyed. Though it should be noted, that in the past year of this virus driving to the store seems almost like an outing. That is either a mighty sad statement, or can be viewed as finding the upside in a different type of storm.

As a boy in winter, I loved to get bundled up and head outdoors. “Run around the house a few times and get rid of your energy” seemed to be repeated request from Mom. Or was that an order? One of the greatest thrills on really wintry days was to venture around the house and head in a southwesterly direction, from where some of the best winter storms came. Gathering moisture over the panhandle region and mixing with the cold air moving down from Canada were the essential ingredients for a massive snow event that might make central Wisconsin look like the perfect picture postcard.

I can still see the sky colored a grayish-dark blue and the horizon blurred with a foggy whitish hue. The blowing snow came in sheets and the blasts that drove them would take my breath away as I made the turn around the family home. I would struggle to reposition my head and gasp for a breath, and then again face the onslaught of wind and walk into the snow piles that drifted in the same place where summer picnics would have occurred the previous July.

It takes those types of experiences bundled over a lifetime that allows for a person to step off the front stoop, look upwards, feel the air, and know that it “Sure does feel stormy today.”

And so it goes.

Letter From Home “Grandma’s Storm” 6/29/20

I again read my letter penned to Grandma Schwarz in late winter 1977.   The multi-page missive was written over four days and covers a range of topics, but what strikes me these decades later is each day brought her up to date on the weather conditions from Hancock. I informed her “been having snowy, cloudy days” and that it “reminds me of when Mom talked about in Arkansas where it would snow and then be gone the next day”.

I alerted her three days later, much to the chagrin of mom, that I had passed a safety test for shop class, and was all set to run the machines for wood-working.   Oh, and of course that “the weekend sure is supposed to be nice and warm….”

What amuses me as I read the letter, other than my penmanship was pretty good long before the age of the computer ruined it, was Grandma was not on some faraway island needing to be updated on our weather.  She was only in Iowa with relatives!

I have been told by more than one person, who did not grow up in the Midwest, that we talk about the weather more than folks from other regions of the country.  I have never read any poll or anecdotal evidence to know if this is true, but I know that weather seems to never tire as a topic.  And for good reason.

Today Madison experienced what we would have called back home a ‘gully-washer’ as the skies simply opened up and sheets of rain dumped itself for about 20 minutes.   The homes next door were veiled by the intensity of the storm.  There is no way not to be awed by such weather or be pulled to the window or out on the back porch so to watch it.  Feel it.

During a hail storm of some duration in 2005, when James and I lived on the West Side of Madison, I took the umbrella and experienced the drama on our lawn.  The dotted appearance of the lawn is from the number of ice pellets, and the expression and hand motion clearly shows my glee with the storm.

Gregory May Hail storm (002)

I came to know storms should be watched up close from Grandma, as I wrote in Walking Up The Ramp.

We find that often elusive sense of security in a loved one’s embrace. Mother felt safest when she had all of us tucked in under her wings in the basement. Her mother, my Grandma Schwarz, was a bit different. Weather phenomena were something she also enjoyed, but I need to state right up front that I never saw her willingly walk out into a rainstorm or a gale. I do recall standing with her, her arm around my shoulder, at the screen door of her home. She left the door ajar during what my childish understanding thought to be a massive storm. The crashing thunder and bolts of lightning were grand, but there was nothing to fear if Grandma herself was willing to be there in the midst of it all.

I had never experienced a storm in that way before, watching it descend all around, viewing it up close and personal. I absolutely loved the way Grandma watched it, and knew this type of fun could be had at our home too. The question became, of course, how do I convince Mom that letting me ride out the storm from above ground would be a good idea? I knew instinctively that the “But Grandma said…” path of argumentation would likely not produce the results I hoped. My plan would take more thought than that. Moments spent watching storms with Grandma demonstrated two things. The first was that weather was clearly something to be enjoyed, and secondly and perhaps most importantly weather can be viewed up close even when it is wild and unpredictable. That understanding is something I have carried with me every day of my life.

When I was a teenager, and with the aid of our state’s inter-loan library service, I read books about clouds and storms and all the things that made me continuously smile.  Over the past months, with a pandemic changing our daily lives, I have had extra time to explore topics that amuse me.  I pulled a textbook from one of my shelves about meteorology and have been taking my time to again walk through the reasons behind what makes me, as an adult, still smile.

After I had been working in radio broadcasting for a few months,  I was talking with Grandma in her house trailer.  She asked what I liked best about my job and I told her alerting listeners to the watches and warnings from wild weather was something to be very much enjoyed.  There were many parts of broadcasting that warmed my heart, but imparting some drama, and even a touch of the wondrous side of weather, was surely something that my listeners had not heard before.

As the rain fell heavy today on the isthmus and the lightning lit up the gray clouds I thought of Grandma.  She would have enjoyed the storm.  As such, I just had to write this blog post.

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