One late September evening when the family was all in their bedtime routines and the sky had been dark for a few hours, I sat down at my computer to close things up for the day, and when I looked up out the window I saw the most beautiful sight: the bright slip of the moon hanging just above the line of apartment buildings to the north of us, shimmering through the leaves on the treetops. I ran into the girls’ room to urge them to come see it in its half state, just peeking above the buildings, and they hurried to the balcony door to see the moon.
“Look!” I said, “It’s about to set,” as the moon narrowed, as if about to dip under the roofline, out of sight—but no, wait, it was getting brighter again. That didn’t make sense. If the moon goes down, it goes down; it doesn’t come back up again. And rather more typical for the moon to rise than set, isn’t it? The kids shrugged their shoulders and wandered back down the hall in their pajamas, ready for books and bed. I lingered at the window watching the moon glow bright with intensity, then disappear, then return again. I chalked it up to the leaves shuddering in the wind, distorting my view, and turned and left the moon behind. Continue reading →
The flight from Bangkok to Frankfurt was half-full, and I had three seats to myself, room to stretch out, in theory. Yet even when the seats are empty, they are so rigid that it’s hard to relax and succumb to sleep.
In the row ahead of me was an older German couple. They both had white hair, and though I couldn’t hear most of their words, I could hear them each say “Bitte?” frequently. They sat with an open seat between them, her by the window, him in the aisle seat, and with the loud noise of the engine they could barely hear each other and had to keep repeating their words. I love the word bitte for its many uses—“please,” “you’re welcome,” and the way they were using it, more like “Pardon me?” or “Come again?” They sounded kind and respectful when they said it; they never devolved into an annoyed “Was?!” Continue reading →
The last time I changed jobs, it was about this time of year—bitter late January, with temperatures hovering around zero. On my first day of work, I drove in and double-parked in front of my downtown office building so I could carry my things into the front hall. I brought my planning books and family photos and light-rail posters and my one glorious plant. It was a typical office plant, Golden Pothos variety. Under the fluorescent lights at the U of M it had flourished and the vines hung thick with leaves and cascaded down my shelves. I wanted this in my new office from day one.
To this day I can’t explain why I didn’t wait until more moderate temperatures arrived. As I carried the plant in, I could see the leaves freezing before my eyes. They turned a deep shade of green, crystallizing before me. I ran up the stairs into the front lobby, but that short journey from my car to the front door was too much for my poor plant. I inspected it in the narrow elevator and set it on my desk; I had no choice but to cut away the limp parts. I tried to keep as much as I could, but as the warmth of the office kicked in the leaves turned to watery mush. I trimmed and trimmed it back until it was nothing but a network of dense stems and one large, surviving, untouched leaf. Continue reading →