Of the ages

It is said that
the Information Age
is ending
giving way to
the Experience Age
loosely defined
as moving from
accumulation
(our digital output
is greater
than our capacity
to store it
anyway)
to immersion
in the story:
‘Live every moment
of your life
to the fullest,
with as much
sensory detail
as possible!’

(a shift
reminiscent of
the writing rule
‘show, don’t tell’
although in truth
it takes both
to bring a story
to life
and in thinking
of narratives
I pause to consider
this thing called
the unreliable narrator)

then, this week,
I stumbled across
this phrase:
We live in the age of rage

I contemplate the why of it
as my brain follows threads
inextricably, impossibly knotted
through a psychological tapestry
of distortion
information here
experience there
narrative everywhere
(as I once heard a father
tell his child:
It’s your lie.
Tell it like you want to.)

people do tell it
and sell it
and buy it
like they want to

often, it seems,
without an eye
turned toward the age
to come
being too blinded
by continual bombardment
in the now

the Experience Age
I wonder if it might be
more aptly called
the Age of Escape
fleeting as it is

these are the things
I think about
when I sit to write
in the stillness
of early morning
before the sunrise
before the stirring of the birds
nature’s continuity
offering sacred respite
from the Age of Rage
where the broken road
inevitably sends one
teetering on the edge
if not over into
the abyss
of despair

Hope. Martin Gommel. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Freedom

Freedom is
a curious thing

trailing feathers
of eagles’ wings

mightier than
any earthly king

who may forget
she stands to bring

from her holy nature
a healing wellspring

to human hearts
if only they cling

to wisdom, to peace
—of these, let us sing

in a state of unity
let Freedom ring.

*******

I photographed the Statue of Freedom in March 2018. She stands in the Capitol Visitor Center’s Emancipation Hall. This plaster version was the model for the bronze one atop the Capitol dome. Like a mythological warrior queen, she wears a helmet, bearing stars and the head of an eagle. While the eagle’s power and fierce majesty have led governments, empires, and regimes throughout history to adopt it as a symbol, it’s those long eagle feathers that captivate me. To Native Americans, they represent sacredness and healing. Think on that symbolism awhile.

As an American on this Independence Day, freedom to heal, not harm, is my prayer.

Capitol recollections

Morning breaks over the Capitol. March 2018.

I was eleven the first time I saw it with my own eyes. 6th grade field trip. In those days, parents could ride on the bus with the children; they didn’t have to follow behind in a car. That is how my mother got to go. She volunteered to chaperone. She didn’t have a driver’s license. I think it was the first time she’d ever been to D.C.

All along the mall, teachers strategically organized students for photos with the best view of the Capitol behind them. Everywhere you looked were rows and rows of children, many carrying small flags. Not all were American, but all seemed excited. I walked, listening to the musicality of many languages I couldn’t understand.

I cannot remember if it rained, or what we ate, but I recall the beauty of my country’s capital enchanting me. In some gift shop I bought a crinkly parchment reproduction of the Declaration of Independence. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…I was happy that day. The Declaration came with a feather pen, to my delight. Then I spied a horse ornament on a glass shelf behind the register. Dark, stormy gray mingled with cream, frozen in the act of rearing up, forelegs arcing in the air, powerful muscles so realistically rendered, mane flowing in an imaginary breeze.

I did not know, at age eleven, that a horse symbolizes courage. That it can also represent overcoming adversity and caring for one’s emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.

I only knew this twelve-inch plastic horse was beautiful and mighty. Captivated, I handed my last dollars to the clerk who wrapped my horse in layers of paper. I cradled it close all the long bus ride home.

It remained on the shelf in my bedroom until I married and moved out.

I’d return to D.C. again via Amtrak at nineteen, to meet my cousin who lived there. He would accompany me to an audition for acting school in New York City (that is another story). It was winter, icy-cold. Bundled and laughing, we roamed the windswept streets, past the lofty steps of the Capitol, talking of life, of the future, of being mavericks of the family.

Life takes many an unforeseen turn. He died young. I never went to acting school.

I had a family of my own instead.

Over the course of years, my husband and I made several visits to D.C. He’s a history-lover, an original poli sci major turned pastor. We took our children when they were small. Our last visit was early spring, 2018, with friends. What I noticed most on approaching the Capitol in early morning: the deep silence. Few people were out. The brooding sky made a compelling backdrop for the ornate dome, topped by Freedom. I took a picture. I tried to remember my first visit as a child, how enchanted I felt…long before I understood that relationships can disintegrate in unimaginable ways. In families, communities, countries.

The day after the attack last week, as I turned on my computer screen to meet with young elementary students, I felt numb, unfocused, ill-prepared. One by one at the appointed times, the children popped in, their faces aglow because…it might snow! A pandemic, ten months of reinvented school and life, volumes of ongoing, unfolding horrors in the news…yet they greet me with when is the snow is supposed to start?

It set a little part of my hippocampus jingling. Snow, as a literary symbol, means innocence, purity, tranquility. Even blessing.

Suddenly that old storm-gray horse souvenir resurfaced, vivid, nearly tangible, in my memory.

Strange.

I can’t say it’s symbolic of the American spirit. What does it mean to be American?

Maybe it’s symbolic of a child’s spirit. What makes it so mighty?

All I am sure of is this: a longing for overcoming and well-being.

For all.

*******

My previous post is a poem on the power of words to wound and heal: When.

Here are words inscribed in the U.S. Capitol:

On the Rostrum of the House Chamber – “Union, Justice, Tolerance, Liberty, Peace”

Behind the vice president’s chair in the Senate Chamber – “E pluribus unum” (“Out of many, one”)

On the stained glass window of the Congressional prayer room – “Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.” Psalm 16:1

*******

with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Challenge, in itself a testimony to the power of stories and community.