|"I remember blue – an infinite sky of clear."|
Ten years ago we were in our Hancock home with our 13 year old daughter, our 3 1/2 year old son and our nearly 18-month old youngest son. It was the day before Henry was to start preschool and Addie was about to enter 8th grade, her last year at the school she attended. My father-in-law had just passed away a few months before and my own father was about to enter into the last year of his life, dying two days before my 40th birthday in 2002. Of course I did not know that on 9-11. What I did know was that my mother was days away from her third marriage and already I had begun to sense a profound and seismic shift in the world: that it would never be the same in my extended family. It wasn't.
I've moved beyond that reality now but it still haunts me at times, like a bad dream from childhood that, instead of being comforted with the reality that it was a dream upon waking, has become, at times, a waking nightmare. This is my reality through the glasses of an adult: my inner child sometimes still surfaces, I confront the anxiety or the loss, and back in she goes again.
None of my own extended family has died in the past ten years, except my father (but my parents' marriage had ended long before–ironically, this past July would have been their 50th anniversary), and yet we have all, in different ways and choices, experienced the death of that family and the comfort of our familiar with each other. It is gone and it has been gone for some time. It is as if we walk the earth as ghosts of our own past: we all have our own productive lives but they do not intersect. Our time together now seems so far away and remote, inaccessible. It's not just geographical but emotional distancing. All bridges are now out and you can only try so many times to cross them.
There are many reasons for this but I would say that our collective homeplace began to collapse about ten years ago. There has been no rebuilding and there were few inroads to this disaster of personality, misunderstanding, many untruths, subtle manipulations, shuttered distancing, and often outright rejection. We were all in some way complicit in the events or the outcome: a whole colony collapse disorder after the queen had left the hive.
The other day I wrote a haiku to mark how I was feeling about 9-11 in as spare a way as possible. I posted it, as I do many odd quips and quotes, on Facebook. I can not speak for the suffering and experience of others but it encapsulates that day for me and its aftermath:
I remember blue,
an infinite sky of clear:
then mirrors breaking.
When the Twin Towers fell and the mirrored glass shattered on those two iconic and symbolic buildings, lives came tumbling down, and ours did, too, in a more subtle way. Broken shards of mirrors and seven years bad luck. So we have rebuilt here. Three years ago we did not flee our reality but found it, instead. It has been a balm, a comfort, a great journey to find ourselves here at midlife on a farm of our own, in our own lives. It can also be isolating at times, especially during those moments and occasions when you feel the loss of family acutely. I love my extended family. This is said in the present tense. But I mourn their passing, too. I mourn what we once were before the week of 9-11, each and every day.
Lately I've been canning. A lot. It seems to be this instinctual drive of mine to provide, to fill cupboards, to have food on hand. It is comforting and it is also something I can do. I realized this morning that our lives are defined by our days, not by our anniversaries. But days turn into decades and here we are:
It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey...and we pray, not for new earth or heaven, but to be quiet in heart, and in eye clear. What we need is here.
~ Wendell Berry
Evil comes in many forms and it can be insidious. All the love in the world can not change the opinions––or the ideology––of a few. If 9-11 taught me anything, and at the vantage point of distance and television––like watching an unimaginable disaster movie unfold in real time––it is that as much as things change, they stay the same, too. And really, in the end, all we can control is how we interact with the world, how we move through it, how we treat each other, and what we can do to provide for our family: whether it is in validation, understanding and acceptance, a needed hug, or ten jars of nectarine jam.