It is a beautiful sunny day where I live. The sun is so bright that I have to close the blinds in order to see my computer screen. Perhaps that is a sign that I should be out of doors. I will go soon. Right now Mario is finishing mowing the lawn with our electric lawn mower that lasts for about an hour at a time. When he is finished, we will go out and look for wildflowers. It is what we do at this time of year. It is what we do when we are faced with another tragedy in our country. We go into nature. What else can we do?
Lately, I have not felt good about people. I am a people person. I spend most of my time alone or with Mario, so I’m not a particularly social person. But I’m not anti-people. I generally like human beings. I think most people are good. At least I used to believe this. I believed this even during the Bush years when I felt like my country was being shredded. After President Obama was elected and the crazies started coming out of the woodwork and after Gabby Gifford was shot, I felt myself drawing away from others. I began spending more of my time alone, writing, or in nature.
And then Newtown happened. I think I broke that day. Many of us did. After a lifetime of hearing about atrocities, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was hopeful that after this terrible event the rightwing would wake up. But that didn’t happen. I started to feel like I was living in a foreign country. Foreign to me. Was I surrounded by violent sociopaths? Those people who weren’t screaming “You can’t take my guns” were walking around with their fingers in their ears yelling “I hear nothing! I see nothing! Just let me buy stuff and eat stuff and pretend nothing bad ever happens.”
At least that’s what it felt like to me. And so, I could hardly stand to be around anyone any more. I think the feeling was mutual.
My distress, my distrust, my...loathing wasn’t confined to regular Joe and Jill people either. I started looking at politicians with disgust. I’m not one of those people who hates politicians. I’ve always honored the work they did. But with every passing day, it got harder and harder to believe in them...or in anything honorable going on in our government.
I didn’t like feeling this way.
I don’t like feeling this way.
Before the Oklahoma City bombing, I was fairly anti-government. I don’t mean I was a right-winger—that’s never been true. But I had always been an Indie voter, and hardly anyone in political office seemed to share any of my values. I was disgusted by President Clinton because he was too conservative, and I felt betrayed by Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I was bitter about government. And Oklahoma City happening, and I learned that the man responsible was truly anti-government. I certainly didn’t want to align myself with anyone like him. I think I grew up then. I realized no one in government was ever going to share my values—at least not completely. But that didn’t make them evil or corrupt—or even wrong. I swore I would not ever be one of those cynical people constantly bashing the government.
After Newtown, it was difficult not to feel cynical about our elected officials. It was difficult not to feel cynical about people—especially the anti-government people who are so afraid of a black president that they’re saying Newtown never happened—or if it did happen, it was just a plot by President Obama to take our guns.
Thinking about it exhausts me.
For several days beginning last Friday, I had had a bad feeling. I thought something terrible was going to happen on April 15th this year. I kept thinking about Oklahoma City. I don’t know why. And then yesterday, I had a sudden vision of destruction in D.C. I figured it was just a by-product of my over-active imagination. A few minutes later, I got in my car, turned on the radio, and heard about the bombing at the Boston Marathon. (It had happened about two hours earlier.)
One of the first things I heard during the coverage was a woman who had been watching the marathon. She said God must have spared her. I said, “So I guess God said ‘fuck you’ to the people who weren’t spared?” I looked at Mario and said, “How can people say such stupid heartless things.” He didn’t answer. I think he was thinking the same thing: about me.
We listened to the news for a while. I felt numb and sad. We didn’t listen for long. Long enough to hear the same things over and over. I heard one person who had been in Iraq say he’d seen this kind of thing in Iraq and couldn’t believe it was happening here. It just wasn’t right, he said. I thought, I imagine the Iraqi people were thinking the same thing every time they had to mop up blood from their streets.
It is not right wherever it happens.
I’m tired of it. Isn’t everyone? No one deserves this. No one anywhere.
What can I do?
I need to drop the hardness from my heart. It melts every time I write. When I write, I am compassionate. I am hopeful. I love. I want that again for myself. For everyone. It feels so much better to be in love than to be in hate.
Last night I awakened from a nightmare, my heart pounding. I was afraid someone had broken into the house. I went downstairs, alone, anyway, to chase the ghosts away. I fell to sleep on the couch. Later I went back upstairs and got into bed. I put my arms around Mario, and we held each other for hours, drifting into and out of sleep.
Now Mario has finished mowing the lawn. We’ll go out into the woods soon. We will look for wildflowers. Maybe we’ll even count them again, like the old days. Our old days. During the first years of the Iraqi war, we would go into the woods and count flowers instead of the dead. We found reassurance in that. Or solace. Or maybe just beauty. It would remind me that my path was the beauty way. To walk in beauty. No matter what happened. To keep my eyes open, my heart open, and walk in beauty.
One step at a time. Seeing wildflowers even amongst the ruins.
(You can read the first Counting on Wildflowers here.)