Category Odds & Ends

Nancy Pelosi’s Loss of Form

Watching world-class sprinters run as fast as they do, your natural suspicion is that they are straining with every muscle, fists in balls pounding at the air, brows furrowed and veins in their neck ready to burst from the the sheer strain of racing at the 20+ miles per hour they do. But that’s not how it is at all. Instead, you see their palms completely open, brows smooth, and most improbably, cheeks bouncing back and forth against the sides of their face, all loosey goosey as the soft pliable flesh they are in their natural state.

The picture is one of a relaxed lope on a pleasant afternoon, which for sprinters, is a superhuman feat, when one really thinks about it.  Sprinters’ sculpted, muscle-bound bodies are finely wrought, explosive racing machines...

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At the Butterfly House

The mere thought—a museum facility for butterflies?—tickles the imagination. Especially so in the depths of January, the dark season of grudging light, offering back mere seconds daily toward the far-off abundance of spring.

But here it is, just blocks from my home, tucked in among the boundless trees, a wintry oasis of heat and humidity and the seemingly aimless flapping of wings, their bearers zigging and zagging through the weighty air, all sublime brilliance and self-possession, a purity of jazz in flight, never missing a beat…

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I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man. —Chuang Tzu

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Love is like a butterfly: It goes where it pleases and pleases wherever it goes.—Anonymous

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Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. —Muhammad Ali

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As my love gave chase to a butterfly/ So did I give chase to love/ Now here ...

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“And Then It Was Over”: A Song of Transience, Clinging and Flux

“Everything flows and nothing stays,” said Heraclitus some 2,500 years ago, with those words and many thousands more that followed putting his stamp on the cosmic ledger as the “Philosopher of Flux.” He added a pleasing image by proclaiming we can never step into the same river twice, the waters displaced by that step already having worked their way downstream, so good luck finding those drops now.

Rivers may not always run deep, but Heraclitus most certainly did.

Bill noting the trajectory of their blooms’ fleeting life cycle by deadpanning: ‘And then it was over.’

“There really is no tomorrow, because when tomorrow comes, it’s today!” That was Mrs. Anderson, my kindly third grade teacher who seemed to my 8-year-old eyes to have been born in the age of Heraclitus, maybe even his wife, waxing philosophic with a mischievous smile on her face at the front of the class.

It sounded slightly...

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Getting Its Sea Legs: On Restaking the Maple Tree

Coming to the tail-end of its first winter in my front yard rather than in the pot where it had spent its infancy at the nursery, the red maple “October Glory” was tightly bound to its single stake. No wiggle room, unmoved and unbreakable by the wind.

Secure.

Its skinny stalk of a trunk suggests an egret’s leg, compared to the elephant leg of the stately catalpa tree it replaced on the day the catalpa met its end in December. It is not unworthy of note that the catalpa, despite its trunk’s several feet of circumference, was also subject to felling by the wind on that day it yielded its place to the maple, its trunk having hollowed with age, its sprawling root system no longer the fierce, proud bulwark against the incursions of winter storms.

The catalpa in its dotage, porous and wobbly with age, its replacement young maple wobbly with not enough of it.

But three months on and with spring winds ahead,...

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Good-bye to a Tree

“Every part of nature teaches that the passing away of one life is the making room for another. The oak dies down to the ground, leaving within its rind a rich virgin mould, which will impart a vigorous life to an infant forest. The pine leaves a sandy and sterile soil, the harder woods a strong and fruitful mould. So this constant abrasion and decay makes the soil of my future growth. As I live now so shall I reap.”
—From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau, October 24, 1837

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March, 2014

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A year or two ago, I came across a passage, its source now slipped through the holes in my memory, in which the writer was talking about his grandfather who had received a terminal medical diagnosis and was forced to leave his home. The grandfather had been on the land his whole life, I think in Italy, with all that such long, deep immersion implies...

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