Sunday, December 16, 2012

Like so many of us ...

by Zinta Aistars

Guinnez at the Z Acres pond, reflecting

... I, too, have been immersed in the recent tragedy of the many lives lost in the Connecticut elementary school, so many of which were very young children: 20 children, 6 adults.

Initially, I was glued to watching news on CNN, the one station that I thought most sensitive to this kind of news story, and the one station that held back naming names when the incorrect one was being bandied about, and held back on spreading yet unconfirmed news. They have done an outstanding job, and today have spent time sharing stories of the lives lost, as requested by those families, naming their names, and talking to medical experts about how to handle the days to come.

Yet, at some point, the mind and heart become overfull, and I felt the need to turn off the news and restore some measure of peace. On this rainy, warm December morning, I felt the need to get away from the news and go outdoors ... wander the fields, breathe in the fresh country air, feel that rain on my upturned face.

The old chow pup and I walked about, without any special goal in mind, and just enjoyed. I listened to the welcome silence. He wandered, nose to ground, examining the stories of the previous night, forever unknowable to me, the human.

We made our way up through the woods, to the Cottage on the Hill. There are times to be in the midst of things. There are times to distance ourselves from the noise, and seek solitude, and silence, and stillness.

Guinnez pawed at the door of the nightstand in the cottage. He knew ... there was a box of pup treats in there, and he always gets one, or three, when we go up the hill. He hopped up on the bed and snuggled up beside me as I settled in to read a book, and as he napped, his fur slightly damp against my leg, I listened to the patter of the rain on the wooden roof.

It should be snowing ...

But it wasn't. It was raining. And the rain was a steady thrumming on the roof, as if a thousand upon thousand mouse feet, scrambling across the shingles. For a while, instead of reading, I looked up and listened, and I watched the rain streak in winding rivulets down the window panes. Outside, the bare limbs of the leafless trees made sharp silhouettes against the gray sky.

Some untimed time later, we made our way down the hill again, and made a detour in our path to go by the pond. The koi were up again, interrupted in their winter hibernation at the depths of the spring-fed pond, to swarm at its surface, looking for bugs to nibble. Ah, this disorderly winter.

Their swimming movements, and the last raindrops, made ripples in the surface of the pond, circles spreading and expanding and overlapping each other, blending into larger circles. Guinnez lapped at the cold water and I watched the fish.

He lay down in the wet grass while I gathered up a few pine cones beneath the old pines. These would do for kindling, and when we would return to the red farmhouse, I planned to start a fire in the wood stove. Even though it is a Sunday, there is work to be done, pending deadlines, and I would settle in by the lit-up Christmas tree and do more writing.

It's a good life. Not a day passes that I don't count this blessing. To be here, in the midst of this beauty in any season, this place that embraces with sanity when the world out there bristles with the repercussions of insanity.

We must find our way back to serenity. Step back from the noise until we can hear our own heartbeats again. Until what is buried deep in those murky ponds surfaces again, flashes just beneath the surface, and is released ... safely, acknowledged, processed, released.

I have not given up hope. I won't give it up. Nothing will change until we change. I firmly believe pain escalates until it gets our attention, and until we give it its due, learn the lesson and make the change that pain demands.

We have some great changes to make, and we all know it. There are times to seek solitude, and a quiet meditation, but there are times, too, that we must come together as a community. Not to point fingers in blame, but to talk about solutions that we can accomplish together.

I would like to see treatment for mental health issues become more easily accessible, and the stigma for seeking that care removed, especially for the male gender. It takes courage and strength to seek out help.

I would like to see gun control. Take the politics (and the lobbyists) out of that discussion. Put the human beings in. We regulate most everything else, why not guns? What possible use is there for assault weapons? Journalist Nicholas Kristof has written an excellent column about this that should give us all pause for serious thought.

Our conversations should center instead on community-building. On decreasing the exposure we have in our everyday lives to violence. Movies, video games ... and we really think our youth won't be desensitized to the idea of picking up weapons and pointing them at others?

These should be the beginnings of many extended conversations. Just the beginnings. Let us honor the losses, and then let's make the changes. Until we change, nothing around us will. It would make a profound Christmas gift to humankind.

"I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
~Martin Luther King Jr

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