Saturday, September 25, 2010


The tempestuous nature of New Orleans is often revealed through its steady stream of thunderstorms. As I write, one is happening outside of my window, a rainless one. It is only lightning and the sound of thunder. With each flash, I occasionally use the childhood skill I learned at summer swim meets, huddled under the shelter of a greasy grill set-up, waiting for the storm to pass with my muscles tense and impatient for competition - both against my peers and with the water.

After the flash count: "one Mississippi, two Mississippi ..." Each Mississippi equals a mile. The more the Mississippis, the safer you are. Around ten Mississippis and you are soon able to get back into the water.

From my office window - one that towers so high over New Orleans I can see the haze of Lake Pontchartrain - I have occasionally experienced what I fondly (and somewhat unrealistically) consider very close instances of death by lightning strike. This is mainly because I have experienced strikes that don't even let me get "one" out of my mouth before Zeus's hammer echoes with a force that shakes the building.

Of all the ways I've ever wanted to kick it, lightning strike is definitely a fave. The pain lasts only a few seconds, the force makes your eyeballs explode, and getting struck by lightning tells everyone that you were just THAT lucky - like a lottery winner.

A guy I knew in high school got struck by lightning and survived. That, of course, would be better as long as I would later die by being pecked to death by a dodo bird. Which would pretty much take them all.

It's a quiet day here. A project that's been taking up a good deal of my time (and an even greater deal of my hair pigment) is finished for the moment and so I am spending a lazy day in bed catching up on my reading and eating green tea ice cream by the pint.

I finally finished the Poisonwood Bible, spellbound and heart-wrenched and dissolving into occasional tears at odd moments. I'd only included this book in my monthly shipment of novels from Amazon because I am desperately trying to work my way through a few "lists of bests," which has saved my flaky self from being overwhelmed at what to read next. As this novel was on quite a few lists, I was trying to knock out a few birds with one stone, and had no clue what this book was about.

I've read a couple of Kingsolver's works (Prodigal Summer and High Tide in Tuscon) and had found her prose a bit dry and almost scientific. Definitely not the case here. The Poisonwood Bible dramatically describes in detail the history of a family in the Democratic Republic of the Congo f/k/a Zaire f/k/a Belgian Congo from 1959 onwards. It was gruesome, fierce and brutally true. And, unfortunately, not knowing this, I cracked it open at the same time I learned that I might be visiting the old DRC sometime in the near future for a work project.

Closing this book, still teary-eyed, I realized that five years ago the prospect of a trip to Africa would have made me jump up and down in glee. These days ... these days I've grown soft and conflicted. Like the characters in the book, I am divided about how I feel about places like the DRC. One character putting her creature comforts first, another unable to keep herself from growing bitter and resentful about all of the injustice around her, and the third, a fatalist - one who finds that places like Africa eat themselves - through the interference of people and nature - and that there is an equilibrium to it all that has nothing to do with good or evil.

This may all be a moot point, of course. I have yet to be given definitive marching orders. But I wonder where all my enthusiasm went. And my sense of adventure. I find myself escaping to distant lands the way I did when I was a girl whose family could not afford to take her anywhere but the beach. That is, through books. Now, I have the capability to actually see these things, and I balk. Where did this sense of self-preservation come from? Why can't I trust in the world and fate to do their thing? Even if that thing doesn't agree with my constitution, wasn't I taught to roll with the punches?

I realize that my last few blog entries have strayed off the path of observing the absurd and trying desperately to set it down in a form that might make the average of 4.78 people who read this blog daily smile. I hope this isn't a sign that my sense of humor has leaped into the same latrine as the girl who once had many friends end letters to her with the question "do you still do crazy things?".

Yes, I hope I do. Yes, I hope I will.

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