photo courtesy Sydney Morning Herald
Until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of the Blue Ridge Mountains; my first visit was through a delightful post of Stephen's. I enjoy his blog, because of its inherent simplicity, depth and variety, that captures a moment, an idea, in photo and with words. History, the environment, simply being alive: he is likely to offer a post that brings thoughts - serious and of laughter - alive in your mind.
So I saw the rolling lines of the Virginia Mountains through his lens - their deep sultry beauty, reminding me of the Blue Mountains I know from my childhood. These mountains - filled with craggy sandstone escarpments and dense with bush - crouch at the side of Sydney, my home town. We would visit there when I was a child; it seemed such an outing then, although now it is a city commute for many. It was here I first felt snow, an experience i longed for as a child; my father told me it was really sleet, yet to me, more familiar with the burning heat of seaside sand, it was snow - white droplets falling magically from the sky. I love those mountains - thick with eucalypts, spreading for miles; magnificent - and terrifying - views, where only a railing protects you from plummeting deep into the valleys. A few years ago I spent three weeks of a writer's retreat in a rambling old house planted not far from delightful walks. I spent quite some time walking, alone, on the edge of penetrating blue depths, and the faultlines of my memory.
The Mountains in Virginia now bear a harrowing shadow; there, as snow fell lightly, just like in my youth, so did the lives of too many. One cannot imagine the mixture of grief and anger arising in many hearts, as I imagine it had in the tragic mind of the perpetrator of this anguished event. Indescribable suffering endured by so many, it is horrific to witness what such delusion can create. This is a day that this country will never forget, nor should it. We must learn and taste the pain of tragedy, deeply, for it is a lesson we need to contemplate. Hatred and anger can only bring suffering of immeasurable proportions to us all; it has no other fruit.
Friday is a National Day of Prayer, to allow each of us to open our hearts so that the goodness contained therein may bathe the wounds that have been inflicted on the families, on the community, and ultimately on us all. It is not a time of retribution nor blame, it is a time of sadness from which hope and grace may bloom. My prayers are with the tortured minds of all who feel driven to commit horrendous crimes, and to those of us who know them. And to the victims, lost from this world so unexpectedly and abruptly. And to the families and friends of those who died, whose future, in one fraction of a second, was shattered. And to all of us who know the seeds of hatred and confusion - which is every single one of us. We live on a planet torn asunder by seemingly endless violence. May the kindness of our thoughts, the stilling of our minds, the turning to embrace those in need and pain, change this world into a place where blood is no longer spilled by anger and judgement, and only tears of joy fall to soften the earth.