Sunday, March 18, 2012

(pain) perdu dans le labyrinthe

Last year on Ash Wednesday, D and I went to a service at a local Episcopal church. The rector had encouraged attendees to arrive early enough to allow plenty of time to walk the labyrinth that had been set up on the floor of the fellowship hall. The circular puzzle itself was painted in purple onto an enormous canvas drop cloth, and the path was just wide enough for one person at a time to walk, single file, through its serpentine loops. Silently, in the dimmed light, we slipped off our shoes, waited a couple of minutes for the person in front of us to gain a little distance, and then entered the maze ourselves. Because multiple people were traveling the labyrinth at the same time, occasionally I would brush by someone as he or she passed, going the opposite direction. It took longer than I thought it would. I admit, I lost my sense of reverence at a couple of points and felt anxious to just finish the thing.

I really hope there's not a minotaur
waiting in the middle of this.
In that labyrinth, there was only the one path. The point wasn't making the right choices. It was slowly and meditatively navigating a series of predetermined twists and turns. I might have been able to see where the next about-face would take me, but I couldn't see beyond that. I would only have been able to anticipate further if I could have viewed the entire thing from above. At ground level, where I was, all I could do was simply take the next few steps and trust that I would eventually make my way out of the maze.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

the green flash

An early Happy St. Patrick's Day to all you lads and lassies. No, guacamole is not Irish, but it's green, and I love green food. You can skip to the recipe at the bottom now, if you just want the how-to. Grab a seat. I'll be there in a minute or two. 

For the past four years, D has attended an annual meeting in Pacific Beach, California, and I've tagged along, feeling lucky that I get to spend a few days gazing at the ocean, eating delicious sushi, wearing white jeans in February, and running on the boardwalk in the sunshine and the low humidity. Pacific Beach is also famous for its sunsets, which frequently feature something called the green flash. Residents of the town and of nearby La Jolla describe this phenomenon with varied attitudes. Some people are openly skeptical or derisive, while others avow that they've seen the green flash numerous times. D himself swore that he had glimpsed it, a couple of years ago, but I could never tell whether he was just teasing or not.

He's not the only one caught by the fascination of this odd natural phenomenon. In 1882, Jules Verne published a novel called The Green Ray, in which a young woman sets off on an adventure with two very different would-be suitors to find the elusive green flash, which according to Scottish legend "has the virtue of making him who has seen it impossible to be deceived in matters of sentiment; at its appearance, all deceit and falsehood are done away, and he who has been fortunate enough once to behold it is enabled to see closely into his own heart and to read the thoughts of others." The opening paragraph in the second chapter of the novel gushes: "If there be green in Paradise, it cannot but be of this shade, which most surely is the green of Hope!"