It is finally cold enough in NYC that some of the leaves started changing. I was going to write “the leaves” with no qualifier, but then I looked out my window and saw almost entirely green.
I saw a lovely yellow Beech tree as I walked over to the river from my children’s school downtown this morning. I turned to take a picture. Right before I snapped it, I noticed that a group of cops along with a memorials—bouquets of bright blue flowers—to the people killed last Tuesday were included in the shot. First I moved to get only the yellow tree. Then I moved back thinking I should get the whole scene. Shouldn’t I? Then I decided not to take the picture at all.
What is one’s responsibility as an observer, a chronicler? Capture beauty? Capture horror? Show how they cannot be separated? Yin/Yang? And yet we have to separate them. If not, we’d have nothing to ground us, nothing to hold onto. Do we say—this is the place where less than a week ago 8 people were killed, and 12 more injured, some horrifyingly, drastically injured but it’s also a lovely spot along the river with the changing trees? Do I say, “You should not even have been thinking about trees changing color walking through that spot”? Where does normalizing become callous? There is the normalization that makes us less human. The news of the attack in Texas yesterday hits with less intensity than hearing about Vegas. Not merely because of numbers—it’s still a ghastly number—and yet that numbing, that new normal and new normal and new normal. In 2012, twelve people dying in the movie theater sounded beyond ghastly. Incomprehensibly ghastly. The mind keeps adjusting. It’s not that I would be any more likely to be at a country music festival than church. It’s that there is only so much one can process, I suppose.
We must force ourselves to stay as open as we can, while still doing the work we need to do. My yoga routine, brief as it is, my writing, rushed as it so often is—both these continually force me, if I do them correctly, with patience, to stay open. Not so vigilant that we can’t move forward, though. Not so aware that we are unable to keep fighting for a different normal. Perhaps that midpoint is related to the elusive balance Kajal wrote about last week.
After I put my phone away and started to jog earlier today, I was stopped by two tourists further up the path asking me with worried faces why there were so many cops around. Had something happened? I said I assumed the city had put in extra security because of the attack. The couple looked panicked for a moment. “Another one?” The woman gasped. “Last week,” I clarified. “Oh!” She smiled, looking relieved. Last week. Last Tuesday. Nearly a week ago now. She joined her husband and they continued along happily along the path, chatting to themselves in a language I did not recognize.