5.11.2009

Black and white and gray

So I planted these seeds last weekend on my fire escape and then it rained. All week. As in, downpour. I noticed on Friday that several of the seeds ended up floating in the muddy flood water in the windowboxes, drudged up from where I'd planted them. You could tell that the seeds had already started growing; each had a tiny green stem poking out towards the top of the box and that growing was now totally jeopardized because of the excess of water.

I've been thinking about that image all weekend, how something that a plant needs (i.e. water) can be dangerous or even harmful if used in excess. I've been thinking about how seeds are a little like bright ideas and how creativity can get flooded by innumerable elements (criticism, responsibility, societal standards, other people's neuroses).

On Sunday morning, I scooped some new dirt into the boxes, hoping to absorb the extra water and let the seeds keep doing their thing. I also moved the boxes to another spot on the fire escape, hoping that they might be more protected in the new position.

There's a myriad of metaphors that come to mind in this one action: protecting younger siblings, working on colleague-relations, setting aside enough time to do one's art. Are you protecting someone's ability to have new ideas or ventures? Do you know someone who dumps buckets of rainwater on someone else's day? How are you fostering your own growing? And how can you foster other people's growth around you?

I think about this a lot. Chris and I talked a little this weekend about what people want out of their jobs and part of my answer had to do with pushing the envelope in meaningful ways, using the tools available to me to make something better when the time is right. I think this applies to relationships, to friendships, to politics, to spending or saving money, to finding a space for yourself on the subway. Or figuring out if you're the planter of seeds or the protector of seeds or the weed-fertilizer.

Katie visited this weekend from Montpelier and (per usual) we talked a lot about different cultures. I find myself calmer than the last time she visited, less apt to jump on the next international flight just to seek adventure. Because, as we discussed, it's very possible to find a different adventure choosing one place and diving deep. I have a rich lifestyle in New York that was never possible for me when I was abroad; likewise, I will never re-find the same spontaneity here that I thrived on in Paris.

I guess the point is that they can both be great. There's no way you'll ever have a choice between the perfect life and the imperfect one; although Republicans would like you to believe that the world is black and white, it really, really isn't. As soon as I realized that tough moments living in New York were going to exist no matter where I lived, my perspective shifted and I was able to make progress within that knowledge. I feel good about that, actually. It makes sense to me.

I got an email from Erica this morning, our little Bostonian who officially became French yesterday. She's spent the past 5 years in Clermont-Ferrand and she's a perfect example of the truth of shades of gray. The way she became French was by giving up life in America, by proving that she wanted to be part of a culture she was not born into by literally paying with time spent living outside her home country.

Happy French-ness, Ms. Erica... I expect you to grow a full-on curly mustache, wear a beret and carry a baguette around on your bicycle. Also, please go on strike immediately while drinking Pastis. And don't forget to relish your 500 vacation days per year... YOU EARNED IT!

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