Signs of spring, signs of winter
A journal at al-Qâhira fî Amrîkâ
Five+ years on, and my grandmother’s flowers are still blooming 💐❤️
(Posting a photo from the iOS app just to see what happens on the blog end…)
(This very tiny mantis was approximately one inch long.)
I’m privileged to have some very talented photographers among my friends, but my photos are generally rather pedestrian. However, this is one of my favorite photos I have ever taken (in spite of having cut off the top of the arch).
Courtyard and Minaret of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun
Cairo, Egypt, June 27, 1994
Taken with a mid-1980s point-and-shoot Kodak VR35 K10(?) on Ektrachrome
Scanned in the mid-to-late-1990s, probably with Photoshop 5 on some version of a Nikon Coolscan, in an era when when 640×480 screens were pretty standard and 1024×786 was positively huge, hard disks were measured in megabytes, and no-one foresaw Retina or 4K displays (so, sorry it’s so small It filled about ⅓ of a standard screen back then)
More information about what’s depicted can be found on my Egypt pictures page.
Reply of the New Colossus
Your fear has made you tiny,
Your hate has made you weak;
Our love has made us stronger,
Our hope stands tall and defends the meek.
Your days are cloaked in darkness,
But in your nights, you will not sleep;
Our light shines the brightest;
It penetrates the deepest ratholes of your keep.
You have betrayed our birthright,
Sold our future to meet the mortgage on your debts.
We will not be silent;
We will rise with the truth to meet your threats.
Your lies are become baldfaced,
Your crimes recorded to be reaped;
The deluge of History is coming,
And in triumph, Justice will sweep.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
One of the things about being a boy growing up in the South is that snow becomes one of those mythical things you hear about, read about, but rarely ever see (experience). When we’ve been so lucky as to have a fabled White Christmas (once, I think), it meant that we had some light flurries on Christmas morning and then the sun was going strong, no sign of winter remaining, by noon.
I have a couple of rather nebulous and two distinct memories of real Georgia snows from my youth. When I was very little, one year we had what seemed to me a big snowstorm; I remember baggies on my shoes (most people and children did not have snow boots in the South), coming back inside frequently to warm up to a fire and hot chocolate, and my first sled. See, we lived up at the top of a great big hill, and either the street (a bit dangerous, and too fast) or the backyards made for incredible sledding. To take advantage of our great location and these wondrous conditions, my dad built me a sled out of spare boards and tacked sheet metal on the bottom of boards that made up the “runners,” ensuring the sled would go flying! Compared to the garbage can lids the other children used, I was sledding in style. For some reason after that snowstorm I managed to convince my parents to buy me a real sled (apparently, despite my fond memories, the handmade sled was not good enough for me), and, amazingly, we had another big snowstorm the following year, so I got to use the new sled, too. At some point not long thereafter, everyone started fencing in the backyards (a tragedy of the commons of another sort), and our days of amazing sledding were done.
Once we moved to Lawrenceville, there must have been a couple of years with a good snow, or at least some decent ice on the roads. Backyards were all fenced in, and the street was neither as steep nor as long, so my salient memory of that era is that one of our neighbors owned ice skates, and she went ice skating on the street; we had to avoid hitting her as we attempted to sled.
After that, my memory becomes stronger, but the snow events seemed less memorable. In the blizzard of March 1993, I remember going out with my dad to check on the situation at his office and then trying to go to the library so I could continue doing research for a major English paper due the next week. We saw no other cars out on Lawrenceville Highway, and needless to say, the library was not open. People still talk about that blizzard, but for me there was nothing particularly exciting to remember about it beyond Lawrenceville Highway as a snowy ghost of a route.
In 1996 we had another big snowstorm; it hit the weekend I was supposed to go back to college after a break. We were sitting in the family van at a traffic light waiting for it to turn green when we were rear-ended by someone who was driving too fast, couldn’t stop, and probably shouldn’t have been driving in the weather at all (in the South, that means pretty much anyone who hasn’t moved here from the North). Luckily there was only minor vehicular damage, but I was a day late getting back to school as we waited until things had melted enough that we could take the car to get me back to Rome.
Most of my memories of the ridiculous relationship between Southerners and snow come from my years in Washington, DC, which for all its hustle and self-importance is, in so many ways, just another Southern city—except that it gets a decent snowstorm once a year. Despite the regular nature of snowy inclement weather, Washington and its residents aren’t prepared to handle the white stuff. Just like in Georgia, mere mention of the four-letter word is enough to clear the supermarket shelves of milk and break (I first saw the phenomenon for myself in Washington), and while the District has snow plows and salt trucks, you’re lucky if the main thoroughfares are ploughed well. Further, many schools, companies, and so forth key their closings off of the Federal Government, and say what you might about that bureaucracy, but it is very reluctant to close. As a result, snow means something short of mass chaos but bordering on mass insanity.
My first winter in Washington, we had one of the bigger snowstorms I experienced there, and of course everything remained “open.” I dutifully hiked the 30 minutes or so down the hill to campus, mostly over unshoveled sidewalks (owners or residents are required by law to have the sidewalks in front of their homes/buildings shoveled within a few hours after the end of a snowstorm; most years I was lucky if half of the sidewalk on my way had been cleared by a few days after the storm), only to find out that I may or may not have class. That’s right, the professors had just as difficult a time getting to campus. After a while one of the women who worked in our department finally arrived, explaining she had walked the last few miles to work, since traffic was not moving enough for Metrobuses or taxis to be useful means of transportation. Out on Healy Lawn, undergraduates were making the most of the class-or-no-class? day by building giant snowmen and having snowball fights and other kinds of winter fun.
In spite of all this insanity, I loved snow in DC. In part it was because it was snow, but in part because snow was one of the only things that slowed life down. I used to look out my window and wander up to the lobby to look out on Wisconsin Avenue becoming covered with snow as the storms arrived late at night, watching the bustling street become a peaceful, pure, sparkling white otherworld. It was as if someone had placed a soft blanket on a screaming baby and he had fallen into a deep, peaceful sleep. I marveled at it time and again…and then fell off to sleep, dreading the morning to come.
For the first time in several years, we’ve had a decent snowstorm here in Georgia, again in March as they so often are. The yard soon became white, the birds all atwitter as they fed at the feeders all day, and the neighbor children tossed snowballs in their backyard. As semi-melted snow began to accumulate on the street, the unseen exit of a car across the street left two snow-hearts on the street in front of our driveway. And that amazing feeling, of peace and of wonder, descended again upon me…snow—yes, it really does exist!
Now, as in Washington, I’m off to sleep, trying not to think of the chaos that Monday morning will bring, turning the magical into the vexing.