Autumn Grasshopper

We have successfully transitioned from the dog days of August to more halcyon days. Summer’s heat and humidity have left us, hopefully for good and left us with temperate days and cool nights. Sometimes these nights are not so cool that a window or two can be left open. On those nights our city soundscape is filled with the sound of crickets. The hum of airconditioners—crickets. Highway 40’s traffic noise—crickets. The endless loop of thoughts that twirl in my head, before I mange to drift off to sleep—crickets. Locally, nights like these are called good sleeping weather. Anne calls cool nights like these, cabin weather.

Although our 10-day forecast shows this pleasant weather pattern continuing unabated, it cannot go on forever. Today marks the equinox, leading to our eventual fall into cold and darkness, but hey, let’s make merry and light, for who knows what tomorrow may bring? The fable of the grasshopper and the ant is a cautionary tale about adopting this kind of attitude, but apparently this story has a B-side. In this version, instead of praising the ant’s industriousness and decrying the idleness of the grasshopper, the ant is painted as the stingy villain and the grasshopper as the sympathetic hero. Whichever version you choose though, neither of them end all that well for the grasshopper.

Yesterday, Anne and I drove out forty-four to the Shaw Nature Reserve. This place was originally envisioned by the botanical gardens as a refuge from the coal fired pollution that had been plaguing the garden in the city. Improving air conditions alleviated the need for a country nursery and the nature reserve was re-envisioned as an entity of its own. Much larger than the main garden, it offers miles of trails to roam. We had not been there is almost a year. It has been eight months since we’ve even visited the city garden. Being larger and less popular, Shaw seemed like a safer bet. With e-tickets in hand, we checked it out. When we parked, there was only one other car in the main parking lot.

Arriving mid-morning, it wasn’t until the afternoon that we began to see other people. In the morning, it was still quite cool and the crickets and cicada were still relatively mute. Whenever we stopped and the noise of our footsteps fell silent, there was an eerie quiet in the woods. Much of the grounds are devoted to a tall grass prairie, representing what much of this area looked like before it was settled. In this sea of grass the paths are as wide as a car lane, yet still stalks of grass can bow in and touch similar stalks from the other side. The grass is so tall that you cannot see over it, leading to an almost tunnel like effect. Roll to save!

We did see some wildlife. Tons of butterflies and locust would dart out of our way. We heard more often than saw the Red-headed woodpeckers that are indigenous. We saw a deer, but the find of the day was a Yellow-billed cuckoo.  


Turning the Neighborhood from Red to Blue

It has been a few days since we landed back at home and the dust has finally begun to settle. In our absence, Joanie had taken in the mail and looked after the house. Thank you! Included in our mail was the pictured Biden & Harris 2020 campaign sign that Anne is ably modeling. We are pretty much unpacked, almost all of the laundry is done and our larder has been rebuilt. We are settled back at home for the duration.

The first day home, we were not particularly active, but every day after that has featured a 10K step walk. We started with our neighborhood walk, followed by Tower Grove, the Riverlands, Forest Park and today, Shaw Nature Reserve. The weather has been much cooler then it was here when we left. No A/C and no heat either. The opening and closing of windows has kept the house temperature pleasant, both day and night, not too hot and not too cold. Goldilocks!

In other returns Dan and Britt made it back to Brooklyn. They left the cabin a day before us, but got home a day after us. They camped for two nights in Ohio at Hocking Hills State Park. This park features a gorge and waterfalls. They had hoped to fly their drone, but while allowed, restrictions on how you could fly it made using it impractical. Instead, they went for a ten mile hike. They got an odd campsite, accompanied by interesting neighbors, but still had a good time.

The Brave Little Toaster

Smeg Toaster – During Its Burn-In Cycle

Just before we last departed this town and rocketed north for another luxurious turn at Anne’s cabin in the woods, our brave little toaster of many years died. The mechanism that held down the bread was getting flakey and had become increasingly more difficult to use, leading to frustration in trying to get it to lock and hold down my English muffins in the morning. It was too late to do anything about this situation then, we were too busy, hell bent to get out of town. At the cabin, I did some research (looked up toasters on Slate) and selected our new appliance. It was expensive. Anne correctly pointed out that we could afford six cheaper toasters for the price of the one that I selected, substituting quantity for quality, but it looked so cute. Styled in mid-20th-century modern, it comes in a selection of ’50s retro colors, suitable for both Avant Garde hipsters and aging boomers. We chose a stately cream color.

I allowed our order to sit in its virtual shopping cart for the three weeks that we were out-of-town, and only pulled the trigger after we had returned home. In the interval I had heard that there is now currently a run on all things appliance like, but our new toaster arrived unexpectedly early. Yesterday, when I retrieved the morning paper, it was sitting out on our front porch, likely all night, having been deposited by one of Jeff Bezos’ minions. The fuse kit package for the RAV4 was there too, but that’s another story. With excited anticipation, I rushed the package to the kitchen table and opened it. Inside was another cardboard box and inside that one was a third box. Anne made a joke about nested Russian dolls and a tiny toy toaster, but three boxes were all that there were. I extracted our Smeg, my precious, and began unwrapping all of the plastic that still contained it.

Anne began reading the owners manual, out loud, starting with the lawyer’s part about what not to do. Imagine, one should not take a bath with the toaster and imagine further that they would not have stated that unless someone already had. Moving on to the more useful part of the manual, she explained its features. In addition to the browning selector knob and the bread lift lever, both of which the old toaster also had, this new one has a bagel button, which allows one’s bagel to be toasted on only one side. Somewhat counterintuitively though, the sliced bagel must be inserted insides out. There is also a defrost button for toasting frozen bread. You wouldn’t want to have to move the browning selector, once you’ve discovered its optimal setting and because among two people there can sometimes be a difference of opinion about the correct amount of browning the best toast should have, there is a reheat setting, for that little bit more. Because I had not expected the toaster’s arrival, I had planned a no-bread breakfast. Instead, I first used our toaster to brown bread for lunch sandwiches. I was quite impressed with the toast that it produced and am pleased with my purchase.