Sailboats on Lake Hefner

Every day for the past week, while driving Elle to and from her summer camp classes in the far northwest corner the city, I have been able to catch a glimpse of Lake Hefner. It is a busier place in the afternoon filled with bicyclists, joggers, dog-walkers, and general wanderers. On my way to pick her up from camp yesterday, I saw sailboats dotting the water near the lighthouse. Elle is usually too hungry and tired by the end of her camp day to take a walk with me by the lake, but this time I insisted. This Florida girl has been missing that view for quite some time.

Elle and I walked a short while from the parking lot to the lighthouse and met an elderly couple and their dog along the way. They pointed out a snake swimming in the water and we got to talking about Florida. It turns out one of their children lives in Jacksonville, another in the suburbs of Orlando. Our conversation was interrupted by the sounds of splashing and screams. Those sailboats must have been part of a class because I can’t imagine why else there would be so many of them clustered so closely to one another. Most of the time, at least one of them was completely on it side in the water with a few submerged people patiently waiting nearby. There was hardly a breeze yesterday, not even on the lake shore. I’m not entirely sure if this did any favors for those poor people trying to learn how to maneuver a sailboat. It was pretty fun to watch, though.

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And Wind is Simply Wind.

Post #tornado afterglow #okc

post-tornado afterglow

Our basement was busy with excitement once again when a massive storm came through Oklahoma City last Friday. I had to try really hard to convince my mother on the phone that tornado season in Oklahoma is not as chaotic and confusing as outsiders might think. Did you see that? I just referred to other people as outsiders, not including myself. I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of this Oklahoma thing, but just barely.

Don’t get me wrong – Friday night was chaotic and confusing, but only because we had three people and six dogs taking refuge underground. The sirens blared constantly and the only time I got really scared was when the El Reno tornado took a sharp northerly turn and another sharp turn east, directly for our part of town. Matt and I actually had to prepare Elle for a worst-case scenario which,  fortunately, didn’t happen. Am I happy with how everything played out? Absolutely not. Five people were killed in that twister alone, including three tornado research pioneers, but I no longer startle at a random gust of wind.

I think it’s safe to say all of Oklahoma is ready for a much-deserved break. And with that, I would like to mention the record amounts of rainfall and subsequent greenery. Central Oklahoma is officially out of the drought and we hope the wildfires that were so prevalent last summer are discouraged from returning because of all moisture we’ve had this year. I’m also hoping that the temperatures stay below 100 degrees as I will readily admit that this past Oklahoma winter turned me into a sissy. In fact, I no longer find myself chilled in 85-degree weather. Ugh, 85-degree weather… I’m getting hot just thinking about it.

The following morning, June 1st, which just happened to be the start of hurricane season (hello, Florida friends!), we checked the rainfall amount in our garden and realized it topped well over our measly 6-inch gauge. Two airports in different parts of the city reported between 9 and 11 inches of precipitation, which I learned includes hail, fog, light rain, heavy rain, but nevermind that – I can’t accurately read the data on those weather charts. You’ll just believe me when I say I had a backyard pool for much of the day and night. My cucumbers and tomatoes were drowned in their giant barrel containers; there was so much that I had to retrieve a cup to help empty the container pots of unabsorbed moisture. My husband’s shop was flooded enough to send floor mats floating. The basement leaked water through a crack in the wall, which I used to mop up the piddle puddles from aforementioned six dogs. Resourcefulness, it’s coming naturally to us these days.

*You may have noticed a change in the blog-scenery lately and, most importantly, the name of the blog. I felt it was fitting and time-appropriate to acknowledge how I am finally coming around to calling Oklahoma home. Would you believe that admission doesn’t feel as blasphemous as it once did?

Nantucket on my mind

Sometimes I am rewarded with good timing instead of good karma, unless you’re one of those people who considers them to be one and the same. I am not one of those people. Karma is karma, usually in a singular event. Good timing involves a number of events. Good timing requires good karma, I believe, but they are not the same thing.

Let me explain: Have you ever been introduced to something you knew nothing about only to later find yourself coming across this “something” all the time? I consider that good timing (and good observation skills). It happens to me an awful lot with words and only occasionally with facts. This instance involves Nantucket, which I will throw into the category of facts.

I have no affiliation with the island of Nantucket at all. My New World/New England ancestors got rich in the village of Salem, Mass., pre-witch hunts, converted a bunch of people into Baptists, and then tried to settle in New Amsterdam (New York City – Throggs Neck, anyone?) until the natives slaughtered the lot of them. My man John and the Throckmorton family survived and ran off to Rhode Island to found Providence. Also, the farthest into New England I’ve ever gone was Amish Country in Pennsylvania. Does that even count?

Not too long ago, I finished reading In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick, a true story of a whaling disaster that originated in Nantucket. Needing some whimsy to decompress from the horrors of being stranded in the Pacific and the games of chance to see which of your shipmates gets cannibalized next, I took to reading Mat Johnson’s Pym. Again, there is a strong connection to the island of Nantucket. The story itself does not originate in Nantucket, but the story within the story does.

Lake Hefner lighthouse

Lake Hefner lighthouse

Last week while Matt and I were bicycling around Lake Hefner, we decided to stop for a break because, well…the wind, and benched ourselves near the Lake Hefner lighthouse. This was the first time I had ever paid attention to the plaque leading up to the structure itself. And guess what? It told me that the Lake Hefner lighthouse is an 36-foot tall replica of the Brandt Point lighthouse in Nantucket!

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You might think this is very unimportant, and maybe it is. But then you have to ask yourself: Why is there a replica of a Nantucket lighthouse in Oklahoma City? I haven’t figured this out yet. The reading of the books and the bike ride all occurred within three weeks of each other, which means this Nantucket thing keeps showing up in my life. Why? I haven’t figured this out yet, either, but I am a believer in good timing and weird little coincidences. Something is afoot.

Wind & Waves

Water-loving people must make do with what they have around them and this was evident to me the first time I saw a surfer in Lake Superior. The kinds of Nor’easters that I am only familiar with on the Florida coast make plenty of large waves on the Great Lakes, too (and are the reason most Lake Superior shipwrecks occurred). Oklahoma doesn’t get these Nor’easters, but she does get her fair share of wind. This, of course, makes windsurfing a pretty popular watersport around here.

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Lake Hefner

Matt and I sat on a bench near the Lake Hefner lighthouse yesterday as I listened to the waves slapping the shore rocks. A few minutes later we hopped back onto our bicycles and headed into the wind for the 3-mile ride back to the truck. Naturally, we hadn’t noticed the wind during the first short leg of our trek as it was conveniently at our backs helping to move us along. Going into the wind – oh, it hurt and it burned. I even worried I wouldn’t be able to walk for days, but I couldn’t help but love being near the lake. Even one of my dearest cousins in Wisconsin gives her lake house all the credit for helping her get through some kick-in-the-gut life shit right now. Water and waves have some serious healing power, even if it is just to provide encouragement to pedal, pedal, pedal!

wind! of course.

Oklahoma wind. It is windy!

When Matt mentioned that our 6-mile round trip could have taken us almost completely around the lake, I was okay with that. There was no need to finish the entire trail on the first go. Besides, I’ll most definitely go back when the weather warms up again because I think it’s my new favorite nearby happy place.

Open Water | Open Spaces

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A few days ago I realized that I have spent my entire pre-Oklahoma life on one peninsula or another. Peninsula – it’s such a romantic word, conjuring up thoughts of being surrounded almost entirely by calming, soothing water. Yes, this Floridian is still missing the water, but I was able to quell some of that homesickness last night at a lakeside restaurant by staring out at the sailboats and windsurfers and imagining the sound of the lapping waves left in their wake.

Oklahoma has a lot of lakes and rivers and they’ve been filling up, for the most part, with plenty of water, thanks to a few good downpours recently. The air has been warm and the sun has been shining and I am almost tempted to toss out my prescription Vitamin D supplements, but no! The forecast for Thursday is calling for a high of 46 degrees with lots of clouds. Because, well…why the *$#% not, right?

It’s been officially decided that I can probably be happy living near the coast, even if the weather isn’t ideal (New England – I’m looking at you!) or someplace with an ample amount of sunshine, but preferably in a sunny and small fishing village anywhere on the Eastern Seaboard.

That’s not happening anytime soon so I am happy to call Oklahoma City home as long as I can see scenes like this more often than not:

sailboat in lake hefner sun

lake hefner lighthouse

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The little spit of land on which the Lake Hefner Lighthouse resides could very well be considered a tiny peninsula, a breakwater, or even a jetty, perhaps. There are no oceans or Great Lakes nearby so I have to find familiarity in small-scale ways. But where Oklahoma is lacking in big, open water she more than makes up for in big, open spaces. I’m hoping to get much more of that in the coming months!

A First-Timer’s Perspective on Living in Tornado Alley

Living in tornado alley is almost the same as living in hurricane alley but with fewer palm trees and no threat of storm surge. There is also more urgency given to the moment, I noticed. I am pleased to report that the humidity levels are very much the same when a cold front and warm front collision looms overhead.  Oh, humidity, how I have missed you! And those palm trees. The headaches I suffer from when the barometric pressure suddenly drops are something I wish had stayed back in Florida, though. Luckily, Oklahoma City did escape the brunt of the storms this time thanks to the cold front that pushed through at the last minute and took the threat of tornadoes with it*.

I was pretty disappointed in Gary England, one of the most popular weathermen in the state, and for saying that I feel must apologize for some reason. Gary’s tornado reports are supposedly so popular that he has a drinking game named after him and I’ve been told he wears really flashy ties when he expects a big night of tornadic excitement. But he bored me last night by constantly referring to his apathetic assistant and he botched the opportunity to acknowledge a tornado on the ground for at least 10 minutes. We flipped stations.

Damon Lane, on the other hand, was entertainingly animated. He was so talkative and informative, in fact, that he started getting dehydrated around 8:30pm. The man had been reporting on the air for nearly six hours straight and was choking on his own dry mouth every time he tried to explain something new. He must not have been playing the Gary England drinking game. Or drinking, period.

I did learn some interesting things about Oklahoma during this whole event, though. For example, I now know there is a town called Cookietown and that Lawton and Chickasha are populated with a resilient breed of people because they got their asses kicked last night. There are even some new terms I’m able to add to my weather vocabulary:

  • Fruit salad hail (a mix of grapefruit-, orange-, apple-, lemon-, lime-, and grape-sized hail, all in one storm)
  • doppler-indicated rotation
  • cone tornado (I’ve only ever heard of wedges and ropes)
  • inflow and wraparound
  • mesocyclone

Another thing I learned is that Interstate 44 was built solely to use as a reference point when describing the location of a storm front (okay, I made that up, but every storm I’ve been through stalls right over I-44). But the truth is that these meteorologists know what’s up, which makes me feel a thousand times less panicky this spring. They even have a breakdown of main roads in every town and can pinpoint when the sky will start unloading fruit salad hail on May Avenue & Waterloo.

Here’s a Facebook post from the National Weather Service out of Norman, Oklahoma last night. This is the expertise I’m talking about:

9:07 PM – The tornado will cross the H.E. Bailey Turnpike (I-44) north of Randlett and south of Walters. Motorists stopped at the Walters rest stop/McDonalds will be hit by large hail. Do not drive into this area!

*This is possibly the only reason I will ever thank a cold front for showing up at my front door.

Winter Returned for a Day

It all started Saturday night when my friend texted me and asked if she could spend Tuesday here at my house. It’s always good to make a plan in case anyone needs to take cover in my basement during the storms. Because of that text, I spent the next couple days getting increasingly more nervous about the impending storm system that would soon be over Oklahoma and the rest of the southern plains. This is my first spring in Tornado Alley and I am already learning that cap inversion and supercell development will eventually become a part of my regular weather vocabulary.

Our 80 degree weather during the day Tuesday suddenly dropped about 30-40 degrees over the course of a few hours into the evening. The nasty weather didn’t really come through the Oklahoma City metro until after midnight on Wednesday. A blinding lightning storm passed overhead early in the morning hours while Matt and I curled up in bed trying to get back to sleep. When daylight broke, we were greeted with this:

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Parts of our tree were in my driveway when I returned home from a mid-morning appointment and there was evidence all over the northwest corner of the city that whole trees were coming down. The warmed waters of Lake Hefner were steaming and it created a beautiful yet strange kind of fog that sat just above the surface.

There is no way I can complain about the absence of tornadoes during this particular storm system, though, and I was quite surprised that I didn’t develop one of my low-pressure system headaches (does anyone else in Hurricane Alley know what I’m talking about?). I have been through an especially treacherous ice storm only once before when I was living on the east coast in Maryland. Those Mid-Atlantic States are quite infamous for freak weather, too, but this ice storm seemed pretty simple because the temperature hadn’t climbed above freezing for most of the day.

It turns out I was wrong. And it also turns out that my mother doesn’t scold me anymore for using curse words in her presence (or, as the case was, while she is on the phone with me). Driving to Elle’s school in the afternoon was, quite frankly, terrifying. Ice was beginning to melt and falling from the high power lines. These were pretty long and wide chunks of ice, crashing into my windshield and the roof of my van. I was convinced they were trying to impale me. A few times I screamed, “Oh, shit!” into my mother’s ear and she said nothing in return. It was one of those moments in which I felt like a real grown-up, especially so after I realized I could just change lanes.

This morning there was frost on my windshield but the ice has finally melted away. The world is green again, the birds are singing once more, and our dogs can now roam the yard safely without fear of getting clocked in the head by tree branches and falling ice. 81 degrees on Sunday? Yes, please.

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Spring Break. It’s Just Like Every Other Week.

A few weeks ago, I was thrown off by the fact that my university’s spring break wasn’t actually the week I believed it to be. It was made worse when, midway through spring break (not the real one, but the imaginary one I was already celebrating), I realized classes had started two days earlier. Needless to say, I had to work through the real spring break and I feel like I’ve been playing catch-up ever since. But when I finally got the chance to share my future career plans with a friend of mine recently, it all seemed worth it. It still does, but I can tell you that it’s a lot easier to recognize the worth of your hard work when it’s coming to an end.

After scrambling to write up four research papers and read hundreds of pages on everything from dark matter and nebulas to Darwin’s finches and Mount Toba (holy shit, y’all – Google it), my brain shut off on Friday when my husband took me out for pizza and shopping for used books…of the fun kind! You know, books about the Mayflower, 1950s race relations in the Deep South, and that asshat King George III. This is fun reading for me and I hope I can put what I read to good use one of these days. Call me, Trebek!

With that, I was able to enjoy this weekend and, dare I say it – I enjoyed Oklahoma. I soaked in my hot tub at night and in the middle of the day and decided both were awesome. My friend and I watched a thunderhead form from nothing in my backyard, far enough away that we stayed dry but close enough to see the towering layers continue building up and up. With drinks in hand, we turned our chairs around to see an incredible lightning show that went on for at least an hour. I was impressed; she told me not to be impressed. Bigger ones, more impressive ones, are on the way.

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My husband, being the more adventurous of the two of us, invited me on a motorcycle ride and I accepted. With conditions, of course, because I’m a pain in the ass that way. Rattling around on the back of a bike is not my idea of a good time, but Matt loves it. Probably the same way I love sitting at the beach. I offered to join him but only if he took me to the nearby gardens. He obliged because he’s a good husband. The best, in fact.

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And so with this Monday begins another round of reading hundreds of pages followed by hours of researching and writing. I don’t mind it, if you can believe it.  Especially because after months and months of searching (actually, I’ve been searching since I moved out here to Oklahoma City), we finally found my perfect desk at a nearby antique shop. Matt and I were able to strike a deal with the seller and brought it home later that afternoon. After moving some furniture around and reorganizing the bookshelves (which, to me, is like reorganizing my brain – I love it!), our office has a bit more color in it.

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Teddy seems to be quite comfortable in the new office, too.

Snowfall

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Oklahoma’s state motto is “Labor Omnia Vincit” or, in English, “Labor Conquers All Things”. I believe it should be changed to “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes. It’ll change.” I can’t tell you how many people have said these words to me since I moved here a mere eight months ago, back in those days when the low temperature at night was 103 degrees.

Basically, this is a story that ended with us experiencing heavy snow coming down on us all day after having gone to bed with a forecast of mostly rain with a 20% chance of snow, at most 1-3 inches. And for the most part, that’s what we got. But by the time I spoke with my mother this afternoon, she had heard reports of up to 12 inches in Central Oklahoma. This is when I promptly hung up on her. Oh, I’m only kidding, but I did tell her not to mention such filth to me ever again.

All this snowfall was such a surprise to me because I had been stuck inside a windowless medical office for three hours this morning and had no clue as to what kind of conditions awaited me for my drive home. Suffice it to say I can drive in blinding snow that has also piled up in some places on the roads and melted into slush puddles in others. I also learned about a new safety feature on my van – when the tires start to slide and can’t get traction, a little “slippery when wet” light flashes on my dashboard, accompanied by a whimsical chime, as if the fact that I’m sliding all over the highway isn’t a clear enough sign that I have lost contact with the asphalt.

I did stop off for a few photographs at Lake Hefner, though, after I figured nobody else would be out there to muck up the freshly snow-covered ground with footprints, and I was right. You can see how quickly the snow was coming down and how fat the flakes actually were. Wet, heavy, fat flakes.  I wasn’t able to stand outside for too long and I’ll blame it on not wanting to ruin my new camera by getting it wet (even though we all know it’s because I’m a sissy when it comes to being cold).

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Straight Lines

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We finally went ice skating downtown tonight! But this blog post isn’t about that. It’s really just a few pictures from the other night when we tried to go ice skating the first time but it was too warm outside and the rink floor was melting. The manager said we could still skate but we couldn’t get close to the railing because the ice at the edge was becoming all slushy. First-time ice skaters with nothing to hold on to? No, thanks. So we went bowling instead.

On our way to the bowling alley in Bricktown, we came across this painted bison. I see these bison statues all over Oklahoma City. There is even one painted with a skeleton near my house in front of some orthopedic institute. Jacksonville has the same thing going on with jaguar and manatee statues placed all over the city. Just as I associate manatees with Florida, I think of my new home here in Oklahoma when I see bison (naturally). The jaguar statues, though, are only for football  purposes back home but I always hope people are bigger fans of the animal. Sadly, both the animal and the NFL team are in need of saving.

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I couldn’t resist taking a photograph of the many Eiffel Towers when we walked past this painting class. I see this kind of art class available more and more often – just gather your friends, book a group reservation, and bring your own wine! Although from the looks of it, there is no wine here. Perhaps these ladies imbibed first? As I learned from my bowling scores that evening, alcohol does not contribute to one’s ability to make a straight line, no matter if it’s a ten-pound ball or paintbrush in one’s hand. These ladies totally win the award for making straight lines.

Paris Night

Back to ice skating, though, as tonight’s experience proved just how right we were in walking away earlier this week. None of us had ever ice skated before and the temperatures were cold enough that the entire rink was frozen. That rail was quite handy, too, so I’m very happy to have had it available. Just because we saw some 5-year old kid flailing around on the ice, but upright and in motion, didn’t necessarily mean we would be just as successful our first time in. But we did alright! Did we ice skate in straight lines? Oh, hell. I couldn’t even propel myself forward for the first 10 minutes. Moving in any direction, straight-lined or not, was an accomplishment. Again, the Eiffel Tower ladies win the award for making straight lines.

Nobody fell, no bones were broken, and no tears were shed. And when the middle-aged couple next to me asked if we’d taken ibuprofen before our outing, it dawned on me: getting out of bed tomorrow is going to hurt.