Unexpected Moments of Grace

Green Is In the Air

Happy St. Pattie's Day!

Green is in the air for more reasons than one.  Even tho the first day of spring does not begin until this Thursday, the earth doesn't seem to care about the calendar.

Every year I am amazed.  One moment it seems like nothing is stirring in the still cold, hard earth.  And the next moment it seems like new life is popping up all over the place.  

While taking out the trash this morning, I noticed crocuses popping their heads up.  I didn't even know they were there, having inherited them.  But they care not who "owns" the land.

Walking out the front steps, I walked by the day lilies that my housemate had planted, just the green shoots and leaves for now.

Walking to the metro, I saw tulips and daffodils in my neighbors' front yards.

On the metro train, the trees at Brookland station were starting to put out white blossoms.

Near my office in Dupont Circle are magnolia trees in full bloom, and cherry trees.

I swear, I saw none of this when I passed these same spaces on Friday.  Was I that unaware?  Or was the miracle so fast?  Both are equally plausible.

I am awed and made humble by life.  Life springing up in my yards where ever it decides, despite my plans, despite my pretenses of control.

Under a Dark Sky

It's been so nice to be home in SF and to just not do anything.  Chinese food.  A stroll down to Irving Street for cold, sweet boba drinks...

But my family thinks we have to "do something" while I'm back.  So we take a day trip to one of the Indian casinos.   I guess lights and bells is as good a way as any to celebrate Lantern Festival?  It's pouring rain the entire drive there.  I eat too much at the buffet, especially dessert.  And I lose a little money.  And then I crawl into the car for a nap.

On the way back home the rain picks up again, grim and mildly stressful.  But as we cross the Bay Bridge from Oakland to SF I see my beautiful city.  The skyline, wet and gleaming against a grey backdrop.  The Embarcadero.  Coit Tower.  Nob Hill.  The TransAmerica Building.  And numerous other buildings that I don't know the names of but know well by sight.  My jewel of a city.

Laughter

Got up at 7:30 am this morning for a conference call to work (10:30 am DC time).  From my perspective it was a normal staff meeting, except that I was calling in from SF.  But afterwards my mother commented that she didn't believe I was working; I was laughing too much.

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Afterwards, went to Berkeley with bro et ma to tend my parents' apartment building.  Replace burnt out light bulbs.  Rake old and soggy leaves.  Pick up trash.  Throw out junk mail.  Sweep.  Weed.  There is something calming about this work.

As we pull out of the drive way, I see ahead of us, across the quiet street - chickens!!  Two them, reddish brown, doing their poultry-strut down the side walk in the afternoon sun.  

 

Snow!

It snowed all day in Boston.  By coming up a day early to meet with old friends, I missed flying in the storm.  Instead, I spent the day safe and warm indoors, sipping hot tea, catching up with Paul and Linda, and playing some very creative bowling and baseball with Jonathan.  Poor Paul spent a few hours shoveling, while I enjoyed watching the huge fat flakes float down and marveled at the muffled silence of all but the scrape of steel on cement.  The sky was white and bright.

In the evening, they were kind enough to drive me to the hotel I would be staying at during the retreat - the Union Club.  The night was dark, the sky was clear, and the air was bitter cold - like a real winter night, not like the noncommittal winter we'd had so far in DC.  Amazing how even unpleasant things like a biting wind can be pleasant.

Looking out my bedroom window onto the cemetery of Kings Chapel, the snow-frosted tombstones stood out in the moonlight.  So cold.  So old.  So terribly beautiful.  I feel the spark within me burn bright.  I feel... alive.

 

Ham for Hanukkah

 File this under the category of things that are soooo wrong. Tongue Out

Ham for Hanukkah

Tree of Kindness

One of my favorite things about the winter holidays is the decorations.  In the darkness of winter, the glitter and lights are all the more appreciated.  And one of my least favorite things about the winter holidays is the fighting over the decorations.  Non-Christians complaining about Christmas trees, as if Christmas trees were actually Christian.  

The solution has been to give equal time to symbols of other faith traditions.  In addition to the Christmas creche, there now stands the Hanukkah menorah, and maybe even a Yule log.  Fine with me.  The more festivity the better.  

But what about atheists who don't espouse any religion?  Will they be offended by any display of faith?  Will they insist that we take down all the decorations, reducing us to the dark dreariness of lowest common denominator?

Not necessarily.  One creative atheist group has come up with a symbol of their own to display along side the others.  The Freethought Society in Chester County, PA is erecting a "Tree of Knowledge."  I love it! Smile

On Teddy Bears and Tenderness

Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher in Sudan who was sentenced to 15 days in jail for allowing children to name a teddy bear “Mohammed”, was freed on Dec 3rd, after being held for 8 days. Under Sudanese law, the court could have sentenced her to as much as 40 lashes and 6 months in prison.  While there were scary, hateful people in the streets calling for her blood, it was obvious that the court itself did not relish the situation and was trying to find a middle way to appease the angry mobs while still upholding what is just.

In every country, there are always scary, hateful people.  It was comforting to see that the Sudanese legal system did not reflect that.

But what really touched me in all of this was the bravery shown by some of the Sudanese parents of the school kids, standing by Ms. Gibbons and testifying on her behalf  despite the angry furor, and the reaction of Gillian Gibbons herself.  She had every right to bear a grudge, yet in an interview after her release, there was no sign of resentment.  Only gratitude towards those who helped her.  She "praised the bravery of her pupils' parents who had volunteered to back her in court and thanked her teaching assistant who actually did so."

And went on to say that "The Sudanese people are wonderful, warm and generous people. You can't hold a whole nation to blame for the actions of a few."

These Two Things Do Not Mix

The building in which I work has a strange cadre of tenants.  We're on the third floor, along side an International School.  The second floor is shared by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and a rather divey bar.

I'd never really thought about how the bar gets its alcohol, but today as I caught the elevator up I shared the ride with a guy pushing a dolly stacked high with boxes of beer.  He got off the second floor, right into the PLO's reception area, and pushed the abundance of booze passed the picture of Yasser Arafat hanging reverently on the wall. 

Talk about multi-culturalism.

Under a Dark Sky

It was cold and rainy today.  I trudged along to the metro on wet streets under a sky of various shades of dark gray. Waited for the train on a platform that dripped dirty rain.  And boarded a car to be confronted by the acrid smell of mold.  But things weren't all bad - I was able to find a backwards facing seat.  Looking down I thought about what I needed to do for the day, how I was already late for work.  Looking up I saw it.  

At that moment, the clouds had parted and a ray of light was illuminating the National Basilica, its dome and tower, making them glow ethereally.  Bright gold and blue against a dark sky. 

I go by the Basilica almost every day and love the inside, but had never seen the outside like that.

It made the gray of the rest of the day beautiful.

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