So Many Questions

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hIt was cloudy on Monday morning and I knew the sunrise would probably not be remarkable, but I headed to the river anyway. I needed to escape. To get out of my own head and the swirling negativity of recent days. To retreat to “the peace of wild things” as Wendell Berry so aptly put it. I’m struggling to make sense of so much these days.

As expected, at the river there is no sign of a glorious sunrise, but the fish leap in silver flashes, and currents lead the moored boats in a lazy waltz, swirling and spinning them in the early morning light. I revel in the reflection of autumn leaves on the water, the pillowing stripes of clouds, and the varied bird calls. My eyes follow the purposeful flight of a circling bald eagle over the fall foliage. I watch it land, grasp something on the other bank, and take off again with mighty wingstrokes. The tension slowly eases from my shoulders. I breathe deeply and relax. Nature’s balm is immediate and immense.

After a moment, I see a flash of large wings and a great blue heron appears, flying low over the water. I walk quickly, following it’s trajectory, hoping it’s landing in a nearby inlet. When my progress is stopped by shoreline and rocky water, the heron is nowhere in sight. Ah, well. I’m still so pleased to have seen it, even briefly.

Then, from the corner of my eye, I spy something white in a nearby bush. What’s that? A bird? I edge closer. No, not a bird, but a discarded tissue caught in a bush, and beneath it an empty plastic baggy and a small cardboard container with a cracked plastic lid. Under a nearby shrub is a discarded paper cup. My shoulders tense again.

Later in the day, when I’m running, I see bottles, cans, wrappers, etc. littering the road. Sadly, this is nothing new, but the turmoil of recent days intensifies the impact. Who are these people who so casually throw their debris into the world? I remember the crying Indian ad of my childhood and want to weep. What is wrong with people? How do we build relationships or work through conflicts when there are such fundamental differences in outlooks and behaviors? I can’t relate to treating the world as my garbage bag or people as my punching bags. How do we find common ground and work through problems when discourse has disintegrated to ranting and raving and making death threats? And this is across the political spectrum. How do we navigate complicated issues when people cheer for threats and intimidation and think that mockery and rudeness is equivalent to plain speaking?  Who think nothing of pumping waste into our waterways and disregard the environment in search of an economic windfall? How do we start meaningful conversations when everyone is yelling at each other and calling each other names?

A month or two ago, my husband and I were talking with a friend of his who’s a veteran. We were lamenting the agenda of hate and division fostered and nurtured by the current administration. After a bit, his friend sighed deeply and said, “I guess America just doesn’t mean what I thought it did.” Those words have haunted me.

How do I get past the anger that I’m feeling? I vote. I march. I call my public representatives. It feels like such a small push back against a huge tide. I fear for our country while simultaneously feeling alienated by many of its citizens and entertaining thoughts of leaving it. What does America stand for these days?

I’m so sickened by the events of recent days (months…years…)–by the political circus, by the lack of empathy, by the tone of discourse, by the appalling lack of integrity, and then, on top of that, by a recent suicide in our area and the fallout from that–for her family, her students, the children who found her body.

There’s such ugliness in our world, yet there’s such beauty, too. There’s pain and sorrow and joy and triumph. I’m struggling to make sense of it all. I’m so thankful I can retreat to the river and seek ease in nature’s bounty. Yet, how long will nature be able to bounce back from our casual abuse? Even as I seek solace there, I find trouble and worry.

For now, I’ll keep going down to the river. I’ll take my pictures and lose myself in the wonderful wild. While I’m there, I’ll rejoice in the water, the birds, the seasonal shapes and colors. Some mornings will offer glorious sunrises and some cloudy skies and more subtle rewards. And I’m sure there will be more trash.  I suppose, whenever I see it, I’ll just keep picking it up. It’s one thing I know I can do.



17 thoughts on “So Many Questions

  1. cmargocs says:

    I, too, have been feeling the despair you so eloquently, sadly described. It seems like the basic tenets of respect for one another and stewardship of this one earth we have are being laughed at and trampled. I am glad you found a moment to breathe; let’s both hope that what we can do, no matter how little it seems, can make an impact.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Catherine says:

    All I can hope is that this chaos and despair leads to change. In the meantime, keep doing what we can. Keep picking up the trash. Tragically beautiful piece, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So much to process in this slice. Your emotion flows off the page and into my heart – as it is pounding with each word read. There is so much right now … I like your ending -I suppose, whenever I see it, I’ll just keep picking it up. It’s one thing I know I can do. It leaves me hopeful and empowered. Thank you for sharing your journey with us and inspiring us to stay in the game -one piece at a time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Claire, I’m sorry it took me so long to approve this comment—somehow it slipped by me and I just saw it today! Oops! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I’m still trying to focus on the small things I can do to make a difference, even if temporary.


  4. I feel with you on all of this. Thank you for writing so honestly about your sense of despair. I feel less alone because of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Molly you put so beautifully and painfully how all we like minds feel. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Joanne Toft says:

    Well said! I was up in norther Wisconsin this past weekend wonder all the same things. Long walks in the woods helped for a few moments. Thanks for writing this –

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Powerfully said. You speak so eloquently for many of us. I have my wonderings too, but I gather up all my courage and make the world better for one person, and then one more.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. In this week’s Time magazine Robert Redford says of the current administration “ history does repeat itself… it could be similar, but they disintegrate by their own hand, but he has faith that it will.” Look to nature’s horizon.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. margaretsmn says:

    This question “Yet, how long will nature be able to bounce back from our casual abuse?” Casual abuse. Abuse on top of abuse. How long can nature withstand? I shutter with the reality of it.

    Liked by 1 person

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