Friday, October 9, 2015

Somewhere ...

I drove in from the east today, a feeling I always liken to being on the other side of the looking glass — or the rainbow.

And as if on cue, the few drops sprinkling us on the vast, parking lot of a D.C. highway did whatever it is they must do to form a rainbow. And we work-weary, week-weary commuters were treated to a celestial show.

In the Bible, God sends Noah a rainbow as a token of His promise never again to destroy the world by water. But I took today's rainbow as a reminder that there are forces beyond the ones we see and hear that will have their way with us.

Sometimes they batter us, sometimes they buoy us. But they are always there.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Garden in Autumn

Yesterday I took a midday walk in balmy D.C. The trees were turning enough to remind me it's fall and not late summer. The air was that way, too. Warmth without weight, which meant I kept taking off my sweater and putting it back on again.

In the botanical gardens a group of schoolchildren played on the lawn. They were clad in red t-shirts, and were running back and forth, panting and laughing, following the instructions of their teacher. "O.K. This time I want you to find a partner and run together."

A few steps away was the rose garden. I sniffed around for the most aromatic flowers and found a couple that made me inhale long and deep.

Apart from the roses' pinks and yellows, the rest of the autumn garden palette was a muted one: lavender asters, russet leaves and the fuzzy fronds of tall grasses.  It was a faded look, mellow and complete.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Leaning Tower of Books

Thinking about the books and magazines I grew up with — and the ones my children did, too. Bookcases stuffed full,  nightstands spilling over, newspapers strewn across the kitchen table. My grandfather had a reading stand so he could prop up the paper and scan it as he had breakfast.

Reading is a solitary act with social potential — especially, I think, when the written word is on paper and more easily shared. When kids see their parents reading they are more likely to read themselves. But what happens when the words are on a device, ephemeral and inconstant?

I guess it makes the kids want the device, and this is undeniably true. But how do we measure the effect of the device itself, and the fact that it can be everything — book, magazine, newspaper? How does this change the reading equation?

There are answers here — and one day we will know them.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Retracing My Steps

My office key is lost. It must have slipped off the new lanyard I picked up yesterday. A lanyard that apparently didn't fasten properly.

Meanwhile, I have walked up and down hallways and sidewalks and garage corridors, retracing my steps. What a concept — retracing one's steps. Going back over what was done before. Ultimate inefficiency.

Or is it? Perhaps a mindfulness exercise could consist of just this practice, walking back over what I walked before, looking for what wasn't seen previously, realizing that instead of being present in the moment of walking, I was actually daydreaming, fretting, letting the scenery pass in a blur.

As it turns out, I did find something. Not my key but a colleague's identification card. If I found her card, maybe she — or someone else — found my key. And in this sideways, sliding, inefficient way, we will all be rescued somehow.

(This photo from outside Medora, North Dakota, has no relevance to retracing my steps. I've just been wanting to use it.)

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Drowned Roses

The living is easy for first-bloom roses. Born in late May, days past the last frost-possible day, they inherit late evenings, balmy air and no Japanese beetles. They can look forward to a long, splendid life. (That's in rose years of course.)

 But second-bloom roses emerge when the sun tilts lower in the sky, when the nights become nippy, and — this year, at least — when autumn rains mat the grass and rattle limbs loose from the tall oaks.

They may not always hold their heads up like their spring brethren. But they should. Theirs is the harder lot.  Second-bloom roses are the bravest.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sounds and Comforts

It's 48 degrees outside and 65 in the house. I have nothing I have to do today, no place I have to go. I'm hoping the rain slacks off enough to take a long, brisk walk. It's been a while since I've contemplated the passing landscape with hands tucked up into my sleeves.

Until then, I'm enjoying the quiet morning, the hum of the refrigerator and the ticking of the cuckoo clock the only sounds I hear. Piles of books and papers on the coffee table, a pot of tea brewing in the kitchen.

Perhaps the reason we appreciate the everyday more as we grow older is because we have learned how uncommon it can be. Days when nothing is expected of us. The comforts of home.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Battening Down

Actually, I have done little of this. The rocking chairs are inside and the rest of the deck furniture is too heavy to blow away.

I'll collect some extra tap water tonight, keep it around in pitchers and bowls. And I'll check the basement frequently to see if rain is seeping in.

Beyond that I'm planning to clean, organize and watch movies.

It's blizzard mode, only with rain instead of snow.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pushing "Publish"

You know you are busy when you haven't heard that a hurricane is heading your way. And more to the point, you know you are busy when you fail to write a blog post two weekdays in a row.

But when one of those days consists of driving from Lexington, Kentucky, to Washington, D.C., working for five hours and then driving home in torrential rain — well, that doesn't count. And when you start behind the next day because you had to get a little sleep — well, that doesn't count either.

Not that any of this "counts," of course. All of it is self-imposed. My own schedule, my own project. But it is a project of the heart, and as such must be given its due.

So today I'm taking no chances. It is barely 5:30 a.m. I'm pushing the "publish" key.


Monday, September 28, 2015


I missed the moon in its blood-red rising. By the time I caught up with the orb, it was higher in the sky. This is better than I anticipated. With cloud cover for most of the day, it was unlikely I'd see much of the moon at all.

But the clouds provided a soft-focus backdrop and the moon glowed brighter than I had seen it shine in a long time.

I think the eclipse had already begun when I took this shot. The moon was just starting to disappear — though behind clouds or earth's shadow — or only in my own imagination — I could not tell.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Of Loss and Reminders

Yesterday the law school where I work lost a dear and long-treasured colleague. My office was responsible for pulling together the announcements of her death and building the In Memoriam page to record the notes that began pouring in the moment people heard of her passing.

This morning I was reading these lovely tributes. Over and over again they testify to what matters in life: the care and concern for others. This was a woman who touched everyone who knew her. She was always there with a laugh or a roll of the eyes. She was not smooth and perfect; she could be as frazzled as the rest of us. But she kept on trying until the end.

I notice that the comments come from a complete strata of the place: from the childcare center and  the board of visitors, from the library and the accounts office, from the student life people and the professors.

When someone this good goes (and long, long before her time; she was only 45), there is a huge void. And in the void there is a reminder: This is how to live your life.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Papal Aura

It is difficult to know that the Pope, the bishop of Rome and shepherd of the Roman Catholic Church, will be speaking less than a mile from where I'm sitting now and there's no way to be present for it.

Even being on the West Lawn of the Capitol to see the Pope on Jumbotron is not an option. Those tickets went in less than an hour.

So this morning I'll watch via live stream on my computer as the Pope address the U.S. Congress. I'll sit quietly and absorb the papal aura. Watching clips from his appearances yesterday it's hard to be unmoved by the outpouring of love and admiration for the pontiff, and by his smile and jauntiness in return, by his relish for the crowd and his appreciation of the American spirit.

Already some have attributed a stateside miracle to His Holiness. Roads are empty, Metro cars, too. The Pope has given us what we thought was impossible: an easy commute. If he can do this, who knows what else he can accomplish? 


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Finding Time

Walking is often a way for me to handle hard times by absorbing myself in activity, observation and rumination. Everything from real trials to an ordinary bad day can be smoothed and put in perspective by stretching the legs — and the imagination.

But what if time constraints take that walking time away? That's what's been happening recently. And, as is so often the case, the walking time is waning at the very time I need it most.

There's only one thing to do, and that's to pound the pavement as if my life depends upon it. Because, in a very real way, it does.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

R.I.P., Robert E. Simon

Robert E. Simon, the founder of Reston, Virginia, died yesterday at the age of 101. Simon was a big thinker — and the big plan he had for the parcel of hunt-country land in western Fairfax County was that people should be able to live, work, shop and play all in the same place.

What held his vision together were the Reston Trails, lovely paved paths that wind their way from village cluster to village cluster, passing lakes and wetlands, woods and meadows.

The Reston Trails are my stomping ground. I've walked them for more than a quarter century now, walked them in all weathers and moods. I've pushed my babies in strollers on them and, later, watched my kids bicycle ahead of me on them, still wobbly but proud to be training-wheel-free. Now I walk them in this new phase of life, my children living their own lives away from home.

While I've used the paths to muse and find some quiet time, the point of Reston was actually just the opposite. "Community," Simon is quoted as saying in an obituary in today's Washington Post. "That word is the whole discussion. ... I think having facilities readily available for people of all kinds, from little kids to the elderly — that's the most important thing of all."

(Lake Anne Plaza, Reston's original village and the home of Robert E. Simon.) 

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Ponds and Flow

Yesterday's walk took me past a couple of ponds. One of them sports a new fountain, a spray of water that gives the old farm pond an aura of glamour and glitz.

But the explanation is far more humble. It's to aerate the lagoon, to make it healthy, to remove the green slime that fouls the waters of the murky pond next door.

Airflow is not only healthy for humans; it's good for water, too. So even though I preferred the pond in its still state, I'm glad to see it's looking clear and scum-free.

Bubbles matter. Flow matters. For ponds and for people, too.

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