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January 15th, 2003

live oak, grackles

The live oak trees keep their leaves all winter long, unlike other varieties of oak tree. Last night during my drive home, I saw a huge flock of grackles perched in a set of small live oak trees. Grackles are very dark birds with long tail feathers. In large groups, they make constant noise, like a crowded party. The sight of shouting grackles crowded into live oak trees is a real winter-time marker. The dark grackles contrast with all the Spring and Summer birds we get, which can be much more colorful. Grackles are a bit more funereal, albeit a kind of jazz improv funeral, with a lot of life and hope amid the darkness.

I like the cyclical nature of seasons. There's something oddly comforting in the sheer "coming and going" of it all. One has a sense of place--jonquil in April, pansies in November, a June filled with giant swallowtail butterflies. Grackles in January are a bit less colorful, but they're fun to see nonetheless. Somehow everything seems to mean something when the seasons come and the seasons go. But I always must be careful not to spend my Summer wishing for colder weather, and my Winter wishing for the heat.

chance encounters

"I used to be such a sweet, sweet guy, 'til they got ahold of me"....A. Cooper

Tonight's news here dwells incessantly on the arrest of a local professional football player in connection with the death of two people in an alleged hit and run 100 mph automobile collision. Let's set aside how disappointing it is that the other xx,000 deaths on our highways caused in high speed collisions and by DUI folks do not merit full-bore media coverage to the extent that the arrest of a young cornerback ("second round draft pick", the news keeps pointing out). Instead, I am thinking of the lives just snuffed out on an urban freeway in the middle of the night. I've driven through urban areas at midnight a time or two myself, particularly if I am travelling cross country by car, or driving home from a redeye flight or some such. If I had been on one of those freeways, in that split second, then I'd be a statistic.

We all die, and there's an air of unpredictability for everyone. Whatever "fairness" there is in things is certainly better known to beings in whirlwinds than it is to me. But tonight I'm not thinking much about whether a football player was driving drunk after leaving a strip joint, as the news keeps asking, but instead about a couple of folks who are dead, in an instant, in a blur, and about a world of other folks who die because folks drive at high speed or under heavy influence.

I believe in an afterlife, in God, in grace. I believe that there's more to the moment than this moment. But I can't help but feel a sense of enormous waste when people needlessly die. It happens all over the world, to so many people, in so many ways. But when it happens to people driving an ordinary freeway in an ordinary city, it hits home for me a bit more. Everything is so fleeting.
Mohandas Gandhi said that "everything you do will be meaningless, but you must do it". When I hear of such sad events, I feel so badly for the people involved, but I also feel every moment I waste tick by all at once, in a blur.