It’s springtime again in New England. A brutal winter, more snow than one could imagine, folks in Boston walking amid drifts higher than their heads. It all looked like Norway, or somewhere in the northlands. We skied, made snowmen, snow shoed, and spent many, many hours indoors. Folks got cranky. School was canceled and then canceled again. Therapists had lots of calls. People were deprived of vitamin D and all that comes of that. Depression, anxiety, despair. It was a classic New England challenge.
So spring this year will be welcomed like nobody’s business. Already people are starting to smile… daylight savings time has turned the corner for us. It’s light after seven pm, and the party can begin.
I, for one, have been thinking dark thoughts about the violence surrounding our moment of awakening. Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket, rallies in Germany with boisterous ‘Gas the Jews’ slogans, ISIS and the beheadings, Ferguson and the evidence of our culpability as a nation that espouses equality, justice, pursuit of happiness and all that virtuous stuff. I am weighed down under a heavy coat of despair. It doesn’t warm me. I cannot get distracted by discussions of blame. We are all to blame. We are all the victims.
Are we not all Jews? Or Marathon runners? Or journalists? Or cartoonists? Don’t we all suffer from the condition of being unjustly beheaded, stoned, enslaved, colonized, displaced, firebombed, shot, pummeled, knifed, humiliated, shamed, abused?
If this is not the truth, it is also not untrue. Monica Lewinsky takes back her pride. Noteworthy. She speaks out against shaming. It is a shame that, just as the sun offers its renewal after so much chill and ice, we are bombarded with images and words of violence and assault.
It has been a time of hatred, perhaps an anomaly, but more likely a perennial human state in response to difference, misunderstanding and the inevitable consequence – aggression. Is it about race? Religion? Economics? How can we achieve equanimity about such things?
I want to say no to all of it – targeted or generalized hatred and the actions resulting from it. A tsunami of blame and retribution, revenge and original sin.
I want to lie down on this bed of thorns and close my eyes, to block my ears and hum loudly to not hear. I’m as sad as I’ve ever been, and there is no vision of a future path. Perhaps I can just rest here for a while. I ought to have been born a bird. I will return as a bird. To fly above or dig for worms. A piping plover by the sea, scurrying hither and yon, in and out, no progress required. Back and forth in the big sky of it all.
And yet, there is the question of possibility, of impact. I stand at the shore, one bird, a plover, and dream of transcendence. No, I dream of calling a halt to the flow of the sea, a reversal of tide. I raise one wing in the universal signal of stop. Then, as the ocean crests and crashes its powerful wave upon me, I bow my head in submission.
I would like to glide above fear, to rise high on the thermal air current of history and soar, free to observe and not project, to hold what is without flailing. There simply is love and there is hate. I cannot change the rhythms of the universe… the yin and the yang. I am awed and then blinded by the possibilities. A flock of gulls pass in front of my window, and I gaze at the formation, the knowing, the cohesion. And all that flapping. I am flapping and flapping in the wind. Perhaps it will carry me aloft and place me down again in a new order. I do not think so. I think this is the way of the world, our burden to bear.
I don’t have any solutions. I sit in an old bookmill watching out the window as a cascading waterfall does its thing, the water pressing its way under snow and ice to reach some destination out of sight – a bigger river, a lake, an ocean. Can one question the why of a waterfall pushing down and around and beyond? It simply is. I wish for wisdom, and yet I come up wanting. I am wanting to be the bird that flies with its friends overhead right at sunset, sweeping across my vision. Gliding past the beauty and the horror. No need to solve puzzles, dilemmas. Its job is clear – dive for food, fly for a living. I hide my head under my feathers and close my eyes. They are wet with tears, a tiny waterfall washing out to sea.