Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A Revolution of the Beautiful

I realized the other night, sorting through articles & photographs, calming my despair over photos of oilslicked birds & stories of death, loss, vigilance--I realized that in fact I was born into an atmosphere of grief, into a world of mourning, into a culture shell shocked, guilt ridden, & desperate.

And so, perhaps, were you.

When I was born, six decades ago, in a military hospital while my father waited on call for duty across the world, when I was born my mother sobbed inconsolably. Because, she said, I was a girl.
I would have to bear the pains of womanhood in this world, where her mother had died not a year before from a botched operation.

Yes, her labor had been hard. I bear to this day a memento of my hard delivery.

And yes, she was expected to birth a son. What to do with the football and the cute boy-blue clothing?

My grandfather sent small pink roses.

So I came in on a wave of grief, and I learned to sleep to the sound of trains and bombers, and I learned to hate the sound of air raid sirens, and I loved the Japanese hillsides and not so much the Mojave plains, where we waited for the end of the world in the early 1960's. As an officer's family we'd have nice quarters in the secret underground bunkers, waiting out the post nuclear radioactivity. No problem.

I loved the flowers of the high desert and the snakes. And we didn't die, and my father warned me against commies and we fought our own sort of cold war. My brothers became soldiers.

One went to jail for murder. One, after his time in the missile silos, retired to raise corn and cows in the Mississippi bottoms. And life goes on.

And I've lived six decades of wars, learning geography through atrocity stories.

You too, maybe. Or two decades, or four, or seven.

We've been huddled here in a sort of darkness, trying to deal with it all the best we can, at the edge of this stream of sorrow and joy.

The young travelers come by, and the old ones, in increasing streams. Words of loss come from across the planet and echo everywhere. Volcanic dust, earthquakes, white phosphorous, oil slicks.

How do we go on? How do we hold to an entire world of passion and suffering and not go under, and not give up?

No, I don't have the answers. But I think we sit with it, as we would sit with a crying child through the night, looking out into the trees for light dawning.

I think we play with it, when we can, like the group of people in Belgium--200 strong, who arranged a sudden dance/son explosion in the middle of the Antwerp train station, singing and dancing to a song from the Sound of Music.

Or like the soldiers in Afghanistan who posted a preposterous and silly video taking off from Lady Gaga's Telephone. With their cardboard and duct tape costumes, in the moments between...oh, death and murder, boredom, despair. They were good dancers.

I think we try in every creative, every grateful, every compassionate, every determined way to keep going. To listen to what gives us joy. To act on that knowledge.

It won't change the world. It won't stop the storms. But maybe we can transform some moment, some thought, some action.

I walked through the cemetery with my dog and sat beneath a dying cedar tree to watch a young hawk fly over the graves and the flowers. I watched a long while, the early sun warm on my face, the scent of mown grass in my nostrils.

Before I become part of the dust that softens the edges of this world, before I am still, I want to care more, dance more, sing more, watch more free flying hawks, love more.

And since every breath could be a last one, and every word a last one, I am not going to be caught saying "I give up". With every breath I am going to be saying Yes. Or at least...maybe. And "I love" and "how beautiful" and "let's be silly,let's make a revolution of the beautiful, of small pink roses, of courage".

And what will you be saying?

(I wrote this a few months ago for the newspaper my partner and I publish each month. I felt I wanted to share it here as well. The photo is of one of my supervisors, checking to make certain the newspapers are cared for.)

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