Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Fox And Rabbit

For the first time ever, I saw a small fox in my back yard one night last week. My yard has been home to rabbits for years. At first they were skittish around me but not anymore. The unexpected fox sighting made me wonder if any of the rabbits had been made a meal of. It was a sad thought. For several days since, I did not see any rabbits in the yard and that only confirmed my fears. Maybe they no longer felt safe here and had moved elsewhere. This afternoon one of the rabbits was back in the yard and from what I could tell it was business as usual. There was no signs of distress or discomfort. This probable and imagined encounter between a fox and the rabbit brought to mind the Longfellow quote "Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, only a signal shown, and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another, only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence." We fear unpleasant encounters with what takes up disproportionate space in our lives but brings little reward or value. Yet the dreaded moment passes, the stressor and the stressed return to their original positions, life goes on. Such may have been the case with the rabbit who likely lives in mortal fear of the fox. The two may or may not have met each other that night. I was there to see them both, the hunter and the hunted - just as those who stand witness to the real and imagined calamities of our lives.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Vignettes Of Change

Recently, I have been reading some reminiscent books written by former Obama staffers. Those years were fascinating for me given where I come from. From the outside looking it, it appeared like change that come about before its time. There were consequences as the years following showed. In a way the experience paralleled India coming into independence in 1947 a secular country with its constitution written under the leadership of a Dalit Buddhist, Dr. Ambedkar. The out-sized dreams for India ended up being very far from attainable. In a sense the overzealous push to get India caught up to the rest of the free world after hundreds of years of foreign servitude, set us back a hundred years more. There is a time and pace for change and neither can be forced upon a people or a country.

2008 was the beginning of J's interest in American politics which runs strong to this day. I was sucked into the excitement of the times by my then seven year old. She was a believer back then as it seems some of these authors were. David Litt in his book My Hopey Changey White House Years was hard to like. The author seemed to be processing internal conflict by writing this book. As of its writing, he had not determined what those years meant for him. While being part of the creative process is interesting sometimes, such was not the case here. Litt sought to view things as a net positive but there was some strange mix of hero worship, self-deprecation, confusion about life overall that made it a hard sell to the reader. It was difficult to stay with the book and see it through even though Litt is a very talented writer.

The next one of this genre I tried to read was Who Thought This Was a Good Idea by Alyssa Mastromonaco. A very different tone and style from a mid-career professional not swooning over hope and dream. Mastromonaco does not come across a fan-girl but more a woman with big career goals and the grit required to achieve them. However, the long form description of her tampon travails in the opening chapter set the tone for her book. It was imagery that stuck and not in the most helpful way for her cause whatever that may have been. She did clarify that being known as the one who brought tampon dispensers to the woman's restroom in her place of work is not how she wanted to remembered by posterity. So a reader may assume her book was meant to serve some other cause.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Orchids and Hydrangeas

Two of my closest friends go back to high school and college. Over the years, there were pauses in our communication that ran months and years. Yet every time we reconnected it was like picking up where we left off without missing a beat. No matter what happened in our lives during the hiatus, nothing changed our friendship. We each live in a different country and have not met in decades. The unconditional and unchanging friendship of these two wonderful people I have been so fortunate to know is unlike the rest of the "friendships" in my life. 

There were ebbs and tides, people were in frequent touch at times and then not at all, I made efforts to revive near-dead relationships that seem to run out of air the moment I stopped trying. Life frequently gets in the way - marriage, divorce, kids, death, employment and illness take their toll. Many have dropped off completely and I have to struggle to remember names that were once important to me. I have wondered if people stop being able to forge friendships of a lifetime after college and if my experience is not so unique after all. Maybe there is something to be said for the cauldron that forms the dorm experience - living in tight quarters, over-sharing, new freedom, youth, naivete, dreams yet unbroken that allows abiding friendships to form. High school was similar in most ways minus the 24/7 collocation. 

Not since those times does one have the luxury of waiting several months to initiate conversation with a person that seemed interesting. Six months later, you are still in the same classes and have the same routine - it is not too late. This slow and gentle process of getting to know another person seems to impact the long term outcomes. There is no rush to do things, deliver on expectations or otherwise step out of your comfort zone. The friendship grows organically, feeding off of what is naturally available in the environment. If you then part ways and still want to stay in touch, chances are that the relationship will continue to thrive even as people and conditions evolve. There seems to be a natural adaptation in the friendship of youth to allow this. Those of independent and adult life  have never had any of these resilient qualities in my experience.

It is the difference between nurturing a hydrangea (which blooms each summer in my yard with no effort on my part) and trying to keep an orchid alive in its pot (I managed to keep one around for close to two years and that was as much work as it was a miracle). The more I have run into the fancy orchids in my later years, the more I value my never failing to bloom hydrangea of early youth.