Sunday, April 10, 2005

Spring is soon over, it will not stay; Let us be up and on our way; Sunshine to greet us, come out and meet us, All the world’s joyful this April day*

Perhaps to compensate for my wayward driving yesterday (see posts below about detours to Chicago), today I walked. To food stores, bookstores, woods and beyond, I walked, like a woman possessed, clearing my mind of “yes but what ifs” and “I don’t know how evers,” I paced the streets of this town for hours, until the clock forced me to retreat.

I took with me a $5 bill, a credit card (hey, Linus had his blanket, I have mine) and a camera.

What do I have to show for it? Well, a friend asked me tonight to swear on my life that I did not go to a tanning salon (easy: I swear). And I did put the $5 to good use: one pear at Whole Foods, and a latte with biscotti from Borders. But the camera? That is one sad story: in the miles and miles of terrain that I covered, I remained photographically uninspired.

“This town defeats me” – a friend once said to me in a somewhat different context. Well it defeats me too. For one thing, behind its slightly unphotogenic façade lies this truth: there is a certain predictability to it (at so many levels) that can be really exasperating.

But in spring, everything is beautiful in spite of any harshly suppressed reality. Here, I have three photos that speak to this:

* Czech folk song
Last week's willow was all about yellow against blue; today it's already light green. Posted by Hello
Exceptionally beautiful Posted by Hello
In Owen Woods Park they are getting ready for some spring planting ritual. But what? Posted by Hello

Say, I can see, I just don’t understand how it all works

There has been a lot of discussion about how wrong/right it is to have American flags at half mast to honor John Paul II. I haven’t been following any of it. My position on this became quickly and rigidly fixed with the reading of this post and I have been repeating it rather indifferently since. It’s a symbol and though I recognize all sorts of slippery slope issues in our dealings with symbols, I am just not that bothered about this one.

But I noticed today on my walk that the flags were still at the half point even though the pontiff has been deceased for more than a week and so I wondered how the rules are set on American flag displays and if everyone who has a flag is obliged to follow them. I could have googled in search of an answer, but not owning a flag made this less of a burning project (and yes, I do know you’re not supposed to burn the r,w&b).

Thoughts of flags pushed aside, I was almost home and then I reached my neighbor’s house and I couldn’t help noting that their flag was fully hoisted to the tip. My neighbor is not one to make a counter-federal government statement, especially when the elected leader of the country is one of his choosing, so I wondered what instruction pamphlet he was following in his own flag-hoisting machinations.

And just one more thought: if one doesn’t have google to assist one in the pursuit of knowledge, how does one find out flag rules? Do flags come with instructions? Don’t let it touch the ground, don’t let it get rained on, don’t burn it, lower it at sundown – I remember these well from New Jersey Y camp days where I was terrified that I, the sole communist-land camp attendee would be the one to break The Rules on flag handling. (And have these changed? What gives? If one can’t allow the rain to drip on a flag, how is it that we can run flag-designed shorts through the wash cycle?)

In Poland we do not have rules that I am aware of concerning flags. Which should not be regarded as a statement of that country’s laid back and toned-down attitude toward nationalism because, due to our skirmishes with invading neighbors, we have, unfortunately, rampant and fierce national pride, far in excess of what any healthy nation needs.

A post on what I have in common with the writer Ha Jin

An interview with Ha Jin in today’s NYT Magazine ends with this exchange:

Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A: I often tell my wife and son that the best life for me would be to get up in the morning and go to a café and have coffee and meet friends and read the newspaper.
[He then goes on to say: But you can’t do it every day, because if you did, your life would be effortless. And an effortless life is a meaningless life.]

For me as well! That, or to sit back over a café latte and listen to others exchange a quick story or a comment on some event or other.

I am precluded from doing this because no one here pauses in the morning. The café baristas are busy then, but they are for the most part filling endless take-out cups. The few people who pause, do so to read. The American café in the morning is one dull place.

I have said this before – perhaps my very favorite part of a vacation on the other side of the ocean is the fifteen morning minutes spent over a coffee and roll at a café, especially on a weekday. No kidding. Watching people come in, banter for a few minutes, then move on with a handshake or a kiss and a swipe at the last crumb of croissant or other carb-loaded piece of bread is bliss. It adds spring to my step for the rest of the day.

A P.S. to this day:

It’s rare that I get to drive from Chicago on a highway empty enough for me to be able to photograph it without risking my life and the life of the ancient van.

Just one photo and then I’ll sign off for the night:
Madison lies to the northwest of Chicago and so each return home at the end of the day means a drive straight into the suset.. Posted by Hello