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June 14, 2016

Finding Rainbows

I need to write. Because there is nothing else I can do. I cannot do anything to make the tragic event of the weekend go away, bring back the many young lives that were lost, or prevent it from happening again. I cannot always keep myself and my family and friends safe, in a world of hate and phobias that seen to overcome even human decency and basic understandings of acceptance. That I cannot do. And no matter how hard I could try, I will never be able to understand or comprehend the events that occurred. Few humans can, fortunately.

But as a race, why are we so prone to self-destruction? Why are we, the supposedly most intelligent species, struggling to live on this beautiful blue plant peacefully together? The birds, the fish, the other mammals of the world do not kill each other out of hate and prejudice. Do robins kill sparrows because their breasts do not boast red? Do elk or moose slaughter deer simply because of their smaller stature? Do fish slay other fish because their way of life is different, because they choose to travel thousands of miles while other fish do not?

No. Only humans kill because of our differences, because of our hate. Because of our jealousy and inability to walk in each other’s shoes, our stubbornness to admit that anyone could be right except for ourselves. Only humans act out of such terrible and meaningless violence, only humans waste such previous and beautiful lives. And only humans repeat our sins, killing again and again while the news repeats the tragedies of the day until we move to the next tragedy of hate and unacceptance. Is it only humans.

Which is why, after work, after I walked out the doors, slowly and solemnly, still reeling from the day, after I shut off my car radio unable to listen to any more NPR and stories of suffering, after I did my errands and returned home, I knew I had to go. Not far. But away. Away from humans and day to day life. Away from the news, the chaos, away from the walls and the ceilings, away from the cars and the concrete and the noise. So I drove to the closest place I could think of – a place close to my heart where I could find the comfort and quiet I craved – West Lake.

As soon as I stepped off the mowed common area of the playground onto the narrow trail of the prairie, a sigh escaped me, as if I had been holding my breath all day, waiting for the solitude and the calm stillness and coolness that the earth can bring. The birds welcomed me with happy chirps of glee and purple wildflowers paraded through the grasses, pops of color everywhere asking for applause. The ground seemed to spring my feet forward with delight, although my pace slowed to a stroll and my steps became soft.

When a few minutes later I reached the lake, stretched out before me, I was relaxed and breathing light, and sank down at the toes of a tree at the waters edge. And here I recharged.

Here, I talked to gold finches with bird calls on my phone, watched black ants meander up the bark of a tree, enjoyed the quiet whir of dragonflies soaring by, the splashing of fish finding their dinner floating above them. Here I watched a heron drift gently over the still water, birds dart among the brush, and bubbles from unseen turtles or frogs pop at the surface of the quiet waters.

And in the quiet, and the stillness, surrounded by the birds and trees, the insects and reptiles, the mammals and amphibians, feeling the grass tickling my bare legs and the gentle embrace of the suns rays hug my skin – it's easy to remember the good.

It's easy to remember the strong outpouring of sympathy and love to the victims’ family members and friends, the lines of blood donors waiting hours to give and the counselors who showed up to give grief counseling to those who needed it. It’s easy to remember the good in people – the stories of heroes that emerge after these awful attacks – the stories of one person sacrificing or risking their life to save others. It’s easy to remember that these people full of hate are the exception – not the norm, and that although we need to stop them, we MUST find a way to stop them, most people do not harbor the hateful rhetoric and bullets he spewed, and that love will always be more powerful.

And in this quiet moment, it’s easier to let my heart grieve, to mourn, to cry, and then come back to the world. To write in silence, and then move forward in action. To move forward showing love and acceptance in everything that I do, teach children of equality and tolerance, and ignore those who call to answer hate with hate, prejudice, and intolerance. We are a people of love, and not hate. We are a people with different backgrounds, beliefs, countries, and lives. We are a people of rainbows.