This part of Midgard is famous for its roasting hot summers that make Muspelheim look like a brisk fall day and its mild, sometimes dampish winters. It’s not uncommon to see mortals out and about in shirtsleeves in December and January. Take yesterday, for example–nudging 70 degrees F and the sun was out.
Today is very, very different! It started cooling off last night, and then the rain started. It rained off an on most of the night, and this morning, the promised “wintry mix” materialized and we went from “Winter Storm Watch” to “Winter Storm Warning” to “Here Comes the Sleet” and NOW IT IS SNOWING LIKE SOMEONE UPSTAIRS EMPTYING A FEATHERBED! In Texas!
So now we are all bundled up warm (mortals), bespelled warm (Sigyn), or naturally immune (me) and are going out to walk in it. Sigyn is so excited–she’s never seen snow quite like this! (Is a Frost Giant perhaps helping it along….mmm. Could be!)
Oh, it’s lovely and clean and squeak-crunches underfoot. Sigyn trying to catch the big clumps of flakes on her tongue is adorable, and the human female’s hair and spectacles are filling up with snow, which is hilarious.
The trees are already wearing a good coat of white.
The hollies look especially festive!
It’s sticking pretty well on the grass, too.
It’s somewhat above freezing, but it’s falling faster than it can melt, so it is really starting to pile up.
I think there’s enough now, Sigyn, that we can roll a snowman.
He’s really taking shape!
Great Frigga’s Corset, it’s beginning to look like Fimbulwinter! It is coming down so hard! I can actually hear it hitting the trees. There is about five inches and it’s not slowing down at all!
Are you becoming chilled, my pet? I think the human male started a pot of hot spiced cider this morning. It should be about ready to drink by now. Let us crunch our way home and spend the rest of the day curled up under a quilt, watching it snow and extirpating the last of the Yule cookies!
Our impromptu al fresco repast was quite delicious. Now night has fallen and we are walking off the uncountable calories by enjoying a postprandial promenade through the neighborhood in order to observer (and judge!) the still-up displays of Yule lights and decorations.
Some houses have nothing up. (Back home, the human male and female typically do not decorate the outside of their house. It’s pure laziness, but the neighbors are convinced they are pagans.)
Other households have made a little effort.
Some actually seem to have had a plan.
I quite like the peppermint-striped tree. Look, Sigyn–doesn’t it remind you of that weird, behatted tree we saw this afternoon?
This house has embraced the lamentable craze for inflatables and has purchased one of everything.
Oh, sorry, my love! Of course that tall one reminds you of the fellow who assaulted you earlier today! Rather than remaining to catalog all the gassy flotsam, we shall move on at once! There is something rather *bright* down near the end of the block, and a number of automobiles whose passengers have stopped to ogle. Let us go see what the fuss is all aboutl.
Oh. Oh. My. Pointy. Helmet.
Not only is it loud in itself, I can hear it blaring from the car radios of various on-lookers. I have walked the mystic spaces between the Realms, but I have never seen anything quite like this
These little clips do not begin to convey how obnoxious this is! The lights are much more brightly colored, the music is loud, and the show lasts thirty minutes. Traffic is snarled on this cul-de-sac street, and the radio audio keeps urging drivers not to block traffic or stop in front of anyone else’s driveway. I’m pretty sure it is visible from orbit.
Uh, oh. It’s all been a little too much for Sigyn. Watching the moving lights has made her a bit queasy. Or maybe it was that second bratwurst… In any case, I think it’s time to take my sweetie back to our little kitschy cottage and get some good rest.
Half the fun of any vacation is getting to try new things. Last year we discovered a quaint little crêperie that we both enjoyed; maybe we’ll strike it lucky again. Come, my love, the weather is pleasantly chilly, perfect for a walk. Now that we are all settled in our kitschy cabin, let us go forth and seek sustenance!
I do not remember these weird trees in the neighborhood last year.
If the human female were here, she could probably identify it for us. Alas! We shall have to remain inignorance because she’s not here and that’s how I like it! No doubt it’s just some strange horticultural hybrid of Pinus strobus and Mentha x piperita.
What do you think about seafood for dinner, Sigyn? It’s been a while since we had any really good shellfish.
And if you keep befriending the crustaceans and dancing with them, it is going to be a while longer. Sigh. We shall keep looking.
How about this place?
An international cheese shop! Midgard may have its sucky bits, but it stands out among all the Nine Realms as having the best cheese. We could get some raclette, all melty and gooey over French bread, or some thousand-day Gouda, full of those marvelous little flavor crystals. What do you think? Stay here and stuff ourselves with graskaas or keep looking?
Oh, now this is promising.
I do love a good bratwurst, all plump and bursty when you bite into it, and nothing beats a tall, cold pint of something dark and hoppy-bitter.
I know! Let us purchase the beer and sausages, then retrace our steps past the cheese shop and buy an assortment of cheeses to go with it. Perhaps we can come up with some fruit and have a proper little picnic on the front porch of our cottage. I have never had a winter picnic with flamingoes before. It will be a new experience, which is what this vacation is all about!
Sigyn never did find something that she really, really wanted for a Yule gift. And the museums are still closed, and plague idiots are everywhere, and it has been SUCH a year, that we finally decided to just get away from it all. We went away for Yule last year, and enjoyed it, so we’re doing the same thing again, looking for a good place to stay. The fact that the human female, male, and the felines aren’t with us is icing on the cake Bûche De Noël.
What sort of place do we want to stay in? Last year, we ended up in a cozy little airstream trailer, and it looks as if a similar option is available again this year.
Cute, I suppose, but don’t you want to try something different?
Something different with a door and which does not smell of bovines?
Here are some quaint little cottages.
Emphasis on “little.” There’s barely room for one of us in any of those, let alone the pair of us.
This is better. Certainly more spacious. It would do, but I can’t help feeling there’s something even more special that we haven’t seen yet.
Perhaps we should ask the locals if they know of a good spot.
You, sir, you look like a member of the gendarmery. Do you know of a good place to…
Great Frigga’s hairpins! Put my sweetie down this instant, you wretched percussionist, or face the wrath of Loki, god of making KINDLING out of people like you!
Rest assured your commanding officer shall be hearing from me. It’s a court martial for you for certain, my fine lad!
Perhaps this isn’t such a good neighborhood after all! But we’ll try once more. Let us ask this jolly fellow what he recommends.
“Ho, ho, ho–h-over there. There’s a new motel opened up. Just got back from a delivery there. Very kitschy, very mid-century feel. You might like it, if you’re into ‘retro.'”
That’s not actually a bad suggestion. Sigyn often gets nostalgic and sentimental around Yule, and she might like something that feels old-fashioned without being homespun and hokey.
The office looks right out of the 1950’s. This is promising…
It appears to be a regular old-fashioned motor court. That fat man was right when he called it “kitsch.”
Sigyn adores it.
I agree, Sigyn, this unit is cute too, even if Yule trees are not traditionally pink. However, I believe it is occupied–did you not see the 1957 Golden Hawk Studebaker in the drive? Not to mention the obnoxious, also pink, poodle.
This one is vacant:
Nothing says, “Happy Yule” like not one but TWO pink trees, a kitty cat, a canary, twinkle lights, and a cadre of antler-wearing, santa-hatted flamingoes.
Let’s get settled in, my love. We’ve found our refuge for the next few days, and I can’t wait to get started on the snuggling.
Here we are. The human female is meeting two colleagues here. Between the three of them, they hope to get an accurate account of how many (if any) plants are blooming this year. Here comes one of the others now.
Ehehehee and neener, neener, neener! Do you know what his first utterance after “hello” was? Not, “How have you been?” Not, “How many do you think we’ll find this year?” Ha! No, what he said was, “Did Loki and his little friend come today?”
Yes, indeed we did, good sir, and thank you for putting the human female in her place!
Idunn’s little green apples! Our first Navasota false foxglove has met us right at the top rim of the outcrop, and it’s a big, well-branched one.
Now that we have all reminded ourselves what it looks like, we can start carefully quartering the outcrop and getting a good count.
Hmm. It looks as if this will not be a record-breaking year, number-wise, though it is certainly better than the worst year. Most of the plants are well-grown and flowering well, which is good to see. There’s a good growth of grass and a lot of leaf litter, however. That means it must be time to BURN this place again! Just name the day, humans, and I will be here with a torch and my fireproof cape. (Setting things on fire is FUN!)
It is like meeting old friends, seeing the usual fall plants right where we expect them to be.
The obedient plant is abundant this year. The flowers will stay in whatever position you put them in. While Sigyn dangles, I think I will try to arrange the flowers on the next plant over to spell out semaphore-wise, “the human female is a dork.” It will look something like this:
except with morepink and less yellow and red. It will be a lot of work and might take two or three plants to get in the entire message, but it will be worth it, and I will definitely have time, as it is taking the GPS forever to calculate the waypoints.
The holly at the top of the outcrop is in full fruit. Isn’t my color-coordinated sweetie cute?
Hello! What’s this? The human female says it is a wild petunia and she’s not sure she remembers seeing it out here before.
It’s not really a petunia. I guess someone thought it looked like one, though.
And this might be new, too.
It’s snow-on-the-prairie. There are only a few plants her, but I imagine that a whole roadside of it would look whitish. Great Frigga’s corset! Sigyn, do you see any mature fruit? I need seeds of this dreadfully! The human female says the sap is caustic and that’s she’s really, really sensitive to it! I want to plant it all over the yard and see if she really does swell up like a red, peeling balloon if she gets any on her. (All for science, of course.)
Oooh! What’s this? I thought junipers made little blue-green-gray fleshy cones and not these pointy, twiggy structures.
Ah. Not fruits. Sigyn, did you hear? The human female says there’s an evergreen bagworm caterpillar in each of these, all tucked up for the winter. Basically, bug hotels. Imagine if you built and lived in a case constructed of everything you ate! It’d be cherries and Cheetos and apples and…more than a little messy!
We have finished our survey of the sides of the outcrop and are ready to have a look at the top. We don’t expect to find any of the rare plant up here, but the human female says we might see other interesting plants.
There’s this. It smells vaguely minty and has small, purple, hand-puppet-shaped flowers.
The common name is “skullcap”, which doesn’t sound very nice but it is decidedly comfy to lie in. The human female is telling some tedious story now, how the little extra “flange on the calyx” is the same shape as an old-fashioned John Deere tractor seat, except that today’s students are used to tractors with enclosed cabs and AC and stereo and have no clue and..blah, blah, blah. How is anyone supposed to rest with you yapping away like that?
One last plant to look at before we wrap up the day’s investigations. I like this one! The flowers of the zizotes milkweed have a strange, alien-looking anatomy—and they have horns!
Supposedly, butterflies love them. If I hang here quietly, maybe I can catch one for Sigyn to cuddle. It’s definitely worth a wait!
There is one side effect of the pandemic virus that no one talks about, one that has affected ME greatly. Not talking about it won’t help matters. It’s time we discuss this like adults.
The virus has made the humans even more boring.
They don’t go anywhere. They don’t do anything. They don’t even buy anything fun anymore. Something has got to change–they’re just gathering dust.
Maybe today we can change that. It turns out that there’s a farmer’s market on the north end of town. Surely that’s something we can do if it’s not too crowded?
Sigyn is having fun already, having been distracted by the weird flowers of the wild milkweed on the side of the road.
We may never actually make it to the market…
It’s actually a fairly pleasant morning. Maybe they’ll have something delicious and breakfasty…
Look, Sigyn! Mad Taco has a tent! We like that place, don’t we?
We haven’t had any for a while because all their stuff is best right out of their kitchen and loses something as takeout. Cold parsley-garlic fries are just…sad. Still, they’re selling the yummy tamale bread they make their tacos on, and that keeps in the freezer. I insist we buy some of that! Be sure to get one of the tickets for the drawing. Every time we buy something, we get a ticket, and the winner gets a big basket with something from every vendor!
While we’re waiting, Sigyn, let’s check out the next booth over. Red pepper vinegar. I know you like the color, sweetie, but I’m not sure you’d like the contents of the curvaceous bottle. Might be fun to sneak into the human female’s food, though…
The next booth down is selling home-made soap. Pumpkin spice, eh?
I suppose it is that time of year. Would you like one of the little soap pumpkins?
Great Frigga’s hairpins! There’s a big knot of people and a commotion up ahead! Is there a band? A juggler? Someone giving away samples?
Yes, Sigyn–of course you can pet him. No, I don’t think he’s for sale. He’d probably chew up the humans’ shoes even more than Flannel Cat does, though, so perhaps a puppy is something to seriously consider…
Mmmm! We definitely need to buy something in the next stall!
It’s not as sweet as Sigyn, but I can’t put Sigyn on toast.
What’s next? Herbs. There is basil, rosemary, and what’s this?
Never heard of it. What’s it good for? Hey, human female! You’re a walking plant primer. What do you do with this stuff?
Oh, good against gas? You should definitely have mercy on the people who share the house with you and buy some. Please.
Uh, oh. Zinnias ahead. I may never get Sigyn out of this next booth.
Human female, I will buy you a fragrant, colorful bouquet if you promise to nibble the castor bean foliage.
And that is about it, since the ice cream sandwich booth is out of everything interesting. There is nothing left to do except buy some samosas and biryani and the Indian food stall and wait to see if we won the gift basket. The humans put in several tickets, and I signed my name on a whole roll of tickets and put them in the jar when no one was looking.
Rats. Still didn’t win. Sigyn, we’ll just have to come back!
While everyone else is playing games back at the house, I’ve come out with the human female, the Blue-haired Godddaughter, and her mother. We’re having a little shopping expedition, and it’s such fun!
We’re in thisbeautiful, fancy shop. I was here before, once, but I didn’t take any pictures then. I didn’t think the shopkeepers would like it. This location is going out of business soon, though, and the clerks all seem more open and talkative today, as if they don’t have to be so fancy anymore. I’m sad the shop is closing, but not sad that all the deliciousness is on closeout sale.
This store reminds me of Aladdin’s cave–if the cave were full of oil and vinegar! Really! That’s almost all they sell!
The fun part is that you can take tastes of all the different things! Look! They have toothpicks and little bread cubes you can dip.
I didn’t know there were so many different kinds of oil. And not just plain oil, either–they have different flavors!
And look at all the different kinds of vinegar! How fun is this?
I want to try the elderflower apple lime. (dip, nibble, nibble…) Hmm. The elderflower part is nice, and the apple is nice, but I’m not sure about the lime… The strawberry-rhubarb is terrific, though!
Isn’t this pretty? A lot of the oils and vinegars are in big cruets on the wall and you buy a bottle and fill it up. If you bring back an empty bottle, you can fill it for less than buying a new one. Very clever!
Oooh! What’s over here?
Different kinds of maple syrple! (dip, nibble, nibble…) Oh, the Festivus one is good–it has cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg! Oh, shoot! now I’m craving pancakes!
What’s over on this shelf? Mmm. All kinds of toppings and spreads…
The humans are off to the Big City to the North, having plans to meet up with some of their friends. I know, I know–it always surprises me that they have friends all over the state. I suppose spreading them around means that none of them has to put up with the pair of them for very long at a time. But I digress.
At any rate, the plan proposes games, eating, more games, more eating, some shopping, a moderate amount of alcohol, quite a bit of laughing, and a bit more eating to round out the visit. The car is loaded with games and a bag of two of comestibles to contribute to the gastronomic excesses.
The Big City to the North is considerably farther away from the Big City to the South. Sigyn and the human female, being of limited bladdular capacity, have requested what the humans crudely term a “pit stop” to interrupt the journey.
I’m not enthusiastic. Not only do I have a godly capacity when it comes to holding my beverages, I know from previous cross-country expeditions with the humans that roadside rest stops tend to be exactly as named—little better than actual pits.
Sweet glittering Bifrost! This is a far, far cry from most of the ugly concrete bungalows that dot the rest of the state!
This looks more like a destination than a waystation! The sprawling complex houses historical displays and in addition to some truly palatial toiletting facilities.
Outside, overlooks, bird-watching spots, walking trails, and greenery cover the grounds. There is even some theme-y art.
Sigyn says she didn’t know that bison were so tall.
She’s also exited to see that, despite the excellent state of repair of this whole place, the grounds-keeping staff have not been too punctilious in their duties.
There are some very cheerful and sit-able dandelions in the flower beds.
I, on the other hand, have great hopes for some of the wetter, wilder bits of this place…
The humans can continue on. I think Sigyn and I are biding here for a while!