To Spring or Not to Spring

Flowering trees in the neighborhood next to the restaurant

Flowering trees in the neighborhood next to the restaurant

Returning to my home town for the first time in quite a few months, I was disappointed to discover it was still winter there when I arrived.  The temperatures dropped to the upper 30’s and the rain seemed never-ending.  I was regretting having left spring behind in Chattanooga.

Fortunately, the expression “if you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes,” is as applicable in Columbus as it is anywhere else I’ve heard it uttered.  While it took more than 10 minutes to make a significant shift, the sun appeared, the rain dried, and the temperature started to rise.

I went from wishing I’d brought a winter coat to worrying about not having a raincoat or umbrella to wondering if I even needed a light sweater in just a few days.   I suppose it’s typical for spring–it comes in fits and starts.  One day it feels like August, the next we’re back to January and gradually the ratio changes and the high and low temperatures keep staying higher until most of the days feel like August.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember it’s a process.

Our friend on the patio while we wait for food

Our friend on the patio while we wait for food

By the time we met friends for dinner on Monday night, the weather was cooperative.  This was especially good because the restaurant we ate at had about 5 tables inside and 10 out.  Had it been bad weather, we would have been waiting for a table for a long time.  As it was, we were able to sit outside without a wait because the sky was gray enough to elicit looks of suspicion from patrons hovering around the bar with their food.  The weather may have been cooperative, but just barely.  By the time we finished eating, we were wrapping our jackets around us tight trying to stay warm.

Our other friend cooling off after walking to meet us and his wife

Our other friend cooling off after walking to meet us and his wife

One of the great things about eating in a new restaurant in our old neighborhood was that we actually ran into other friends while we were sitting there.  Friends we hadn’t seen in a really long, long time.  It made me think maybe we should try the approach one of my friends who moved to Seattle uses when she comes into town for a visit.  She schedules dinner at a place where people can easily come and go without throwing the staff for a loop.  Then, she invites all her friends to meet her there.  She gets to see many friends in a 2-3 hour window this way.  It does sound much easier to coordinate than trying to schedule 3 meals a day with different people.  However, I’m not sure I would get to actually talk with everyone that way.

In any case, it was cool to get to catch up with 4 friends at one meal.  Unfortunately, our surprise friends arrived after it was too dark to take photos with my iPhone.  I did manage to catch some blooming trees and the friends we’d scheduled our dinner with via Hipstamatic.  I should probably start experimenting with something other than tintype soon.

Tisen refusing to hold still after we returned to our host's house

Tisen refusing to hold still after we returned to our host’s house

Springing

The weather is playing tricks again.  Apparently, the ground hog did not see a shadow.  For President’s Day, it was as warm as a day in May with lots of sun.  Every child in the area congregated on top of the mound across the street for some good old fashioned grass sledding.

Chalk that up as one of the things I love about Chattanooga–instead of clinging to the hope that they might get to sled 1x a decade when it snows, they slide down grass covered slopes on pieces of cardboard.

The warm weather got the birds all riled up again.  I’m surprised they haven’t given up after having been teased so many times by warm weather.  But they are singing with vigor, seemingly sure that this time, it really is spring.

The robins, towhees, cardinals, wrens, and song sparrows seem to be having a sing off of some kind when Tisen and I take our morning walk.  As I try to spot a particularly loud wren, the large white rump of a flicker flashes by as one flies up into the trees.  I watch mourning doves zoom by–I am always surprised by the speed and agility they exhibit once they are in flight compared to the awkward slowness of them near the ground.

Perhaps it’s the addition of the song of the blue birds that make me think it’s really spring.  While the blue birds have been around all winter, they’ve been lurking silently waiting for the right moment to burst into song.  It seems today was the day.

Whether Tisen notices the bird songs or not is hard to say.  But he definitely has the same spring fever.  By the end of the day, when we take our last walk before the sun sets, as we walk by a long grassy slope down to the wetland, his legs bend and he plops down in the grass much like a horse.  Then he flips onto his back and kick his legs for all he’s worth.  He scootches around on his back, scratching what itches and sliding his way part way down the hill.  I start to think he’s spent too much time watching the kids sledding.

Each time I think he’s done when we get to another grassy area, he flops down again, repeating the process.  His black/brindle spots are looking more green/brindle with the grass clinging to him.  I do my best to capture him on my iPhone, but I need a longer leash to get a good angle.

After finally convincing him to leave the park, Tisen bounces along with a new spring in his step.  It’s like all he needed to know it was spring was a good roll in grass still holding the heat from a warm day of sunshine.  His antics have put a new spring in my step as well.  On the way home, I contemplate how I can take Tisen sledding on our next sunny day.

Wishing for Winter

This evening, I take Tisen out for his evening stroll.  We head across the street, dodging cars that refuse to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk with a green walk light.  This is a curious thing about Chattanooga.  No matter how much infrastructure they build to support pedestrians, the drivers still try to run them over.  I frequently end up stopped half way in the crosswalk waiting for the cars who are turning to realize they need to stop.

I usually give up and try to dive in front of a car where there is enough room for them to stop and the driver appears to be at least paying attention to what’s directly in front of them.  It’s a little dangerous, but after several weeks of this, I’ve found a few more drivers are watching for pedestrians and yielding.  Sometimes it just takes an accidental death to get traffic problems resolved.  🙂

Having made it safely across the street, we make our way down the sidewalk.  Tisen spots a strange mix-breed dog coming towards us, about 50 yards away.  Tisen crouches lower, juts his head out level with his shoulders, and his muzzle appears to have shape-shifted into the shape of a wolf’s.  If I didn’t know any better, I would think I was walking a border collie.  When the bizarre mix (he looks like a golden retriever with a pug’s head) gets closer, Tisen lunges with growly barks.  This is a first!  I think perhaps it is due to the strangeness of the dog.  But then we pass a chocolate lab puppy who is being a typical silly, playful pup and Tisen does a complete repeat performance.

I don’t know what changed between yesterday and today to make him behave so differently.  I keep thinking the longer it’s been since he was neutered, the less aggressive he’ll be, but I’m guessing whatever hormonal effect there will be has already happened.  I consider the possibility that it’s seasonal.  After all, we’ve had ridiculously warm weather for at least a week straight now.  Maybe his body thinks it’s spring.

While I am usually longing for spring this time of year, I find myself longing for winter instead.  Not out of hope it might settle Tisen down, but, in part, because it’s harder to appreciate the spring fully when you haven’t gone through a long, cold winter.  And, to be honest, I’m already tired of swatting mosquitos.  I do not want to think about what the insect population is going to be like if we don’t have any more cold weather this year.  I can only hope the bird, bat, and dragonfly populations keep pace.

Since I cannot take any photos of snow and ice, I decide to pull out some old ones.  Here are some shots from the Canadian Rockies in Jasper National Park, Alberta.  The high temperature our first day there on that trip was -15 Fahrenheit.  Now that is winter.

January Spring

I take Tisen, our new foster dog, for a walk.  I leave my jacket at home because it’s 61 degrees.  The birds are in full-on spring mode.  Even the insects seem to have hatched.  I don’t know if 61 degrees in Chattanooga in January is normal, but it’s nice.  I’m disappointed when the sun starts to set at 6PM as if the warmer weather brought longer days.

As I watch Tisen prance along (if he were a horse, he’d be a Lipazzaner), looking more full of himself after 36 hours of being spoiled silly.  A runner passes us going the opposite direction.  He didn’t react to her at all yesterday–it’s the same woman.  But today, he lunges at her, growling a low warning.  Either the spring weather has him feeling his oats or he’s decided I’m someone he needs to protect from mysterious people running at us.

He reacts the same way 10 minutes later when two men run on a path that curves around and runs into ours.  Yet, they’re running away from us.  What makes runners look so threatening to dogs?  Even our gentle Bogart was not happy if a runner didn’t make a wide enough berth when they were coming towards me.

The spring weather has runners out in droves.  I don’t know if they’ve been running on treadmills and are thrilled for the change in temperature or if they have been waiting to start running since the New Year and the weather removed their last excuse.  Whatever it is, I have been walking these paths daily and I can tell you there are more runners out today than there have been since we moved here last August.

This is the “way up” phenomena, I suppose.  The “way up” phenomena in temperature changes plays out about the same as the “way down” phenomena in weight changes.  When the temperature is on the “way up,” it feels extra warm by comparison to the cold temperatures and so we suddenly feel inspired to don less clothing and exercise out doors even though, if the temperature were on the “way down,” we would be wearing layers at the same temperature.

Similarly, the “way down” phenomena in weight loss inspires us to think we look much better when we’ve lost a few pounds and to dress in clothing that, when we were on the “way up,” we would not have been caught dead in at the same exact weight.  Maybe that should be called the “weigh down” phenomena?

Tisen and I stop in our favorite store, Bone Appetite, for the third day in a row and pick up the oatmeal shampoo they were out of.  Tisen’s skin is getting less flaky and his coat is getting more shiny, but he still has red, irritated areas that he licks and chews at.  Between switching him to a high quality food, feeding him fish oil, bathing him in oatmeal, and treating him with “Nu Stock,” I’m hoping he’ll stop itching soon.

Turns

Our plan is to fly on the big training hill in the morning, with Pat re-clearing for his first mountain flight.  Then, we will go up to the office, Pat will complete the one remaining written test he hasn’t done yet and get the required chalk talk on his flight plan.  Finally, we will each take a tandem flight to learn how to recognize our altitude in preparation for our first mountain launch.  Then, we will return Sunday morning and Pat will fly off the mountain.  I get nervous thinking about it.

While this plan all sounds grand, the weather forecast has not looked promising.  I have been crossing my fingers that the predictions will be completely wrong.  Here I am, up at 5:30AM on a Saturday morning, standing on our balcony with a cup of coffee.  It feels like it’s close to 60 degrees.  The wind is whipping up, although we’ve found the wind on our balcony is no predictor of the wind on the training hills.  But the rain is holding off.  The clouds even appear to be breaking up a bit.  I decide maybe our plan will work after all and continue getting ready.

We start off on time–pulling out of the parking lot at 7:02AM.  But as we make our way down the road, lightening appears in the sky.  We drive to the hills anyway, arriving  in time to watch the storm blow across the field.  At least we didn’t set up any gliders.

Now it’s Sunday morning and it’s a rerun of Saturday.  With one major difference–this time we have a new foster dog, Tisen, who will join us.

Today, the weather is semi-cooperative.  I start learning how to make 90 degree turns.  Pat, however, isn’t feeling well and, after his first flight, drives for me until I call it quits after an imperfect landing.  I was coming in fast and hadn’t bled off enough speed when I started to flare the glider for the landing.  This caused the glider to swoop up into the air.  While this is scary, it’s not really dangerous because the glider will act as a parachute and set you down relatively gently as long as you lock out your arms.  However, at the last second, I dropped my arms, causing me to impact the ground harder than I’d like.  I also somehow managed to hit my knee with the control bar when I landed.  Given that my knee was hurting before I decided to whack it with a control bar, it seemed like a good time to call it a day.

Pat, feeling better, got in two flights before the wind started getting crazy.  We went up top for him to finish his test and get his chalk talk and discovered, at high altitude, there was no visibility and crazy winds.  No tandem flight today, either.

But that’s OK.  When it comes to learning to fly, I’m happy to wait for good weather.