Penny Kelly says that we are to be the lost generation. That we will throw grenades, level machine guns, and set cities alight, and I see her descriptions from 1998 painted real in Egypt, Libia, Norway and Britain of recent. She says that as societies begin to crumble, the states of our minds will shape our future: panic, fear, a desperate kind of survival. Rick Hanson says that we can shape our minds to be anything we want them to be: as the Buddha did, so many centuries ago. That we can grow our brains the way we grew sunflowers this year: From seedling, love and sunlight, to tall and effervescent. I never knew the center of a sunflower smelled like some kind of honey, but mustier, like the inside layer of tree bark. Or that the seed pattern was so incomprehensibly intricate that one felt like they were contemplating the expanse of space, or the depth of the brain.
The tree we cut in preparation of the hurricane disobeyed all commands to fall northward into the stretch between the forest and the garden, snapped the ropes that had been winched taught the day before, and came down smack in the middle of the sunflower field, brushing against the screen door and testing the dexterity of the porch on its way down. Now, our seed crop is mangled, lays in smashed up mess as if the high winds had indeed ripped apart our little nook in the world. Most of the stalks are broken a few feet off the ground, leaves are bent at odd angles, and the flower heads adorn my kitchen table, brilliant, but soon to fade slowly into compost.
One of the blooms remains intact in my front yard. She is like a refugee, grieving her fallen family before deciding whether to live or to let go. I watch her with my morning tea and wonder about the ability to shape our future. I don’t fear most of the change I imagine is coming: an ever rapidly depleting source of energy from the earth making driving and grocery shopping ever more obsolete. A return to things mostly forgotten: growing potatoes and goats, finding water from breaks in bedrock, learning the real value of things.
I fear most of all the lost generation, and I fear to be a part of it. The cry of a desperate soul, unable to provide for the family, unable to cope with the corruption in every part of our lives. I wonder if Richard was part of the lost generation, unearthed by his pending future. I wish I had gotten to know that man before he became a murderer, somehow, out of the blue, like some kind of earthquake that tears through the linoleum floor, past the cases of cakes and cookies, past the rows of cabbage and celery, right through the center of those isles. Weeks later I wonder: did he walk past the bags of raisins and rye berries, or did he march his gun past the chips and chocolate, past the tension tamer tea. Did he look up, see the dragon on the Celestial Seasons box, and pause?
If I learned anything from him, from this year, I learned that even I have the ability to level a semi automatic and shoot someone in the back of the head. Someone I love as a comrade, as an imperfect being, as a coworker, a lover, or a member of my family. In some ways, this year, I was as lost and as low to the ground as Richard was, walking casually through those isles, purposeful, but utterly lost in a changing world, in a changing self.
~ August 2011