Wednesday, October 22, 2014

True Colors

The hedge is returning to its roots. The pink hues of bud and stem — the colors I notice every spring — are present now in the roses and russets of autumn. In the months between, of course, there's a lot of green. But the green is fading now and those first colors are reappearing.

Which makes me wonder: What are the hedge's true colors? The green it wears most of the summer or the pink it dons in spring and fall?

I'm no botanist, but I'm fond of the hedge. I notice its growth and cycles. And if I had to name its true color I would say the one it was born with. Apples, hedges — and people, too — none of us fall too far from the tree.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Back Home and Walking

Suzanne was out the door yesterday morning before sunrise, running down a paved road first and then, with first light, ducking into the woods and the old trails she knows so well. At midday she  took Copper for a walk, and, in the late afternoon, she, Claire and I drove to a southern stretch of the Cross-County trail and strolled it together.

I didn't think of this in the countdown days before Suzanne arrived, but now that she's here it seems perfectly natural. When you return home after a long absence your feet seek firm ground. Walking becomes a way to reacquaint yourself, to re-enter the landscape.

Walking does this for me, of course; it's a way to ground myself and put life in perspective. But it's nice to see my children walking, too. All three girls run or walk —they move through the world to help the world make sense. I hope they always do.

(Suzanne and Claire on the Cross-County Trail.)

Monday, October 20, 2014

International Arrival

You would need a heart of stone not to be affected by the international arrivals hall at Dulles Airport. Everywhere you look are reunions of one sort or another: husbands and wives, children and parents, brothers and sisters, friends. There was a man next to us who said he was waiting for his sweetheart to return from Denmark. His cap was pulled down low so it was difficult to see his eyes — maybe because he was expecting them to fill.

Claire and Celia were holding Claire’s two homemade signs. One of them said “Welcome Home” in “pennant” letters. The other was a map of Benin in green magic marker.

After what seemed like an eternity, we saw Suzanne. She was wearing a short-sleeved “Virginia is for Runners” t-shirt and her arms and face were tan. She was wheeling three large suitcases and a carry-on. (I later learned that only one of those large bags was hers; the others were for Peace Corps friends.) 

The first impression — that ever amazing, important first impression — was that she's a world traveler now. There was a nonchalance in the way she wheeled the bags, a certain jauntiness about her. 

My second impression — or perhaps I should say thought once I was capable of having thoughts — was that I don't ever want her to leave again.



Saturday, October 18, 2014


It's not only possible now but entirely sensible to count down to Suzanne's arrival in hours not days. No more than 32, if all goes well! Her plane is scheduled to touch down at Dulles tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. She's well into her departure preparations, I imagine, and will leave for the airport in five or six hours for an overnight flight to Brussels, where she transfers to the plane that will bring her home.

The last time I saw her was June 24, 2012. A lot has happened since then.

This is one of the last images I have of Suzanne, walking with two heavy suitcases through a crowded Union Station. She would begin her long journey aboard a train for Philadelphia, meeting up with other Peace Corps volunteers there for the flight across the ocean to in-country training.

She's not returning for good tomorrow — I wish! — but she does have a six-week leave, and I've warned her that she may find herself tied to a chair come December 1. Besides, we're not thinking of departures now, only arrivals.

For now there's a new day dawning, grocery shopping and last-minute tidying still to do — and only hours till she arrives.

It seemed like this day would never come. And now it's tomorrow.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday in the District

I usually work at home on Fridays, but today I'm in the office. It's a beautiful day here in the nation's capital, a transitional day. Not only does it feel a little bit like summer and a little bit like fall, but it also feels a little bit like a weekday and a little bit like a weekend.

And I wonder: Is this how workday Fridays are now? Maybe they are and I just haven't noticed. On the sidewalks: a greater mix than usual of suits and workout attire. On the Mall: a higher proportion of joggers and bikers.  On the streets: more double-parking!

On the whole: A deliciously casual, buoyant air. Not enough to make me come downtown every Friday, but nice for a change.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fighting Fear

I try to think of something else but it's hard not to. I have a daughter flying into Dulles from West Africa this weekend.  She's not arriving from one of the affected countries but from somewhere close. And while at this point the extra scrutiny (temperatures taken, isolation if necessary) only applies to passengers arriving from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, I wonder if officials will widen the net, start checking those arriving from any West African nation.

It's fear at work, I know. But fear is contagious, too. And just as there's no vaccine for Ebola so also there is no immunization for fear. Information doesn't help — it's hard to read a newspaper or watch the news — but ignorance is no better.

One of the most poignant news programs I've heard about the epidemic described what doctors and nurses do in Liberia before starting their shifts. Here they are on the front lines, dealing with Ebola patients every day, wearing substandard protective gear and working in primitive conditions. And what do they do before anything else? They stand in a circle, they pray and they sing. 

If they can sing, so can we. Sing in their honor. Sing for their safety. Sing until the fear goes away.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Deer Hunter

I had seen warning signs like this one along the trail for months — "Archery Program in Process." But until last weekend I had never seen a deer hunter. He was decked out in camouflage and his face was smudged with paint. If he had been in a tree stand I would not have seen him.

But he was on a trail and I was, too. We passed each other, exchanged brief hellos. He held an elaborate bow, nothing like what I remember as a child. It was all metal and wires. It meant business. And he did, too. If I'd had more time to prepare myself I might have asked him to pose for a photo. But he was in a hurry and did not look happy. He was not dragging a six-point buck behind him.

I curse the deer that gobble up the daylilies and scrape the bark off the Kwanzan cherry. I think of them not as Bambi but as Super Rat. I wish they were gone — all but one or two I could spot across a sylvan glade once or twice a year.

But the idea of this guy up in a tree looking for movement, scanning the woods with his high-powered scope — well, frankly, it creeps me out. So I gave the deer hunter a wide berth — and I shivered as he passed.

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