A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings

Monarch Butterfly on a Mexican Sunflower

We mixed up our neighborhood walk some and visited Washington University. The campus was pretty dead, except for the bustling maintenance men. No word yet as to whether the school will reopen in the fall. We got as far as the DUC, which stands for Danforth University Center and doubles as the nickname for the cafeteria that resides within. Named after the former chancellor, William Danforth, brother to former Senator John Danforth, it seemed incongruous to have a legacy contracted to DUC, but somehow typical of students. On the way back we discovered the Danforth Butterfly Garden, which was named for wife Elizabeth. Finding it was an unexpected treat. It was filled with flowers and had an unusually wide variety of milkweed types.

Our normal walking path takes us through Concordia, a Lutheran seminary. All summer, it has been pretty dead too, but as of late there are cars in the parking lots again. No word yet as to whether it will open or not. Next week, Anne’s school district is supposed announce its fall plans. It’s anyone’s guess as to what they will be, anything from full virtual, to full classroom, to something halfway in-between. I’m pretty sure that Anne won’t be substitute teaching, but that’s not for certain either. She is keeping her options open, at least for now.

It seems ludicrous to me that reopening the schools is even under consideration. The pandemic is currently raging out of control, way worse than it was when the schools were all closed in the spring. Reopening the schools seems like pouring gasoline on an already burning fire. The reason of course that this is even a thing is that Trump wants to do anything to juice the economy, no matter what the cost in American lives, just so that he can get reelected. I can’t see why anyone would want to endanger their lives or even more importantly sacrifice the lives of their children on the altar of his campaign. Still, I’ll have to wait for what happens. If the schools do reopen and the inevitable illnesses, medical bills and deaths do occur, there will be holy hell to pay. I know of a couple of gun-toting personal injury lawyers here in town, who would be glad to redress any wrongful deaths with a lawsuit or two. Even WashU with one of the largest endowments in the country should take pause at that thought.

The Green, Green Grass of Home

Ninebark

So far, on this very rainy weekend, we have managed to get our walks in. Friday when we walked, it was threatening enough that there weren’t very many other people about, which in these socially distancing times, is kind of a blessing. On Saturday, the morning was so much nicer and there was a forecast for afternoon storms, meaning everybody and their brother were out-and-about. We bumped into neighbor and fellow cyclist Mary. She was out on her bike, while we were on foot. She was on her way home and warned us that Wydown was a zoo. We spoke with her for quite a while, as various other people moved around us.

Since because of the crowd that was out, we cut our walk short, well short of my desired steps. I then decided to mow the lawn. Which was a good idea, because it was shaggier than I had realized. Afterwards, I seeded and fertilized the front lawn. This is another of my gardening projects for this summer. There is a series of houses up the block that have beautiful lawns, perfect monocultures. When we walk by them I am green with envy, but not as green as their grass. I am hoping that by the end of he summer mine will more closely approach theirs.

As I was finishing up on the yard, a steady rumble of thunder could be heard. Checking the radar though showed that like Indians circling the wagon train, these storm cells continued to go around us. I wanted some rain to soak in the fertilizer. Eventually, only after dinner, the rain came. At first only haltingly, but then with more gusto. It continued to rain off and on through the night, waking me in the predawn with its steady beat. Flash flood warning boxes began to appear all around us. So, I guess that we have gotten enough rain. But wait, there is more coming. I hope that all of my new grass seed is not washed away.

We watched the Obama headlined virtual high school graduation ceremony on TV last night. I must say that I was impressed. (Did you really think that I would not be?) Barack’s commencement address was fine, well within the mold for such speeches. There were a couple of references that only the most thin-skinned of people could ever take exception to, as if it was all about him anyway. Mainly though, I was impressed with the show’s production values. I really shouldn’t have been so surprised that an industry that thrives on special effects could create the green-screen illusion of people congregating together from across the country for graduation. Like a magician with more tricks in his top-hat than rabbits, the producers would occasionally flash their green, giving the audience an insight into how they made all of their magic for this show. 

Here’s to the Class of 2020!

Reviewing the MRH Graduating Class of 2020

Bike ride yesterday, at the end of the “long weekend.” We first headed to the high school. Anne had heard that a virtual graduation celebration had been put up, honoring this year’s graduating seniors. On the way over we met fellow bikers and neighbors, Phil and Mary. This time we were on our bikes, usually it is the other way around. Pictured is Anne reviewing the placards erected for each graduating senior. Anne has been teaching in the district long enough that she has likely taught every single one of them and likely first when they were in kindergarten and again in many grades after that.

After the high school, we rode down Manchester Ave., through the Maplewood business district. Most of the stores were closed, but enough essential ones were open that if we had driven, parking would have been a problem. There is a new Maplewood sign going up in the park across from the Landmark bank building. Maplewood is spelled out, with individual signs for each letter. They are placed in a staggered fashion, in two parallel rows, such that as I approach the display, I couldn’t tell what was written. It was still under construction, so when it is done, I’ll swing by again and take a photo of it.

We headed next to the park and rode around it. Jumping the fences of the closed off sections of roadway was again a pain. On the way back, two motorcycles had snuck into this closed off section, but they skedaddled out of there pretty fast. This being the “short weekend” now, we’ll likely stay closer to home today. Anne is having some difficulties getting her head wrapped around this enforced trial run on retirement. She is still trying to get used to the idea that not much gets done each day, but it still takes all day to do it.

School’s Out

The Country School, Winslow Homer, 1871

Yesterday, Anne completed her long term substitute teaching gig, in the first grade that she had begun in November and today, the woman who had been on maternity leave returned to school. Also today, Anne swung by the classroom one more time, to present the baby quilt that she had made for her. Word gets around about these baby quilts and I think that expecting teachers pick Anne, in part because of them. This trip seemed like it would be problematic, in that the water company had blocked both ends of the block, but she managed to evade their blockade. They were digging Toyota traps to stop her. I labored to get all of our water use out of the way for the day, since they have worked their way up the street to our water lateral and the possibility of a water shutoff seemed quite likely. Anne plans on taking some well deserved time off now, before resuming her regular day-to-day substitute teaching duties sometime in the future. In other news, we got our Federal income tax refund back. We still have to pay on the state. It’s not much, but that can wait until April 15th.

The Bus, The Bus, The B-U-S

1936 Dodge School Bus

We’re counting the days now. The days left on Anne’s long term sub gig that is. We still have several weeks left to go, but those pass so slowly that we had to covert from weeks to days. Next week will be a big week at school, report cards and then parent-teacher conferences. The report cards are all but in the can now. Anne has been sweating grades all month. The conferences shouldn’t be that big a deal. She’ll get support for those prickly parents. Yes, they know who you are. 

We’re also counting down the days and looking forward to our next vacation. I know, I know, we just returned from one, but this next trip is a visit to the sunny and tropical American Virgin Islands. A brief snowbird’s getaway from all of this dreary winter weather. Recently, I was distressed to read a New York Times travel article about the resort at Caneel Bay on St. John Island. Devastated by twin hurricanes in 2017, the place is still in ruins. We are staying at neighboring Cruz Bay and I had planned on visiting this resort. Per the article, the rest of the island has been cleaned up. The problem with this resort is a dispute between the US Park Service and the concessionaire that leased the place. Most of the island is a National Park. Basically, this concession’s lease is almost up and the company doesn’t feel it’s worth the money to cleanup their resort, for the time that they have left. They’re arguing for an extension on the lease, but so far to no avail. Too bad, it was supposed to have been the best resort on the island. Still, there are plenty of other beaches on the sea.

Another thought was triggered by a Southwest Airline commercial. In this ad, a couple is seen on a tropical beach, having just come out of the water. They look tanned, except for a circle in the middle of their faces, where their snorkeling facemask has been all day. They spend the rest of the time trying to alleviate this white-face problem. Returning home with a visible tan is part of the winter get-away mystique. A way of extending the vacation longer, if only ephemerally or maybe rather epidermically so.

This advertisement highlights a more serious problem though. There is no way that either of us will enjoy our vacation under the tropical sun, without some sun protection. We do hope to do some snorkeling, but many sunscreens are harmful to the coral reefs that we plan on seeing. Fortunately, Anne’s preferred brand, Neutrogena, offers sunscreen that is reef safe, just not version that we normally buy. Another item that we’ll have to go shopping for, in anticipation. 

The Four Freedoms

At the Hirshhorn Museum are the above four images and the following text:

In his 1941 State of the Union address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt outlined his vision for a post-war world. One in which four freedoms, freedom of speech, freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom of speech, would become basic human rights for all. In 1943, artist Norman Rockwell responded patriotically with a series of four paintings depicting those freedoms. In 2018, the artists Hank Willis Thomas and Emily Shur reimagined these paintings and updated those images to more accurately reflect today’s more diverse US population.

I’ve always been a big Rockwell fan and enjoy this reinterpretation of his work. 

Last year, a New Yorker cartoon had the following caption, “Up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s the good billionaire.” This was a reference to former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had launched a campaign for the Democratic nomination. He was a late arrival to the Democratic field and was initially derisively dismissed, out of hand. Now, I see his anti-Trump TV commercials every night. With a worth valued at $56B, Bloomberg can easily out spend the Republicans, by five to one. New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait opined this week, “Winning the presidential election is starting to look hard. How about buying it instead?” 

Back on the ranch, Anne restarted her Early Childhood Center’s first grade gig this week, after the long Christmas break. ECC or more correctly Eck!, is now showing its true colors as plague central. On Monday she sent home a letter to the parents on the subject of head lice. Latter in the week, she sent home a letter regarding strep throat. Yesterday, after one of her students tested positive for influenza, a third letter was dispatched regarding the flu. So, what’s next? How about freedom from illness. Until then, she will go to work every morning, singing the praises of her nineteen (or less) little dwarves, Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to the plague I go. Heigh-ho…