Friday, February 27, 2004

Declining Winter blog.

Warm(ish) weather ahead. Here we are at the butt end of February, and I hear that temps on Saturday and Sunday -- when they matter the most -- will be in the 50s F. Winter, of course, isn't remotely over. It's in a declining mode, and this weekend might represent protospring, but winter will be back, maybe with a vengeance. One of the wickedest ice and snow storms I remember here in Chicago was in early March 1998, and all the people I know who grew up here have stories about Easter-season snows. But at least snow at this time of year has a way disappearing in a few days.

Even now there's little snow on the ground. Melted snow in February leaves ugliness in its wake. Brown grass, mud, bare trees, naked bushes, exposed and blowing garbage, plastic bags and dog turds.

Political signs are sprouting near the roads like the dandelions we're going to get in about two months (the Illinois primary is in the middle of March). The first one I saw along my route, at the beginning of the week, campaigns for a man running for a subcircuit judgeship here in Cook County. Maybe this year I'll be a good Citizen of the Republic and educate myself about the candidates for these too-important minor offices. (Pause.) Nah.

Walked home late several times this week, well after dark. Not too cold, but the sky still has that winter clarity -- and excellent winter constellations -- Orion, Canis Major/Minor, Taurus, etc. Ursa Major and Cassiopeia in opposition, defending their turf on either side of Polaris. Plus a waxing crescent Moon, Venus as the Evening Star, and I think Jupiter off to the east. Or maybe it's a slow-moving UFO. According to a planetarium show I attended years ago, the UFO Jimmy Carter supposedly saw was actually Venus. If you stare at a bright celestial object long enough, it looks like it's moving, a little. This optical illusion you can confirm by, well, staring at a bright celestial object long enough.

The sky is good for inspiring idle speculation, though most people don't need any help in that regard. But it can make you think along certain lines. Or not. Once I saw a Gahan Wilson (I think it was him) one-panel cartoon featuring a gnarled old man standing on a balcony in front of a brilliant nighttime sky. "Oh, yeah?" he said, looking up at the sky. "You don't make me feel insignificant."



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