I had a bad night, last night. Couldn’t sleep, finally wide awake at four am talking to ghosts and sitting at my desk. Part of it is standard anxiety, part of it is staring a cold-hard truth in the face, and that usually happens with the utmost clarity at four am.
Then on the drive to work I listened to the news. Yeah, I have no idea what I was thinking. And here I had Jason Isbell in the cd player, but no, I went to NPR. Kiev, Moscow, invasion, twenty-mile Russian convoy (now thirty, now forty, now fifty), nuclear arsenal on high alert, one million Ukrainian refugees fleeing for elsewhere from their homeland which has stood for more than a thousand years, long before Moscow.
So I checked my email and a dear friend whom I’ve known since 1994 had written. He lives in St. Petersburg and said they’re probably losing all social media, he can’t travel anywhere, food is hard to find, and everything he owns, including his finances, are worth less than half than they did one week ago. He worries about his son.
I thought of the people I’ve met across the entire stretch of Russia from the Baltic to the Sea of Japan, and how none of them–seriously, none of them that I’ve ever known and by all of the accounts I hear from journalists and other writers in-country, support Putin. They are indeed opposed to the invasion. These are people who, unlike Putin, grew up in a non-Soviet state, where western goods and services and freedom to travel were standard. They understand the invasion of Ukraine is supported by and carried out by a small group of bitter men from Soviet Days who have no respect for human life.
So I wondered what it would take for Putin to go over the deep end, even further than he is, and order the release of nuclear weapons, and I realized he would have to have his back against the wall and feel like there is no other way, and I thought about how the entire world, supported by every single United Nations member country who voted today save five despicable ones, are for pushing this psychopath against the wall, and while that’s a good thing, my anxiety spiked.
So I escaped that mental bloodbath by returning to my original issue from 4am and pulled out a pad and started to make lists of how to handle that, and I briefly thought “sure, go ahead, push Putin to the wall: two problems solved,” but of course I just needed caffeine. Then I spoke to a dear friend, and though I spoke more than I listened, nothing cleanses the soul like talking to someone who knows you now and knew you then.
Then I got home and it started all over; no problems solved, but definitely better perspective having gotten through a beautiful day, and I went to the river, my river, here, and
every star in the sky must be visible tonight. No city lights, no moonlight, just starlight, and it’s brilliant. Orion and his troops are on full blast in the south, and just to their left Sirius is seriously awake this evening. I stood a long time, saw a few shooting stars, made a few wishes (come on, you have to), and walked along a bit, the waves gentle, a few boats out past the channel. And I remembered how sometimes nature grounds us, not because it makes us feel small, though that too, but because it has such integrity, such steadfast confidence. Five hundred years ago what people in this wilderness witnessed is not much different than I saw tonight, despite the wars and poverty and the combined human sense of fear at falling away from itself since then. Nature simply is. What a lesson; Buddhist in its manner, eternal in its truth: Nature simply is. As we should be.
So I came up to my desk and in my search for one document found another. I read it, sat back and wondered which ghost put it there for me to find tonight of all nights. Might have been Bobbie–she liked poetry, or perhaps Lianne–she taught poetry. Wasn’t Dave; Dave would have left me some Bowie lyrics again.
Doesn’t matter. I’ll ask later when the anxiety kicks in.
In the meantime, it is a good one to remember–that we are, as the Bard once touted through Gertrude, simply passing through nature on our way back to eternity.
Still, the news makes me miss my friends tonight.
Seriously. Read this:
There Will Come Soft Rains
by Sara Teasdale
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild-plum trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
if mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.