Tag Archives: anticipation

Spring is just around the corner, I hope

By Bruce Stambaugh

If you live in northern Ohio, you know there is one sure way to tell that spring is just around the corner. Snow has covered the freshly opened daffodil blossoms. Snow never smelled so fragrant.

blooming daffodils

From this…

Those of us who have grown up in northeastern Ohio aren’t surprised by this meteorological conundrum. Snow-blanketed flowers in Holmes Co., Ohio in March is as common as horses and buggies.

daffodils in snow

…to this.

It’s March. It’s Ohio. It’s just a matter of when and how much snow we will have.

March snows are notorious for being heavy, wet, and timed to dampen our spirits along with the countryside. That’s especially true after a relatively mild winter like we’ve experienced this year.

With the temperatures balmy, the sun shining, people get antsy to get out and about to shake off any remnants of cabin fever they may have contracted. And so they do.

Bicycles are dusted off, tires pumped up, and excursions on the Holmes Co. Trail begin. Gardeners are anxious to ready their truck patches and flowerbeds for the soon-to-begin growing season.

That’s when the excitement rises. Coaxed awake by the unseasonably warm winter weather, luscious green shoots emerge from the bulbs through the moist, loamy soil, through the woody mulch, and into the light.

blooming crocuses

Rejoicing in the sun.

Crocuses and a few spring beauties join the trumpeting daffodils to happily announce spring’s debut. In some areas, trilliums even dot forest floors. Of course, they are all premature thanks in part to the warmest February on record globally.

The early taste of warmth spoiled us. So when the weather returns to more seasonal conditions, we go into shock along with the blooming flowers.

Other signs of spring unaltered by the weather also appear to whet our warm weather enthusiasm. College’s annual March Madness basketball tournaments fill TV screens in the quest for men and women’s champions. High school basketball and wrestling tournaments are drawing to a close, signaling the end of winter and the birth of spring.

For me, no other sport says spring more than Major League Baseball. After all, the boys of summer are in the midst of spring training in Arizona and Florida. So it must be spring, right?

Not so fast. Even in the southern United States, where azaleas, hibiscus, iris, lantana, and poinsettias bloomed brightly, caution was the word. Citizens had to be weary of frosts and late winter storms of ice and snow, too.

Those events are rare but all too real. It’s different in Ohio and neighboring states. March sometimes delivers the season’s heaviest snowfall. The problem is the storms often arrive just in time to douse any anticipation of spring’s benefits, like being outdoors, throwing open the windows and doors to replace winter’s staleness with spring’s freshness.

After a few days of airing things out, breathing in warm, fresh air, working in the yard, it’s rather hard to return to winter’s harshness. Nevertheless, that always seems to be our plight. Only we’re back outside covering those tender plants from hard frosts, inches of snow, and biting winds.

Backyard bird feeders get restocked. We tote in more firewood to replenish the supply for the wood burner or fireplace. The hard truth is that there’s just no turning down the damper on the fickle force of nature.

Spring is just around the corner. We just don’t know how long it will be until we reach that particular junction to fondly welcome spring’s return.

Amish farmer, plowing in the snow

Plowing dirt and snow.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Filed under human interest, nature photography, Ohio, Ohio's Amish country, photography, rural life, weather, writing

Patience is a virtue, especially at Christmastime

family, Christmas, family holiday gathering

The night before Christmas. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Patience is a virtue, especially at Christmastime.

Some people, however, just can’t wait for Christmas. I’m not talking about the giddy children anxiously anticipating what might lie beneath the festooned tree on Christmas morning.

Holiday commercials, promotions, and displays showered themselves upon us well before Halloween. Decorations and pre-holiday sale items sprouted in retail stores before autumn leaves had reached their peak.

Every year, the onslaught of Black Friday opens the floodgate to the Christmas shopping season. Besides profit, I wondered what the rush was all about. If there is a war on Christmas, surely this is it. The commercialization of a blessed, annual holiday demeans the true meaning of the season.

For me, Christmas is about waiting, not rushing. Life passes by in a flash the way it is. Why accelerate it all the more, especially at such a celebrative occasion? Let’s treasure this special time of year.

Christmas tree, Bruce Stambaugh

Christmas tree. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Christmas is about expectation. My childhood memories are filled with fondness for the days leading up to Christmas. Whether real or imagined, a certain inexplicable stir was in the air filling us with excited glee.

At school, crayon-colored paper ornaments, stars, wreaths, and candy canes replaced the finger painted turkeys on the classroom windows. We drew names for the gift exchange, one-dollar limit.

Children began combing through Sears catalogs to assist them in making their Christmas lists. Santa got them in plenty of time.

Those days between Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed to just linger. Despite the hustle and bustle of the season, it was as if time ticked in slow motion.

The excitement and anticipation of the holidays built with each passing day. Christmas was the mountaintop, and we started climbing the slope one step at a time only after Thanksgiving.

nativity scene, Christmas, hope

Nativity. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Our father enjoyed the holiday season as much or more than his five offspring. On a frigid night, Dad loaded us up in the family sedan to welcome Santa’s arrival at the end of the annual Christmas parade in the downtown blue-collar Ohio city where we lived.

We visited city centers in Akron, Canton and Cleveland more to window shop than Christmas shop. Customer friendly department stores with familiar names like Higbee’s, Polsky’s, and Kobacker’s all decorated their display windows with exquisite Christmas scenes.

Those stores are no more. A lot has changed since then.

Amid all of today’s commercials, online ads, daily deluges of discounts on everything from candles to Cadillac’s, it’s easy to get caught up in the race to Christmas. Doesn’t all of that actually run counter to the Advent season itself?

Historically, Christmas was all about hope, waiting, and watching. When the actual event occurred, only a few people recognized what had happened. Even then, most didn’t seem to fully comprehend.

Shepherds and kings from afar were struck with glorious awe at the event we now call Christmas. Others never even noticed

advent candles, Christmas decorations

Advent candles. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

because of their preconceived notions. As that story has been retold year after year, generation after generation, the characters involved in that first Christmas became the icons of how we now celebrate the season, Santa not included of course.

Christmas is a couple of weeks away. Will we rush our way to it, or will we wait and watch, and anticipate all the precious joys the day and the season have to offer?

Maybe it’s just my age. But I’m going to do my best to savor this season one day at a time. How about you?

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Filed under Christmas, column, holidays, news, Ohio, photography, writing

Anticipating spring from on high

buggyandsnowbybrucestambaugh

Horse and buggies braved the weather no matter what it was.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready for spring. It’s been a long, long winter.

True, this year residents of Ohio’s Amish Country avoided the huge snowstorms of last winter, and overall we didn’t compile as much snowfall as last year. Instead, ice, as in freezing rain ice, predominated the snows. The nasty combination made the lesser snow amounts just as slippery and difficult to maneuver in as the previous year’s foot-deep accumulations.

Ice sparkles by Bruce Stambaugh

Ice sparkled in the morning sun.

Last fall, my wife and I made a major decision that we thought prudent. We had our home’s original windows and spouting replaced. Since the house was built in the mid-70s, both were overdue to be changed.

After all, building materials had greatly improved in the last three decades. Windows were manufactured to be tighter and more energy efficient. Spouting became seamless long ago. It was time we caught up.

With our rural property full of trees, and a dense deciduous thicket not far to the south and west, leaves and pine needles tended to clog our gutters and downspouts year-round. It’s amazing how much debris gets blown around long after the trees have dropped their foliage.

If a storm was forecast during any season, I would trudge to the garden shed, take down the eight-foot wooden ladder, grab the stepladder, and head to the roof to clean the gutters and downspouts. I used the bigger ladder to access the garage roof, and leaned the stepladder next to the stubby brick chimney to climb onto the house roof.

I really didn’t mind this labor-intensive exercise. Heights never bothered me either. I enjoyed my periodic roof excursions. The views were great. I could see the neighbor’s faded white barn a mile to the east. Belgian workhorses and chestnut buggy horses intermingled in the pasture with the Holsteins.

The north afforded the best scenery, a panoramic landscape of hills and valleys miles away. I peered over roof’s edge at the back of the house to spy on the school of goldfish swimming carefree in the little garden pond.

As I aged over the 31 years in this home however, I realized my balance wasn’t what it used to be. With safety in mind, I decided to quit the climbing and go for the new gutters with leaf guards.

The guards installed were u-shaped channels with tiny perforations that would allow the water to enter but nothing else, not even the thin, burnt orange pine needles. I was more than contented with this overdue addition until winter’s initial ice storm.

Icecycles by Bruce Stambaugh

Ice cycles hanging from the spouting were the first signs of potential problems.

The first glaze of ice sealed the pinholes of the gutter guards. With the freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw cycles of the storms, thick layers of ice easily accumulated on the new gutters. Ice cycles dangled the full length of the gutters on the front and back of the house.

When I realized what was happening, out came the ladders again, and back up on the treacherous roof I went. Given the series of storms with their mixed bag of precipitation that we experienced, I kept handy the rubber mallet and metal scraper needed to break loose the stubborn ice.

Icy gutters by Bruce Stambaugh

Ice clogged the gutters more than once this winter.

If for no other reason than saving my own neck, I for one will be glad when the vernal equinox says goodbye to winter and hello to spring. Just to be safe, I probably won’t put the deicing tools away until June. It is Ohio after all.

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