Last week I had the slightest taste of what Boston went through on Friday. A cop came to my house in my one-horse town of Galena, MD and asked me if I’d seen a guy in shorts and a tee-shirt running around my flower farm. I said no, why? And he said a guy jumped out of a truck on a routine traffic stop and ran off into the woods. He said they had a police helicopter out looking for him, and soon I heard the whir of the engine overhead. I kept imagining the guy in the woods ducking behind trees, hiding behind boulders. The cop asked me to open my garage door to see if the guy was hiding in there, and then he went on his way. I locked all my doors and windows (though it was a sunny day, in the seventies). And then I had to leave to go to work. Later, I found out that the guy was harmless enough, running from a ticket for dumping oil illegally. He was now holed up in a friend’s house.
So when all of Boston had to be on lock-down, in this miniscule way, I could relate. I understood what it was like to have this unknown threat outside, not knowing what he was capable of. . . No one knows the extent of evil–if that is what that 19-year-old Boston Marathon bomber embodies. When they found the kid in the boat, it struck me that they waited until dark to flush him out. They waited until they could shine the light on him, goodness bearing down on darkness, evil. It made for excellent TV. But this isn’t TV. And we’ve long since moved beyond black and white. The world is increasingly dangerous, complex and grey. That 19-year-old’s (and 26 year old’s) parents are in shock–still in a state of denial. No way could their two boys have done something as heinous as this. But they were their boys. Their babies. And they saw the light in them.
I spent the week before Christmas in an elementary school–my favorite place to be before the holidays. But, of course, it was different this year. The children were still so excited, most unaware of the tragedy, but their joy couldn’t supercede the knowing that innocence can be shattered in a split second–that the world as we know it can completely turn upside down in the blink of an eye. There will always be guns in this world; there will always be violence. I am no longer naive enough to think otherwise; but I can still pray for peace. I can still look at a riverbank and see the beauty in a snow-coated pine. I can still catch my breath when a buck emerges from the forest–his presence so regal. I will never understand how someone would want to cut down that tree, shoot down that deer. . . But I have given up trying to understand. I just want to still be able to feel. The one thing I fear is that we will become numb, that all the killing and all the violence will make us close our eyes–will make us sleep through our lives. S. African poet, Jeremy Cronin, said that “Art is the struggle to stay awake.” That is my new year wish for us all: that we remain awake, and somehow, someway, perhaps through Art, find a way to transform our world into a peaceful, loving place. Namaste ~ Lisa
Chespeake College starts its fall semester quite early–yesterday, Aug. 22–nearly two weeks before Labor Day. Too early in my book. So I was dragging my feet in preparing to teach my ENG 101 course. Okay, not only my feet, but the whole of my body and soul. I told my acupuncturist that teaching takes so much creative energy away from my own writing; it is so draining. I was resisting with a capital ‘R’. But then, the day before my class started, I got the news that my first creative writing teacher, Karen Blomain, had passed away. She was teaching a winter session course at Keystone Community College in Pennsylvania when I was living with my grandparents on their dairy farm. I was in my early twenties, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. And it was in her class that I truly discoverd that I wanted to be a writer. I was so touched and encouraged by her personal note to me at the end of the course that read: “What a pleasure to have you in the class. You really are a writer!!! Your strong compelling style combined with the fact that you have something definite to say! I hope you keep with it. I know it’s hard to live the life of an artist, but you can make it work for you. And I think with your energy you can do it.” When things started to get harder in my quest to live the artist life, I found this note again and framed it, where it still hangs by my computer. Her words have kept me going in this writing pursuit. They’ve kept my fingers on the pen, my hands on the keys, and my perseverence intact. But what she taught me in her passing is this: What an honor it is to teach, to, perhaps, change the course of someone’s life, for the better, to help them find their focus, their life purpose. Shame on me for dragging my feet, when such an honor it is to teach.