Monday, April 22, 2013


Last Sunday, April 14, I drove to the Bower Center in Bedford, VA to attend a discussion on imagery in Chinese poetry. Dr. Jeanne Larsen read from some of her favorite poems and explained the classic ways Chinese poets over the centuries look at spring. I'm more of a Japanese poetry student, but the shared traditions use powerful metaphors to talk about the transience.

Cherry blossoms, those delicate pinky-white blossoms burst into life and fall seemingly without provocation. Redbuds create a Jimi Hendrix experience along creek banks. Wild dogwood throw out ivory blooms dancing in understory in the woods. Maple and oak pollen paints everything a greenish-yellow. And trees put forth their first green leaves.

Have you ever really looked at those first leaves? They aren't the deep green of summer. They are bright, fresh and light. Japanese has a word for this color: new green. Nothing in my mind describes it better.

For a day I was filled with the glory of spring, new life, poetic images.

Dark reality intruded on two fronts. First, there was the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Lengthy reporting and speculation. Blood pools on the sidewalk. People being carried to the safety of ambulances. The same scenes on every network newscast. Two suspects. One dead. One captured alive. So many lives ruined.

Next came the news that my best friend's son had been arrested for DUI. He'd just started a new job. An arrest wasn't going to help him keep it. Turns out it wasn't DUI. It was possession of heroin. This young man had just royally screwed up his life. His court appearance is later this week. No one knows what's going to happen.

No one knows why two young men in Boston did what they did. We all want answers to "why?" Maybe we will get them. Maybe not. Why can't always have an answer. Sometimes, the only answer we get is "I don't know." My friend's son can't tell us why he was in possession of heroin. If he's convicted, he'll have a felony on his record. At 23.

And still spring continues. More flowers bloom. More pollen falls. More signs of new life. Mallards have nested again in the cove. Blue herons stand in stately watch in tree tops. Woodpeckers frolic and fight over nesting places. 

Spring brings symmetry with its return every year. So does violence when we least expect it. So do young men who make decisions that will follow them throughout their lives.

Let us reflect on the good, understand the evil and help the less fortunate. I think I'll go meditate by the water's edge for a while...


  1. Lovely post, Betsy. Spring has often seemed to me a time of renewal and reflection, regardless of external forces.

  2. Very timely post. Three of our extended family members were injured in Boston. Two young women and one's husband had flown there to cheer on their mother who was running this year. Erka, a pre-school teacher, lost a leg and is having a lengthy surgery today to repair the shattered bone in the other leg. Doctors waited to make sure she had enough blood flow to her muscles to keep them alive. This will be her fifth surgery since the bombing. Her sister, Nicole, has two broken legs. On Saturday, she had an 8-hour surgery to graft skin to her heels and the backs of her calves. This was her 4th operation. Both had their hair blown off and have suffered hearing damage. Nicole's husband had stepped away from them to get photos of his mother-in-law approaching the finish line. He was temporarily blinded and deafened with lots of shrapnel wounds. He can see how, but his hearing is not coming back as hoped. Erika is expected to be in the hospital until mid-June. Their lives are forever changed...and ours should be, too. We should be kinder to our fellowman...a smile, a word of encouragment, a shared laugh. We have no clue as to the number of people walking among us who need a positive human touch. Great post, Betsy.

    1. I am so very sorry, Vonnie. Reading that simply broke my heart. I'll be praying for your family and these members physical and emotional well-being as they recover.

  3. We are old enough to know life is not perfect. In each of us there lurks the potential of evil. Only in eternity will we find and live forever with which we choose while living.