listen, the snow is falling

9 Baha 166 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head: Galaxie 500, “Listen The Snow Is Falling”

After two weeks of enjoying weather in the 50’s and 60’s, a winter storm blew through and dumped a few inches of snow on south central Wisconsin.

This has been a bit of a rough winter for me. It’s the first one where I could say that I was suffering from seasonal affective disorder. I don’t really know if I would have it under normal circumstances, but the untreated sleep apnea that I’ve had (and it’s still untreated—long story on that one…) has probably exacerbated conditions like these. My mom had seasonal affective disorder when she was alive, and my father will be shipping me a blue light lamp that she used to treat it.

But even with this latest snowfall, I don’t feel sad, because it will be going away soon. Baseball’s opening day is in another week or so. And so, as the snow storm plowed through yesterday, I found myself enjoying its positive aspects of the snow. I used it as an excuse to stay home and spoil myself. As the snow blew outside, I felt cozy inside. I brewed myself a nice cup of tea. surfed the Internet a little, did some reading, did some journal writing, and talked to a dear friend on the phone.

There is a certain hush that falls over the land every time there is a good snowfall. There is something peaceful about it. So I think I’ll enjoy it this one last time. Assuming that it is a last time. In any case, the warm weather is just around the corner…

a “micro-sabattical,” attempted

8 Baha 165 B.E.
Soundtrack in my head: Let’s Active, “Horizon”

I’ve been on vacation most of this week. Mainly it’s because of a friend from out of town who visited me earlier in the week, but I also needed a break and some time for reflection. I rented a car so that my friend and I could visit the Baha’i Temple near Chicago and also show her some of the places in that area where I used to live and hang out. I also used it to show her around Madison, since this was her first time here.

I haven’t owned a car in four years. Most recently, I had a 1985 Plymouth Caravelle that used to belong to my grandmother. I kept having problems with it and it was getting more and more expensive to fix, so I gave it up and have been without a car since. As gas prices went through the roof, I became more and more glad about not owning a car.

But it hasn’t been easy living without a car in Madison. Of course, I live within walking distance of a number of things I need, including the Willy Street Co-op, a hardware store, and a number of restaurants. But sometimes I need something I can only get from one of the malls at either end of Madison. A trip to the mall on Madison’s substandard bus system could take 2-3 hours round trip,including time spent crossing parking lot after parking lot to get to an Office Max or a Burlington Coat Factory.

So it’s been interesting having a car this week. It’s been interesting being able to get to places within the city more quickly. Any point within the city is within a half-hour’s drive, with most of the things I need to go to within fifteen minutes. But I also realized this week that I don’t miss contending with traffic and parking places.

Yesterday, I used the car to go out to Spring Green, WI to write and reflect. At least that was my intention. I read an article in Madison Magazine about the idea of taking a “micro-sabbatical.” Such a “sabbatical,” the article suggested, could involve a day trip someplace to take oneself out of one’s normal routine and enable creative thinking about one’s work and life purpose. I thought that would be a good idea.

I remember back in 2000 having a feeling that my life was about to change. At first, it was a vague feeling, but then suddenly I had this strong feeling that I needed to leave my comfortable life in Chicago and move to Madison, Wisconsin as soon as possible. This feeling made little sense to me at the time, but later on, a series of events fell into place that actually made moving to Madison the most sensible and logical move.

At some point in the last few months, this vague feeling of impending change has come back. And that’s where it currently stands—as a vague feeling. So my mission yesterday in going to Spring Green was to get out of my normal surroundings and do some creative writing and thinking and to see if I could flesh out more details from that vague feeling.

I went to the General Store Cafe in Spring Green per a friend’s recommendation. I pulled out my laptop and started writing, but it was too noisy at the cafe for me to concentrate. I walked across the street to a tea house, but they were playing a world music version of “White Horse” and it was too peppy and loud for me. I ended up going to yet another cafe down the street, but it was blasting an oldies station and it was supposed to close down in 20 minutes for deliveries anyway. So I went to the library but even there people were talking too loud for me to concentrate.

observations during the tail end of cold season

17 ‘Ala 165 B.E.
Soundtrack in my head: Zero 7, “Polaris”

As a general rule, I haven’t worried much about colds or getting sick. I have a pretty strong immune system, and tend not to get many colds.  But it’s been interesting to observe other people dealing with colds or the possibility of colds.

One of my co-op housemates had a cold recently that lingered for awhile. She went to significant trouble to avoid spreading it. She made efforts to avoid us and even went as far as keeping the dishes she used separate from ours until she got better. One would think that a co-op house would be a breeding ground for illness, even in a house as small as mine.  To my knowledge, though, no one else in the house caught her cold, so her efforts must have succeeded.

I work in an office with over a hundred people on my floor. A lot of times I don’t pay attention, but if I listen, I can hear coughing coming from different parts of the floor—sometimes near, sometimes distant. A couple of people have a cough that sounds like the scraping noise a car’s engine sometimes makes when it isn’t started properly. Different people have different standards regarding coming to work sick—some feel they need to tough it out in order to get work done, while others feel strongly that they should keep their germs at home.

But the most interesting place to observe cold season is on a bus. One bus I take tends to be very crowded. Last week, when it was colder out, I saw a couple of people on the bus cover their faces with scarves in an effort to avoid catching cold.  Another time, a woman behind me coughed, and the woman next to her suddenly stood up as if she’d received an electric shock, and moved to another seat.

As for me, I have taken a few more precautions in the last year or so because colds exacerbate my asthma. I now keep a bottle of hand santizer on my dresser at home and my desk at work. Sometimes, when I wash my hands at work, I’ll take the paper towel I used to dry my hands and use it to open the door. I’ve taken Airborne on the days immediately preceding my two recent sleep studies because I knew a cold would force me to postpone the studies. I’m taking it now because I have a good friend visiting me from out of town next week for a few days, and don’t want to be sick then.

Frankly, I am bothered by the number of people who don’t cover their cough. There’s a guy on one of the buses I take whom I make it a point to sit as far away from as possible, because I have seen him cough multiple times on multiple bus trips without covering his mouth.  I try not to think negative thoughts about him, but I admit that I get annoyed.  Unfortunately, from what I’ve been able to see, he is in good company. One sign of this is the number of doctor’s waiting rooms that have signs telling people to cover their cough–apparently doctors have determined that people need to be reminded of this.

Nevertheless, I figure that I can only take so many precautions. If I catch something, so be it. (As long as it’s the week after next.)  In any case, it’s getting warmer out, and cold season will soon pass.

spring rains

7 ‘Ala 165 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)

Soundtrack in my head:  Soundpool, “My Ethereal Daydream”

Today it rained most of the day in Madison.  It was one of those steady, ever-present rains. It kind of reminded me of the  rainy day that forms the backdrop of the scene described in the Suzanne Vega song “Tom’s Diner.”  Given that we are in the last days of winter, it was a welcome sight.  I’ll take rainy-day drabness over winter bleakness, and in early March, it is especially welcome.

I walked down State Street and noticed how different the street scene looked from just a week or two before.  It was much colder then, but now the snow was gone, and it was easy to imagine it being April, or May, or even July.  I have a big stadium-style umbrella which kept me pretty dry, so I took in the street scene and found myself really enjoying it.  The sound of the rain hitting the sidewalk was soothing, as was the sound of tires creating a spray of rain on the wet streets.

Later on, in my neighborhood, I walked down Few Street to where it dead ends at Lake Monona.  Orton Park was mostly clear of snow, except for a ring around the perimeter where shoveled snow created deeper snowbanks.  Walking to the edge of Lake Monona, I could see that the lake was still mostly iced over.  A storm drain right below my feet was pouring water into the lake , and I could a see patch where the ice melted because of it.  I could see other patches of open water further out into the lake.  I couldn’t tell whether the ice was still safe to walk on.  It’s not someting I would have risked.  Sometimes as it is melting the ice appears almost squishy and puddly.  But I’m sure there are still ice fisherman braving these conditions.

Walking back to my house, it feels like we have the most snow remaining on our block out of any place in Madison. The parks and most of the streets are clear of it.  Perhaps we have more snow because of the snowbanks created by shoveling sidewalks.  Also, the houses on my end of the block are on a little upraised mound, creating the illusion of higher snowbanks than what really exist.

It’s supposed to get a little colder next week, with the temp dipping into the teens at least one of the nights.  But more and more signs of spring are showing like cracks in the ice, and pretty soon the cracks will dwarf the ice itself.  This has been a long winter for me–longer than usual perhaps because of my sleep issues.  But signs of spring keep coming and coming, and soon not only will rain eclipse the snow, but the sun will eventually eclipse the rain.