Battles, Bloodshed, Hummingbirds, and Peace

We recently came back from a little getaway to Gettysburg, PA. It was our fifth or sixth trip out to the Battlefields and in spite of the horrific war and incomprehensible amount of death and suffering endured in that small town and its surrounding fields, it has always felt peaceful to me, like I was coming home. One would think that there would be an uneasy or erratic energy in a place where so much bloodshed and emotion was evoked and I couldn’t help but wonder if any restless spirits that may be there or the energy of the blood and bone-soaked land is being soothed by the thousands of visitors that come each year in awe and reverence at the enormity of the three-day battle, silently giving their thanks and appreciation for their sacrifice—not just the soldiers who died but the surgeons, and doctors, and regular townsfolk who helped all along the battle and for a long time afterward.

I’ve seen veterans, old and young, solitary and with families come to give respect. Maybe it is that unspoken “thank you” that has helped the energy of the land and the energy of the town. It is a fact that many soldiers lives ended in Gettysburg—some quickly, some not so, but all cruelly painful and endured as a sacrifice for what they believed in. The energy is palpable without a doubt, but so is the peace.

One night, in the dark we stood in the Wheat Fields where one of the bloodiest events occurred. The breeze kicked up while we stood, allowing our eyes to adjust to the night, and once in a while we could hear the far-off roar of a motorcycle or car, but other than that it was just us and the crickets. I centered myself to feel the energetic movement of the tall grasses in the field and my imagination went to all of the bodies that had lain there at one time. Through it all there was a sense of peace that permeated the field as if it emanating from deep under soil.

Even in the daytime, the sense of peacefulness is tangible. Wednesday, we hiked to Little Round Top, one of the strategic areas during the battle located high up a hill. I walked away to a quieter corner to get some distance from the tour busses and families that were sharing the view. I perched on a rock and gazed across the valley at the distant mountains and all the fields and trees in between and let the the drone of conversations around me fade away as I marveled at all the shades of green and reveled in the gorgeousness of nature. Once more I was struck by the deep tranquility of the land that had once held so much violence.

As I stared at the peaks of the mountains in the distance, a hummingbird flew around me and hovered a couple of feet directly in front of me. In all my years of climbing those rocks, I’ve never seen a hummingbird there but I was not completely surprised because this was the second time in a week (last week being the first time in my life) that I had a close encounter with a hummingbird (that will be another post!). Seeing the hummingbird on the battlefield seemed especially poignant because of the unexpected sweetness of seeing something so innocent and fragile while standing on a rock that was allegedly used by sharpshooters aimed at kill soldiers just down the hill. The irony of the symbolism was not lost on me.

I wonder about the energy of other modern war-torn lands and the energy of the blood and lives lost and lives still there. Are we Americans the only ones to make battlegrounds state parks to preserve the integrity of what we fought for? Is there land set aside in Vietnam? The Pacific? Other areas of the world? Will there be one day? It is not just the people and the descendants of those in battle that suffer and become wounded but the land does as well. How can it not? The earth is alive as and when all the bodies are gone and the towns are left for rubble, it is the land that will continue to hold the energy of the bloodshed and the bodies and the tears. It is the land that will be there long after the bodies are gone and the events are but memories. I am not a political person and I am not a soldier nor a soldier’s wife. I am just one person, one human being, whose heart goes out to those who gave and still give it all for what they believe in, whether it is 151 years ago, or yesterday.

Thank you and peace to you.

Are you an Explorer or an Addict?

Not long ago, I was contemplating signing up for a workshop that sounded interesting but still a part of me thought, “Seriously? Why?” I answered myself out loud, announcing to the empty room, “Because I want to, it’s interesting, and I can learn a lot.” With that, I took out my credit card and signed up.

Fast forward to the day of the first class. It was a long day at work, my brain felt like a twisted sponge from having to problem-solve a situation that came up at work, I hadn’t slept well from the night before, and all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and unplug. You know those days. We all do.

I looked at the clock around 5 p.m. and the the conversation in my head went something like this:

[Cue whine] “Ugh, a class at 8 tonight. You’re already tired from the day, you know the last thing you want to do is be on the phone/computer again for 90 minutes later tonight.”

“I know, but how lazy can I get? I can call from my own home for Pete’s sake. It’s not like I have to drive anywhere.”

“Can’t we just watch TV? America’s Got Talent is on tonight.”

“No. Suck it up. We’re doing it.”

With an eye toward the clock, I made sure not to have a heavy carb dinner so I wouldn’t nod off in the middle of the call, and at 7:58, with a resigned sigh, I dragged my mental feet and moved into another room with my notebook and phone. I was very interested in learning about the subject matter but by the time 8 p.m. rolls around, the last thing I want to do is to actively listen to someone lecture and have to think. Didn’t I know the start time when I signed up for the class? Sure thing, but intention is golden when fueled by caffeine and its promise that anything is possible. I stayed awake and alert and it really was a very good class after all. Six more weeks to go!

I’ve always loved to learn and have a healthy dose of curiosity about how things work, so it’s no surprise to those who know me that I’ve been known to take all sorts of workshops ranging from serious learning and skill building to one day classes of “Oh! So that’s how’s it’s made” which for me included basket-weaving; frame-drum-making; krauting; and making natural herbal salves. As the years go by though, I’ve been more selective about where I invest my time and energy. If signing up for a particular class or workshop is the best way for me to learn what I want to know, then I’m there. If not, someone else can take my seat.

Recently, I started to wonder about people we all know at least one of: those workshop junkies that are always going to one class or another every time you talk to them. Then there are those workshop followers that sign-up, stay for a few classes, but don’t follow through. You’ve heard it: “It takes too much time; costs too much money; I was drunk when I agreed to do it (true excuse someone told me); the location is inconvenient; I can’t get a babysitter; I was too tired to keep doing it; It was boring.”

While yes, some of these are legitimate reasons for quitting a class, I can’t help but wonder what makes some people sign-up for classes on an almost rotational basis and then there are those that are on the sign-up and quit sign-up and quit carousel?

What is their Holy Grail they are looking for? Are they naturally restless souls eagerly checking mailboxes for the next calendar of events or running away from something and looking for the next distraction from their lives? Maybe these are the reasons for some people, but what if the pull was really an addiction to the newness, the rush of possibility, the excitement that was the sole driving force to seek out the constant turnover of a new class, gym membership, cooking class, [fill in the blank]?

And those people that quit the classes? Is it a lack of perseverance or is it that the excitement of the newness and the possibility –the hope– has worn off and so it’s no longer interesting? Perhaps it’s a deep form of self-sabotage where people set themselves up for the high of the experience, and when it’s no longer exciting and the high is no longer there, they quit—already looking for another “fix” before they hit the parking lot.

It’s natural to be excited and full of hope when we try something new but if the personal interest and curiosity become something that changes as often as the hands on the clock, and there’s a pattern of disinterest after a short time, maybe there’s something deeper behind the excuses.

So what drives you? Are you an explorer of new possibilities or an addict to the excitement?