Sunday, November 9, 2014

Snow Approaches

It’s one of those exciting days known only to people of the north. Snow is on the way! Not a disaster. Just a fact. Whether it will be eight inches or two, it will be here tomorrow, which makes today a sort of temporal enclosure or envelope—a span within which to get a few things done and savor the tag end of the fall season.

These things include -

a) finally raking the back yard. This is easy. What with the woods and the garden, there isn’t much left to rake. And I’ve already run the mower over the leaves once or twice.

b) getting out the ladder and cutting off the dead branch on the mulberry tree that’s been fully visible out the bedroom window, bent at a grotesque angle, for the last two years. Something about using one of those saws on the end of a long metal pole is tiring. I think it may be the work involve. But it’s fun to be out in that part of the yard, where I seldom go. And looking around the corner of the house to see how the viburmun trilobum we planted this summer is doing, I see that two “volunteer” Norway maples have sprouted in the vicinity. 

The fall leaf color was spectacular this year, and nothing surpassed the noble, buttery yellow of the Norway maples. They’re considered an invasive species, I know, but I consider that judgment ridiculous: You could let one grow for five years and remove it in five minutes. So what’s the problem? My thought is to cut down the entire mulberry tree and see what these two maples can do. But we’ll leave that project for the spring.  

c)  putting sunflower seeds in the feeders. This may sound like a recurring chore, but the raccoons have been raiding our feeder repeatedly and we’d gotten into the habit of leaving them empty or depositing only a handful of seed at a time. Perhaps the raccoons are gone by now?

I took a look out the window half an hour later and noticed that a nuthatch, a chickadee, and a red-bellied woodpecker were all feeding, with a goldfinch swinging merrily from the finch feeder hanging below. I spotted a hairy woodpecker on the trunk of the silver maple and a junco in the underbrush. Now, there’s a winter bird for you…though it seems the juncos mostly pass through on either end of the season.

d) bringing in the garden hoses and shutting off the water. While out in the garden I noticed that one day lily was still “in bloom.” Perhaps it’s frozen. The purple lamium is also blooming. And the broad, elephant-eared leaves of the Siberian bugloss are still dark green. I didn’t realize we had so many.

d) bringing the wrought-iron chairs in from the deck.  The three thoughts that accompany this chore are 1). Don’t fall down the basement stairs; 2). I should clear the ashes out of the grill; 3). We could grill something tonight!

e) wrapping the cedar trees with green plastic fencing to keep the deer that come up in the winter from Bassett Creek at bay. 

Some people worry about Russia. Some people worry about China. Many people worry about the Republicans. But as I performed this task I pondered how civilization will survive once everyone runs out of twisty ties, which zip-lock bags have rendered superfluous? (Looking it up later I find you can buy a thousand of them for 64 cents. What a relief!)

I cleared the leaves out of the gutters a few days ago, surprising though it may seem. It strikes me that this is a senseless task—almost a superstition. The gutters are frozen all winter, so what different does it make if they have leaves in them?

At long last, the ladder and the pole saw go back into the garage, along with the rake and the broom Hilary used to sweep off the deck. It remains to saw up the mulberry branch, but that can wait for an hour or two.

There’s a pot of day-old vegetable soup in the refrigerator. And now I see a downy woodpecker climbing the half-dead tree outside the window.

Once the chores are done, the still relatively balmy afternoon (35 degrees) calls out for a field trip of some kind. So we drove across the Mississippi to the Banfill-Locke Art Center in Fridley where the paintings of the Swedish-American painter Elof Wedin are on display. It’s a nice gallery housed in a white frame, two-story building that dates to 1847. It was once an inn catering to drovers on the Red River Oxcart trail. Rice Creek meanders down to the Mississippi through a park north of the building.

Wedin’s paintings are interesting, though I prefer his WPA style to his later, more angular and abstract 1950s style. Hilary chatted at some length with one of the volunteers while I ate crackers and nuts—it was the opening—and circulated again and again through the four rooms of the exhibit, finding the paintings more interesting with every pass.

It took about a day for the ox cart drivers of the 1850s to get to downtown Minneapolis from Banfill-Locke. It took us fifteen minutes to get to the Northern Clay Center in the Seward neighborhood, south of downtown,  where a show of award-winning Canadian pottery was on display. For my money, the functional pottery for sale in the gallery was far more interesting, and infinitely more affordable, than the items on display in the exhibition hall. Many of the names are familiar— Cuellar, Swanson, Norman, Severson—but the pots remain diverse and appealing. One potter from Superior, Wisconsin, whose name I forget, had four massive yet  handsome jugs on display. I kept trying to imagine what I’d put in one of them, if I bought it: Orzo? Quinoa? Coffee beans?  

A few blocks down Franklin Avenue Hilary spotted a sign halfway up a side street that said Boneshaker Books. We circled the block, parked, and went in.

It’s a nifty little bookshop with a radical tinge, about the size of a farmhouse kitchen. Three bearded youths were reading at scattered chairs. Two twenty-somethings sat behind the checkout counter. There were plenty of chapbooks, zines, and small-press items on the rack. And I noticed that the section called “literature” was hardly bigger than the one called “anarchism.”

I’m all in favor of anarchism myself—just so long as everyone behaves themselves.

The great things about small bookstores is that they expose you to new things without overwhelming you with options. I saw one interesting book called Utopia or Bust: a Guide to the Present Crisis by Benjamin Kunkel. Better yet, Hilary spotted a book called Why New Orleans Matters on the “used” shelf for a dollar.

We bought it, and are now confident that when the storm hits, we’ll be ready.   

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