On the anniversary of the start of a war one feels almost compelled to speak to its horrors, its cause, its effect. But we live in an age where wars are plentiful, when peace is the exception and war seems to loom around every corner. So on this anniversary I watch the snowy egret stare into the pond outside my window, the great bird calmly imagining that in her world all of the people are merely fish.
The salmon people don’t live here anymore you have moved them up the river, then inland so they no longer need to wander.
The salmon do not swim here anymore you have dammed the rivers to draw out their power and penned the mighty fish where the river first licks the sea.
The eagle doesn’t fly here anymore the great pines that sat for generations below his aerie are now cut into neat supports on which we hang our walls.
Our children do not run here anymore they have moved to the cities, have gone off to wars for fighting is the only job which they are given.
We have no rivers we have no salmon we have no sons, save those who sleep under neat white stones. We look for the eagle a mighty spirit but he, too, has been claimed by the others to decorate their buildings. We have only our spirit to guide us and we know that soon you will claim them too and leave us as you arrived to repeat the sad story.
No one is certain who painted the words on the wall. No one knew when the painting occurred, someone noticed the words one morning and told others, and the word spread through town. People stopped to look at the words, but few understood what they meant. Soon there were pictures drawn around the words, familiar faces, and people would stop, add words until the wall was a mural that could not be forgotten, only ignored by those who simply wouldn’t understand.
Magellan set sail 497 years ago,
which had nothing to do with her desire
to find a corner in which she could stand,
protected on two sides, and still
stare out into the world and see
all that was going on around her.
Better still if it were fashioned
of plexiglass, it could surround her
fully, as long as sound could get in,
and she could be fully engaged
in life without the risks that others
always seemed to drag in their wakes.
It wasn’t that she didn’t need people,
she just needed them at the proper
distance and most could never
determine what that distance
might be despite her entreaties.
Magellan would die a year and a half
later, a mistake she would never make.
Next week, somewhere, something will happen. Several people will say they foresaw it, others will be equally certain it was entirely unpredictable. The truth, of course, will be elusive allowing everyone the certainty of uncertainty. It would be so much easier if nothing happened but things never happen according to anyone’s overly simple plans.
I read a poem today about a cat and the memory of my last cat came to mind, and with it, the certainty that cats have an innate sense of people which people utterly lack. It may be that cats are completely ignorant of the masks we wear, or simply that they could care less how we see ourselves and only measure us by what we offer them. In that sense, of course they are people as well.