Observations: Surreal and Wondrous

After traveling for the better part of August, I returned home only to be thwarted once again by Bogota’s cantankerous wi-fi; reestablishing any semblance of a routine has stayed consistently elusive. But on this joyous day, our movistar internet rebooted of its own accord, and here we go.

Many months ago, during my second week of life in Colombia, violent storms descended upon the city, buttressed with midsize ice balls. In that moment, seven skylights seemed very likely one of our most idiotic choices. It was is if the neighbors decided it was finally the right time to light up those eight hundred fireworks they’d been stashing. Lucas and I attempted to make light of darkening skies and the deafening precipitation by nervous laughter and banal, obvious statements screamed at each other across the couch: Wow! This is crazy! I know, right? It’s so loud! I can’t believe it! Me neither! Do you think the window panes might break? Maybe! We should go downstairs! Yeah, that’s probably a good idea!

Last week, the hail returned. But this time, it harbored a somewhat less intense mood. The little one and I watched it bounce like popcorn off the windowsill and sidewalk below. Mesmerized.

The next day, we came across a little patch of unmelted hail residue. Above, a tall tree’s massive leaves revealed numerous holes from the previous day’s pelting. They looked as if punctured by a tot clutching a handheld hole-puncher for the very first time. One of them hadn’t managed to hold on, and dropped to the ground next to the shrinking hail colony.Image.

I’d encountered these arbol remains before. The first time I saw one, I thought it uncannily resembled a shed pterodactyl skin. It freaked me out so much that I refused to really look at the thing, and instead shuddered by at an increased clip. Frankly, I had no idea what the hell it was, but I’ve learned enough of the wild to know when to just leave it alone. But on some other day, I was looking up instead of down (a posture with few occasions here in Bogota; the sidewalks demand full attention) and saw these gargantuan leaves, way up above the six-story apartments, gorgeous and alien. And it occurred to me that what had frightened me so was nothing more than a harmless old leaf.

They do look different, brown and brittle, so remote from their home.

Well, but one does rub up against some wild facets of nature here. On two busy street corners near our apartment, various flower vendors hawk their goods. Three weeks ago, they were showcasing something entirely new. Neon pine cone flowers, which resembled child-size popsicles, three per bouquet. I had to have them. And for two weeks, they bloomed bright and exotic in a vase on our dining room table.

And then, one mundane Saturday morning, I noticed, with what can justly be described as horror, an alien claw sprouting from one of them. And then, there were several other pincers suddenly hatching on the other plants as well. Did I scream? Perhaps. But I think when you see this freak growth, you will not judge it:


I won’t be buying these flowers again. Who could abide their petrifying second-life?

It does remind me, though, of the little mysteries which surround us at all times. As a child, everything is truly new, and therefore anything is possible, and therefore nothing really shocks. But as I’ve gotten older, the world becomes more and more foreign and unbelievable. Like the sheer mass of a hippopotamus or the impossibility of a bird. That a leaf could dwarf a trash can or a flower be imbued with District 9 tendencies. These facts are rather astounding. In fact, they seem downright absurd and maybe even foolishly whimsical. And yet, there they are: extraordinary; life.