I am off to Colorado.
My sister in law is spending the month in the mountains, and the Joliat girls are going to descend upon her. She will crave peace and quiet like never has before after the next 5 days.
What did Benjamin Franklin say? Fish and visitors stink after three days. We will be over ripe.
A great deal of arthritis comes as our carry-with baggage, and so the mountains will have to be content with our admiration more than our contact. As I tucked pain patches in with my knee brace, I regretted not getting out West a few decades ago.
Oh- wait. I did. After I graduated from college, when teaching jobs were scarce, I agreed to drive from Detroit to Colorado with my college room mate. She had boldly secured a job teaching rich kids in Vail. We packed her Pinto station wagon (who gets that as her first car?) so that every inch of cargo space was crammed with her new life. In the era before double rear view mirrors, we too a leap of faith every time we changed to the right lane. Our first leg was from Detroit to Omaha. We stayed in a hotel with glued puzzles on the wall for decor. We did not linger to explore.
From there, we charged through cow pastures and corn fields, each driving until the gas tank needed filling. The roadway was so flat that it hypnotized us. The lack of air conditioning made us glad we were not livestock farmers. The sun setting burned our eyes, but we were going to sleep in Vail on night two. Mary took over when the terrain shifted to mountains, and her car was pretty angry to be ingesting thinner air. But we made it. Somehow crashing on a friend’s floor seemed romantic and rustic.
I remember that we were there in a time of drought and gas rationing. I was glad the rivers were dry, because a rafting adventure was not in my bucket list. The sky is what I remember most. It was crisp blue in the day, and velvety black at night, with stars so crystalline and close that they looked like they could be plucked and placed in a ring.
I imagine that many folks in Colorado are calling upon those stars to help them meditate, and find peace. It is clear that the causes of the horror and violence will not be simple to distill. It is too easy to claim that a kid “snapped” or that gun culture or games is the key. The rewiring of a human being into a killing machine demands a forensic investigation. Pieces of the puzzle must be found, and assembled. Answers must be found so that we can set about the task of preventing other hopeless people from exacting this fate from innocents.
I studied John Holmes’ face in the morning papers, and of course I found no key to his unraveling. The orange hair, empty eyes, passive posture and frightened demeanor conspired to break my heart. A mother’s heart has soft spots to exploit. He was someone’s son.
He seemed to be no one’s friend. People who studied with him were glad to cast aspersions upon his academic ability.
After logging 24 years upon the Earth, not one person could speak to him with any intimacy. As a mother, I wanted to time travel him back to his formative years, and tether his brain to the simpler pleasures of friendship and community. Because it is the connection with living, breathing, caring people that will save us from our worst thoughts and selves.
And on a parallel track-
In preparation for the trip, I read the music reviews in the Tribune. Greg Kot is a curator I trust, and so I read a review of “Gossamer”, a new album by Passion Pit. Michael Angelakos is the lead singer, and the music is constructed to contrast its aural pleasantries with words that relate a descent into mental illness, a bi-polar diagnosis and incapacitation. He sings to his girlfriend, Just believe in me, Kristina, all these demons, I can defeat them.
Greg Kot expects that Kristina is the lifeline that Angelakos is clinging to as he stabilizes. He explains that the album is about “the selfless nature of love…It is the only thing that stands between one man, and Oblivion.”
I am thinking that John Holmes did not have a thread to cling to, and he certainly succumbed to Oblivion.
It will take discipline and determination to reject explanations that are simplistic. We want to move forward. A diagnosis or chronology that organizes mayhem will allow life to resume without the pain of looking back. But we need to understand all the threads in this tapestry, because somewhere another soul has lost hope, lost his way, and is contemplating violence. We need to find him and help him, and in doing so, help each other.
I’ll try to take you with me to a peaceful Colorado. Marietta is going to try to teach me to knit, though, and so my fingers may be too sore to type. In the mean time, stop watching the news stations try to out scoop each other. Call a friend, visit your kid, power down for a few hours. Listen to the new Passion Pit album. I downloaded it, and we can discuss after I’ve absorbed it. Let’s gaze at the same stars.
Sorry- mine will look brighter for a few days…..but it’s nice to imagine sharing this everyday gift. We’ll compare notes.