Wednesday, November 14, 2018

National Landing

It was before 8 a.m. when I landed at National Landing, landing in my usual way, which is to say via bus — not plane or boat.

National Landing is the former Crystal City, transformed overnight from a slightly down-on-its-heels and not-so-aptly-named set of office buildings, hotels, restaurants and parking garages to half of Amazon's new HQ2 (HQ 2.5?).

As I walked from Metro to my office, I noticed a car with broadcast equipment staking out a spot for a stand-up shot. It was parked near the basketball courts that were painted with pink and green flowers a few months ago and accessorized with a ping-pong table and life-size chess board. A few steps away, on the other side of the street, was my building, now being shown in a promotional video with a faux glass-walled eatery in front.

I don't know whether it's the winter or the weather — or the fact that the HQ cat is out of the bag — but the basketball court isn't protected from vehicular traffic like it was earlier this year during the "courtship" phase. And I saw no evidence of the painted bicycles that had been adorning the area until recently. I was feeling a little bereft, like the bride or groom who wakes up the day after the wedding and finds someone that his or her beloved isn't quite what he or she seemed like before the nuptials.

It's not disappointment, not exactly. But something very much like it.  I must remember the mantra that the building pictured above (formerly Noodles restaurant) reminds me every time I walk to the office. ... "Good things coming."

Let's hope so.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Damp, Drizzly November

A walk at lunch time yesterday, a dash outside and back before the rain moved in. Crystal City was almost deserted, federal employee haven that it is, so I had the sidewalk almost to myself.

I made my way down to Long Bridge Park and back, Gershwin in my ears, a big, soothing sound.

It was cold enough for gloves but I left them in my pocket. There will be time for them soon. For now I counted on the brisk pace to warm the extremities. And it almost did.

On the way back to the office, I looked up at the sky. The sun was trying to break through. It never quite made it, but I liked the way it was trying, the way clouds gathered and puckered, the pockets of light they let through.

It was a November Monday, not yet the "damp, drizzly November in my soul" that Melville describes in Moby Dick. It was just Monday, just November. The damp and drizzly, that would start a few hours later, would continue on through the night and into the dark morning. I hear the rain now, a steady beat on roof and road.

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Monday, November 12, 2018

Local Heroes

History becomes personal when the people we know and love are part of it. I've written before of Dad as a tail gunner in a B-17 bomber, flying raids deep into German territory and flying air support on D-Day. But I've written little if anything about my grandfather, a World War 1 veteran.

Mom's father, Martin J. Concannon, above and top, served in the calvary in France during World War I. Details are hazy about the length and nature of his service so many generations later, but I think we can all agree that he looked dashing in his uniform.

Not to be outdone in dash, here's a picture of Dad leaning against a B-17.

Heartfelt thanks to them and all the men and women who risked their lives for our freedom. May we always be mindful of the gift they have given us — and may we always use that gift wisely.

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

100 Years

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Today we celebrate 100 years since the end of the Great War, World War 1, which killed an estimated 10 million soldiers.

My grandfather fought in the cavalry, and when I went with Mom to Europe many years ago, she shuddered as our train passed through Verdun and other battle sites.

The past not that long past to her, because it lived on through the memories of her father.

World War II is the war that lived in my memory, and in a way similar to Mom's — because my father fought in it.

But it is World War I we memorialize today, the War to End All Wars (oh, how I wish that were true).   Here are the last paragraphs of Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front:

He fell in October, 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front.

He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come
.

(World War 1 trenches, 1916. Photo: Wikipedia)

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Friday, November 9, 2018

For the Birds

The other day I was on the phone with the pharmacy, talking with a real human being instead of tapping in numbers.

"Do you have birds?" the real human being asked me, not surprisingly, since Alfie and Dominique were chirping up a storm.

"Yes, I do," I said.

"Parakeets?" she ventured.

"Right again!" I replied. And from there we were off, discussing the cheerfulness of birds and the pleasures of a home filled with their song.

Apart from 18 months in 2011-2012, we've had a parakeet or two in a cage hanging from a hook in the kitchen ceiling for the last 14 years. The birds are not directly over the table, but they are in the center of the house, where they can hear the humans whose flock they have adopted.

I'm midway through Jim Robbins' book The Wonder of Birds and learning many things I didn't know. For example, scientists' study of murmuration  — birds' ability to fly in unison in great flocks that twist and turn like a cloud dancing — is enhancing what we know of human cognition and metacognition.

It doesn't surprise me that these intelligent and loving animals would have secrets to share. "I hope you love birds too," wrote Emily Dickinson. "It is economical. It saves going to heaven."

(Can't find a good picture of the parakeets this morning, so this photo of a wild baby bird in our garage will have to do.) 

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Survival Plan

They'd predicted sun for yesterday, and at first they were right. It was sunny when I woke up and for several hours in the morning. But by midday the clouds had moved in ... and they never went away.

It felt like the promise of summer cut short by early winter. The rains of Monday and Tuesday had stripped off many of the leaves, and the bare trunks of winter were out in full force.

It was time for my kind of mood music, for Mendelssohn and Respighi and Dvorak. It was time for a hooded sweatshirt and hands balled into fists pulled up into sleeves. It was time to make chili and turn on lamps in the afternoon.

In short, it was time to enact the winter survival plan. To listen, to light, to cook, to hunker down.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Morning After

It dawned clear and bright today, a marked difference from Monday and Tuesday's rain and drizzle. The skies had already cleared by the time I reached the polling place last evening, and a glorious sunset was underway, clouds purpled by the setting sun.

A tempting omen, but we're beyond omens, I think. Or at least I am. What I want is harmony, and yesterday's election will not produce it, at least not in the short term, though at least there will be a much-needed check and balance.

I do know that I've started praying for our country every night, along with the people I love. I should have been praying for it all along, I realize. But it didn't seem to need it like it needs it now.


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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Gold Standard

I'm thinking back to Sunday's afternoon walk. The day later than the clock said it was, Copper tugging on the leash. I dropped my shoulders, told myself there was nothing to do but enjoy the briskness, the trees at peak color.

We're not known for autumn splendor in northern Virginia. Spring is our time to shine. But still, there are moments when the sun slants in fetchingly from the west and the leaves catch it and reflect it back.

I tried to capture that by snapping some photos. But as usual, it's not just the shot I want, it's the way the air feels and the sound of tiny birds peeping, the creek gurgling and (of course) the drone of a leaf blower. You're never deep enough in the Folkstone woods that you can't hear that.

But when the leaves are swirling around and collecting in golden circles at your feet, it doesn't much matter.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Time and Illusions

I always feel this way when we have a time change, that if it's this easily manipulated, then what does it mean, anyway? If one day 11  a.m. is at 11 a.m. and the next day it's at 10 a.m., then why don't we consider more drastic options?

Could we say today is Friday and be done with the week?  Could we skip right past the midterm elections and the interminable analysis that will follow them?

For that matter, can we move right along to next spring? That would be best of all.

"People like us who believe in physics know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion," Einstein said.

In these first dark days of Eastern Standard Time, I'm believing more in physics than I ever have before.

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Friday, November 2, 2018

Calm Souls

A warm and windy All Souls Day, the trees finally fall-like after weeks of holding their green.

Crows caw, a sound familiar this time of year, which I often think of as a shoulder season, pausing at the top of the roller-coaster, almost time for the cacophony of year-end celebrations.

Many things are different now, with one daughter living far away, but it wouldn't be a holiday season without a little cacophony, so I think it's safe to say that will be true this year as well.

I am taking the calm when I can get it, then. The warm and windy calm. The calm that holds within it all matter of rustlings and bustlings. Which is, perhaps, the only kind of calm we can claim.

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Warm and Golden

A walk today when the sun was still high in the sky — or as high in the sky as it gets these days.

A walk through tunnels of autumn leaves — or as autumnal as they get around here.

It was a different kind of October, but at times a warm and golden one. Today I felt that warmth in my bones.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween Solo

Awaiting the visit of little ghosts and goblins tonight, and for the first time awaiting them solo. I'll be on both candy duty and Copper duty this Halloween, and am not quite sure how it all will work except that some chaos will be involved.

I usually see the girls (and now guys) for Thanksgivings and Christmases — but Halloweens not so much. I have an invitation from Claire to come hand out candy at her house, but I would miss the neighborhood kids, three of whom I've watched grow up and who will be moving out next month.

So I'll try to carve the pumpkin and try to keep Copper occupied (or sedated) ... and hope for the best.

It will be noble experiment.


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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Guido's Venice

I'm not much of a mystery reader, but a few years ago I heard about Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti series and decided to give it a try.

The books are set in Venice, a city I loved from the first moment I saw it (in my "Europe on $10 a Day" backpacking years).  Police detective Brunetti travels the city on foot or by vaporetti, savoring the sights of his native place and taking the reader with him each step of the way. Each story features a new bridge, square or quiet corner of "La Serenissima," the "Most Serene Republic of Venice."

Brunetti quotes the classics, adores his wife (the brainy and beautiful Paolo) and three-quarters of the way through every story, becomes discouraged and confused. He works his way out of every jam by using his smarts, often colluding with his boss's assistant, Signorina Elettra, a clever young woman who finds a way (sometimes not quite legal) through every dilemma.

I often pick up a Leon mystery when I need distraction. But the books have a funny way of returning me right back to Real Life. This isn't a bad thing, though, because I'm always a little lightened and calmed when I get back.

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Old Dog, New Tricks

They said it couldn't be done. They said an old dog can't learn new tricks.

But I know an old dog who's learned one, learned more than one if you want to know the truth.

For the last couple of months, Copper has been visited by his doggie cousins, Reese and Bella, a pair of German shepherds being raised by Copper's original "mama," Claire. Claire loves doggies, and now she has about 160 pounds of doggies living in her house. But she still has room in her heart for her original "son."

Copper, who can be a bit curmudgeonly and crotchety, originally reacted much as we thought he would when first Reese and then Reese and Bella came to visit.  He was standoffish and snarly.

But something happened to him when he finally got to know Bella. A younger female seemed like a dog he could handle. At first they just sniffed each other, but eventually they began to play. And now Reese, much larger, a male, is also included in the games.

Last night Copper (10 or more years their senior) led his doggie cousins on a merry chase, taking the corners of the yard like the mostly border collie that he is.

And ... there was only one almost-fight ... over an ice cube.

As far as I can tell we've had a canine miracle in these parts: An old dog learning a new trick!

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