September 11, 2011
This is a day of remembrance. We remember together what happened—images from that day are burned into the very marrow of our collective bones.
Some of us think too about the catastrophic distortion of human relationships that led to the destructive acts and loss of lives we grieve this day.
It is widely observed that the events of this day changed our lives forever. If our national “innocence” was lost, so was a portion of our natural optimism. A neighbor said with quiet sadness, “It is difficult to live hopefully in a world where things like this can happen.”
This morning I sat quietly on my porch drinking coffee as the early dawn light filtered through the leaves of the old cottonwood in my neighbor’s yard.
I think my neighbor is correct—hope does not come easily these days. But we must not forget that hope can survive on slim rations. We can nurture hope by remembering too the good things that in undramatic, unmarked, common rhythm carry us in a life-affirming flow. Dawn comes with an ever new palette of colors. This morning I can see a handful of yellow leaves in that old cottonwood—autumn and the silent turn of seasons goes on with implacable gentle persistence.
And love continues too. My friend’s new grandchild will be baptized today in the church in which her greatgrandfather worshipped. Life—and hope—is carried forward too in the quiet heroism of those who do not choose violence in response to fear.
William Stafford notes sadly that we are more likely to attach symbols of significance to evidences of destruction than to mark with meaning the products of peace.
At the Un-national Monument along the Canadian Border
This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.
Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed—or were killed—on this ground
hallowed by neglect and an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.
Thinking with you of the slender hope we must nurture and of the quiet heroism of peacemakers.
See you next week,
P.S. “At the Un-national Monument along the Canadian Border” can be found in the following collection:
William Stafford, “At the Un-national Monument along the Canadian Border,” p. 117 in The Darkness Around Us Is Deep: Selected Poems of William Stafford. Edited and with an introduction by Robert Bly. New York: HarperPerennial, 1993.