Beauty and the Beast
It has been a beautiful weekend in Seattle. Bright sunshine and temperatures in the low 50’s. After weeks of grey days and some heavy rain (4″ in one day, on February 28), it is as if we are coming alive after a long, long hibernation.
And, yes, there has been a long hibernation. Two years of masks, distancing, cancellations, sheltering in place and all the rest of the COVID pandemic. Cowed, confined and weary, we emerge, blinking in the light, reaching for our sunglasses.
At the 50th street off ramp from I-5 a kid had commandeered the 5′ square concrete pad, an island in the stream with a traffic light. On it he danced hip hop. A whirling dervish with no pay save joy. Elsewhere people on bikes, scooters, roller skates, roller blades packed the Burke-Gilman Bike Trail. Even the Ballard Beaver short line train engine was running again, horn happily blaring, now that the cement truck driver’s strike had ended.
In the parks people strolled, dogs ran, children whirled. It was spring. Almost. COVID was over, maybe.
Linda and I went to the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, seeing its new galleries for the first time. One gallery, with viewers at the third story level, simply frames the east side of the park itself: majestic cedars, old angular madronas, and those amazing relatives of the redwoods, the giant sequoias of the Northwest.
Everywhere people were out. Children ran, danced, pranced and sun caught the laughter-lit faces. Couples curled on park benches in no hurry but to savor the day.
But before the morning’s sun I read, and stared at horrifying pictures from Ukraine. A mother and two children lay dead, victims of Russian shelling as they tried to escape Kyiv. The father, wounded but still alive, was attended by Ukraine medics. Would he want to live, I wondered, when he learned his family did not?
How do we hold these two realities together? Do we? Can we?
Do we simply escape the realities of war, the brutality, by turning it off and going on with life? Going to do something fun or distracting?
Somehow it seemed that the ways that people were reveling in, embracing the coming spring were not so much denial of the horror in Ukraine, as a protest of its own. Make life grey and ash, we rise to the color in lengthening days. Confine and confuse, we sally forth from protective tombs. Silence the voices, the birds of spring sing. Create ugliness, we shall stand stilled and rapt before beauty in forests and museums.
An affirmation of life’s goodness and beauty in the face of the deadly horrors of this hideous, unprovoked war.
Rejoicing in life, in spring is not necessarily to turn a blind eye or deaf ear to terrible human suffering and wanton injustice in central Europe. It may be the best protest, the resistance of ordinary people, the solidarity of those who love life.