Oh My Deer

I thought deer usually roam all their life, like pilgrims or wayfarers that don’t stay in one place. But that is not the case. They can stay in one area for an extended period of time, as long as they have food and they deemed that the area they are in is safe. And I have photos that chronicles this.

It started one morning last summer, when I opened the garage door as I was about to go to work, I saw this deer standing in my lawn near our driveway basketball hoop. She just stood there as our eyes met, as if she’s saying “hello there!” Or maybe it was that deer-in-the-headlight look.

IMG_5388

I tried not to scare her, though she ran away as soon as my car pulled out of the driveway. However few days later, I saw her again and this time she brought her family along. There’s three of them.

IMG_5423

Since then, like a regular visitor, she comes and greets me.

IMG_5428

Her fawn also plays fearlessly in our front lawn.

IMG_5413

All summer I spotted them in my yard, all three of them. They are a regular fixture at my place.

IMG_5442IMG_5433

Summer turned into fall, but they remained. I even saw them resting comfortably in my yard. You may even think they are decorative statues in the lawn.

IMG_3642

IMG_6100

Then the cold air came, the leaves have all fallen to the ground, and the grass have turned brown. My sightings of them became few and far between. But they hang around, all three of them.

IMG_6110

Finally winter arrived, the arctic wind blew, and the snow fell. For a long time I have not seen them. Days passed. Weeks passed. Two months passed. And there’s no sign of them.

Maybe I was just not going out of the house that much anymore as it is too cold, so I have not spotted them. Though I see tracks in the snow. Or maybe they really have moved away to find food and relocated to a safer haven for this harsh winter. Did they give their final goodbye?

But this morning, they came!

IMG_6252.jpg

All three of them still. Perhaps telling me, that they’re here to stay. At least for now.

(*all photos taken with an iPhone)

Sun Dogs

The photo below was not taken in some galaxy far, far away, where there’s 3 visible suns in the horizon. This photo was taken by our friend, right here on planet Earth, somewhere in wintry Iowa.

26168643_1991096740906107_4703490139235989107_n

The phenomenon seen on the photo is called sun dogs. No, I’m not talking about those 2 dogs playing in the snow. What I am referring to is those “mirage” sun images on the right and left side of the “real” sun. These glowing spots which are part of a halo around the sun, are created by the sunlight refracting off the hexagonal plate-like ice crystals in the cirrus clouds. The meteorological term for sun dog is parhelion (plural parhelia).

Explaining why sun dogs occur is probably easier, than knowing why it was named so. One explanation is that dog in English can be used as a verb meaning to follow or track. Since the mirage image follows the sun, thus the term. Another possibility according to one expert, is that the term may be from Norse mythology where archaic names from Scandinavian languages, like Danish: solhunde (sun dog), or Norwegian: solhund (sun dog), or Swedish: solvarg (sun wolf), pertains to the star constellation of two wolves hunting the sun and the moon.

I think calling those 2 dogs in the photo above, sun dogs, as they were enjoying the sunlight in this cold day, is perhaps much easier to understand.

(*photo courtesy of my friend)

 

 

A Snowy Motorcycle Ride

We are in a deep freeze. For a stretch of a few days our temperature here in Iowa have not wandered above zero degrees Fahrenheit. I know my friends in California boast of warm weather there still. Plus recreational marijuana is now legal there too. It’s not fair!

There was even one day last week, that our actual temperature in Des Moines was colder (-18 F or -27.8 C) than that same day in Antarctica (-5 F or -20.6 C). This is not considering the wind chill factor that can be as cold as -30 to -50 F. I’m expecting Emperor Penguins to arrive in my front yard anytime now.

IMG_6241

Yet few days ago, there was somebody who rode a motorcycle on the road in this dangerously frigid condition. Not a snowmobile, but a motorcycle. I know that seems all madness. But if I tell you the reason why he did it, you will be convinced that it was rather a valiant and selfless act.

We have somebody in our church who likes to ride motorcycles. What he owns is a big maroon Harley-Davidson trike. We were told that he rode it to many places, far and near. He even goes to work on it, and I have seen him come to church on this trike.

Recently his health declined and he became more sickly. His kidneys failed, and he started dialysis three times a week. Yet he continued to ride his trike despite all of his illness, and he even rode it to go to his dialysis treatments.

Few days before Christmas, he got hospitalized. Then with one complication after another, sadly to say, he died a few days later.

So earlier this week, we attended his memorial service that was held in our church. The temperature that day was negative 12 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chill factor of 30 below zero. It snowed the night before and into early morning, so there’s freshly fallen snow on the ground. Even though it was bitterly cold that morning, what was more palpable was the love and warmth of the family and friends who attended that memorial.

To honor this fallen brother, they brought his trike to his memorial service. And yes, somebody rode it from this departed brother’s home and into the church, in this Antarctica-like condition!

So there it was, the Harley-Davidson trike, parked at the entrance of the church. It was positioned near the door, waiting like a sentinel. Perhaps it’s waiting for its rider for a final ride into the sunset.

Christmas 2017

Some parts of the United States have seen significant snowfall early this season. Even in places that rarely see snow, like Atlanta Georgia and Texas had some snow this December.

But not here in Iowa. We have been dry the whole month of December. Though 2 days ago we had some dusting of snow. The snow fall was so little that they melted few hours later. I thought we missed our chance of having a white Christmas this year.

Then this Christmas eve, snow came to our area. We’ll have another white Christmas after all!

IMG_6226

Like the anticipated snow fall here, the coming of the Messiah was long-awaited by his people some two thousand years ago. Yet when he came, they missed it! Only the unsuspecting shepherds came and some wise men from far away foreign land.

Today, I hope we don’t miss the reason for this season. And it’s not the snow.

Merry Christmas every one!

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Turkey Trot

By now, you already know that I like to run. No, not running from responsibilities, but running as in road races. But I missed the annual Des Moines Marathon this fall, in where I usually run the half-marathon. It was because I was in New York during that event.

To scratch that itch to run, this Thanksgiving, I decided to join the Des Moines Turkey Trot. In this event you can either do a 5K or a 5-mile run. I did the 5 miles.

IMG_6127

You may say, I was crazy to run on a Thanksgiving Holiday, where one should just be resting and relaxing. But as you can see with my photo below, I was not the only crazy one.

IMG_6141

I was surprised on how many runners join this event. According to the official results, there were about 3,000 finishers. I’m not sure if there’s more that started but were not able to finish the race.

The event was more of a family affair, as I saw many parents with their young kids who participated in the run. Unlike in the marathon or half-marathon events, which definitely were longer runs, there were more “serious” runners or even elite athletes joining those runs. I’m not saying that I am a serious or an elite runner. Far from it.

IMG_6136

The course took us through downtown Des Moines. The most difficult part was the uphill climb around the Capitol building. Good thing it was in the first mile.

IMG_6144

After going around the Capitol, it was mostly downhill from there, or at least no more climbs.

I was slow, but I was not the slowest. See, I was already heading downhill while others are still going uphill (photo below). On second thought, maybe they were released much later, as runners were released in waves, and I was just among the first wave of runners to start, giving me my imagined advantage.

IMG_6145

I finished the 5-mile run under an hour which was my goal. However, when I checked the official results, I was indeed one of the slowest finishers. There were runners in the 5K and 5-mile that finished with a pace of 5-minute mile! I was wrong in thinking that there were no serious or elite runners joining that race.

At the end of the race, it really does not matter if we were slow or fast. We were all finishers, and that is what’s important. As in all other endeavors we participate in.

One thing for sure, running this event gave me a reason, or more of an excuse, to gobble (gobble, gobble!) more food. It was Thanksgiving after all!

IMG_6126

Me and the turkey (hindi kami bati)

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

 

Barn and Silo

IMG_5228

(*photo taken with an iPhone during my morning run)

Story behind the photo:

Few months after we moved to Iowa in 2004, we were scouting for a permanent place to live in. We found a vacant lot for sale, whose front view is the above photo. We fell in love with the place and the view, a typical Iowa landscape of farm, barn and silo. However at that time, we were not ready to buy, and somebody else bought the property and built a house there. We were crushed.

I could have been waking up to this view every day! But it was not meant to be.

More than a year later, we found a house less than a mile away from this lot, with such an impressive view as well (maybe even better), which now I wake up to. To this I am very grateful.

Moreover, I can still enjoy the view in the above photo, when I go on my morning run.

Figments of Lavender Field

Few weeks ago, my family visited a 90-acre field of wild flowers. It was actually a farm land before, but the owners turned it into a natural prairie. Here in Iowa, the state gives incentives through federal conservation program wherein the government will give yearly rental payment in exchange of farmers turning their agricultural land into a prairie or a wooded area. This is one way of reclaiming industrial lands into natural habitats for the wild life.

FullSizeRender

Wanting to see more beautiful field of flowers, my wife checked on a website and learned that there is a lavender farm here in Iowa. She envisioned that it will be an expansive gorgeous fields of lavender flowers. Besides, the farm is located near a scenic route, the Loess Hills, which is included in the National Scenic Byways of America, meaning it is a must-see drive. Since we have not seen it yet, so we drove to it last weekend.

The lavender field is about two hours drive away from our place. Here in the United States’ midwest, two hours drive is nothing. At least when we say two hours drive, we mean we’re really driving mostly at maximum speed limit. Unlike in other parts of the world, like in Manila, two hours drive means a distance you can get to in twenty minutes but you’re stuck in traffic for two hours.

After finishing our Sunday morning chores, we packed the family in the car and drove. My college-age daughter, who is home for the summer, was not even feeling well that morning due to menstrual cramps, but we drag her anyway so she won’t miss it. She just brought a pillow and laid down in the backseat.

It was a relatively cool day for a summer, as it was cloudy and even had intermittent showers. In fact we encountered some heavy rains along the way, which to me, just made the trip more interesting.

IMG_5173

As we approached our destination, we passed by an overlook area. It has a tower where you can view the surrounding scenery. My daughter was feeling better already at that time, that she got off the car and also climbed the tower.

When we came to a nearby town just minutes to our destination, we decided to stop for lunch first before heading to the place. We discovered a nice old diner. It has a 1960’s theme, or perhaps they just did not change it since they opened. We found out that this diner was a major hub even back in the days, as it was near a major train station.

IMG_5182

When we continued on our trip, we got lost as our GPS directed us not to the exact site. Yes, I gave the verdict that the GPS was at fault, and it cannot defend itself. We phoned the farm’s number and it re-directed us to its location.

Finally we found the place. As we were pulling into their parking lot, we saw the field in front of us and it was nothing like what we imagined or expected. It was a dud. A let-down. A disappointment.

No stretches of beautiful lavender. No expansive field of wonderful flowers. Instead, it was a patch of drying bushes. In its defense, perhaps we were just expecting too much.

IMG_5183

As we already drove for two hours, so we still went down and checked the farm, including the small shop they have in that place. We did not tarry though.

We then decided to drive further in a road that has a sign “National Scenic Byway.” It was said that this scenic byway, the Loess Hills, has a unique terrain, formed by windblown silt, called loess. No other place in the world except the one in China, where there are higher loess hills formation than this place in Iowa.

After driving for some time in this said scenic byway, we admit that they were interesting, but we’re not utterly impressed. Maybe because we have already driven from US coast to coast, and we have seen more stunning scenic byways. We turned around and headed for home.

We passed by a small town that has a number of antique shops on our way home. The last time we were there was more than 10 years ago (see previous post). My son who was less than 3 years old at that time, accidentally knocked down an antique mirror sitting on a floor at one of the stores. The mirror fell on its face and shattered the glass into several pieces. I ended up paying $200 dollars. Since I paid for it, I took home the wood or board where the mirror was mounted. $200 for a piece of board!

They say that breaking a mirror will cause seven years of misfortune. I don’t think so. What followed was several years of bliss living in Iowa.

This time we did not shatter any mirrors. Just shattered expectations, I guess. After that last stop, we came home after almost 6 hours on the road.

Have you had any similar experience? Going to a place that did not live up to your expectations? Did we just wasted a day and some gallons of gas? I don’t want to believe so. For even if the destination was less than spectacular, we still spent some quality family time together.

Life is a journey. Sometimes it is not the destination that matters. But it is the joy of experience, discovery, shared moments together, and the eventual precious memories during the travel, that really matters.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

False Promise of Spring

Even though winter here in the northern hemisphere has officially more than a month to go, here in Iowa, we are getting a break from the cold. In fact it was so warm this weekend that people went out without the need of a jacket. And some even wore shorts.

Yesterday I saw flocks of geese in their majestic V-formation flying northward, which means they are coming back home. I saw children playing  at the park. And even the bikers were out cruising down the road. These are definitely not a February scene. Not in Iowa anyway.

February here is usually one of our coldest months, with the average temperature of 20-30’s Fahrenheit, and can even dipped down to the single digits or even below zero degree Fahrenheit.  We should still be subfreezing at this time and we should still be buried in snow. Yet the pile of snow at the side of our driveway from last week’s snow storm, have all melted away. We are experiencing close to summer-like temperature today.

I should not be complaining, right?

But I know that this warm respite is not going to last that long. Sooner or later, the cold wind will be back, and we’ll be facing the freezing reality again. For the record, there’s a forecast of snowstorm with possibility of several inches of snow accumulation, by the end of this week.

I too joined the multitudes of people who took advantage of this beautiful not-like-winter weather. I went out to run this morning. As I looked around, I could already see some buds coming out from the bare branches of the trees.

However I feel for the trees and plants who may be getting a little confused. Due to the out-of-season weather, the hibernating buds and flowers may be awakened too early by this warm temperature, thinking that it is already spring.

I know few years ago the same thing happened. Too early in the season, it became unseasonable warm. The buds and blossoms sprouted. Only to be frozen and coated with ice, as the cold snap came back. It killed them. That year we did not have much flowers, and in fact there were no cherry blossoms when the real spring came.

img_3863

branches coated with ice

That’s what I’m afraid would happen again. A false hope of spring. A promise of warmth that it cannot keep.

I know some of us have experienced those untruthful promises before. Some of us have been given false hope. In my native language we even have a term for that, “pinaasa lang.” 

Those empty promises and false hopes killed our buds. It crushed our expectations. But you know what? For the time being, we may have lost our flowers and our trust for humanity. But we learned our lessons. We may have become cynical, but it made us strong. Life continued, and in due time we blossomed once again.

As you might surmised, I am not just talking about the seasons here.

So I am watching this weather with a guarded hope for spring. I wish the plants and the trees are too. I’m definitely not putting away my winter coat yet.

(*photo taken after an ice storm few weeks ago)

Trusting Strangers

I grew up in Manila in a time where trust is hard to get by. We were indoctrinated never to trust a stranger. But this perhaps is true in many parts of the world.

It was inculcated in our young minds that when a stranger talk to us in the streets, to make sure that we hold our bags more tightly, or check if we still have our wallets. When we are in a public or crowded places, we were told to be sure that we have our valuables close to us and never ever leave them.

When I was commuting to school, I always carry my backpack on my chest (should it be called a chestpack?), since the pickpocket can easily access my bag without me knowing if it is on my back.

We have even been instructed on the so many modus operandi of the mandurukot and snatchers. They usually have accomplices that would distract your attention, while somebody else go for your valuables. But sometimes they just seize your valuables right in front of your face.

Though on a good note, I have heard from my friends and relatives that Manila is much safer now, under the administration of President Duterte. I hope this continues.

I have personally witnessed snatching a few times in the past. I may have been a victim also, as I lost my money once while I was riding in the jeepney. Though I may have just dropped it, as I was a little burara when I was younger.

Once in college, while we were crossing the overpass in España Blvd in front of UST, a snatcher grabbed my classmate’s necklace. He was about to run after the snatcher, but I held him back, knowing that these people were armed and always have accomplices. It was better for him to just lose his necklace than his life.

In another instance when I was in high school, I was in Harrison Plaza when I was approached by somebody asking for the time. Then he stared at my watch suspiciously. It was a Citizen automatic watch, that was given to me by my father on my birthday. I suddenly sensed a bad feeling – like a “spider sense,” that I quickly ran away from him and entered a store where there was a security guard standing by.

One time we were in a food court of a mall, when a distraught lady ask around if anybody saw her bag. I was sure it was stolen perhaps when she was not paying attention.

In recent times cellphones have been the favorite object of snatchers. I even heard of horror stories that people got hurt because they won’t give their cellphones to a holdupper.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my homeland. But these things I don’t miss. For foreigners who are planning to visit Manila, I am not scaring you away, for it really is worth a visit. Just take proper precautions.

Then, I moved to Iowa.

Somehow all the years of my upbringing looking suspiciously to any stranger that comes near me, have to change. I don’t have to be hyper-vigilant all the time. I learned to trust people again.

Few days ago, I had a day off and my wife and I had a breakfast in a restaurant in Des Moines. The place was fairly busy with lots of people coming and going.

A family came and pick a table near us. When they went to the counter to get their order, they left their belongings unattended on the table. Cellphone, car keys, wallet and all!

img_3666

It was so unnatural for me to see this, that I have to take a photo.

You may call it naive, but people here are still so trusting. I hope it never change.

It may take me a while to fully let my guard down and leave my cellphone and valuables unattended. Or perhaps I never will.