Signs of spring.

A hodgepodge of happy places, including time out in the first  spring moss pale greens and wispy willows along Indian Creek. C and I stalked mussels here last August. We kicked off dirty sandals and followed their trails in the sand/mud. We crowed with savage delight when we happened upon the big guys. This was in deep summer, when those yellow greens surrounding us these days were at their sultriest jade.

IMG_0889IMG_0868

Time at the creek is also a reminder of 6 gorgeous months with this stone-skipper.

IMG_0850

On a less sentimental note, squirrels have moved in big time on Z street and I am obsessed. The saga goes like this: Last week, I noticed one little guy seemed to have taken up residence in this pillar on my porch. He’d dart in the hole each time I walked out the front door, curling around the corner so his tail stuck out one entrance while his beady little eyes watched me from the other.

IMG_0840

This was good enough. I’ve been a squirrel-watcher for about 22 years and their antics don’t get old. But TODAY, oh my. I walked out again to check on my buddy and found at least five critters in all states of activity around the banister — climbing up, running around, darting in and out, or, in the case of maybe the chubbiest squirrel ever, just lying on the rail disregarding all perceived threats while his little friends went crazy.

They all (except for the big one who does not care) retreated inside when I stepped out and gasped with joy. I have chairs set up ready for observation. It’s going to be a fantastic summer, folks.

With activities like this right outside my front door, being able to bike to the market for Sunday morning croissants and macarons is almost too much of a good thing. I’m in powdered sugar, goofy rodent heaven right now. The forecast says possible snow Thursday, and like Big Squirr, I don’t even care.

IMG_0953

Backbone.

To celebrate the return of spring temperatures, C and I broke out of our winter walking rut with a trip to Backbone State Park.

IMG_0914 IMG_0913

The gentle lakeside trail there, dotted with wildflowers, climbed up, up, up to a spot lovingly called the “Devil’s Backbone” — a ridge of swiss-cheese textured rock populated by gnarly cedars. It’s one of the highest points in Iowa, which isn’t saying much, but it did offer spectacular bluff views while we snacked on apples and carmel sauce.

IMG_0944 IMG_0949We returned with tired feet and heavy eyes. It’s been a bit since I made any kind of strenuous hike, and biking to the market for croissants isn’t the best cross training. After a good walk, last night demanded snuggling up with pizza and cheesy old James Bond movies.

IMG_0931

Confession.

Sometimes, I hike grumpy. Sometimes I sleep in on a perfectly beautiful Saturday and drink good coffee and fill my stomach with oatmeal before hitting the trail but just can’t shake being a cranky-ass little baby. Being angry for no reason. Being stubbornly quiet or lashing out.

Sometimes I’m the only one who notices, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

IMG_0836

This weekend, I was grumpy. And for the first time, it really helped to just admit that to C as soon as we stepped onto the path at Indian Creek Nature Center (OK, not “as soon as” — it took me scratching the side of my camera and sort of accidentally shoving him, then feeling really guilty, to get me to admit it).

Side note, when I’m grumpy I shove people. Like a toddler.

IMG_0831

So admitting I was being a bear, plus drinking in an hour of fresh air and sunlight, plus an almost two-hour nap that afternoon made a world of difference. But I think it’s important to note even when we’re taking pretty pictures and doing fun stuff, we might still feel snarly. It’s going to happen. It’s not perfect all the time.

But hiking helps.

IMG_0828

#MM.

A song that always brings me back to childhood in the Northeast in the spring and summer, growing up like a wild thing in the woods. Lounging on sun-warmed shale boulders and going to bed before light had completely left the sky in our attic-like bedroom, windows wide to the northern chill (even in August) and peeps from the infamous pond bullfrog and his millions of offspring.

Sister visit.

Work assignments brought me back to Kirksville this past week, where A gave me a backstage tour of her theater work. She’s running props on the latest play, carving fake herring and mixing faux rum for the actors.

IMG_0817 IMG_0821

It’s still all kinds of windy on campus, just above freezing but the daffodils are up. The dorms smell the same. We drank super-sugary Coffee Friday carmel lattes and I reminisced and grabbed a free NYT. Thanks, Truman!

IMG_0819 IMG_0820

Frog-kite weekend.

Felt the wind. Bought a cheap kite shaped like a frog (complete with tongue/ribbon for tasting the breeze). Found that sweet spot off a ridge in one of the Rabbits’ big parks where you get a constant gust and can just park it on the grass and let him fly.

IMG_0804 IMG_0810 IMG_0803

#MM.

A sixth-grade science teacher told my gang of loose-jawed, starstruck 10-year-olds a little secret about the galaxy in class one day.

He said, if a curious alien life form on a planet trillions of miles from Earth had an extremely powerful telescope — lots of ifs — this being would, right this minute, look down on our little gem of a planet and see dinosaurs roaming, continents separating and other roiling, roaring phenomenon of an adolescent Earth.

The reason for this is the time it takes light from our planet to travel across the universe to another planet. So much time. By the time it reached that far, it would be a couple hundred million years behind our reality. More than fashionably late. This also means, given another couple hundred million years and another curious, properly equipped alien, we’ll all be reincarnated for his viewing via a stale stream of light. We’ll go about our daily lives all over again in a movie for the galaxies we don’t even realize we’re starring in each and every minute.

Science!

Update.

I want you to know we stay up late on Thursdays.

No. Not really. It’s just fun to tell people that.

The truth is I don’t stay up late at all, which feels really lame sometimes and really empowered at others — like, “Yeah, I’m 24 years old and I’m tired so I’m going to bed at 9:30 on a Friday night…bitches.” I’m right on the cusp of nailing down who I am as a person and member of society, and I think “well-rested” is going to be one of those permanent qualities.

However, we’re also right on the cusp of dancing season, which lasts as long as the warm nights hold and last year involved staying  up until wee hours with wine and Arthur Verocai and travel dreams and, of course, signature spastic hip shaking.

In related news, know that I did interpretive dance performances, by request, of this year’s Oscar-nominated movies while home for Easter. It was a riot.

I want you to know I’m still online shopping like the world’s about to end (this is on you North Korea), even though I told you I’d stop. Etsy rings, Ikea lamps, Instagram photo banners and graphic-print swimsuit tops. I don’t feel bad, I just feel like I spend too much time on a computer.

You should know I deleted the Facebook app from my iPhone, which feels fantastic. Not checking up on social media every time I’m waiting for an oil change or a dinner companion to return from the restroom is one of life’s great pleasures, apparently. I highly recommend it, fellow smartphone slaves. You’ll spend a lot more time looking up and out of windows, which leads to more silly sightings (like little squirrels chasing big squirrels or the guy who smokes a pipe while walking his dog by my front windows every day at 5:23 p.m.).

I want you to know I’m growing my hair out. It’s at that awkward length, constantly hitting my collar and getting stuck there and parting down the middle to leave a little keyhole opening for breezes to weasel through to the back of my neck. C says he likes this spot, and that makes me feel better than I’d like to admit — warming my cold neck. I’m not good at tenderness and openness, so even this inadvertent vulnerability feels like a step in the right direction.

And that’s what’s up these days.

Bee’s knees.

The ongoing saga of my apiology story, according to G-Chat:

J: my british boss is telling me that the bee’s knees used to mean “something small”
Z:  i thought “bee’s knees” meant something awesome
J: it does now
  but it used to mean something miniature apparently
  which makes sense
  bee’s knees are awfully small
  you should ask your beekeeper about that
Z: YES! i will
J: just how tiny are bee’s knees?
  do bees even have knees?
  those are all important questions

IMG_2100
IMG_2106
The interview with this delightful man went off with just one near-sting scare, when a stowaway bee swarmed out of his hiding place in the folds of my jacket when we returned from taking photos of the colony. He wasn’t pleased to be out of his cozy hive on a chilly, drizzly day.

IMG_2104