Unexpected Moments of Grace

A Perfect Storm

When I was growing up in San Francisco, I remember earthquakes as being more commonplace than thunderstorms.  Thunder and lightening were rare and terrifying enough in fact that I would hide underneath the dining room table, whereas earthly tremors elicited excited laughter from me.  One afternoon in particular, I remember walking a school friend to her home after the library and looking to the north and seeing the sky blotted out by enormous charcoal clouds rolling in my direction.  Some part of me was old enough to know it was just a storm.  Some other part of me believed the world was going to end.

Here on the East Coast, thunderstorms are common during the summer.  And given the temporary respite from the heat and humidity, I've come to quite like them.  Today, however, I felt the same thrill of terror and awe.

It was the hottest, muggiest day of the year so far (but it's still early).  In the late afternoon, the same enormous charcoal clouds from my childhood were rolling in... from three different directions this time, converging on me.  My little patch of light getting smaller and smaller.  I didn't stay outdoors to watch it completely disappear.  Instead, I came inside, grabbed my laptop, and started blogging.  Outside, the cracks of thunder are so loud that the windows rattle.  The rain is pelting down so hard it sounds like someone dropped a huge box of ball bearings.  It's not even 6pm, two weeks to the summer solstice, and it is dark.

Yet even as I type, I can hear the sound of thunder growing more distant.  All the sound and fury hasn't lasted more than 20 minutes, it seems.  Longer lasting is the cooler air it leaves behind.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

or in that vicinity...

Man, what a long day at work today.  Thinking that I would be taking off early to have coffee with my former boss/still current friend, Joe, I went into the office about two hours early.  I'm not an early morning kind of person in the first place but this morning was particularly drizzly and dreary.  

Then along 17th St, I noticed a rainbow flag.  Not all that unusual in this part of town (Dupont Circle).  Half a block later on the other side of the street, a restaurant had tied six huge streamers - red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple - from one point on the grill of a second story window, and then fanned them out downwards to the outer patio railing.  The result was a fantastic triangular canopy under which the diners would be able to sit.  Contrasting with the grey sky, it was even more breathtaking.  That's when it occurred to me that it's Pride Week in DC.

A partly rainy/partly sunny morning is the kind of time one would expect to see rainbows, and I saw a lot of them.

It turns out that Joe's flight was canceled, which meant traveling headaches for him and no coffee with Joe for me.  Instead, it wasn't until dusk that I left the office.  The evening walk back along 17th was very different from the morning.  For one thing, evening light is very different from morning light.  For another, many more shops and homes had put up their Pride decorations.   Rainbows burst from many a window, flagpole and railing.  Passing by the same restaurant, I realized that what I had seen this morning was an unfinished product.  Colored streamers of six hues now wove in and out of the patio railing to form a rainbow fence.  Gone was the delicate canopy, lost in the addition of more streamers and lights.  Instead of nature's rainbow, I was now thinking Disneyland.  But otoh, with the twinkly Christmas lights, it was a festive place to dine.  Certainly, the patrons seemed happy.

About a block later, I realized that other lights were twinkling as well.  Tonight, I spotted my first fireflies of the season.  Several of them, flashing bright in the growing darkness.**  No matter how many more years I live, I will never cease to be amazed by fireflies.


**Ironically, the fireflies reminded me even more of Disneyland.  Growing up in California, I did not see my first real firefly until well into adulthood, which is why I'll never take them for granted.  The only inkling I had of what a firefly was like was from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney.  The first time I saw a real one (and almost every time since), my first reaction was that nature reminded me of artifice.  Yes, I know it's perverse.


Labour of Love

Love's Labour Lost

Every year, DC's Shakespeare Theater Company puts on a free production in the Carter Barron Amphitheater in Rock Creek Park. First of all, I just love Rock Creek Park, a wide swath of un-manicured greenery down the center of DC. Secondly, I love Shakespeare outdoors. Not only is it more festive, but the less formal environment usually encourages the production company to loosen up and take more chances.

Which brings me to thirdly... this years free production was Love's Labors Lost, set in India in the 1960s. Complete with Maharishi and rock stars and a drug-addled hippie and hip chicks in go-go boots on mopeds.

The set was done in gorgeous bright colours, and as the sun set in the park the stage took on even more psychedelic vibrancy. It literally glowed. The rock tunes had us clapping and cheering in delight. It is certainly an unexpected moment to see drums and electric guitar in Shakespeare.

Ithaca is Gorgeous!

Ithaca gorge

Literally.  There are a lot of gorges in Ithaca.  I went up this weekend to see my old boss, Joe, and his family, and their new home in Ithaca.  Everyone told me that Ithaca would be beautiful, and it was.  The surrounding farmland was not quite as idyllic as the stony green hills of Vermont/New Hampshire, imo, but it was close enough to remind me of them.  And Cornell University was beautiful as well.  Most gorgeous of all is the fact that Joe and Mary and Robert seem to be happy up there.

What Happened to Courtesy?

So I got up at like 4:30 this morning in order to pack and make it to Chinatown in time to catch the 8am bus to NYC.**  Not quite being awake I mistakenly took the metro bus to get me to my destination instead of the subway.  Which is what brought me to this scene:

The bus was crowded but eventually I got a seat in the back.  A couple of stops later, a middle-aged woman got on - my guess is that she was in her 50's.  A 20-something young man got up out of his seat but did not head towards the exit.  It took me about as long as it did the woman to realize that he was giving up his seat for her.  A look of incredulity passed her face and then she sat down without so much as a nod in his direction.  I don't claim to be a mind-reader so I don't know what she was thinking.  Was she a miffed feminist who felt that she was just as capable of standing as he?  Or was she simply surprised that anyone would do that these days?  As I was wondering, it occurred to me how surprised I was myself.  I had not seen such an act of courtesy in what seems like years, and definitely did not expect it from a young man.

Anyway, he stood and swayed for a few more stops until a seat opened up next to me.  When he sat down, I told him it was a nice thing that he did, and then got off at my stop.  It was a nice beginning to what would be a long travel day.

**For those of you who don't know, there are a number of bus companies that run between the Chinatowns of the major cities in the Northeast.  Roundtrip from DC to NYC for $35.

People Are Strange

This appeared as a Reuters "Oddly Enough" but I thought it was quite touching. People can be kind in the most unexpected ways.  I refer to both the death row inmate, and the many strangers who delivered the pizzas.

Executed man gets last meal wish after he dies

Thu May 10, 2007 4:17PM EDT

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - A convicted murderer put to death in Tennessee this week got his last meal wish after he died.

Philip Workman had turned down the usual final meal of his choice traditionally offered the condemned, asking instead that a vegetarian pizza be given to a homeless person.

Prison officials refused to send out a pizza and Workman died Wednesday by lethal injection.

But news accounts of his request touched a nerve with the public.

Nashville's Union Rescue Mission received 170 pizzas. Media reports said listeners to a radio station in Minnesota also ordered pizzas sent to another organization for troubled youngsters.

Dorinda Carter, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Correction, said, "Taxes are to be spent on specific things for the care of the inmates." But she acknowledged there was no regulation against carrying out Workman's request.

An official at the mission said "the pizzas were enjoyed greatly by our clientele."

American Beauty

I had an American Beauty moment this afternoon.  No, I don't mean a naked teenager in a bed of roses kind of moment.  I mean a plastic bag dancing in the wind kind of moment.

I was walking to the post office to mail some t-shirts and noticed a small twister of yellow leaves swirling in a plaza.  Something about the configuration of the buildings and such caused the slight breeze to form a funnel.  Cool, I thought, but my errand was waiting on me.

After doing my duty and mailing said t-shirts, I walked past the plaza again the the yellow leaves lay in a lifeless, scattered drift.  Oh well.  Since it was a warm day, I decided to treat myself to an iced-coffee drink.  After placing the order, I looked out the window and the leaves had spun to life again.  They circled fast and furious near the ground, like a cat chasing its tail.  (Yes, I know most of you think of a dog, but you've never seen my cat, and she is much faster than any dog.)  But a few feet above, the movement was softer, more like a caress.  Little yellow leaves, playing in the breeze.

Another Reason to Visit China

My roommate just emailed this to me.  Hi-yah!


Screaming rollercoaster will kick off Bruce Lee theme park

John Harlow, Los Angeles

CHINESE government officials are planning a Bruce Lee theme park, complete with a rollercoaster that emits the martial arts actor’s signature grunts and screams on high-speed bends.

According to local reports, the park will be patrolled by Bruce Lee “mannequin robots”, radio-controlled from within a giant statue of the late star.

Although Lee was born in San Francisco and his action movies such as Enter the Dragon and Fist of Fury were banned in China, the authorities are seeking to cash in on his legacy. They are promoting Lee as the father of modern martial arts, a sport that once dismissed the 5ft 7in actor for his unconventional moves and trademark yell.

The £10m theme park will be built at Shunde, a picturesque town of canals and bamboo gardens northwest of Hong Kong, which Lee’s grandfather left in the late 19th century to start a new life in America. The actor visited briefly only once, when he was five years old.

Officials have already named a street after Lee and turned a tea shop into a museum packed with letters and photographs of uncertain provenance. They are also discussing plans for a memorial hall and a monorail to connect the town centre with the theme park. 


Nearly everyone is relishing the spring weather.  Personally, while I am happy to be able to wear sandals again, I am a little sad.  The warm temperatures means that the spring flowers will soon be whithered and gone.

I mentioned almost two weeks ago that blossoms were dropping onto our terrace like little snow flurries.  Today, they fell so thick and fast that it was as if we were in a giant snow globe that had just been shaken.  A layer of yellowish white petals covered the floor and patio furniture.

Walking home from work, the spent blossoms of the redbud trees littered the sidewalks.  And the dogwood blossoms were drooping.

Oh the dogwoods!  Don't get me wrong, the cherry trees that everyone comes to ooh and ah over are truly beautiful.  But I will take a dogwood blossom any day over a cherry blossom.  Somehow the petals are both delicate and sturdy at the same time.  The flowers remind me of hundreds of white (or pink) moths about to take flight.

They are drooping.  For over a week now I keep forgetting to bring my camera so I can capture the beautiful dogwoods that grace our cement neighborhoods.  And now, even if I remember tomorrow, they probably won't be the same.  Oh well.  My fault.  I had almost two weeks.

And we wouldn't appreciate the beauty quite as much if it weren't transient.

Rob says that the azaleas are rioting over at the National Botanical Gardens.  Maybe I'll get there before the party is over.

My Heart is Breaking

Virginia Tech pays respects to victims, and gunman

Sat Apr 21, 2007 5:01pm

By Andrea Hopkins

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 21 (Reuters) - Mourners gathered on Saturday for the funerals of many of the 32 victims killed at Virginia Tech as some students extended a note of forgiveness to the gunman responsible for the massacre.

A small tribute to Seung-Hui Cho, who shot his victims then himself on Monday, has been added to a growing memorial of stones in the center of the sprawling university in southwest Virginia where knots of weeping students continue to gather.

"I just wanted you to know that I am not mad at you. I don't hate you," read a note among flowers at a stone marker labeled for Cho. "I am so sorry that you could find no help or comfort."

The note, one of three expressing sorrow and sympathy for the gunman, a deeply disturbed English major, was signed: "With all my love, Laura." A purple candle burned and a small American flag stood in the ground nearby.



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