Solace for a hurting nation
Once again a deranged individual took out his rage on others.
Once again families and a community are hurting.
Once again a nation mourns the loss of the victims and are pulling together to support the families that have lost so much.
But this time, the crime was so horrible. Twenty of the victims were children, all of them in first grade. And five staff members, including the principal, lost their lives in the terrible tragedy that unfolded in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday, December 14, just 10 days before Christmas Eve. The gunman’s mother was the first victim.
Our hearts go out to those families and that grieving community. How can they comprehend such a loss and go on? They will never get over it.
This tragedy affects us all. To hear of so many small innocent children being shot tugs at the heartstrings of everyone. Several of the adults who tried to protect them lost their lives.
Other teachers became heroes when they told the kids to hide in closets or under their desks. Those became the lucky ones. Or are they? They — students, staff and community — have to live with this for the rest of their lives.
How can we deal with this tragedy ourselves?
Jay Leno said it well that evening on the Tonight Show. He said that they had considered cancelling the show in light of the tragedy but they decided to let the show go on. People could use a chance to laugh as an antidote to help them through a bad day.
Others have recommended random acts of kindness: paying the tab for someone in line behind you, returning a shopping cart to the store or giving to those in need this Christmas season, to name a few.
I experienced another way to help heal a sad heart back in 2001, when the nation was recovering from the events of September 11. It lifted my spirit, something that we all needed after thousands of people lost their lives in the terrorist attacks.
The late Fran Blacklock brought a delightful little book in to me to read and review. It was a wonderful story that Les, her husband, had written one winter. She had just had it published.
Les was a well-known nature photographer and naturalist that had lived east of Moose Lake. She explained that he had very distinctive handwriting, and that his handwriting had been reproduced with a special font. It was like one was reading his actual journal.
The story in “The Journey” captivates the reader from the start, when Les found curious tracks in the snow made by an unknown animal. He couldn’t identify the tracks at first, and he set out on a three-day journey to follow those tracks and see where they led.
He wrote: “Day Two. I studied the prints with A Field Guide to Animal Tracks in hand. The foot-dragging was an exception for an animal of this size, and there were very few tail marks. But I found enough clear evidence to positively identify the traveler. It had to be a muskrat, a rather small one.”
We follow along with Les in the story and seem to look over his shoulder as he stops and wonders about the signs recorded in the snow. Why was this water animal traveling through the forest?
“I couldn’t help but think that this small animal, weighing less than two pounds, was in great danger that far from water,” Les wrote. “He cannot run fast or climb trees to escape predators, so a chance meeting with one of those coyotes, a fox or mink would probably be fatal.”
Les finally deduced that the little muskrat had traveled over two and a half miles from his home lodge to find a mate.
“Life goes on,” were his last words.
That beautiful story took my grieving mind off of the events of 9-11. It brought me back to reality. Nature doesn’t change.
Much solace can be found in nature. Watching the birds at the feeder, squirrels scampering on the ground or running through the trees, or a deer wandering across the lawn are all part of nature. Even though the world has changed because of tragedy, nature continues as it has for thousands of years. It helps put things into perspective.
Les and Fran’s son, Craig, has carried on the work of his parents and owns the Blacklock Gallery in Moose Lake. Copies of “The Journey” and other Blacklock publications can be found at the gallery.
Spending time in nature, such as skiing through the woods alive with birds and animals searching for food or stopping by a partially open babbling brook could be the soothing balm for a hurting heart.
And hugging your kids and grandchildren a little tighter is also a way to show them that you are glad that they weren’t the victims of a senseless act. Appreciating their teachers and school staff is another way to show that you are happy that they are there for your children.
When one is dealing with a tragedy like the one that took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, the trappings of the Christmas season fall away. We see what is the most important. Remember the people of Newtown this holiday season, and show your love to those that are close to you.