What I Know

It feels like a weird time, doesn't it? Or is just me?

Today marks the 4th anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and too many people in our country have been killed since that day. The lack of movement on this pressing issue baffles me.

The people in Aleppo are being bombarded....still.  

The man we elected to be our president seems to lack compassion for the very people he will be leading and respect for the office he will be taking. 

With all that in the works, I add a friend who is ill and other friends who are caring for aging parents with complex health issues. 

It is freezing in these bluffs of mine. The wind is whipping the snow, which sparkles in a way that seems almost like a taunt. 

Today at my kitchen table, I am picturing a mom like me, huddled in some tiny room with her kids at her feet, trying frantically to text a goodbye to loved ones, so certain is she of her death. 

All of this makes me wonder why am I here in this warm home with a full fridge and enough blankets to share. What is my point? 

I work all of this out with friends or on the trail with my dog or in a private writing group or alone, staring at the computer. 

I am compelled to read stories, the stories of people who turn tragedy into a life that shines not with success but with vitality. I turn to poetry because I am not the first human to turn such issues over and over. How do I live in troubled times and the problems loom large when I am only one?

When my husband rolls out of bed and hits the ground running, he knows how many people he will care for. Twenty or more people will come through his door for an office visit in various increments of time ranging from fifteen to sixty minutes. He will say through word and gesture, "I am here to help you." That, to me, seems so perfect. He has a record of people he has helped- a tangible list and a paper trail to prove it.

My life looks nothing like that.

I wake up, the pets gather, I drink my coffee and read. I think about what I'm reading and then see if my charges are up. We do the family breakfast dance and scuttle for this and that and after a flurry they are gone. I wrestle with my pages, I make appointments and organize groups of people to do this (practice compassionate listening) or that (speak up about women's rights) and tidy and manage a family life.  

I come back to write and look at my charges who want to eat (again!) and I am grateful I can feed them.  I can heat up the cast iron skillet until it is perfectly warm and place slices of bread buttered just so.The sizzle and pop as the butter hits the pan is a comfort and this is what moves me to tears. The normal of  my life is not in direct proportion to the normal of our world. I am the odd one out carrying on as is.

I care, I try, I seek, I look, I offer, I hold, I look, I resist, I attend, I retreat, I listen, I speak, I move, I rest, I wait.

Does anyone really know what to do in such dark days like these? I carry on believing I cannot be the only one.  

And so I settle on the grilled cheese and a steaming mug of tomato soup. The warmth is something to sink into. It is my offering and I already know the scene so well that I play it in my mind before it happens. 

"Hey sweetie, here's your dinner."

My son will barely look up from his book. He will mutter a thanks and take a huge bite off the corner of the sandwich. He will then blow too harshly across the top of the mug and soup will spatter onto his page. He will wipe it so it smears and then shrug. He will dip the eaten corner into the soup and then wait for it to cool as he dives back into his book. 

I like that I know this, and for now, it is the only thing I know.