Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

My daughter (white hat) and her family enjoy the view after climbing to a Hudson River overlook.

Memorial Day weekend:  the traditional start of summer here in upstate New York.  And it was lovely -- warm, sunny, just a threat of a little rain Saturday night.  My daughter and her family drove up from Westchester County to spend my birthday with me (I'm now 67), and we hiked in Moreau Lake State Park, climbing to a rocky outcrop that overlooks the Hudson River.  A real treat for me, since my granddaughters -- nine, twelve, and almost sixteen -- are so busy with sports and school and friends they seldom have time to come hiking with me anymore.  We saw some cool stuff:  teensy-tiny brilliant red mites scooting around on the rocks, and a couple of shiny green tiger beetles doing "the deed," which made the younger girls blush and say "Oh, Grandma!" when I photographed the beetles in flagrante.  (Don't worry, girls, the photo didn't come out.)

Mountain Azalea has blooms as lovely as their fragrance.

By Monday afternoon my hostess duties were over, so off to the river I went in my newly repaired canoe.  My destination was Woodcock Island, which beckoned with the scent of cloves wafting on the breeze as I approached.  This island is covered with pink-flowered azalea shrubs, as fragrant as they are beautiful.  I call them Mountain Azalea (Rhododendron roseum), but they're also called Hoary Azalea because the undersides of their leaves are covered with downy hairs. They also have another scientific name -- R. prinophyllum -- which is what you have to call them if you look them up on the USDA plant information site.  Well, who cares what the scientists call them?  I call them gorgeous, and I call myself lucky to know where they grow and to have a way to get to them.

How lucky I am to find such beauty around me.

I was thinking, too, how lucky I am that I never had to fight in a war (it's Memorial Day, after all).  Or I never had to flee from bombs or witness my daughter's rape by marauding warriors.  Or I never had to send my sons to kill or die or be maimed beyond the help of therapy or the mercy of amnesia.  All day I kept hearing or reading tributes to fallen soldiers.  I, too, honor them and pray, oh dear God, that they are at last at peace.  But where are the tributes to the ones they killed?  And I don't mean just enemy soldiers.  I mean the "collaterally damaged," the noncombatants, who outnumber the warrior dead in every war by at least ten to one. Where are the speeches in honor of slaughtered wildlife or livestock or family pets? Where the tears for the devastated land?  Where the outrage toward stupid, misguided leaders who pour our children and treasure down the endless black hole of war?  For no good reasons.  Since it's Memorial Day, let's really remember the terrible acts war asks our children -- and all of us -- to do and endure.  Then let us say NO MORE WAR.  War, never again.


Northland said...

AMEN to that.

corin said...

You are so right. I passed a field in sara. co. where someone has placed yellow flags to denote each death of a soldier in Iraq. It was up to 4103 last weekend. Very sad. I am also sad for the ones who come back as you say, beyond therapy.

Allan Stellar said...

Powerful last paragraph! Thanks!

Ellen Rathbone said...

Hear, hear!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, dear friends, for your supportive comments. I always expect to be excoriated whenever I resist the call to glorify war. I think that nature lovers, because of their awareness of our global interconnections and the terrible environmental costs of war, are less inclined to be roped in by nationalistic jingoism.

My sister told me, well you can thank our soldiers for defending your freedom to say these things. And I asked her, which war in our memory had anything to do with freedom of speech? But our U.S. armies have certainly silenced hundreds and hundreds of thousands around the world as we rained down death on their nations.

How cruel it would be to say to the families of fallen U.S. soldiers: Your children died defending the right of corporations to exploit the resources of nations our country invaded, or the right of our military to establish bases on foreign soil. But that's how it seems to me. What an outrage, what a perversion of a young recruit's noble impulse to serve his/her country! But then, there are some who want to be part of the U.S. throwing its weight around the world. HOOah! So sad.

catharus said...

'Couldn't agree more!!