Category Archives: Community

Assessing the Storm

An unaccustomed sight appeared throughout Northern Virginia today:  school buses.   Due to the blizzard and what should have been an inconsequential “dusting” that preceded it, schools were closed for seven days.  During the final two weeks of January, with the snow, the MLK holiday and a teacher workday, school was in session for one day only.  During times such as this, I’m especially thankful that I like my daughter.  And while it makes me sound cold and unloving, I’m glad she’s not younger.  How pleasant it is that my constant accompaniment for her every snow venture is no longer required.   

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Our family’s winter storm experience was, all in all, quite enjoyable.  As blizzards go, it was a good one, at least for us.  I know there were others who weren’t nearly so lucky.  It was forecasted accurately and well in advance, allowing plenty of prep time.  The snow began right on schedule, at 1 PM on a Friday.  I was back home after a second shopping trip for those “just in case” provisions.  School had been canceled, allowing my daughter plenty of time to meet friends for an early lunch.  She was anticipating not seeing non-neighborhood buddies for a while.  Even my husband arrived home from the office well before the snow started to accumulate. 

The snow fell according to plan, persistently and without a break, until the following evening.  This wasn’t a showy storm.  The flakes were small but steady.  Saturday brought some wind, but no howling gales.  And most important:  our area never lost power.  We had heat, light, hot water and all those interior comforts that are especially cherished when the weather outside is icy. 

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My husband was ready with the snow blower he’d bought just after the Blizzard of 2010.  He was told he’d probably never need something that big down here in Virginia.  He wanted it anyway.  Growing up in Rochester, he dreamed of owning a powerful, sleek snow blower the way some kids dream of owning a Maserati. 

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In this case, it was a dream worth realizing.  The big blower came in very handy.

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H cleared our long driveway.  He opened up walkable paths between our house and those of our neighbors on each side.  (If you’ve ever tried body-plowing through twenty-eight inches of snow, you know it’s not easy.)   He then cleared our neighbors’ long driveways. 

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He opened up a path on a side street that was untouched by plows for several days.  He continued up and down that street until he’d cleared a lane wide enough for a car to pass through. This photo, taken by my daughter, shows how the sharply cut snow sections resemble two huge layers of angel food cake. 

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Here he is, returning from a full day of snow blowing, the afternoon sun’s rays falling on him like a benediction.  You could say that all this work could have been accomplished by shoveling.  That might be theoretically true, but it would have required far more helping hands and strong backs than were available.  Plus many, many additional hours.  His work was all the more valuable because it would be several more days before the streets into our neighborhood would be approached by snow plows. 

With every gathering storm, I’ve always been grateful that I can ride it out with a snow management and removal expert by my side.  This was certainly true during the Blizzard of 2016.  A good boy from Rochester is indeed a good thing. 

Once Again, Truly Big Snow

 

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The last snowflakes of the Blizzard of 2016 (aka Winter Storm Jonas) fell five days ago, on Saturday evening.  According to careful measurements by my husband and daughter, we got about twenty-eight inches.  Most of the snow remains very much with us, in far less attractive configurations than the graceful, pristine drifts in which it fell. 

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Last winter brought frequent snows to Northern Virginia, as my ten snow day posts of 2015 attest.  (See here and here.)  But we haven’t had a truly stupendous snow event  in five years.  In December 2009 and February 2010 we were treated to nearly back-to-back blizzards.   My daughter has been wishing for a similarly substantial storm ever since.  She likes her snow measured in feet.  She delights in tossing out the expected routines of daily life for all-consuming, all-day snow play and management.  To her credit, she pitches in with the digging out.  And the inconveniences that massive snows may bring: they’re simply part of the adventure.  What she recalls most distinctly about our loss of electricity during the 2010 storm was using the grill to melt butter for birthday cake icing. 

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Here she is, barely visible atop a snow mountain at the Reston Town Center after the February 2010 storm. 

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And, after the more recent storm, atop a snow pile in the parking lot of a local shopping center.  I guess she’ll always love to climb snow piles.   

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On a snow mound at our house during the Blizzard of 2010.

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And two days ago, with Kiko on a similar mound in the same place, after the latest storm.  Big Snow, happy kid. 

Christmas Eve 2015: Magic in the Live Nativity

039Christmas Eve is here again.  Much like last year, the day is wet, cloudy, and unseasonably warm.  It’s time again for the live nativity at our church.  The baby Jesus, of course, is the real star of the show, but he’s small.  The camel, however, is quite large, and he tends to be the traffic-stopper.  Last year, our camel was not Samson, who was busy elsewhere, but his colleague Zeke.  Zeke enjoyed kneeling in the mud, and he therefore appeared in many selfies.  

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Kiko had the privilege of meeting Zeke, since the camel leaned down for a hello sniff.  The year before, Samson stood so tall and aloof that Kiko never seemed to notice him. 

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We also welcomed this little ox and burro, as well as a sheep and a goat.  I’m hoping we’ll see the whole gang again today.

If you have the opportunity to experience a live nativity in your area, I advise you not to miss it.  The shepherds and kings may be rag-tag; the baby Jesus may be a doll; Mary and Joseph may be played by a teenaged brother and sister.  With luck, there will be a few real animals.  I hope you get to meet a camel, an elegant and surprisingly sweet regal creature. 

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Give the humble tableau a chance, and perhaps, unexpectedly, your heart will be touched.  The make-shift nativity could speak to you of a God who turns the world upside down, who sent his own Son to live among us, in the mud and grit, to suffer and die, just as we must do, to wipe away our sin and invite us into the heavenly fold.  There is a chance that you might be overwhelmed by a sense of majesty.  Stranger things have happened, after all, on Christmas. 

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May you rejoice in the off-key songs of the tinsel-haloed angels with their awkward cardboard wings.  May you feel the power of the light in the darkness, the divine, holy light that will never be extinguished.  No matter what.  No matter what.  Amen. 

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For a previous Christmas Eve post, with more about that light in the darkness, see here.    

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Our Fall Festival Tradition

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Today, we’re back to sunshine.  Yesterday’s continuous rain failed to wash away fall’s colors; it simply spread them around with an artistic flair.  The weather is mild.  It’s a perfect day to be outside, enjoying October.

It’s a day that makes me a bit nostalgic for my daughter’s younger years.  If she were seven or eight, we might be heading to Cox Farms after school. This family-owned farm puts on a fall festival that really is fun for most ages.  It’s one of our favorite local traditions.  We discovered it with a group of friends we met through D’s preschool.   

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If you live in a suburban or semi-rural area, you probably have a place like this nearby.  In Princeton, there was Terhune Orchards, which my husband and I enjoyed.  If something similar existed in Atlanta when I was growing up in the 70s, we didn’t know about it.  Lucky for me, I didn’t know what I was missing.  Lucky for my daughter, she didn’t have to miss it.   

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Cox Farms is a low-tech, homespun, rough-around-the-edges place, just as a farm should be.  As a preschooler, one of my daughter’s favorite “rides” involved rolling down a hill inside a big pipe.  There are mischievous goats to feed, various baby farm animals to admire, a cow to milk, and lots of hand-painted folk-artsy plywood signs.  Naturally, there are pumpkins, apples, cider and kettle corn.  On weekends there might be a bluegrass band.   

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There’s lots of hay: hay mountains to climb, hay bale forts to explore and tunnel through.  Of course there’s a hayride, during which aliens and assorted odd but non-threatening creatures appear.  There are many slides, some of which are quite steep.  When we first started going to Cox Farms, D was afraid to attempt any of the slides on her own, so we went down them together.  That’s when I found out how much fun a fun slide can be.  Apparently, I was slide-deprived (as well as fall-festival deprived) as a child. 

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Our daughter’s first-choice activity was the rope swing with a drop into a foam pit.  One doesn’t often get a chance to brag on a child’s rope swing skills, but I must say she had excellent form and always managed to sail to a far corner of the pit.  The two photos above are from consecutive years, the first in 2006, the second in 2007.  Evidently D’s fall festival uniform consisted of a pink shirt and blue jeans. 

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In 2007, D added her Brownie vest to the uniform. She enjoys recalling those fashion-forward days.

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For several years when our daughter was in elementary school, we had an annual fall festival meet-up with former preschool friends, a brother and sister, and their dad.  It was one of the highlights of the season. 

IMG_2973Our every visit to Cox Farms ended with the careful picking of a “free” patch pumpkin.  D has always delighted in the perfect pumpkin. 

It’s been several years since we’ve done the fall festival.  But our daughter is now a regular attendee at “Fields of Fear,” held at Cox Farms on weekend nights for older kids and adults.  It includes the Cornightmare, the Dark Side Hayride and the Forest: Back 40.  As of this year, she and her friends can even drive themselves. 

But at the end of the night, D still picks out a little patch pumpkin.   

 

Fall: Still Here!

Early last week it appeared likely that the great beauty of the season had passed.  I hadn’t been looking, and I’d missed it.    

But my pessimism was unwarranted.  Just look! 

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I understand how Ebenezer Scrooge must have felt, awakening after his ghostly visitations, to realize with elation that he hadn’t slept through Christmas.  Scrooge hadn’t missed that momentous, holy day, and I haven’t missed this spectacular season.  The sudden, gloomy cold snap didn’t last.  Fall is still here, at least for a few more days.  And recently, it’s been as brilliant and colorful as it should be.

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I don’t have to drive to the mountains or down to the Valley to appreciate the show.  Fall is playing just outside my windows.  The view down the street, with the trees arching overhead, can hold its own next to any grand sight. 

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You probably have equally glorious views close to home, too. 

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Don’t forget to look. 

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The show is on now, but it’s a limited engagement! 

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Wild Trumpet Vine Turns Four

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Four years ago, I wrote my first Wild Trumpet Vine post.  Like the plant for which it’s named, Wild Trumpet Vine perseveres. There are dry spells, but it hangs on.  It’s grown deep roots, and it keeps me rooted to the real, keeps me on track in a world of smoke, dead ends, and mirrors.  Life is fragile.  Let’s look, live, and love while we can. 

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Thanks for reading!  For more on why I write, see here

Happy 4th!

It’s a cloudy, drizzly July 4th here in Northern Virginia, making brightly hued photos of waving flags impossible.  Here, then, are a few images taken under blue skies from past Cape Cod vacations. 

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On this day, and all days, come rain or shine, may we salute and value our common ties as Americans. 

May we work toward liberty and justice for all!