Saturday, September 25, 2010

A distant butterfly and a subtle quake . . .

From last week's The Week.

Executive editor Francis Wilkinson wrote two brief paragraphs in which he described a cross-street relationship he developed with a female jogger on the way to work each morning over the course of a year or more.
Though we never spoke, I used to see her regularly at the start of my morning commute. Middle-aged, perhaps a few years older than me, she jogged north, against traffic. . . . Her stride was easy, with a kind of singsong quality about it, and as I walked south, on the opposite sidewalk, I would wave and smile. She routinely responded--cheeks blossoming, eyes twinkling, teeth smiling--with a sunniness that could take the chill out of the air. She was a walking--jogging--affirmation of the human race.
Then Wilkinson's schedule changed. He no longer saw her . . . until a couple of weeks ago when, once more, he was walking south while she ran north.
I saw her again. . . . She had a determined, almost grim, air about her, and her facial muscles appeared rigid. The graceful singsong was gone, replaced by a mechanistic, utilitarian motion. Tension seemed to course through her limbs. I lifted my hand to wave, but her head was fixed straight ahead; she didn’t notice. I wondered if a distant butterfly had flapped its wings, sending tremors through the life of this stranger, changing her forever. All I could do was stand and watch as the ground beneath me registered a subtle quake.
--Any distant butterflies affecting your life?
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