Monday, December 19, 2016

The Power That Moves Through the World

Winter day in Los Angeles

I was sitting at the table with Sophie this morning, feeding her breakfast. She wasn't eating very well and by that I mean she'd take a bite but then forget how to chew for a moment or two. Saliva collects in the front of her mouth and falls out and down her bib, carrying the raspberry and the panettone. I imagine her motor planning to be scrambled. She will look at the food, coming toward her mouth, and I swear I can see the gears turning in very slow motion. I like to think that I look serene, but I know that my mouth is tight and my eyes are hard. Caregiving. Sophie had two big seizures in the early hours of the morning. She hadn't had any for about two weeks, so I guess it was time. I woke up at about three this morning to find her sitting on the floor beside her bed. After changing her and putting her back in the bed, I climbed in with her and closed my eyes. I guess it was sometime after 4:00 or so that she had the first seizure, in her sleep. Her stiffened arm hit my nose. When that one was finished I dozed off again for a couple of hours before she groaned and stiffened next to me, then began jerking. It only lasts for a couple of minutes, and I won't type but. I got up, made myself some coffee and put raspberries and panettone on a plate for Sophie.

Sophie is warm, nourished, housed and loved. She lacks for absolutely nothing.


If I look outward, I see the citizens of Syria coated in white dust, the children's' faces bloodied, their little mouths downturned. Some people say I can't watch those videos or look at those pictures. I feel compelled to do so. It's not because I am one-quarter Syrian. It's not because I am on the highway rubber-necking the accident on the side of the road. The necessity of being a witness. As one of my friends said, I will look at this and work to try to understand.

I will look at this and work to try to understand.

Sheep in the Winter Night

Inside the barn the sheep were standing, pushed close to one
another. Some were dozing, some had eyes wide open listening
in the dark. Some had no doubt heard of wolves. They looked
weary with all the burdens they had to carry, like being thought
of as stupid and cowardly, disliked by cowboys for the way they
eat grass about an inch into the dirt, the silly look they have
just after shearing, of being one of the symbols of the Christian
religion. In the darkness of the barn their woolly backs were
full of light gathered on summer pastures. Above them their
white breath was suspended, while far off in the pine woods,
night was deep in silence. The owl and rabbit were wondering,
along with the trees, if the air would soon fill with snowflakes,
but the power that moves through the world and makes our
hair stand on end was keeping the answer to itself.

Tom Hennen, via The Writer's Almanac


  1. I agree, but my emotional health is getting worn down. And my bank account is getting depleted. I'm crying so much every day - as a bit of an empath/sensitive person it's cumulative - do we need to keep witnessing to the point where it's impacting our lives and our parenting? I can see that the answer's yes, as it should have no less effect. I'm just not sure what good it does overall - my suffering doesn't alleviate theirs.

    I'm having the first significant chunk of time off I've had in a year and a half, and I turned on daytime tv today - the ads! Childhood cancer followed by famine and starving children that spun me into a triggered whirl of terror at the vivid picture of my son getting sick and having to cope with a treatment programme I don't trust but would have to accept. It feels real, these places my head goes, and I feel what I see in the Aleppo videos as if I'm there.
    I don't know what to do.

  2. Now THAT is the perfect political post.
    Oh, Elizabeth. I wish the world had more people like you in it. With all of my heart, I wish that.

  3. The power that moves through the world - some people call it Tao.
    Your posts are touching. This one moved me to tears.
    Thank you for posting.

    From an anonymous follower

  4. This post makes me even more aware of the tenuous nature of our lives. My heart aches for Sophie, for you, the people (especially the children) of Aleppo. All the hoping and helping with aid and comfort doesn't keep the wolves at bay. But. We go on.

  5. I make myself read the Syria stories too. I think it's important to know and understand what's going on (as much as possible). But I'm darned if I know what to DO about it. Aside from donating money for relief, I honestly have no idea how to make that situation better. I sure don't want us sending troops into that conflict.

    I'm sorry about Sophie's seizures resuming. That's got to be hard.

  6. Dear Elizabeth, I read your post while you and Sophie, are, I hope, both asleep. I send you all my love. I don’t know what else to send, in every case, but I will keep doing so. Thank you for writing. I loved that poem too. xo S

  7. Thank you for reminding me that we must remain open to the unexpected, the painful, the difficult. Your words reminded me of a discussion maybe 10 yrs ago with one of these enthusiastic IT coders of the time, who was selling their idea that "soon, thanks to the internet, everybody will be able to choose what they want to read/see/experience and what not" and how this reduction of the world and its beauty and horror frightened me.

    I also love your California winter sky. When I look up here I see a sheet of slate.

  8. Tough as it is to watch and read, it is our responsibility to witness, as you so beautifully put it.

  9. yes. yes. yes. we cannot turn our eyes away from the children of aleppo, even if we are at a loss to understand. i wrote about this today too, though not nearly as eloquently as you. i am glad sophie has you to stand between her and the world, because not to put too fine a point on it, it is pretty cruel out there right now. but with sophie, you create a corner of goodness, as hard as your extreme caregiving is.

  10. and also, your photographs continue to blow me away. you're the world seeing with new eyes! the perspective on those trees is wonderful.

  11. Hugs to you and your children, Elizabeth. I agree and so far, have donated, not certain what else to do but will do more as I can.

  12. Dear Elizabeth, I am a witness here. Mostly stunned into silence by what I see and read. Always humbled, always moved. XXOO



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