A little shadow

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In case you think any minds are about to change

bonesnancygravesvariabilityofsimilarforms

I have just finished re-reading Hiroshima, the 1946 book by John Hersey telling the story of six survivors of the first atomic bomb attack. The book begins a few moments before the bomb explodes and ends a few weeks later.

Hiroshima, which originally appeared in its entirety in the August 31, 1946 of The New Yorker, is still regarded as one of the greatest pieces of journalism. With neutral calm, it shows us a world in which everything has been destroyed in an instant, and the way those who still are alive act, and what they see, in the immediate aftermath.

Every time I’ve read Hiroshima, I’ve been struck anew by the overwhelming enormity of the event. Of the 245,000 residents of Hiroshima, 100,00 died instantly or in the next few hours. Much of the city was leveled; in the rest, buildings collapsed; fires and tornadoes raged. The first day, Hersey wrote, some survivors in search of food are not even sure where they are, at first, because everything has suddenly changed, from busy city in the morning ”to a mere pattern of residue in the afternoon.” In that new world, Hersey wrote, “thousands of people had nobody to help them.”

The shadow cast by Hiroshima still stretches before us. If anything, it is heavier today. In an interview he gave in the last years of his life, Hersey said that one of his goals was to suggest “a sense of a long and terrible future – which has since indeed come to pass.”

I re-read Hiroshima every few years, if only as a reminder. But this time, a new thing struck me. In the ruins, no one cursed their own leaders. No one blamed the Imperial War College or the Prime Minister. No one wondered if the Emperor had perhaps led them down the wrong path. People trapped in blazing ruins, people whose flesh had slid off, who were grotesquely burned, whose eyes had melted, whose loved ones were all dead, whose wounds were infected and weeping, people who had lost everything: even with their dying breaths, they told themselves they were lucky to be Japanese, and they eagerly dedicated themselves to the leaders who had brought them to this place in time. Girls trapped helpless under burning wreckage begin singing the national anthem, and that is how they die. Survivors lie on a riverbank, helpless, thirsty, in enormous agony, and they don’t even moan or cry out, and that is how they die. A father and son, pinned in their burning house, make up their minds to consecrate themselves to the Emperor – by dying in that place, they are dying for him. Banzai, they shout alone in the burning building. All these people, in what they believe are their very last, terrible moments, pledge themselves anew. They pledge themselves to the thing that killed them.

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The pants in the family

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When I was still in college, I worked on a little local paper in Michigan.  It was the sort of publication that has evaporated from the American scene – a weekly, countywide, cheerful and plain, serving a mostly rural audience and a few suburban outliers here and there. The nearby college and capitol city were so alien to this world that in all the time I worked there, I believe they were never mentioned even once. Continue reading

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Day or night

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Election day is here

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This afternoon, we voted. The person in front of me said he was voting for the first time. There were people like us who had voted in every election throughout their long adult lives. There were moms and dads with their young, fascinated kids. There were women, many women – African American, Latinx, white, Asian, young, medium, old – walking in solo, one by one. Continue reading

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A true thing

rootsandmoss

All the ugliness that is showing its lazy, vicious face these days is real. But it plays out against a reality that can be summed up in one sentence: we are living in a world where the President – the Commander in Chief, the single most powerful individual on the planet – is African American. Continue reading

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The road

nebraskagasstop-a

We are just back from a magnificent eight-day road trip across the Plains, in our new used car. Road trips, and driving through new-to-us places, are one of our best and most favorite things.

Total mileage: 2,465 exactly. Total days: 8. Features of itinerary from Chicago: Galena IL; Grinnell IA; Omaha NE; Grand Island NE (via NE 92); the Nebraska Sandhills via NE 2; Alliance NE; Scottsbluff and Gering NE; Cheyenne WY; Laramie WY; then home, with a little side trip to Riverside IA, future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk. Continue reading

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The opposite of making a garden

Backyard-For-web

I am spending a lot of time these days out in the garden. For nearly a year, an integral part of saving this historic building was destroying what it had become.  And so much had to be destroyed. Continue reading

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Wordless Wednesday: en route to Missouri, July 2014

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Panic Button Monday is proud as a… you know

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Every time I push the panic button, this shows up.

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