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  • I look around, the leaves are brown, now
    And the sky is a hazy shade of winter...

    Ahhh... seasons change with the scenery,
    Weaving time in a tapestry,
    Won't you stop and remember me?
    At any convenient time!
    Funny how my memory skips while looking over manuscripts
    Of unpublished rhymes....
    (from Paul Simon's, "Hazy Shade of Winter", performed by Simon & Garfunkel - thanks, Fred!)

    It’s been nearly 5 weeks now since Punxatawney Phil didn’t see his damned shadow, which was supposed to mean Spring was right around the corner. Yeah, right. We're still awaitening on that development here on the frozen tundra. I should have believed my trusty Old Farmer’s Almanac (not actually mine – the one I picked up and leafed through on a trip to Home Depot in the late Fall - I always check out and memorize their regional forecasts, and they’re usually pretty close to the mark), which had predicted winter weather through the first week of March, with the possibility of a storm this week. Looks like the Old Farmer certainly trumped Punxy Phil this time. It’s still cold as hell here in northern Virginia, and they’re calling for a possible snow-storm coming in from the west, Wednesday. Damnit! Everyone's all excited, like they always get here in the DC area, even though most of these storms wind up missing us.

    I ventured out to the Batting Cages yesterday morning, because – well, that’s what I do on the first weekend in March. My good softball buddy and fellow manager Steve met me out there, both with our bats and our tokens and our batting gloves, ready to hack at some pitches and start getting the swing where it needs to be in a month from now, when league games and the season start up. Mainly, just to re-engage with that sweet, most elemental of feelings one gets holding that bat cocked and ready, uncoiling to unleash as much fury and damage as possible on those pitches coming at you from the pitching machine, in a steady progression, one right after the other, 16 pitches to a token, 16 swings, 16 cracks of the bat on the ball, as you release the frustrations of a winter spent mostly indoors. I had 7 tokens ready to serve up, a good 112 swings. "Take THAT, Winter - whack!...take THAT, Sequester - Crack! ...take THAT, Doubt -Thwack!...take THAT!", times 112.

    For 9 years now, this has been an annual rite of passage from winter to spring, this trip to the cages at Braddock Park the first weekend of March to start working on the swing, then hitting the fields with all of the gear the next weekend to start chasing fly balls and grounders, taking live batting practice, usually with severaly layers of sweatshirts on, at least until you work up a good sweat in the cold, early Spring air. It's slowly getting coded into my DNA.

    We didn’t care if it was still in the low 30’s and a wind was howling and whipping across the wide open expanse of 6 ballfields arrayed beyond the cages. Apparently, the guy who runs the cages did. He wasn’t there! The cages were all locked up. We’d come all that way to stand in the cold, talking about plans for the coming seasons. It really hadn’t occurred to me, prior to going out there, that it was as cold as it was. I was just in that “first weekend of March, time to get ready” mode, and found it kind of hard to believe that neither Mother Nature nor the Batting Cage dude were cooperating with my plans, bucking the time-honored tradition.

    Steve and I walked around, checking out the fields - all too muddy to try to get a little practice in on them. “It still feels pretty good to be out here, even if we can’t get any practice in today.” It did feel pretty good, just being there, talking softball, even if we couldn’t get our swings in. Truth be told, it really was too cold to practice, anyway.

    (Pictured above - me and my fellow writer-warrior Nash at last year's Early Bird Tournament, early April)
  • I was up real early this morning, even for me. Once I’m awake, there’s no use trying to get back to sleep, so I just get up. Resistance is futile. I felt just as rested as if I’d awoken at the usual time, 4 a.m. It was closer to 3. I stepped out onto the carport to see how cold it was outside– still cold as winter out there, it felt brutally so. But, the moon was bright, and everything was still and quiet in the pre-dawn chill, except the 3 large deer I saw moseying along across the street, grazing on the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street. As I slowly walked to the end of the carport, barefoot, to get a closer look at them, I saw 4 more deer right in our front yard, not 10 yards away. They scampered off as soon as they saw me. The ones across the street looked around to see what was going on, and stealthily ambled off in the other direction. I felt like I was an intruder into their regular morning routine. I usually encounter them in the back yard, when I’m heading out to use the jacuzzi or putting Cajun out. I like the deer – they take care of the excess acorns in our yard. They compete with the squirrels for them, but there is apparently enough to go around, because we get plenty of both in our yard, and I don't have to worry about raking up the acorns before they plant themselves and turn my yard into a forest.

    When it’s this cold, and dry, it’s perfect jacuzzi weather. Last week was too wet and rainy all week, and I didn’t get out there much. It was still nice and early when I went out there this morning, and it felt especially holy, even sacred, this day. Little nagging fears and concerns have been gradually bubbling up into my psyche over the past week, and I really needed a morning like this one. It just put the whole thing back into its proper perspective. After my regular morning readings and meditation time, I still had plenty of time, and when it’s that cold, I’m inclined to want to stay longer in that hot (104 degrees) jacuzzi before making my way back into the house in the cold winter air (25 degrees, with a breeze). I took the time to dial up Stephen Levine on my kindle, and began rereading, “A Year to Live”, one more time, now that I’m just past the halfway point of my committed year of living it like it's my last. It's always good to periodically remind myself why I was inspired to do that, in the first place. I've been questioning everything, lately. Not that that's a bad thing - it's what I do.

    Today was another telework day for me– there’s a big push on teleworking, and this is National Telework Week, so I did my part by committing to telework today. It’s the only day that my calendar would allow working from home this week. It was a most productive day. Part of my problem at work is, I’m too damned sociable, and I have an open-door policy, so I spend much more of my time interacting with people – getting things done, for sure, but not things I need to be writing up or really focusing my thoughts on. Teleworking is really good for those types of tasks.

    I just need to keep my energy level up when I telework – as an off the charts “E” on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I get my energy naturally from interacting with people. I have to really work on my energy level when I’m working on my own. This is one of the reasons I believe that Cowbird works so well for me, as opposed to just writing by myself, all alone and keeping it to myself until it's "ready for prime-time". With Cowbird, there’s all this interaction that goes on, especially now that everyone has gotten so into the “Retell” feature, so it just feels more like an interactive process to me, and so the energy just keeps on feeding itself.

    Man, I’m ready for Spring! I'm so tired of waiting. I feel like I've been patient and all, but enough, already! Phil kind of let me down, but I’ve always put more stock in the Old Farmer, so I am not all that surprised that we’re still pushing through these last throes of winter – ever ready for the Fires of Spring!
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