September 21, 2012
Belinda and I drove to Seattle the other day. Leaving before sun break meant moving the irrigation line under a dark morning sky. The early morning sky still had the better part of a full moon residing just a bit to the east. Standing in the middle of the hay field, I took a moment and turned in circles while looking above—the sky took the opportunity to tell a story of perspective. To the west, stars gave everything, brightly contrasting specks of light against the deep black background of wonderment. However, to the east, it was as if the stars agreed to donate light to one without fire and heat. The moon brightly took center stage, its dancing light masking the dark background sky. Knowing home and self, eastern stars settled the light sky and gave supporting presence to a bold moon. One sky gifting two unique and wonderful stories.
The moon gave way to the sun as we crested the Cascade Range a few hours later. Claiming magical powers the sun did not so much give light but beckoned blended light—yellows, reds, oranges—from the Cascades eastern slope escarpment. Cresting the pass and western slope speaks a language foreign to its eastern sister. Diffused light summons mist and pockets of fog lie in the hollows. A landscape of shadier stories lays in the western slopes drainages. One range tells two unique and wonderful stories.
Before long, the smell of mountain timber falls way to that of water as we pass Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington. As we arrive at the SeaTac departure terminal and open the car door the heavy smell of Puget Sound and car exhaust met us. Wishing for a bit more Sound than exhaust, we quickly unload luggage. Belinda and Katherine enter the terminal to check baggage and obtain boarding passes, while I head off to find a parking space.
An hour later as Belinda and I hold hands and watch Katherine walk through security, we hope for a secure journey and life in Ireland.
The experience of sending Katherine overseas is one similar to that of past generations in my family, with one particular difference. Every time a young adult has gone overseas, since my family arrived to the American continent somewhere in the early to mid 1700’s, it has been to go to war. Every time, government, society, and business has framed these violent actions as action of peace, freedom, and equality. Thanks to the end of the draft in 1973 and happenstance birth dates placing young men between wars, meant the last young adult to go overseas to enhance world peace by way of war was my daddy in WWII. The fifty missions he flew out of Torretta, Italy, made an impression. What it was, I cannot really say because war was never a topic of conversation. I can say the impression daddy made on me was to do everything possible to avoid war for war was not only a horror of experience, but also a shame upon humanity to require death to acquire peace.
Remembering what it felt like watching Katherine pass through security I can’t help but imagine that standing at the bus stop, the train station, or the airport gate and watching ones child go overseas to war as a gut-wrenching moment. Though I have never lived such the moment, I have had far too many conversations over the last ten years with parents who have. Moreover, there have been too many conversations during children’s tour of duty where parental fear was a constant in their eyes. Too many and too often have parents lived such pain for the sake of peace. And this reality is the very particular difference between those parents and Belinda and I.
Unlike our neighbor parents who have stood at the same airport at the same security gate watching their child head off to war, we watched Katherine board a plane to begin International Peace studies at the Irish School of Ecumenics in Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. When her plane left American soil and headed across a water that brought my folk here so many years ago, Katherine became our family’s first American young adult to return to Europe to consider peace from a non-violent perspective.
For generations American folk have sung the African-American spiritual Down By The Riverside where the words Ain’t going to study war no more are sung again and again and again and again. Even longer, folk have read and repeated the words of Isaiah 2:4, they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. I would like to think no other young adult from my family, or any other for that matter, would ever engage in peaceful violence again, but know peace for peace sake. I would like to think it is possible for peace, unlike the morning sky or the mountain range, may become a one sided story where violence for peace sake withers, blows away, and all that remains is peace for the sake of neighbor, for the sake of parents, for the sake of children. I would like to think, I would like to dream, I would like to hope, I pray…
© David B. Bell 2012