Misty Mist and Dusky Dusk

Befitting my kindergarten position at the back of the line during kickball team picks, I recently was assigned to write no more than 200 words reflecting upon a 40th  verse abandoned on a neatly-maintained list after its 39 brethren had been claimed.

If you know me at all, personally or professionally, you may be experiencing paroxysms of disbelief at the thought that I could limit myself to just 200 words about anything.  (Even my text messages have voluminous sub-texts.)

That applies even when the 200 words is forty-fold the size of my assigned clause-as-sentence, which was just five words: “….may your will be done.”

After I finished my written ruminations–which, amazingly, came in at six words under the maximum–I realized that one word might have done just as well.

Acceptance.

I thought about the space between the cup of the Psalms, which overflows with blessings, and the cup of roiling wrath that provides the context for Matthew 26:42.

And how else can it be?/ The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain./ Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”

At the distinct risk–and likely realization–of sacrilege,  I could not get out of my mind that when we mortals face each morning we simply don’t know and can’t control from which cup we will sip.  We chose, in our multi-fold ways, to partake–or not–of the day and engage in our world; in neither case can we choose what each day hands us.

When we reach out to other beings it can be glorious.  It also may be disappointing, maddening, or so harrowing it reduces you to zero at the bone.

We may maintain ourselves within the reasonably safe, the manageable known unknowns: Land of the Tightly-Wound and Closely-Held Amygdala.   Akin to Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates (here I hear, intoned in Jim’s smile-leavened voice, speaking to the formerly fearful me, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?“).  The banal pleasant present of (spoiler alert) the Good Place, shorn of its peaks as surely as its dark vales have disappeared.

Or we can take a page from the not-so Cowardly Lion.

But reaching out–and dealing yourself in–can also be like a cross between “The Lady or the Tiger?”  and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (will it be the grass flavor or the vomit, cinnamon or cement?). Will you be handed the cup that runneth over, or the vessel of down-to-the-dregs bitterness?

Some element of choice remains ever-present from the macro to the micro within each day.  I choose to get outside and contemplate  the horizon even when the winter wind turns my hands to powder-blue ice and all the sea and sky I can see  is rendered in simmering dusky black.

I never regret going out to greet ordinary skies.  I deeply regret when I cannot take the detour.

And sometimes–say, one in forty mornings–I’ll dally at the shore upon a hint of the merest glimmer of incandescent pre-dawn light, and be there to see something like this….

We don’t get to choose the result; we do, at least sometimes, get to choose where we stand, and sometimes what we position ourselves to see.

The Third’s the Charm

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“The third time’s the charm,” the saying goes.

It is a paean to the payoff of persistence.  Get back up on that horse, re-tackle that problem, dare to open your heart after it’s not only been broken, but broken once again.

It expresses a magical intersection among effort, hope and faith.

Falstaff dispatched one Mistress, advising: “this is the third time; I hope good luck lies in odd numbers.  Away, go; they say there is divinity in odd numbers, either in nativity, chance, or death.”

(Homer Simpson’s approach is the considerably  less Shakespearean flip side: “You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.”)

Little did I know that the allure of the third also is a tenet of photographic composition–one to which I unwittingly have been subscribing, casting vivid foreground wonders against glittering bouquets of bokeh, endless points of light far beyond my grasp. . . at least on first or second try.

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Broken and Unbroken

Ireland 097

Zigzag.

It appeared nearly two centuries ago as a noun–distinct from a mere “walk” and more akin to a ramble–in Jonathan Swift’s “My Lady’s Lamentation”:

How proudly he talks
Of zigzags and walks

It’s a decent Scrabble word.

Mathematically, it is a literary oxymoron: a seamless “broken” line.

It can be found in architectural details, in the steep angles of a child’s dress-up crown, bridges’ aggressively slanted steel beams, the gentle meandering slope of a waterway breaking through a marsh.

It’s even a moth.

It’s also a compact, if grossly understated, metaphor both for death and for the walking who have been wounded by it.

You went zig and I went zag . . . .

I watch butterflies’ and moths’ zigzag zooming around the kind of bushes Jim once planted to draw them to our home.

Invisible and fleeting paths, Balm in Gilead:

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“…his voice is a rainstorm   
that rinses air to reveal earth’s surprises.
Today, the summer gone, four monarch butterflies,
their breed’s survivors, sucked a flower’s last blooms,   
opened their wings, orange-and-black stained glass,   
and printed on the sky in zigzag lines,
watch bright things rise: winter moons, the white undersides   
of a California condor, once thought doomed,
now flapping wide like the first bird from ashes.”

The Cone of Uncertainty

Before the Storm, July 3, 2014

The East Coast’s weather conditions led a friend to post this morning that she doesn’t think she likes being in “the cone of uncertainty.”

NOAA has set out a bright blue and green map; within it is a “cone” (which looks more like an elongated teardrop to me) mapping the as-yet-unrealized but likely vicissitudes of Hurricane Arthur’s dire offshoots–including tropical depressions, storms, and cyclones.

Strictly speaking, the shape doesn’t look at all like a cone to me: it’s closed off, not open-ended–more like a deflated balloon than a cornucopia.

 

Roiling

The mathematics of uncertainty are dryly recited: “forecast uncertainty is conveyed by the track forecast ‘cone’ . . . .The solid white area depicts the track forecast uncertainty for days 1-3 of the forecast, while the stippled area depicts the uncertainty on days 4-5. Historical data indicate that the entire 5-day path of the center of the tropical cyclone will remain within the cone about 60-70% of the time. To form the cone, a set of imaginary circles are placed along the forecast track at the 12, 24, 36, 48, 72, 96, and 120 h positions, where the size of each circle is set so that it encloses 67% of the previous five years official forecast errors. The cone is then formed by smoothly connecting the area swept out by the set of circles.”

Well, then. Continue reading “The Cone of Uncertainty”

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