Thursday, September 3, 2009

Random encounters

A praying mantis

I've been waiting for the day when a praying mantis shows up in my terribly au naturel (weedy) perennial garden. A book or article, somewhere, told me that it's a good sign when that lovely and weird creature feels comfortable enough to live in your little demesne. No luck, yet, and my garden now finishing its eighth year. Perhaps they just hide well.

But of course I did happen to see one in downtown Chicago, clinging to the side of the public library on busy Van Buren Street. It leaped off and flew across the street, taking on that strange coppery color, and the look of two giant insects hinged together, which characterize mantises when they fly. It landed on top of a small truck and that was the last I saw of it.


The same day, downtown: a black child with rickets. The bowed legs, the squared-off, painful looking strut from the hips. The white mother, looking thin, busy, preoccupied, and as if she were anxiously but stoically awaiting the return to her mountain home. Or do I make unwarranted assumptions?


A wine tasting. Very elderly man, almost toothless, sipping a wine from Australia.

"I've been there," he offered.

"Really? How nice ... recently?"

"No. Sixty years ago."

"Oh. World War II?" (I'm not sure whether it makes sense anymore to refer to it as "The War," as there have been wars since and that generation is frankly dying out.)

"The war."

"Were you stationed there?"

"No, first New Zealand. Then Australia, then Guadalcanal, then back to Australia."

"Really." A delicate pause. "Combat?"

He sipped some more and peered over his glasses. "It wasn't a vacation."

Delicate, appreciative laughter, and then after one last comment -- "August 12, 1942" -- he wandered off.

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