Tuesday, July 26, 2016

More Chicago Wildlife

Last Saturday, on my  run, I saw this animal:


at this park:


and was so floored by seeing a coyote so close, in the middle of a busy neighborhood (and very close to a major intersection), that I had to tell the first person I encountered. Except it was 5:30 in the morning and no one was on the sidewalk but me so I waved at a work crew stopped at the nearest stop sign like a crazy lady, saying "Did you see the coyote?"

It had been stalking one of the black squirrels that live in that park but when I shouted it shook itself and moved away about five feet (so still only 20 feet away from me) and then trotted parallel to me most of the rest of the park. I saw another person in the park cross its path, look at it, do a double-take, then a triple-take, and nearly trip on some broken concrete. After a while the coyote spotted another squirrel and started to stalk it and I continued on and lost sight. For another quarter-mile I kept looking for anyone who might be going that way so I could share the news but everyone I passed had headphones on and was looking very serious so I didn't bother.

Apparently there are LOTS of coyotes living in Chicago (you can Google this) and we just don't see them because unlike suburban or rural coyotes, urban ones have learned to be solely nocturnal, and curl up and hide when people are out. So I just happened to be up early enough that day to get lucky. Also, unlike the stories you hear about coyotes out West preying on pets, Chicago coyotes mostly eat songbirds, squirrels, and rabbits (of which we have a lot this year).

A very cool start to the day.

Breathlessly,
Annie

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Another Year at Pitchfork

Pitchfork (an outdoor music festival in Chicago) started out this year as a somewhat frustrating experience for me. We didn't arrange for a sitter soon enough so ended up bringing the kids with us. We'd brought them before and it had been okay, but never for acts we were especially eager to hear. The Dude had already been to two days of Pitchfork so was fine with heading home with them after a couple of hours, leaving me to enjoy the rest of the day by myself, but it still meant that my attention was fragmented for both the Sun Ra Arkestra and Kemasi Washington, the two bands I had most wanted to see. I didn't even try to see Homme, another band I was interested in. On the other hand, we did get to hang out and watch Woods and that was a great new discovery - I bought the album and we've been grooving on it ever since.

The Blue Stage was just a general frustration - for everyone, they had multiple tech problems this year, it seems they always do but it was worse this year - but it was also more closed in than in the past and had a somewhat claustrophobic feel. It's a smaller field, made smaller this year by the appearance of a fenced-in area for VIP ticket holders. And there's always significant sound bleed-through from the other stages.

Still exploring lots of music from the days I wasn't there, both on The Dude's recommendation and from reading reviews. Empress Of, Moses Sumney, Anderson.paak, Savages.

There's always a moment at these festivals where I am overwhelmed. Not necessarily tired, hungry, or hot, although sometimes these can be contributing factors. Just, overwhelmed. A colleague of mine who is very Myers-Briggs oriented suggested it might be that as an Introvert on the M-B scale I might be getting drained from being around all the people and activity - and it's certainly true that once I have a chance to sit and be with myself (and maybe weep a little if I need to) and assess things, I'm usually good to go again. But I also think it's the need to deal with the difference between my expectations and the reality, and at these festivals there's always a gap. Bands you were excited to see turn out to be meh, or in the wrong setting, or you hate the audience, or you don't even get to see them - while at the same time if you're open to it you can discover/experience something new, different, exciting, expansive that you couldn't have dreamt of finding on your own.

(I think the only time I haven't experienced this was at Bonnaroo in 2007. Maybe because I had no idea what to expect, maybe because since we knew we were there for a long haul we paced ourselves and had our tent to retreat to. Or maybe because I was there with two other people even more I on the M-B scale than myself and they regularly had to pull back to compose themselves.)

It's always worth it though, these festivals. (I do love Pitchfork the best.) I firmly believe in the power of live performance - theater, dance, and especially for me, music - to act on us in some way. Whether through the sound waves, vibrations, intent of the performers, or the concentrated energy of the audience - I think we are moved in ways both obvious and subtle. I love that. And I think this effect is magnified under the open sky.

The summer before college my family went to the south of France for two weeks. While there, we went to two nighttime open air concerts: Oscar Peterson and the Merce Cunningham dance company. Both in spaces that had once been Roman ruins, both under the moon, both magical. And watching FKA twigs in the final Pitchfork performance of the night, with her mesmerizing dance and vocals, I had the sense of being suspended in a web of time, that moment connecting with those evenings and casting forward to other performances and other evenings I haven't known myself to experience yet. And I write this listening to another performer of the weekend - that I hadn't seen - cover Laurie Anderson's "O Superman", a song I haven't listened to since just after college. And thinking on all these connections makes me think of even more...

Just some of the reverberations continuing on from the show.

Swimming in sound -
Annie

Friday, July 1, 2016

Clouds Ahead

The weather's about to change and I'm in a bad mood. The kids are too. Something about the barometer falling, I don't know... I have to keep reminding myself to be patient - with myself too. And to give everything extra time and to go with the flow as much as I can. This is hard... it feels like one of those days where all the things that need to be done grate up against what I'd rather be doing instead.

D's in the same place, all he wants is to do is curl up with Harry Potter (like, upside down under the coffee table - he contorts himself into the oddest positions when he's reading) - and instead all we're doing is making him go to camp. G just wants to stay home with me, period. Can't say I blame them, I have a Neil Gaiman book I'm in the middle of, myself...

Waiting for the sky to clear,
Annie

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Weed Update

Things keep growing, and some of my weed questions have sorted themselves out.

Turns out this... is actually bee balm!


Not my actual plant, I didn't think to take a photo.

And this... is echinacea.

This is my actual plant, though obviously not the same one
I have lots of echinacea, as it turns out.

I still don't know what these are.

Since they appear to be developing flowers I'm giving them a little longer to prove themselves. They behave like weeds, though, so I'm limiting them to just one specimen. I have my eye on you, plant.

And then I thought it's not really fair to just show you weeds, so here are some other photos from my garden. These make me realize that I might need to learn how to take good nature photos.

I have more hostas than I'd think a person should. And they've multiplied from last year.
Handy for filling in bare spots in the front garden.

From here you can't see the pumpkin patch (behind the zebra grass) that plans to take over the world.

Skull island! Corn, beans, and squash (the last two just recently planted).
The wall is made up of slats from a barrel that fell apart.
 I should take a picture of the bench from which I like to survey my domain, book and beer in hand.

The dirt is never coming out from my fingernails,
Annie

Monday, June 27, 2016

Deer, Oh Deer

I was running in the park the other day, early in the morning, when I looked over and saw a deer watching me.

Excuse me?

The parks that I run through are bordered by the Chicago River on one or the other side. The park district is restoring the river bank in that particular stretch, so for two years now the parkland leading up to the river has been fenced off.  I'm sure all manner of wildlife have gotten used to people being safely on the other side of a fence.

Since they can roam freely through the entire city, following the river (and the deer up by the nature center northwest of us are quite tame), while we're bordered in by streets and traffic and bridges and buildings, I imagine to them it might look as if we were the ones in a cage.

Just a bit surprising for that early in the morning.

Deep in the wilds of Chicago,
Annie

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Feeling Better

It's such a pleasure to once again wake up and look forward to running. If anything, I need to hold myself back and not try to add on too much. I am older than I was, after all, and creakier, and without a lot of time of recovery measures, though I have been incorporating more of those back into my routine.

But oh, how lovely to get up and go again.

I think I may be a permanent convert to early morning running. To go out early into the world, see who else is out and about. The quiet of the streets. And then to come home refreshed in spirit and satisfied in body.

On a side note - restoring my Vit D levels seems to have had an effect in areas I wasn't expecting. My decades-long vertigo has receded back to "normal" levels (it had become troublesome last fall/winter, enough so that I finally went to an ENT - we're still investigating), and my shoulder is feeling a lot better as well (after some improvement with physical therapy it had regressed again). Nice to have that unexpected relief.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Random Running Notes

It's the time of year for early morning runs, even for mid-length ones. Too hot otherwise. I've been trimming back my pre-run routine to make it more likely that I'll get up and out in time. Coffee left from the day before - check the weather - teeth - contacts - clothes - let's go.

The sun is fully up by the time I leave but we've had some stormy nights so I still have amazing skies to watch while I run.

I've settled on my races for the rest of the year, or rather, my race. The Hot Chocolate 15K. I've run this a number of years and always had a good time. And knock on wood, if my training continues smoothly I even have a hope of getting close to previous times, if not a PR. And yet it's far enough away and low stress enough that I don't need to fret if hiccups occur.

I've noticed lately that my paces in tempo runs are all over the place. It usually averages out to what I was aiming for but it's never even. Has it always been that way? I suspect so. I warm up slowly so my first mile post-warm up is still slower than I'll get to, and I run on city sidewalks so I can't always manage the traffic (today I noticed I slowed down at each intersection, even if I could run straight across). I'm not sure it matters - I'm trying to keep things even by feel - just something I've noticed. It's probably more important to keep my track repeats even, should I ever get myself to a track again.

Hmm... and now I'm trying to figure out how I can get to a track again...
Annie