Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Fireweed and Dead Children

When I was a child, in England, in the North, there was still fireweed growing among the scattered bricks of empty lots. Fireweed is often the first plant to grow after a fire or bombing. It is the scab that covers the wound, a filling in of the holes in the earth, where "death came in like thunder." It grows, too, in the Pacific Northwest, on scarred hillsides where fire has taken down the trees, leaving behind the charred skeletons of what was once magnificent.

The fireweed was a reminder. Even in the 1960s, it had been less than two decades since the countryside had been ravaged by German bombs. In many places, all evidence that the war had ever happened had been erased, but in the neglected North, the barren urban land, incapable of growing anything else, had covered itself with fireweed as a cloak against its hideousness.
I search for refuge from all of this. Perhaps I'm not entitled to refuge. After all, the bombs are not falling on my children, they are not destroying my homes, I am not of a people that another people has set out to eradicate from the face of the earth, so really, what the fuck am I getting all upset about? It is my own narcissism that tries to claim that the suffering all around me, that is around me but is not touching me, can justify my own helplessness and rage of the past, god, I don't even know how long anymore.

But I know this. The images of the past several years have torn craters into my memories, created sores that are inhabited by dead children, and bombed-out buildings, and by images of madmen and women who hasten us toward our doom. I have been walking around the past few days so sick to my stomach that eating has been a struggle. I come to various blogsites for refuge, to find camaraderie within a community, and what I find, again, and again, and again are people who want to throw bombs at one another, who seem to have no qualms about stating unequivocally that one position is right and the other is wrong.

I have always been frightened of fundamentalism. When one decides that one set of words is more important than any other set, that one does not have to listen to the words of another because that other language is wrong, well, all is lost.

When language fails us, what do we have left? Dead children. That's what we have left. Dead children and fireweed.


Chad Smith said...

Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.

But if I had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
to say that for destruction ice
is also great
And would suffice.

pwa said...

Fireweed--it grows on my property in the mountains. It blooms for a long time, and with recovery long past, it's now more of a wildflower. I read your blog and was a little worried for you. You should know something that fundamentalists don't--that you're now waiting for paradise; you already live here. I'll admit these are dark times, from my perspective as well, but other people have lived through dark times, and here's a suggestion from Vaclav Havel, who wrote his poetry in the darkest days of the cold war: "There are no exact guidelines. There are probably no guidelines at all. The only thing I can recommend at this stage is a sense of humor...I can only recommend perspective and distance. Awareness of all the most dangerous kinds of vanity, both in others and ourselves. A good mind. A modest certainty about the meaning of things. Gratitude for the gift of life and courage to take responsibility for it. Vigilance of spirit."