Friday, March 5, 2021
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Trying Like Mad to Accentuate the Positive

It’s another beautiful week in Central Pennsylvania. 

You think I’m kidding? On Sunday afternoon, my sisters and I began planning a long-overdue family reunion. Meryl lives in Dallas, where the temperatures were in the single digits. Wendy lives in Denver, where the temperatures were also in the single digits. Here in State College, it was a scorching 27 degrees.

At Penn State, we like to “benchmark” what we do against what other Big Ten schools are doing. So let’s do some weather benchmarking. At mid-morning on Tuesday, when I started writing this little ditty, it was 36 degrees in Happy Valley. Here are some temps from around the conference: 

  • Columbus, Ohio: 17 
  • Evanston, Illinois, and Ann Arbor, Michigan: 12
  • Bloomington, Indiana: 11
  • Lansing, Michigan, and West Lafayette, Indiana: 10 
  • Urbana-Champaign, Illinois: 7
  • Madison, Wisconsin: 4 
  • Iowa City, Iowa: -4
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota: -10
  • Lincoln, Nebraska: -20

The only Big Ten burgs balmier than us were those two East Coast newbies, College Park, Maryland (38), and New Brunswick, New Jersey (42). So pay no attention to the snow, sleet and freezing rain of the past few days. We’re having some of the best weather in all the land.

Feel better yet? No? 

How about this: The sun goes down at 5:49 p.m. today. On Dec. 21, the sun set at 4:47. From then to now, while we’ve been shoveling snow, celebrating the holidays, scraping our windshields, uncelebrating the holidays, shoveling snow, figuring out where and when we can be vaccinated, slipping on ice, breaking our New Year’s resolutions, shoveling snow, exchanging Valentines, sprinkling crunchy stuff on our sidewalks, going mad with SAD and shoveling snow, we’ve gained an hour and two minutes of what passes for daylight in this dark and dreary season. 

If you step into your flower beds and stand very still, you might feel the daffodils stirring in their bulbs. Pinch a forsythia branch and you can imagine that the throb you feel isn’t your own pulse but the force that through the green fuse drives the flower. 

What else can we feel good about? For baseball fans, it’s “pitchers and catchers” week, meaning the time has come for the men with the million-dollar arms and their battery mates to report to spring training camps in Florida and Arizona. For me, this means it’s time to decide whether to forgive the devolution of the grand old game into home run derby and re-up for another season of slugfest streaming on MLB.TV. 

This is one of those deals where you have to act to cancel, whereas if you do nothing, they continue to dock your account and give you the games, which means I’ll almost certainly keep on keeping on. 

That’s all right. If you have two computer screens, as I do, you put your work on one and the game on the other, where it makes a pleasant audio-visual background music. And if, like me, you grew up thinking Yankee Stadium was holy ground, you can’t help wanting to see how the Bombers fare if Stanton and Judge can stay healthy all year.

But back to daffodils. We who have lived long in the northeastern United States know all too well that the official arrival of spring just over a month from now will not mean that we will immediately shed our mufflers and mittens and go frolicking in fields of flowers.

No, the good news is that time, as far as we know, unspools in one direction only. I was reminded of this fact on Saturday night when my Valentine and I baked a sour cherry pie. (Full disclosure: We bought the pie fully assembled.) 

Somehow, when it came time to remove pie from oven, we came down with an untimely case of what is known in the sports world as the yips. Like a dump truck discharging its load, the back end of the pie tin flipped up at a 45-degree angle, pouring a lurid sludge of filling and crust onto the inside of the oven door and down to the floor below. 

We were momentarily dismayed, but one of the lessons of the pandemic has been equanimity in the face of the many minor deprivations and disappointments of the semi-quarantined life. 

What happens cannot unhappen, I solemnly declared as we shoveled the goop back into the tin and buried each serving’s aesthetic shortcomings under a mighty scoop of vanilla ice cream.  

I am happy to report that the damage detracted not one whit from the deliciousness of it all. 

So let me conclude with another life lesson I’ve learned not just from the pandemic but from my long residency on planet Earth, which is that there’s a blues lyric for every occasion. Here’s one for the dead of winter after a year of pandemic: 

Sun gonna shine in my back door some day.