Ice Run

It’s been two months since I ran the half-marathon for this year. But I am proud to say that I have not yet relented on my running for this season. Emphasis on the “yet.” Maybe I just want to stay trim for Christmas. Maybe I want to look good on my vacation photos. Whatever the reason is, I am still running even if it’s already winter here in our part of the world.

But hopping on a treadmill and running for a mile or two in place is really boring. Even running inside an indoor track in our local Y can be dull and uninspiring. So when I saw that the temperature outside this morning was 30º F instead of our usual single digits or teens, I cannot resist to run outside. Besides, there was no snow on the ground and more importantly, no ice. I can run on snow, but not ice (see older post).

When I got out in our front yard, I saw ice! But it was just in our bird bath, which was frozen solid (photo above). The sun was shining though, so it’s a wonderful day to be outside.

As I approached the pond in our housing community, I again noticed that the water was frozen. 

Should I try running on ice? Or perhaps put on a pair of ice skates and glide my way through?

Then I heard some honking. When I looked up I saw a flock of geese. 

They seems to be egging me on – “Run on ice! Run on ice!”

The temperature however was not in the deep freeze. I am not that foolish yet. Again, emphasis on the yet. So no running on thin ice!

As I kept on trucking, I was looking for my deer friends, but they were nowhere to be found. Have they gone some place warmer?

Instead I saw some polar creatures. A penguin and a polar bear! You don’t believe me?

Here they are:

The pengunin and the polar bear seems to be lost in place without the snow. Perhaps like my son they were praying for snow. Lots and lots of it. But for me, I’ll enjoy this relatively warm day without the snow and ice.

Overall, it was a decent day for a morning run. 

After about an hour outside, I came back in and warm myself with the leftover arroz caldo my wife cooked yesterday.

Again, I have my app to document my “cool running.”

(*all photos taken with an iPhone)

Tag, You’re It

With fresh snow on the ground and with temperature of 14º F (-10º C) that we trekked down to the nearby tree farm. It’s that time of year again to choose a Christmas tree.

From our previous experiences, it usually takes us several minutes (though it feel like hours) to go up and down the line after line of trees, before we could pick the “perfect” tree.

Not this time.

On the first line of trees that we approached, we already made our choice. We did it in less than a minute! It is a record!

Here’s a close up photo of our Christmas tree with my wife tagging it with our name.

We’ll be coming back in two weeks to have this tree cut and bundled and for us to bring it home.

Since we did it so quickly, there was plenty of time for me to eat popcorn and sip hot chocolate inside the tree farm’s store. 

Actually I was looking for Santa, who usually is sitting inside this store, to give him my Christmas list. But he was not there. Perhaps he’s still busy preparing the turkey for the Thanksgiving.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)


April Snow

Just as I thought the long awaited spring is here to stay, and it’s time to fire up the grill and hang out on my deck, then this happened.

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My expectation was buried, and it buried the sprouting bulb flowers too.

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But no wintry storm can totally quash our spirits, for underneath that snow, I know, hope springs eternal.

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(*photos taken this weekend)

Chasing Sun Dogs

Last time I posted about sun dogs (see earlier post this month), I just borrowed a photo taken by a friend, for I did not witnessed it personally.

Sun dogs are atmospheric phenomenon that consists of a pair of bright spots on either horizontal side of the sun. Most of the time it is part of a luminous ring around the sun known as a 22° halo. These beautiful glowing spots are created by the sunlight refracting off the plate-like ice crystals in the cirrus clouds.

Since it needs ice crystals in the clouds, sun dogs occur when it is harshly cold. My take on this is, even in unpleasant situations, beauty can exist. We just have to open our eyes for it. As in most life’s circumstances.

We are experiencing nice weather in Iowa this weekend, but last week our temperature was below zero Fahrenheit. To make up for the extreme cold, we were delighted with the appearance of sun dogs during one particularly frigid day. That time, I saw them with my own eyes and even able to capture photos of them.

Below are photos of the sun dogs that my wife and I took.

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(*my wife and I traveled on separate errands that day, me – an hour and a half drive south, she – two hours north, so we were able to capture sun dogs in different times and locations)

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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)

Where have all the snow gone?

Where have all the snow gone,  long time passing?

Where have all the snow gone, long time ago?

Where have all the snow gone?

Gone to melting everyone.

 

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?

Where have all the flowers gone?

Hope they’ll spring soon everyone.

IMG_2504(*Post is inspired by the seasonably warm February we are having these couple of days. It reached 60º F yesterday. Average temperature this time of year here is in the 20’s. Photo taken today from the driveway.)

 

Christmas 2015

We are experiencing a seasonably warm December right now. In fact we have more rain than snow this month, that we had flooding in downtown Des Moines these past couple of weeks. Yesterday it felt weird that we even had a thunderstorm, with lightnings and pouring rain this late in the year. Is this Iowa winter?

Come to think of it, if it has been cold enough, with all this moisture in our area, this could all be snow!

I know it’s not just here in the Midwest that we are experiencing the relatively warm weather, but also in other parts of the US. Some friends of ours in New York City even posted in Facebook that it was 70º F today there. I guess there will be no snow in Central Park this Christmas.

Experts said that it is El Niño, the periodic warming of the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean, accounting for this phenomenon. Or is this global warming?

It’s not that I am complaining, for I’ll rather have a warm day than freeze, but my children have been wishing for snow for Christmas, just like the song “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” And they may not be the only ones who are praying for snow.

Then today, on this Christmas eve, it came. Santa Claus? No. Snow!

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We will have white Christmas after all.

From our family to yours, may you have a Merry Christmas!

(*photo taken with an iPhone)