It was another productive Saturday, getting a few things crossed off the top of my to do list. It was also, if you will, the opposite of productive (i.e. destructive). We burned another three boxes of “shred” papers. It doesn’t save a lot of time over shredding and in fact, if we took them to someone with an industrial shredder, it would much faster. Nevertheless, burning is relaxing. There’s something about flames. I won’t say they’re cool, but if I did, you’d probably know what I meant. The boxes today had, among other things, canceled checks from 1979. I think it’s safe to get rid of those now.
It was a beautiful day and I went out into the woods for a little while during lunch time. There was ice on a drainage pond in the woods near my building but in the sun it was quite pleasant. I got down onto the ground and took some pictures of this sycamore leaf (American sycamore, Platanus occidentalis). They are large and heavy and really pretty with the sun shining through them. I also found a small deer antler that had been shed. It was only six or seven inches long and had no forks, but I picked it up to keep, anyway.
Do you like mushrooms? Cathy and I both do. Dorothy isn’t a fan so I have to leave them out (or cook them separately) when she is home. Now that she’s back at school, I’m buying them in bulk again. Great Wall Supermarket has big bags of these mushrooms and they go pretty well with just about everything I cook. Tonight that was hamburgers with mushroom gravy. What I really love are porcini (a.k.a. cep, Boletus edulis), which have such a wonderful, earthy flavour. Bought dried in very small packets they are convenient but quite expensive. I really should buy them a pound or two at a time, which brings the price per ounce down quite a bit. I don’t think I’m ready to buy a 25 pound bag, though. Walmart has one listed for $1,048.32. I don’t think so. Sorry.
Our Community Group (our church’s small groups) met this evening at Kofi and Danielle’s apartment building. It’s a newish building and a lot more swanky than anywhere we’ve lived. I’m not complaining, mind you. We’re pretty happy where we are. All of the apartments we’ve lived in had doors off of (mostly open) stair wells. The first place we lived, which was in Chevy Chase, had an enclosed stair but the others had open stairs. That’s not counting the Quonset Hut we lived in when we first moved to Juneau. After that we moved to an apartment that opened off a balcony across the bridge on Douglas Island. That and the apartment we moved into back in Maryland after our around-the-world trip in ’88 were both on the third floor of three story buildings.
Anyway, we met in one of the common rooms in the apartment building because there were about fifteen of us, which would have been a crowd in their one bedroom apartment. In addition to this stone sculpture on a table, there was a gas fire burning in a long, low fireplace. Needless to say, however, the real warmth came from the people we were with.
Outside my office, between the parking lot and the woods, there are a half dozen wooden picnic tables, stacked one on top of the other. They are chained together, presumably to keep any of them from wondering off (as it were). The chain is a little the worse for being out in the weather all the time. I didn’t really test it of course, and for all I know it’s still strong enough to stand up to average abuse. Nevertheless, it looks a bit weakened and a strong piece of iron inserted between the sides of a link and twisted might snap the chain quite easily.
You can’t really call them corks when they aren’t made of cork. Note that box on the right, which says “Corks” on it actually contains real corks, made from the bark of the cork oak (which should be called Quercus corkus but is actually Quercus suber). These brown stoppers are made of gum rubber and are good for all sorts of stoppering needs. These are in a drawer in a small cabinet that has a fairly wide variety of things in it. As you can see, a few of them have holes cut through them. Dad used them in his home lab and I’ve found a few uses for them myself, over the years.
We’ve got a bunch of boxes in the garage marked shred—old bills, checkbooks, business correspondence, that sort of thing—and we’ve been meaning to get rid of them for a while. There used to be an outfit that allowed individuals to drop off boxes of papers to be shredded for free (making their money from businesses) but they are no longer doing that. Well, what’s better than shredding? Burning. This little fellow didn’t suffer as he was consumed by the flames. Four boxes done. Six or eight more to go.
The new moon was four days ago, on January 16. The synodic period (the amount of time between full moons, or new moons or whatever) is 29 days, 12 hours, and about 44 minutes. The sidereal orbit (the orbit around the earth without regard to the relative position of the sun) is a little more than two days shorter than that, of course. In the time it takes the moon to circle the earth, the earth has moved almost one twelfth of the way around the sun and it takes the moon that extra two-plus days to get back into the same position relative to the sun and the earth. During the first quarter of the cycle, the moon is a growing (waxing) crescent (less than half visible). The second quarter it is waxing gibbous (more than half visible).
It’s funny how a phrase can call up vivid memories in much the same was certain sounds and even more smells can bring you to a place you haven’t been in a long time. When I was growing up, we’d visit my grandparents in North Carolina a few times a year. It was something I always looked forward to eagerly. Their house was familiar and yet unfamiliar enough to be just a little exciting. It was an old house with lots of character and quirks. There was also a huge shed out back full of all sorts of treasures. One thing I can’t say I always looked forward to was going to church. It certainly wasn’t the fault of the particular church and had much more to do with my age, my inability to sit still for very long, and my general lack of interest. Nevertheless, I actually remember a few lines from a sermon given there, probably in the early 1970s. The phrase that sticks in my mind was “Don’t Look Back” and the sermon was on Luke 9:63, “But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’” I thought of that as I took this picture in my rear view mirror while stopped at a traffic light on the way home today.
I love beech trees in the winter. They hold their leaves which turn a beautiful, copper brown. They are especially nice against all the grey of a normal winter woodland and with the sun shining on and through them they are particularly nice. I’ve had a few pictures of beech leaves in the fog, which is also magical, but today was sunny and they were glowing in the sun. It’s been something of a crazy winter so far, with temperatures down around zero (Fahrenheit) and then up into the 60s. We have had a few minor snows but nothing of any great depth. Also, they have come when it was cold enough that it was easily swept off the sidewalk instead of needing to be shoveled. But there’s a lot of winter yet, so you never know.
We’ve had somewhat mixed success with houseplants over the years. We have a few that have lasted really well. I have a snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) in my office that Dorothy’s second grade teacher gave me when they moved to Florida. That was 11 or 12 years ago and it’s doing really well. We have a very large Kaffir lily (Clivia miniata) in our kitchen that gets put out into a shady spot in the yard most years. On the other hand, some plant seem to just barely hang on to life. This one, a Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana), isn’t really doing all that well. It is blooming, however, so it deserves a picture.
For more than two years now I’vebeen meeting regularly with a group of (mostly) young men. For over a year we met most weeks. Starting last summer we switched to every other week and during the holidays it was hard to organize. Three of us finally got together this evening for dinner. Mellow Mushroom sounds a bit sixty’s but the food is honestly pretty good. The decor is very much comic book colors and it makes for a good picture. There were not a lot of patrons there this evening, but a Tuesday in the winter isn’t likely to be busy in general.
After a meeting across campus today, I stopped to take some pictures of the ice around the drainage control pond next to my building. With the rain on Thursday and Friday, the water had been high. As it drained, the temperature dropped and it froze, but the water level continued to drop, leaving lots of ice around the banks of the pond. As I walked down through the middy area leading to the pond, this great blue heron (Ardea herodias), took off and flew a little further away from me. After that, he waded around and I was able to get a few more pictures, both from this side (where he is back lit) and from the other, with the sun shining on him from over my shoulders. Without more than a 100mm lens, this is the best I could do.
We’ve been a part of a few different churches over the years, from Fourth Presbyterian Church, where we met, to Calvary Fellowship in Juneau, Alaska. We’ve gone to a couple Evangelical Free Churches and a non-denominational church for a little while. We’re currently involved in our second church plant, both of which have been Presbyterian (first EPC and now PCA). There’s something special about a church plant, although to be honest, the facilities aren’t always as comfortable as many would prefer. Today was our fourth and final meeting at this county school facility over the last four months. Generally we meet at the Rockville Senior Center, which is a much nicer facility (although not necessarily the easiest to find without GPS). The first time we met here, in October, it was swelteringly hot and humid. The next two times it was chilly. Today, the heat was on so most people were comfortable (and I was only a little warm). Next week, back to our regularly scheduled location.
We haven’t had regularly schedule family dinner nights for a while, although we’ve seen each over over the holidays. Because Dorothy is about to go back to school for the spring semester, mom asked if we could get together before she was gone. She fixed both a pot roast and a vegetarian stew, both of which were terrific over mashed potatoes. Of course, the highlight of the evening was seeing each other and, as usual, this little fellow was often the center of attention.
He’s been quite expressive for a while now but it getting more and more so every time we see him. I won’t claim that he’s the cutest kid that’s ever lived, as that’s a pretty high bar but he certainly is cute. He’s a happy kid, as well, and getting this smile from him is fairly easy (although catching it on camera is a little harder). I also got some pictures of him with his dad, who was wearing a matching shirt, albeit without the tiger on it.
We had a pretty spectacular sunset this evening and I enjoyed watching the bands of clouds turn a beautiful orange, against the darkening blue of the southwestern sky. It had been a pretty busy day, with folks moving into Cathy’s mom’s house and doing a very small bit more towards getting her things out of it. There is a lot more to do, of course. Nevertheless, a sunset like this helps me unwind and slow down. I stand on the back steps and just watch, occasionally lifting my camera to take yet another picture, as the colors grow more intense. Is a very healing activity and I’m thankful for beautiful sunsets (and sunrises) and the opportunities they provide.
I went across campus for a meeting today and on the way back, I walked around the building once to take a few pictures. I came across this black walnut that has been pushed down into a crack in the pavement. I think it’s really kind of pretty. In case you aren’t sure, the pavement is wet. Our weather has definitely warmed up (it was over 60°F today) but it’s very wet out. Tomorrow the rain is supposed to be gone but the temperatures are supposed to drop back to freezing and then colder into next week.
Cathy was nice enough to let me take a few pictures of her this evening. They were not anything special but it was nearly 10:30 and I hadn’t taken any pictures today. I asked Dorothy if I could take her picture but she’s not really all that fond of having her picture taken. I certainly understand that, feeling pretty much the same way myself, but of course, as the one taking the pictures, I’d prefer she be more agreeable. Nevertheless, I really do understand and sympathize. But Cathy was fine with it.
Between when this picture was taken and now, when I’m writing this four days later, Cathy’s had a hair cut. If you saw her without seeing this picture or without having seen her for a while, you might not notice. Her hair isn’t short at this point, but before the haircut it was, as you can see, pretty long.
It was a mostly grey day today. It’s still cool but it’s supposed to warm up for a few days. It’s also supposed to rain, so we’ll finally have temperatures above 60°F but wet. On the way home, I was sitting at the light and the large American flag at the Ourisman Rockmont Chevrolet car lot was blowing in the wind. The wind was coming out of the southeast, which is a little unusual so it was blowing farther behind the trees. Usually it’s blowing to the right, out from the trees.
As I was leaving work today, there was another nice sunset going on through the trees along the back edge of the parking lot. I took a few pictures, knowing these events are fleeting and if you don’t act quickly, you can easily miss them. Then I drove around to Cathy’s building to pick her up and as I turned into her parking lot, this is what I saw. I parked at the top of the lot, up the hill so as to get as much sky over the trees and the building on the left as possible. This one turned out pretty well, I think. These are not the colors I generally associate with sunset but they are what they are. Within about five minutes, all the color was gone except some deep blues as the sky faded to black.