Something is afoot. Pardon the pun, but…atmospheric changes are in the air. Meteorological precipitation maps show the onslaught. At this moment, if one believes those illustrations, Fayetteville is experiencing torrential rain. The direction of motion of rainstorms to the north and west suggests the Village will receive its share of                           water from the sky during the course of the day today. Zeus is at work. Or perhaps the coming weather reveals he is, rather, at play. One rarely, if ever, thinks of Zeus in his playful mood, but even the ruler, protector, and father of all gods has to let off steam from time to time.  Among the ways in which he does so is by frolicking through the sky, squeezing the trigger of his squirt gun and laughing hysterically as umbrellas spring open below him like little black flowers.

That image—of black umbrellas popping open in response to rain showers—causes me to wonder: why are most umbrellas black? I realize, of course, that more colorful umbrellas have grown more prevalent in recent years, but the majority of them are, still, black. At least the ones intended to protect against rain. Umbrellas meant to shelter one’s head from the sun’s heat tend to be more colorful, but most of the ones designed exclusively to shed water from the sky are black. That, by the way, is based only on my perception. I have no empirical data upon which to base my assertion. But anecdotal evidence suggests black in the old standby. Naturally, my curiosity led me to inquire whether others might have had the same question. And, of course, I am not unique. Mother Google revealed to me that many others have posed the same question. The answers (none of which are accompanied by evidence) about why black is the preferred color for most umbrellas are: 1) black fabrics absorb heat and, therefore, dry more quickly than brighter colored fabrics; 2) black is of extraordinary significance to people in general; and 3) black umbrellas tend to provide better insulation than colorful ones. I have my doubts about the veracity of those answers. But, for now, they will have to do, because I am not interested in investing my time in pursuing the truth about the reasons for ubiquitous umbrellas blackness. [N.B. My secret belief is that, long ago, Zeus threw a thunderbolt down at a bright yellow umbrella, burning its surface and turning it black. Ever since, people have assumed that was Zeus’ way of revealing his preference for black umbrellas and have responded accordingly. Just my opinion, of course.]


Illusion is needed to disguise the emptiness within.

~ Arthur Erickson ~


Once again, I have allowed myself to overcommit. I have filled blank spots on the calendar with obligations, thereby eliminating the possibility of spontaneity. Impromptu road trips have become increasingly unlikely because I have things to do or places to be or promises to fulfill. Either I am punishing myself for reasons I have yet to understand or I am filling my time out of fear I might discover I have no value in the absence of obligation. There could be other reasons, as well. Whatever the rationale, the fact is my calendar is awash in duties. Every time I recognize I have done this to myself, I consider making a break from the agreements I have made; just backing away from them and saying, “I’m done! I’m sorry, but I shouldn’t have agreed to tie myself down. Consider my promise broken—shattered in a thousand pieces!” But I cannot do that. I could not live with myself. It is hard enough knowing how much I wish I could. It would be impossibly hard if I actually did it. Ach!


The rain has come. If the weather were warmer, I would think of going outside—without an umbrella—to stand in the rain, letting the water gently cleanse me of the grit of daily life. The idea of giving myself over to Nature has enormous appeal. Leaving the clutter and smudges behind, letting whatever purity there is blossom in an environment free of contaminants and abrasive intrusions. Delusion. Simple delusion.


My computer suddenly announced it had detected a location change and had changed my clock to Eastern Standard Time. What the hell?? Another sign that my purchase of a new computer, soon to arrive, was made at the right moment. Either that, or I have been magically transported to a place far, far away from the center of Arkansas. No matter which time zone I am in, it is time for me to stop writing this morning. It is time for me to turn to something else. Something more productive. Something less dangerous than imagining myself in another world.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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