“All night and all morning the air raid sirens howled. Shells blew up. We ate ice cream.”
Olha, a citizen of Ukraine
The seasons roll along. March slips into April. Winter melts away. Daffodils laugh a yellow laugh, their roots tickled by the warming earth.
Covid comes and goes and comes again. It lurks in our wish for the vague concept of a normal time. It finds opportunity in complacency. It breeds in our prejudice about vaccines and masks.
War, also, comes and goes and comes again. It lurks in the minds of power-hungry men. It creates opportunity with propaganda. It breeds in prejudice about cultures, behaviors, and borders.
I was born in ’46. A time of post war peace, which did not last long. By the time I was four years old, we were back at it. The USA allied with others to fight an ugly war in Korea. It ended in a stalemate that exists to this day. All the dead on both sides gone to the purgatory of history.
Still, the seasons roll along. I putter in our humble yard. I prep the ground with tiller and rake. I ready pots for a mix of annuals and perennials. Soon, I will sow wildflowers. Everyday, I do a little something.
Ten years after the Korean War, I graduated high school into the throes of the Vietnam debacle. My life would change due to that confrontation. Many of my peers lost their lives. Some, an arm or a leg. Others, their sanity. The upheaval left numerous families permanently estranged. Presidents lied, soldiers died. I dropped out.
For five years I lived by myself in the Sierra Mountains. No phone, no car, no TV. I ran with an eclectic crowd of other ne’er do wells, in search of … something. Don’t know that I ever found what I was looking for.
I read a lot: Thomas Merton, Lao Tzu, Rilke. I pretended to be a writer. I communed with bird life. Friends came, then left. I stayed, adrift in the leisure of under achievement. But, I found my balance in nature and peace in the changing seasons.
Currently, spring rolls along in central Europe. The recent unprovoked attack by Russia on Ukraine has brought about the death of thousands of soldiers on both sides. Grieving spouses and children abound. The bombing of large cities has killed civilians. Many remain trapped, scavenging in the ruins of their home towns, denied safe corridors to evacuate.
Vladimir Putin is a sociopath. A dictator, a thug, a bully without empathy. He rules with violence and fear.
The mystery of his justification for this war baffles observers. Why has the Russian war machine mobilized to destroy a neighboring country? No good answers exist. Putin sacrifices his army for a rationale based on propaganda. Presidents lie, soldiers die.
Sometimes, it seems we kill each other just because we can. Since I was born in ’46, three hundred or more wars have occurred. We torture, induce genocide, and make rubble of homelands. These are the dissonant horrors making music in the human subconscious. Daily tragedy is ambient noise muffled by the tympani of time.
We bury our loved ones. We cry with outrage. We regret, we forget, and the seasons roll along.
I am 75. The Vietnam generation is passing away. Napalm, My Lai, and Agent Orange are mere smudges on the historical record. A bad war led me to discover a good life. I was lucky.
Here’s a song for then and now.