Friday, August 22, 2014

Where the Rain Begins

Last evening, after a long day at the office, I was sitting in the car waiting to turn left from the park and ride lot when I saw the rain begin. It was less than 50 away from me. I could see it sheeting the cars paused on the other side of the light but it hadn't yet reached me.

At first it was like that infinite pause between when you cut your finger and you start to feel the pain from the cut — there's often a lag there. On the other hand, there was a fellow-feeling with those cars drenched before mine, a sympathetic pain, almost flinching from rain that was not yet there.

Then I watched the rain advance across the pavement, fat drop by fat drop until finally it was pounding, pouring, a deluge.

I drove the two miles home with the wipers on full blast, and then, by the time I pulled in the driveway, it had almost stopped again.

I love the mercurial weather of summer, its flightiness, its lack of steady intentions.

And last night I loved watching the rain begin.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014


My business has a lot of them. I'm under pressure from one right now. Enough so that I postponed  this post until I spent a couple hours on an article I'm writing.

Deadlines are funny things, often self-induced. But once set they are hard to ignore.

They are the impetus and the framework. The hammer on the anvil. The doer of the action. They are the outside force that propels the inward adjustment.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Walking home from the Silver Line yesterday and driving to the Orange Line this morning, I noticed the journeys have something in common.

Like any trip, they are not just one long sweep of motion; they are segments cobbled together by time and movement.

I hadn't driven to the Vienna Metro (Orange Line's last stop) for almost four weeks, so I saw it with fresh eyes: the Fox Mill Road segment, up one hill and down another; the Vale portion, before the big turn and after it; the straightaway that is Hunter Mill Road; the short stretch of Chain Bridge; the newly repaved and bicycle-laned Old Courthouse, then the turn onto Sutton, Country Creek and right then left into the parking garage.

Walking gave me these eyes, let me see the drive in segments as I would a stroll. I'm grateful for that.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Run to the Bus Without Tea

I gave up caffeine nine months ago, but when I don't have time in the morning for a cup of my special decaffeinated blend, I am brain-fogged, blindfolded, cobwebbed in the head.

Can there be a tea addiction without caffeine? Could I have a taste addiction?

There is something about the warmth and the flavor and the sweetness on the tongue. Something bracing and forward-thinking about it. Something settling and stilling about it, too.

I check the hours of the cafe on campus. They open at 8. Yes! My blog post will be short; my tea break will be long. The answer to the questions above: yes and yes.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Winning the Match

With a daughter in Benin, West Africa, I've been reading a lot about Ebola, especially the cases in neighboring Nigeria. So far, that country seems to be staying on top of the disease, but health experts are watching it closely because the nation is so populous. If Ebola spreads there, loss of life could be catastrophic.

Learning about the doctors fighting Ebola and dying from it — in some cases without even gloves to protect themselves and stem the contagion — brings to mind a favorite novel, The Plague, by Albert Camus. Its central character, Dr. Bernard Rieux, tends the plague-ridden in the town of Oran, Algeria. On the night of his friend Tarrou's passing —Tarrou who had helped fight the plague and was its last victim — Rieux seeks to understand human suffering:
Tarrou had "lost the match," as he put it. But what had he, Rieux, won? No more than the experience of having known plague and remembering it, of having known friendship and remembering it, of knowing affection and being destined one day to remember it. So all a man could win in the conflict between plague and life was knowledge and memories. But Tarrou, perhaps, would have called that winning the match.
At the end of the novel, the reader learns that Dr. Rieux has been its narrator, that "he resolved to compile this chronicle, so that he should not be one of those who hold their peace but should bear witness in favor of those plague-stricken people, so that some memorial of the injustice and outrage done them might endure; and to state quite simply what we learn in times of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise."

Photo: Katie Esselburn


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mockingbird's Place

On vacation I finished reading Marja Mills' The Mockingbird Next Door: My Life with Harper Lee, a memoir about living next door to the reclusive writer in Monroeville, Alabama.

Nelle Harper Lee and her sister, Alice, were already up in years when Mills met them while reporting an article for the Chicago Tribune. From those first contacts a relationship formed, and in this book Mills tells the story of the sisters' old-fashioned life: visiting friends, feeding ducks, and living with the books and memories of decades in their hometown.

Although Lee quickly denied having authorized the book (a controversy that has probably boosted sales), I read the memoir enthusiastically anyway. Not just for a glimpse of the author but also for a portrait of the place that she enshrined as Maycomb in her novel.

"It's the old Monroeville — the old Maycomb — that lives on in the imaginations of so many readers," Mills wrote. "It's the people and the places the Lees saw out the windows of the Buick all those years later." Mills refers here to the drives she took with the Lees and their friends, expeditions that helped her appreciate a vanishing way of life.

"Nelle's portrait of that community was so richly detailed, so specific and true to the small-town South during the Depression, that something universal emerged and, with it, the remarkably enduring popularity of the novel."

I like thinking that what makes To Kill a Mockingbird great us is not just the characters — but also the place they inhabited.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Commuting on Foot

Yesterday I walked once again from the Wiehle Metro station to my car in a parking lot four miles away. Why is this worth mentioning? Only for this — that I am, finally, commuting on foot in the suburbs.

This is not an accomplishment to be shrugged off. And I don't mean it's my own personal accomplishment but an evolution in the way we live. That I can step off the train and travel on my own steam to the next destination is a marvel, given the way I started living here 25 years ago.

Then I couldn't leave the neighborhood on foot because of cars barreling down narrow, un-shouldered roads. Now sidewalks and bike lanes take me to the grocery store and pharmacy; let me tap into Reston's trail system, which used to be a tantalizing but unreachable distance away.

So to all forms of walking I celebrate here  — ambling meditatively through the woods, running pell-mell through the meadow, strolling briskly through the city — let me add the walk which is not a destination in itself but which has a larger purpose. It not only takes me out of myself; it takes me home.

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