I was unexpectedly moved today by a posting I read on another site, detailing the destruction of an aircraft my father was flying alongside, back in 1941. I think it was the photograph of one of the young men that did it – a man whose name I hadn’t even known until now.
They were a long way from German fighters and other unpleasantness at the time. This was a carefree hop back to base with his colleagues, swooping past the cliffs, enjoying the experience. They were both flying at perhaps 500 feet, when the other plane suddenly headed down to the sea, struck it, and exploded.
This event merits two neat lines in my father’s flying log book. Behind the words there’s always a story.
He’d lost others from the squadron before this, but they’d always been a case of ‘failed to return’ from a mission – something that had happened off-stage. At 21, he’d witnessed the casual ending of four lives.
I felt today, for the first time, something of what I imagine my father must have felt and then repressed – the random nature of death, the utter waste. I miss him – and I miss the person he was, whom I never met, before the many sorrows hit.
And I also felt, in his scant words, the nature of courage. It was an unexpected gift.
The other day I went to my doctor’s for a minor procedure (I love the way they phrase these things) and even though I’m a tad anxious about the visit I always look forward to seeing the receptionists. These two young women are, I think, originally from France, and speak a delightful accented English. They also dress like Parisians – always very stylish. They radiate calming competence. Their colleagues are, of necessity, in surgical scrubs.
I always try to look neat when I turn up. Partly this is because of a naive believe that if you look neat you get better treatment. But partly it’s because I feel I can’t, I just can’t, turn up looking scruffy when the receptionists are so well-presented.
This time, though, they were behind a plexiglass partition and wearing masks – and they were dressed just like the average Bostonian. Still stylish, but something was diminished, or absent. They were just as helpful and caring as ever.
And so I wondered to what extent the covid situation has eroded some of our collective sense of presentation – and with it our joie de vivre.
Almost everyone in the US who was alive at the time, I suspect, remembers where they were on 9.11.2001. I was due to teach a class on American Literature, and it was my place to tell the students what had just happened, minutes before. The frightened and bewildered looks on their faces will remain with me always. That day my role was less as a teacher, and more as a person who held them together as they tried to get information, any information, without panicking.
Real information was hard to get: all the phones were out, for one thing. The news services were in disarray.
The remarkable thing is that despite the ghastliness, the deaths, and the heartbreak we were not broken as a Nation. We were manipulated into a pointless war, true, but most of us have always known that Iraq was not to blame for this. Truth will out, eventually.
My friends in Oregon write about the wildfires near their home – how some of them were caused by high winds knocking down power cables. Really? We can’t construct power cables that can withstand winds? My friends are preparing to evacuate.
Climate ‘alterations’ have descended upon us, and we’re not even remotely ready. But we can be, if we start very very soon.
I see the California wildfires are back in the news. Interestingly they seem to hit the headlines because of the smoke in San Francisco. When a city is impacted it has more news value, I suppose.
I hope I can recall the shock of these pictures in the days ahead. The ‘president’ will seek to deflect attention onto other things, of course. I must try to remember his abandonment of climate issues – and so much more – in the days ahead. There’s work to be done.
Sometimes I gaze at Facebook and notice all the anniversaries – this couple celebrating perhaps 5 years, that one 45 years – and I’m rather disappointed that I can’t write anything much more than “Happy Anniversary”. That’s what one says, after all.
Yet what strikes me is that here are two people who have elected to get together, stay together, and work through the inevitable challenges that come along, and they’ve done so to the best of their abilities. It’s admirable, yes, and it’s also inspiring in the deepest sense.
So when I type “Happy Anniversary” I hope you’ll know that it comes with profound admiration for your achievement over those years.
Labor Day – and what a magical day it was with clear blue skies and a gentle breeze. It was, as philosopher, sage and expert home renovator Nick Portnoy put it so admirably, “A wonderful day to be alive!”
Harvard Square T stop, although quiet, hosted this wild turkey – which lets you know just how un-busy it was on a perfect day. Perhaps she was looking for the bus out to the ‘burbs?
The picture, if I could actually load it, would be of Milkweed pods and Butterfly bush seeds, their pod has just burst. My friendly neighbor gave them to me so we can encourage the Monarch and other butterflies next spring.
This year has been a relatively good one fro butterflies around here – I’ve seldom seen so many. Now seems like a good time to invest in their future, too.
In our present world, where the events of yesterday – forest fires, hurricane Lara, Portland protests, to name but a few – are quickly dropped from the media, it seems like a good idea to plan for a longer trajectory.
Different days stick in our memories for different reasons – some of which are perhaps not realized until later.
Today I was told about a seafood shop that offers lobster rolls. Lobster rolls are what I do in summer, and since summer is coming to an end…. So I went down to said shop not really expecting much. The lobster roll in Marblehead had been superb; the one in Newburyport, astonishing; the one in Rhode Island had been spectacular. How could anyone match those?
This one did.
Even better is that it’s about half a mile from my house. Which just goes to show that sometimes we go far and wide for what we seek, only to discover it’s actually at our own front door.