Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter Storm: 2008 (aka My Half Snow Day)

"We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
The blue walls of the firmament.
No cloud above, no earth below, -
A universe of sky and snow!"
~John Greenleaf Whittier

The cold came first this time, as if in preparation for the snow I thought would never materialize. Then one morning, I opened my front door and did not recognize the landscape below my balcony. Quickly I closed the door behind me and hurried to my car - reliving the old routine of Grand Rapids winters (turn on car, click on the rear defroster, dig the ice-scraper out of the trunk, start on the passenger side window and move counterclockwise around the car, bang the tires to get the accumulated gunk off, etc).

Already though, I can feel that this is different. My eyes are used to looking upon the sidewalks of Calvin College as a treacherous ice-paths of bitter cold, but this is Seattle for heaven's sake. Experience here does not allow for all of this!

After many failed attempts of getting off this hill, I had to make the call - "Sorry, I can't make it in." Then I sat down in my living room and I was suddenly faced with a snow day! Well, I still had to go to the Library in the evening (when you can easily walk to work, there is no excuse) - but a half snow day is just as amazing!

Snow days were made for walking around and giving respect to that which gave you an unexpected break. So, armed with my snow boots, long-johns, massive wool scarf, and hobo gloves, I waddled (much like a toddler) to the grocery store.

It is wonderfully shocking how friendly people are when there is a snow day - is that why people in the Midwest are known for their hospitality to strangers? I suppose you never know who is going to be around to help you push your car out of a snow drift - you might as well be friendly to everyone! But I think it is more than that. Snow forces you to walk and remember how close (or how far) people, places, and things are.

Everyone took to the streets, all smiles and falls.

Later that night while I was walking back up the hill, I was startled by the silence. As if the snow was absorbing the sounds of the freeway, of the dogs barking, and of the nighttime world. Never are there more stars overhead as when the snow has already fallen. And, because of the sky's sharp clearness, I could see the Christmas tree bedecked Space Needle - over the lake and peaking between the trees. What joy I felt!

Now the snow is disgusting - brown sludge, being the better name for it. The hike up and down the hill is a chore, with so much snow! Everyone is now cranky. We've missed so much work, so much Christmas shopping time, have had too many close calls, and are sick of being cooped up. Yep, I too fall into this category!

However, there are still Christmas lights turning the snow into a festive mirror of color and the coldest nights have the most stars. Now my challenge is to keep this in mind over the next few days or, dare I say it, weeks. Sigh.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Devil and Details

My mind keeps wondering today... and to nothing in particular. I am sitting at the Cafe, trying to study "Урок но. 1" and having no luck at it. My goal is to write a summary a day for each chapter - forcing myself to read every single word.

Wow! How many details slipped through my fingers. Did I just not read that one detail about "in cases other than the nominative or the accusative, the quantifying words... decline like plural adjectives and agree" the first time around? I don't remember that at all! Now, I am convinced that is the one piece of the Russian puzzle that I have been missing.

Have I had my detail-filtering glasses on this whole term? Is that my problem?


One of the most shocking things about Istanbul, was the detail. Every wall covered in hand painted tile, and each wooden shutter carved with ornate design that seemed to be based on a Fibonacci understanding of craftsmanship. It got to the point where I was unable to focus by the end of the night. My brain was so caught up in attempting to process all of these bits of images, that I would sit up on the terrace, drink a beer, and stare out into the darkness for hours - lime green and sea turquoise, flashing in strobe before my tired eyes.

Detail, Tile

It is only now, after a few months, that my mind is truly able to appreciate and process all of those details that caused me such a headache before. And it is exactly those bits and pieces that stand in sharp relief in my memories. Time is all I needed - time and space.

Detail of Tomb Door, Suleyman Mosque

Not that that is going to help me with my final. If only I could take a photo of the particular details I need to remember, then sit and process them, drink a beer and stare into the dark, come back to the photo in two months - then it might have the chance of lodging itself somewhere between genitive plural case and Куда constructs.

Nope - I'm just going to have to focus. Humm... my coffee has gone cold.