Pickles and lightning

I stood by the dining room window sipping some chrysanthemum tea, watching my husband in the kitchen making 2 1/2 quarts of zucchini pickles from a 2 1/2 pound zucchini that had eluded harvest a little too long in our garden. At the same time, I was observing the continuous lightning flashes out the dining room windows. Our power flickered off for a couple of seconds a few times, and I was afraid my computer would be furious, but Windows 7 proved resilient. The storm brought drama but no rain. Lightning flashed over the hills and flirted with the transformers at the substation across the field. The sun set in a vast grey lenticular cloud, creating a diffuse rainbow with apricot grading to violet around a scarlet-gold center. It reminded me of a 3-D rendering of a duodenal ulcer I had recently seen on a Yahoo health page, but it was very beautiful.

Our geographical climate type is cold semi-arid steppe; we don’t have hurricanes, of course, but our storms have low-impact high drama of their own. The Snake River and the landscape are our cultural amenities. I think I can say that the prevailing demographic does not relish any sort of drama to do with emergency, and I can’t even recall the name of Clarkston’s mayor.

Westerners by and large don’t much care to be led. But Easterners, I think, do, and I have to commend the Mayor of New York as a leader. He has demonstrated that the mayor of New York, as distinguished from the nation’s chief executive, must be competent; the Mayor of New York needs to know how to do things and how to communicate what needs to be done. He must credibly convey his identification with more than 8 million people. He knows that a true leader must transcend the politics that put him in office, and that he now belongs to the people, not to a party. He must be a local man to really understand his people. Even a diverse city the size of New York can have a local man who understands the population. But I’m not sure there is such a thing as a local American man who can understand the American population sufficiently to be an adequate president, though I do think we came close to attaining this sort of competence with Reagan, and yes, Clinton. Enough. Warning: memory may belie history.

In daylight hours when lightning isn’t flashing, I continue to observe the birds visiting our property. I added a few new sightings this weekend: a tree full of female and juvenile bobolinks posed a bit of a challenge just because females of dimorphic species tend to be somewhat nondescript, and I still haven’t seen a male bobolink on our property. I identified a female Western tanager and later saw her mate, or least a male. And this morning, I noted our first Downy woodpecker in one of the poplars. I’m very thankful that these things thrill me and that I require so little else to feel immersed in the goodness of God’s world. My pastor said in his sermon yesterday, whatever is going on with us, whatever we have, is what is good for us. I think he really nailed it.


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