Every year, I hope that it will be different. I fill my life with healthy things – meditation workshops on Monday evenings, belly dancing on Tuesdays, skiing and snowboarding on weekends. I make lunch dates with friends, take walks in my woods, and spend time writing poetry. I have so much to be grateful for – healthy children, a husband who loves me, a supportive extended family, a job I enjoy.
But it happens late at night when I am tired, and everyone else is sleeping. The house will be dark and quiet, and I’ll creep out of bed to come downstairs for a glass of juice. I'll sit on the couch with a book or my journal (this year, my laptop), wondering why I can't sleep.
That is when they sneak from the shadows, sliding from behind chairs, slithering from the half-opened closet, squeezing through cracks in the baseboard.
And I'm too tired to resist.
I want to curl up with a quilt, bury my head in pillows, go to sleep. But I can't.
The fields where I spent lazy summer days picking wild strawberries with my siblings, hours crouched in the dried grasses under hot sun, have disappeared underneath a highway. The meadow where Outdoor Girl and I spend many afternoons horseback riding, galloping through the tall grasses, has become an office park. The woods I used to ski through with my parents, including an old barn where we would stop to eat oranges, has been replaced by a parking lot.
I see a high school friend at the grocery store, and he tells me about his divorce, his voice still shaking with bitterness. I hear a beautiful young woman, a student who is both smart and sad, tell me that she cuts herself. I see my husband's sadness as he watches our own kids turn into adults and his regret that he spent too much time working when they were little, years spent in a soul-sucking corporate job, time he cannot get back no matter how he tries now. I watch my parents grieve as their friends begin to die, one by one, often from some type of cancer. I see my father's frustration as his body weakens, as he loses some of the fierce independence he always had.
And when boys this community turn into young men, I can't stop the military from snatching them up, sending them overseas. Perhaps the government can stop photos of coffins coming home, but certainly, they cannot stop parents from talking, from grieving, from crying at the way that our children are being sacrificed.
During quiet moments in February, I want to hibernate. I want to step away from a culture that seems increasingly dominated by fear, a culture in which humans kill members of their own species, women hate their own bodies, and leaders lie to those who need them most.