Please note the date. April 19. Go ahead and look outside your window. For most of you, you will see flowers blooming, green leaves on trees, tons of signs of spring returning and the beauty of an April day. Even if it is raining, you know that they bring the May flowers (not the ship – the actual plants). So, I’m not one to complain… what? Ok – you got me – perhaps I complain a little bit, now and then, when I truly believe things should be a bit different…
Here in Fargo, the average temperature range on this date is between a low of about 38 degrees, just before dawn, and the average high should rest at just under 60 degrees. Of course, a positive way to answer that statistic is to say there is nothing “average” about Fargo. You see, we have these three huge egress windows in our family room downstairs and in the two bedrooms. The people who designed the house did a great job of finding how to bring the sunshine that occurs above ground to the rooms that sit about 6-8 feet underground. They put in large openings – we are talking, for the family room, of windows that are about 12 feet wide by almost four feet tall. The way the sun gets in is by building a space out from the windows that is probably another 10 feet by 15 feet by 8 feet.
I tell you all this so you have in your mind the picture. When we moved in to the house, it was nearly 20 years old, and the wooden retaining walls for the egresses had seen better days. They had been built with treated lumber, like you would build the walls of a raised garden, and they were buckling in, and rotting on top, and becoming the home of a pretty significant hive of yellow jackets, which granted, are some of God’s creatures, but they do not “play well with others.” They are little stinging bullies and pretty much thug insects who will keep after you until they find the most tender piece of skin and then try to poison you. Not a friend.
The time came a couple of summers ago, when we had tired of both saying – and hearing – the same dreary song of “You know, we should probably some day soon look at replacing this egress wood, and putting in something that’s easier to get out of, in the event of a fire, since it’s a little hard crawling up a straight 8 foot hole, and it will look better and be a good investment…” so, instead of taking a few thousand dollars and going on some frivolous vacation, we homeowners did the practical thing. We contracted with a company to come and destroy our yard with bobcats and chop saws, and put in three brand-new, cedar wood egress garden window openings. By the way, at the same time, as they moved out the rotting timber, they also managed to encourage the yellow jackets to find a new home.
Like I said, a couple of weeks, and some hard earned money later, we then had really beautiful openings – it was a great improvement to the house. Why was I not celebrating? Well, wood is about 1/3 to ½ expensive as stone block, but cedar, as strong a wood as it is, and insect resistant, still will turn gray and old wild west barn looking unless you take the time to stain and seal it. So, by the end of that summer, we stained and sealed the beasts, and all was well.
Until last summer, that is. On one of our many inspections around the house, Cheri commented that the window wells “sure could use another coat of stain…” This song was repeated, like a robin singing in the spring, every time we looked at them. So, we made plans to restain them last summer. Good plan. Didn’t happen.
Before the snow had melted this spring, the song returned. “We really need to get those boards stained or they are going to rot…” Well, not really, since it is cedar, and only a couple of years old, but yes, it does need to happen.
So, we went out and bought the stain/sealer, and put the task on the top of the list. It was going to happen. Really soon.
Now, I believe when you are going to do a job like this one, you do it when you will have the greatest success. One thing I have learned is that if you apply stain when it is 90 degrees, it usually dries before it can soak in, and you have wasted time, energy and money, since stain, for some reason should be transported in armored cars, for what they charge for it. I have also learned that when you try to stain things at less than 70 degrees, or at 50 degrees, it ends up sticky and thick and a mess.
So, we had one day at the end of March in which it was 71 degrees. Beautiful day, perfect for staining. So of course, that was the day we had to take a trip up to Grafton… left at 8am, got back at 5:30, and the day was over. The next morning, and every day since then, we have been treated to far below normal temps, and far above normal wind speeds. While this condition has not slowed the call of the “stainer bird” who continues to sing that “we really need to get those window wells done,” I continue to answer back that, “We will, when the temp gets back up to 70 degrees – otherwise, it’s too cold…” And the spring song continues. I have even modified my stance, as I read it is possible to stain things at around 60 degrees, especially if the sun is shining down in the hole, so the wood temp is high enough to receive the stain.
We can’t buy 60 degrees this far into April. In fact, yesterday the forecast suddenly switched in the morning from sunny (on Sunday) to rainy and cold. What fun. In the heat of the afternoon, with a temp of 37 degrees and a wind out of the north at 35mph, I looked out the window – and saw the snow. NO lie. Big ol’ flakes. Now, they didn’t accumulate, except in our hearts that longed from spring. After a little while, it switched over to rain. We had to run an errand, so we hopped in the car, nice and wet, and as we pulled out into the street, we noticed that other interesting phenomenon: snain. This is a curious mix of both snow and rain – hence the name. it was snaining like crazy, with both huge flakes, and huge raindrops at the same time. Instead of grilling out, we ordered pizza. The snain continued quite a while.
Today we are supposed to have a “high” (although that is a relative term) of 38 degrees, but when I took Cheri to work, the “wind chill,” for April 19, was 13 degrees. Now, the sun is shining right now, although that’s just for looks, and we are all the way up to 28 degrees right now. But you can guess no staining will happen today.
The experts are offering a strange occurrence on Thursday: after Monday through Wednesday with highs in the mid-30s, Thursday will shoot up to 63 degrees! The weekend will drop back into the low-40s, so it is possible, unless it rains, that indeed, we may get the staining done. If it doesn’t snain again. Offer a prayer, if you have time. Thanks.
Word for the day: ataraxia. Pronounced at-uh-RACK-see-uh. It sure sounds like a Greek word, eh? And it is. The “a” in Greek normally means “not” as is “atrophy” which means wasting away, has the “a” for not, and trophe, meaning nourishment. Tarassein is the Greek verb, “to disturb or confuse.” To enjoy the opposite, with the “a” makes is a wonderful word. It comes close with synonyms like “calm,” or “serene,” or even “tranquil,” but it implies something deeper. It has been described as “a still water that washes slowly back and forth.” No anxiety, no sadness, no distress.
It seems as though our world has lost ataraxia for a time, between all the evils that have beset us over the last period of time. Of course you know that ataraxia is not the absence of bad stuff. It finally comes to what you do with the bad stuff in your life – anxiety or ataraxia?
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.