Wednesday, September 07, 2005

my mind map looks like a two year old drew it
Which is to say a multi-coloured scribble - possibly it's a picture of a lovely flat, possibly it's a picture of my frustrations with work, perhaps - if you turn it round a bit and squint - it's a beautiful portrait of TA and me standing together (look - those two red loops are our clasped hands reaching across the Atlantic). Of course, it could just be an accurate representation of a complete lack of rational thought, in which case we're all in trouble.This year seems to have more than its fair share of massive, terrible human tragedies - the war, the tsunami, the terror attacks, the plane crashes, the hurricane - and I've been trying to think of a way of responding that's meaningful, not mawkish.Most mornings I walk through Embankment Gardens in the final few minutes before I get to the office. In the days after the London bombings part of the Gardens were cordoned off and a covered stage was erected - inside there was a book of remembrance and some flowers. More flowers were left under a tree on the other side of the path. When I came back from the US - around a month later - the flowers had gone but the stage was still there and I began to wonder if there were plans to make the spot a permanent site of remembrance. The next day the stage had been dismantled, but the ground bore a huge scar - all around where the stage had been was gorgeous, lush green turf, but where the stage had stood the ground was jaundiced with bleached tufts of grass and disfigured with muddy earth. Day by day I've watched as the grass that was yellow has gradually returned to health. Until - at the moment - the grass is healthy enough to have started to make inroads on the mud. Soon you won't be able to tell that anything untoward had ever happened to that grass. But you see the healthier it gets, the sadder I feel because it strikes me that most of us experience these grand-scale tragedies like the grass did - they sear themselves across our consciousness for a few days, a week, perhaps even a month or two if we really get carried away with the media storm, can tell ourselves that we might have been there or have a tenuous link to the event. But sooner or later our thoughts return to their normal pattern and the tragedy's imprint becomes less than a shadow, less than a ghost. And perhaps that's the healthy way of it. Only I can't help but look at the newly green grass and feel it's betrayed us, because every time I see it I think of the families whose scars won't fade, whose hearts, spirits and flesh will always bear the brand of that tragedy, even as the next one has happened and all eyes are looking elsewhere. So you see I am thinking of New Orleans, the plane crashes, the bomb victims, those caught up in the tsunami, those caught up in war and all those suffering griefs no less crippling for not being covered on the evening news and I'm wondering how to turn that outpouring of compassion into something a little more concrete, constructive and meaningful than an absence of photosynthesis.
(And, yes, I really must start typing my posts in Word first, especially when I write late at night and when I'm emotionally engaged with the topic. The typos have now been fixed.)

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