Good night, young lovers, wherever you are.

Just after I returned home from the darkroom tonight, a white car pulled up outside my house. Two people jumped out, embraced and kissed, jumped back in the car, and sped away. It seems worth noting.

It's a starry, starry night here in Gambier; yesterday's rain (or the massive thing that tickled us as it went past) has moved on eastward and is menacing the coast. Robert McFadden of The New York Times waxes poetic (way, way poetic):

[M]any people spent the day indoors with the Sunday papers, relaxing with music to go with the silken lash of rain hissing at the windows, dripping on a lazy afternoon.

The day was, in a way, like great theater: the drama of the approaching storm, the searching wind at the panes and rain dancing on the pavement, the smudged sky, the iron-gray day like a movie in black and white. The overcast was solid, great plates of corrugated iron fused from horizon to horizon, and the streets glistened in the rain: a metallic futureworld.

Silken lashing corrugated futureworld, glistening horizon to horizon. Like great theater. Like a black and white movie. Like a dance. Like a search. Like a fusing, a plating, an overcast hissing smudge. Like a storm, dripping.

Or like the weather. Only more so.

* * *

On Friday, before the rain came back and then moved on again, I climbed into my student's car at 4:50 p.m. and headed to Columbus for a birthday dinner. She had announced this dinner back in September, when I took her out for dinner on her birthday. And so, after days of anticipation and online menu-viewing, we were on our way. She drove, and so I was able to take pictures and play DJ.

Several times along the way, she flipped open her cell phone and called a friend or took a call from a friend. Occasionally, I wondered whether we were going to find last summer's students all waiting in a group at our destination. But then I went back to taking pictures.

There was startlingly little traffic for a Friday evening, and we scored a parking place in the second lot we tried. Luckily enough for my student, I didn't notice my flaming sworded friend's car as we drove past it in the first lot we tried. And my excellent friends (conveying three more of my students) had parked in another lot altogether. And so it was that when our waitress played along and checked us in for a two-person reservation, I believed that it really would just be a two-person reservation.

Instead, it was a ten-person reservation, masterminded by my student, and for the second time in six months, I was completely floored. I don't count my flickers of suspicion as actually having suspected something; I never quite made it into active speculation about possible deceptions that were going on. And it turned out that the deceptions had been legion, and I was glad for every single one of them. The event's postmortem--"Wait, so remember when you walked into the office and we were looking at the computer and had to change the screen?" / "Wait, did you see us driving out of the parking lot? We made all the students crouch down in the back seat so that you'd just think it was us going home from work!" / "Wait, could you hear the sound of the traffic in the background when you called and I said I was at home? I was on my way to the restaurant to hold the reservation!"--took all Friday night and most of Saturday, too.

By Saturday night, it was time for another birthday celebration, this time with my excellent friends--who had done a characteristically excellent job of helping out with Friday's surprise. "We'll release you from Friday dinner," my excellent friend said to me a week ago, when I told her that my student and I were going to go out on my birthday. "We'll have our big dinner on Saturday." This year, I was able to have my cake and eat it, too--and then to have it again and eat it again, too. It was a gorgeous embarrassment.

It is a tremendous, tremendous thing--tremendous beyond my being able to write it out fully in this venue--to be so privileged to have this many excellent and lovely friends to begin with, much less to get to spend your birthday with all of them, much less to have them organize such an extravaganza of a celebration right under your nose while you blithely go about your daily life amongst them. I am blessed and grateful.

On Saturday morning, behind my flaming sworded friend's house, the crabapples were creeping into bloom.

* * *

I worked off the last of the birthday weekend in the darkroom, preparing various portaits and portrait-like shots for the project that is now due on Tuesday. My classmates are unanimous (and correct) in proclaiming my Lexingtonian friend utterly beautiful. Tomorrow, all the pictures go onto matboard and get signed, and then they'll be ready to show. Of course I'm out of fiber paper, though, and of course I found one more picture tonight that I'd love to print and include in the project. Thus: another exercise in embracing imperfection.