Thursday, May 25, 2017

Waltzing Along

A ho-hum evening after days of cloud and rain. A walk that's uninspired, plodding. The houses hold no surprises, and the clouds are uniform, without color or texture.

The music in my ears is plodding, too. Tunes heard too often. A switch to news makes little difference.

And then my ears hit the jackpot, a change of tempo. It's a waltz. Not an obvious one or a schmaltzy one,  but I'd recognize 3/4 time anywhere. I find myself counting 1,2, 3; 2,2,3; 3,2,3.  Almost hypnotic, that beat. And liberating, too.

It's like a transfusion. I pick up the pace, I loosen the shoulders. My arms swing more freely by my side. And soon I'm on the downhill slope, toward home and dinner.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017


My eyes are still half closed when I see it looming. It's not the longest escalator in D.C.'s Metro system. In fact, it's not even in the top 10. But it's long enough. And it's my morning challenge.

No standing on the right. I start on the left and move myself up those moving steps.  Some mornings at a plodding pace; others a bit more briskly. I'm usually winded when I reach the summit, and my legs are shaky. But I'm at the top. And sorta kinda on my own steam.

There could be worse ways to start a day. I could be walking up the Wheaton escalator, the longest in the Western Hemisphere. 

It's a Stairmaster, courtesy of Metro. 


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Honorary Degree

I didn't place much importance on the commencements of my youth. I completed the requirements, I graduated.  These were launching pads not retrospectives.

But watching these ceremonies as a mother, aunt and sister is altogether different.  Now I tear up at "Pomp and Circumstance," get goose bumps from an academic procession. It's clearer to me now that these are true endings and beginnings, the kind of clear line life seldom hands us.

It's also clear that for many, a degree is not a given. And for every smiling graduate there is someone who will not walk across a stage this year, someone who may never have worn a gown, hood or mortar board. Their reasons for not doing so are legion, and may have nothing to do with intelligence or drive. For like their robed compatriots, they too have completed difficult assignments.

So this post is for them, an honorary degree of sorts. Maybe there will be no diploma this year, but there was learning and effort and sacrifice. To the great, un-graduated multitudes, I offer my humble, heartfelt congratulations.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Armful of Books

Some find the posture early they were meant to have. I was one of the lucky ones.

Every day one of my first acts on waking is to gather the books I read from the night before and walk downstairs with them in my arms. Today it struck me how long I've carried books in my arms. That is an activity and a posture I've had early and long.

The book titles have changed, the weight, the topic, the number of pictures therein. The arms, too. They have grown longer. And sometimes they have held other things along with the books. Babies, for instance, and file folders and, lately, a computer thin enough to slip into one of those folders.

But books, always and forever.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Flowery Bower

Early on in my almost three decades (gulp) in this house, I tried to plant an English cottage garden. I'd seen the photos in catalogs and they struck my fancy. I liked the informality, the abundance, the palette.

So with the ardor of a novice gardener I ordered peonies, daisies, astilbe and climbing roses. I hacked my way into the clay soil, added lime and peat moss and gave those plant babies a chance. I watered and mulched and fussed.

The peony produced one flower (with the requisite ants) but never thrived. The astilbes barely lasted a summer. I learned quickly that I needed coneflowers rather than daisies.

But the climbing roses were a different matter entirely. The climbing roses "took."

So now I have a flowery bower, courtesy of an English cottage rose.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Internal Dialogue

As national events heat up and the news changes by the minute, I'm tuning my headset to news stations as I hoof it.  It's not the calm strolls I usually crave, but it makes for some brisk walks and some fascinating internal dialogue.

"How could he?" "Will they really?" "Oh yeah?" "We'll see about that."

These conversations take place only in my head, but they are stimulating in their own way.

Walking and talking: It's the way it is now.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dining with Roses

There could be worse company, I think to myself as I stand at the deck railing with leftover chicken and salad. The roses are budding and blooming. They are walling off the deck from the rest of the world, forming a flowery screen. And I'm alone with a modest meal, tired of sitting from a long day and even longer commute.

The roses are an antidote. They ask nothing of me other than my gaze. And so, I oblige. I lose myself in their mesmerizing centers, their pink whorls slightly darker than the outside petals. But the overall picture one of pastel loveliness.

Pastels and spring, after all, go together. The color of new life, of shades that have not yet been tested. Hues still wet behind the ears.

Today the temperature will soar and the roses will wilt. But last night, for one perfect al fresco dinner,  I had them all to myself.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

To Capture Rapture

Underlit can mean inadequately or poorly lit — or it can mean lit from beneath. As in these trees, glowing from within, it seems, though drawing their light from the setting sun.

They shine like this for only a few minutes each evening, and woe to the photographer who thinks she can bounce a few more minutes on the trampoline before snapping a shot. She will be disappointed. 

Because it only takes an instant for the light to drain away, for the trees to move from emerald to forest, to lose their glow, to become ordinary.

But this night, I stopped bouncing, climbed down off the contraption, ran inside and grabbed my phone. It's difficult to capture rapture. But that's what I was trying to do. 

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Pink and White

They were selling pink and white carnation corsages at church yesterday — pink if your mom is living, white if she is not. I bought neither, but even the choice made my eyes sting.

I can remember wearing corsages on long ago Easters and maybe I could even fish up a memory of wearing a corsage on Mother's Day. It wasn't reliving memories that made me sad. It was knowing that, if I had bought a flower yesterday, it would have been white.

Which is why I was even more grateful to come home, take a walk and spend the rest of Mother's Day on the deck with my daughters. There were some vague plans for a group hike, but we all agreed that just sitting and talking was best.

There was a fullness to the day that doesn't come often enough and is all the more precious when it does. There was laughing and talking and cooking and eating. And there was this thought, poignant and comforting : If my girls were wearing corsages, theirs would be pink.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Congratulations, Claire!

Claire never thought twice about what she'd major in. It would be psychology. And since high school she's been sure of what she wanted for a life's work: She would be a therapist. She would help people.

Which is exactly what's she's done: received her bachelor of science in psychology and, today, will receive her master of social work degree from Catholic University.

As I prepare for her commencement, I think of Claire as a baby, toddler, school kid, teenager, college student and, for the last several years, grad student working on the side.

A huge wash of feelings on this day. But one that rises above the rest: You did it, kiddo. Good for you!

Friday, May 12, 2017

For Dad

It's been four years now since Dad was alive to celebrate his birthday. I wonder what he would think of the world today. He would laugh about it, I'm sure. Probably shake his head, too.

Cleaning out some files health files last weekend I came across a newspaper clipping from the '90s, an article from the Louisville Courier Journal on how running affects women's knees. Written across the top, in Mom's distinctive hand: "From Dad."

What a wonderful and unexpected find! Mom's handwriting and Dad's idea. He was always after me to stop running. Bad for your knees, he said, all that pounding. Dad, who apart from yard work did no other exercise I can recall.

Dad lacked the earnestness of later, highly buff generations. But he lived to be 90 and he loved life. He took what came — and kept on going, always with a smile and a quip. Can't think of a much better way to do it.

(Dad posing in front of the house he grew up in on Father's Day 2011.)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

May Evening

After-work walk on a May evening. The air perfumed with spirea and honeysuckle, a trace of lilac. I pass through waves of warmth and coolness.

I'd been thinking of this amble as I sat in meetings and on Metro. Thought of it at home when I pulled on a t-shirt and tennis shoes and left the house in a hurry, before I found something else I had to do.

The real stroll was even better than the imagined one, as I lost myself in the cadence of the steps and the sounds of day's end: birds roosting, balls bouncing, radio rap from a passing car.

Self-propulsion is marvelous any time of year. But on a fine May evening it's utterly divine.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Missing Fob

It wasn't in the inside pocket of my too-small purse. And it wasn't in the roomier confines of my tote bag. It wasn't on the desk or in a drawer. Which meant one of two things: Either I had lost my fob, my entry ticket to this office suite, or it was in my pants pocket.

It's the latter, I just learned. And I'm filled with relief. Which makes me think about how closely we hew to the small landmarks of our routine. How the absence of one tiny item can unsettle and disrupt. Today I'll use the front door instead of the rear, and plan trips out to coincide with receptionist availability.

But maybe this is a good thing, something to keep in mind when routine ossifies. That we are only a loss or two away, not from inconvenience — but from liberation.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Anatomy of a Headache

I am, unfortunately, headache-prone. I've learned to live with the dull aches and the sharp pains, with the early awakenings and the late nights. I don't glorify these as migraines, but they can hang around for days. Sometimes they respond to ibuprofen and sometimes they don't.

It's a point of pride that I don't give in to these headaches — but today I was wondering what it would be like if I did. Would I be one of those neurasthenic Victorian ladies, perfumed handkerchief and rose water, dabbing at my temples and wrists? Would I lie in a darkened room while someone (a Downton-Abbey-style ladies maid) brought me a cup of tea?

Not my style. But that doesn't stop me from analyzing the headache, especially the one I have right now. Unlike the more typical vague throbbing, this one announced itself with a stab of pain between the eyes. I can pinpoint its arrival almost to the minute. It began sometime between 6:50 and 6:55 a.m., while turning right from Vale to Hunter Mill Road on my way to Metro and the office. One moment I didn't have a headache, and the next moment I did.

Now I'm imagining another scenario: that the headache skedaddle as quickly as it came. I can almost feel it now: the pressure will vanish, the tightness will disappear. Ah, yes, I'm feeling better already.

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