Monthly Archives: April 2016

Back to the strangeness


It is snowing.

Mostly, that makes me want to run around shrieking and throwing things, but I remind myself that tomorrow it is supposed to be 50 degrees and sunny, so the ever-growing coating of white stuff outside my window will disappear rapidly.

It helps. Kind of. I still feel a shriek bubbling up occasionally.

This has been an odd winter-into-spring here in the North Country. Winter never really made an appearance until mid-January, and except for some pretty low temperatures in February and March, it was not ever that cold. Everything is relative, mind you, and “not that cold” hereabouts is in the thirties and forties. Or even twenties when it is a sunny day with no wind. When “cold” can be -27, you take it where you can get it…

Anyway, back to the strangeness. Winter held off until spring this year, and we have had quite a bit of it this April. There has been more snow this month than there was between November and March–at least it feels that way–and about two weeks ago we had a low of 15. Those kinds of temperatures that late in the season can be bad for blooming fruit trees, so I have been holding my breath a bit, waiting to see what will happen. The Nanking cherries are blooming, which is a positive indicator, so I am hopeful.

Today feels especially gray because of the fact that I had been hoping to plant out my cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, onions and escarole early this week. I am itching to be in the garden and this game of up-and-down with the temperatures is making it hard to decide what is going to be best for the plants. Lots of people accustomed to this kind of thing will point out that today’s snow is a great boost of poor-man’s nitrogen for the garden, so there is that. And there are those 50 degree temperatures with lots of sun moving in for the rest of the week.

With all the gray and white out there, oatmeal seemed like a great breakfast today. We are out of propane for the stove, of course, because that is how life goes. But boiling water in the electric kettle and pouring it over quick oats does a suitable job, so oatmeal with maple and raisins it was. I am hoping the propane delivery will happen before I head to work–they have to get in the house to do a leak check–or there will not be any cooking here for dinner. Or breakfast, again.  But there is coffee, so the general public is safe when I finally venture out there.

Snow in late April. It is awfully pretty, but I am ready for that daffodil, tulip, and lilac kind of beauty.


Zhongguo and Meiguo

My brain is all over the place lately, which makes sitting down to write a challenge. When I’m like this, reading is usually the best way to get myself settled. It seems kind of like a seasonal thing for me; the dramatic shifts between winter and spring and fall and winter appear to unsettle me somehow. I grew up in Florida, so it doesn’t seem like such an odd thing, if I think about it. It takes time for the body to adjust to the new. Although after twelve years, you’d think I’d have it by now…

I just finished reading Simon Winchester’s book, The Man Who Loved China, and I have found myself wondering about all kinds of things that came up in the writing.  (I highly recommend the book.) One thing that I was pondering today was the–seemingly human?–behavior of changing the name of a country so that it fits your own country’s language. For example, in the English-speaking world, we call China, well, China. But in China it is called Zhongguo, and America is Meiguo.  The Finnish call their country Suomi, but in English it is Finland. This seems to be more common than not, which puzzles me a bit.

I think it might have particularly stuck in my mind because last Saturday we had friends (a father and his daughter) over for dinner, and the teenager half of the friends goes to a school with quite a few Chinese exchange students. She mentioned that most of them choose “American” names for their time here. I questioned this, and my husband suggested that it was pretty normal teenage behavior: they want to fit in rather than stick out. He then recounted a story of this first job, busing tables at a Chinese restaurant. When the owner introduced himself, he gave his Chinese name and then said, “But you can call me Vince!”  His name in Chinese was difficult for Americans, so he made it easier for them.

Admittedly, the idea of having a different name for a different place is kind of appealing. When we travel or move to a new location, it’s an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, and a new name can be part of that. But I think more often than not, and this is a totally unscientific opinion, people change their names because it’s harder for the people of the new country to pronounce foreign names. And this seems like kind of a shame to me. Names are important; they’re a big part of who we are, whether or not we think very much about it. It feels…almost disrespectful, I guess…that we might not take the time to learn how to say someone’s name in his or her own language.

I’m probably over-thinking this, as I often do with things I wonder about.