Winter Reprise Surprise Run

Sunday Runday, and yesterday morning I did some work in the yard, took the dog for a lovely spring walk, sat in the grass, cleaned up some flower beds, and generally enjoyed the spring.

This morning we met for a run on icy sidewalks and through ankle-deep snow.

These woodpecker winter days are nothing too surprising for anyone who has lived here very long. The gentle-jabbing joke that quickly circulates on text threads between local friends is “ok, who put their snow shovels away for the winter! It must be your fault!”

So, surprise… no.

But it is still very much a shock to the system when one is expecting something slightly warmer when planning a spring run.

I’d already cleaned up and packed away all my winter running gear. The mitts, hats, heavy jackets all tucked into the closets once again. The shoe spikes hidden away for next winter.

Maybe it was my fault the snow came back for a reprise.

We immediately made for the trees and escaped the icy city streets dropping into the river valley trails. The snow was deeper there but the ice was far less dangerous.

The snow storm had blown in quickly and aggressively, dropping a near-horizontal storm on the whole region. Somewhere between five and ten centimeters of fresh white powder covered the ground and then also the west side of everything. Wind. Horizontal snow. It sticks in unexpected places. The fluffy white kiss of winter’s last gasp clung to the trunks of trees and every branch of every tree creating a magical scene along the trails.

I spent almost as much time snapping photos as I did running.

As much as we’re used to a fresh snowfall here, it never ceases to be a breathtakingly beautiful opportunity to inhabit these familiar spaces as they are temporarily dressed in an all-encompassing snowy veil.

And temporary is the key word.

Even on the loop back I could see the melt begin.

Have you ever felt that sensation of momentary awe when you witness some bit of slow-motion nature happen in real time. Like, when you walk through the woods and a branch tumbles to the ground from high up in a tree. It has been growing there for years attached to the trunk of an even older tree, and then in that one moment as you pass by it happens to reach a critical tipping point between gravity and connection, and it falls down to the ground.

This morning was like that, except in high speed clumps of snow were loosing from their grip on the woods, tumbling through the lower branches and releasing a puff of snow as they crashed to the ground, here, there, here, over there, and there too.

Even the slippery city walks had mostly thawed as we returned to our vehicles and stopped our GPS watches for another successful Sunday run.

And by next Sunday, likely as not we will be back to treading through familiar spring trails and snowy paths will be just another week gone by.

One Hundred Daily Posts

It’s Saturday, and while there are a dozen other things I could write about this morning I wanted to pause for a moment and reflect on a milestone.

One hundred posts.

I started this blog on the first of January and keeping apace of a single post each and every day since New Years Day means that this and the previous ninety-nine daily blogs account for exactly one hundred collections of words, images, links, and other miscellaneous thoughts published and shared here.

I don’t want to get particularly introspective or navel-gazing on the process of blogging.

Rather, I simply want to make a note of where we’re at: just getting started.

Inspired By Others

I also thought it was a reasonable-enough excuse to share some links to some of the YouTube channels that I‘ve been watching. Part recommendation, part inspiration, part this is what I’ve been spending my time thinking about and where my mind is at these days, here are some other folks putting out great video content and who seem passionate about their subjects.

Watching the energy that these folks put into their chosen niche topics makes me want to participate in the creative side of the internet. With folks like these as role models, writing a hundred daily blog posts has been a snap.

Beau Miles
An Australian filmmaker, outdoorsman, runner, father, and all-round interesting guy, Beau publishes quirky documentaries about his relationship to his world by posing questions no one else thought to ask, like what if I ate nothing but beans for a while, or what if I walked eighty kilometers to work and survived on what I found along the way. If we could all live by the Beau Miles philosophy the world would be a happier place.

TA Outdoors
Mike lives in the UK and seems to spend an enviable amount of time with his dad in the woods camping, building cabins, drinking good beers, testing out various survival techniques and generally being adventurous. He comes across as genuine and inquisitive and amplifies my own interest in these same things to the point that I ask myself why I’m not making more time to be like Mike.

Glen & Friends
Just down the road a few thousand kilometers here in Canada, Glen is a skilled cook and professional food photographer who produces a high quality cooking channel with his wife that spans the breadth of the culinary landscape while staying practical and interesting. It is very “Canadian” in style and tone and my wife and I often joke that now we don’t need a YouTube channel because Glen’s got us all covered.

Simone Giertz
Inquisitive soul Simone makes my list because she inspires both my daughter and I to try to be more inqusitive ourselves. While her niche doesn’t exactly overlap with any of the topics on my own blog, I am curious about many of the things she does in designing, fabricating, engineering, repurposing, refunctioning, and generally being creative from inspired places. You may have seen her work turning her Tesla into a truck or building quirky robots, but there is so much more to discover from someone like Simone who seems genuinely curious about the universe.

Claire Saffitz
My daughter and I were fans of Claire at her last YouTube gig and still are with her own channel. With my daughter owning a copy of Claire’s cookbook, the kid is determined to be like her hero and bake all the desserts. We watch Claire’s posts multiple times then invariably out comes the stand mixer and bag of flour and the the house smells like lemon or cinammon for a while.

Primitive Technology
Even though my wife recently bought me John’s book and despite watching hours and hours of his channel, I don’t know much about him or where he’s from. His elaborate, wordless videos show him working as he spends time in a jungle of some sort building with his hands primitive tools which he uses to forge primitive kilns which he uses to bake primitive bricks which he uses to construct primitive huts and so on and on. Watching John work is a special kind of peaceful and meditative experience.

To At Least One Hundred More

I hope if you’ve been reading along with this jumble of things I’ve been posting you’re enjoying it. Cooking, travel, outdoors, and cast iron are things that swirl around my days and fill my mind and it has been a pleasure to write and share about these things here.

That said, I have no plan. No end game. No ulterior motive.

Posting one hundred blogs over the last one hundred days has been a mind-clearing experience, has given me more direction for the summer and some reprive from the groundhog-day existence of living through this pandemic with all of you.

What else can I say? Thanks for reading this far… and stay tuned the year is just getting started.

(Now I’m off to bake some bread!)

Downtown, Part One

Is it out of character of me to write a short post about the heart of the place I live?

See, I used to work downtown.

Used to, in that the job I currently have the privilege to do from the safety of my home was once and may again in the future be based out of one of the many high-rise buildings in the downtown core of our city.

Today it is based out of my basement.

This allows me to go for beautiful walks around my neighbourhood at lunch.

It lets me cook grilled cheese sandwiches on my barbecue grill whenever the mood strikes.

I’ll have the opportunity to work on my garden all summer.

I should be able to fit some extra runs in as the months wear ever onward.

And sitting on my deck with my dog by my side, a coffee in my hand, and a laptop computer humming on the table in front of me is a kind of work-life balance I could not have dreamed possible a couple years ago.

That said, this morning I made one of those rare trips “to the office” to sort out some administrative tasks that I cannot do remotely.

On my walk towards my tower, I snapped a photo of one of those notice boards, the kind where shows, plays, festivals, and a thousand other cultural touchstones hang posters with dates and times and locations. Or… where they used to do that.

Like the empty streets, boarded up shop windows, and mostly-vacant office towers, this felt positively apocalyptic to me.

Nothing new posted.

The old, ripped, torn, peeled off leaving behind a shredded, shattered mess, a snapshot of the time that never was to follow those months when back then, when I retreated from downtown along with a hundred thousand others.

My personal opportunity has narrowed and I’ve adapted.

I wonder how it will feel to find a way back to a rich cultural society, particularly when I see things like this.

What was the opportunity cost of my could-have-been-worse fortunes?

Grilled Grilled Cheese Spring Sandwich

Late last year I bought a slab of cast iron from the local home improvement mega store. The idea was not to buy a quality cooking griddle, but instead supplement my outdoor grill with a reasonably inexpensive multi-purpose cooking surface.

Delicate grill items, like veggies or fish are fine on aluminum foil, but I figured an outdoor flattop would be so much better.

If I recall correctly, I spent less than thirty dollars on a reversible barbecue griddle. The one I found that fit my dimensions was meant to match into a specific model of barbecue, but on its own sits just fine atop the grill I own.

I seasoned it up with a triple round of oil and heat. Smiled contentedly at my own ingenuity. Stored the griddle in inside the grill and then … winter hit.

Yesterday at lunchtime I was working from home, as usual. As I rummaged through the kitchen I discovered a loaf of freshly baked sourdough, some leftover Easter ham, a big block of cheddar cheese, and an abundance of painfully beautiful spring weather.

Inspiration struck.

I fired up the grill. Brushed the grill plates down a little (still crusty from the over-the-winter storage). And put some fresh oil on the slab of home improvement store cast iron.

I was rewarded for my efforts with a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, fresh off the backyard grill. Hot. Fresh. And in the fresh air.

Ain’t spring grand?