Greetings and salutations from the sand, sun and surf of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and the great island of Nantucket! I hope you are doing well on this Thursday, the nineteenth day of August, 2010, as the sun did rise once again on this fair, sacred sand bar created by the Last Great Ice Age over 11,500 years ago. I awoke to a brilliant sunrise and much cooler temperatures, lower humidity and a sense of peace that I have not felt in over 7 years. Perhaps it had something to do with our troops pulling out of Iraq, combat troops leaving in the middle of the night, streaming south and over the border into Kuwait, bringing a special joy to my heart–as it is all too personal for me. The past seven years have been like the Iraq war for me too, as I explain in my upcoming new novel, “Taking Fog to Nantucket,” where I too, a little over seven years ago, embarked on a journey of my own, some would say an odyssey, leaving Denver, Colorado for parts unknown (Nantucket via Boston), enduring a severe assault to the head, leaving me in a state of fear that cannot be put into words, other than the acronym PTSD. Watching those tanks, heavily armored vehicles lumber through the streets of unknown Iraqi towns was like watching my own nightmares drift slowly out of my radar screen forever, leaving me with a large chunk of gratitude for my life, the lives of people I love, and the wildlife still left preserved on this little blue rock I call earth. Still alive and well, despite what WE, as a collective species, have been doing to it for the span of an era called the “Industrial Revolution”, now replaced with corporate greed that has expanded globally. Last night, my annual writers conference (48th Annual conference of the Cape Cod Writers Center) wrapped up it’s main event with keynote speakers of the highest quality and humanity– none other than Colum McCann and William Martin. They both spoke of the written word and the importance of story telling, for that is what makes us human and remember why we came here, from wherever we came from, in the first place. To pass down our Knowledge to subsequent generations and give them the same inspiration that inspired us, the inspiration of LOVE for our fellow man. Colum McCann, the internationally best selling author of novels such as, “This Side of Brightness” and “Let the Great World Spin”, which focuses on the impact of a mysterious tightrope walker who traversed a wire suspended between the Twin Towers of New York City in 1974, won the National Book award for fiction. Colum has been named by Esquire Magazine as, “one of the Best and Brightest.” His story is much like mine in the sense that he left Ireland to live and write on Cape Cod, of which I have attempted three times, the third time being the charm. It was an honor to listen to him speak of his wife’s grandfather who was on the 59th floor of one of the towers when the attacks came on September 11th, 2001, how he managed to escape and when returning to his home where he must have lived with Colum and his wife and baby girl, who asked the question, “why is grandpa on fire?”, Colum explained that grandpa was not on fire, that there was a fire downtown and grandpa just got some ashes on him from that fire and that he was OK. Then, in an extraordinary moment in that fair city, the little girl told her father, “No, he’s burning from the inside.” I was sitting in the front row of the ancient wooden tabernacle that houses the lectures such as this one every year, filled with the rich history of Cape Cod, the Pilgrims and the simple place of worship that it is, a place hundreds of years ago where they enjoyed freedom of religion without fear of persecution, a right set up by our own founding fathers who placed the will of God above the will of man. As I sat there stunned by what was said, “out of the mouths of babes,” I was moved to tears, as I had not even heard of the withdrawal of troops from a foreign country that now seemed to have left an indelible mark on my own soul. Many others must feel this way, feel as if they are burning from within, about violent attack and war in general. I cried because I thought of the many soldiers who do not have the luxury of burning from within for they are no longer with us, perhaps burning away all of the baggage that we carry with us, that seemingly has no exit strategy, only a repetitive cycle of fear and sadness, anger and guilt, robbing us all of the here and now, the true PRESENT that is indeed a present if one looks closely enough. Colum’s wonderful words and speech was echoed by the great author William Martin who spoke only a few moments after Colum. The New York Times best selling author of nine books is best known for his historical fiction, which has chronicled the lives of the great and the anonymous in American History while bringing to life legendary American locations from Cape Cod to Annapolis to the City of Dreams. Some of the titles include, “Back Bay”, “Harvard Yard”, “Citizen Washington”, and “The Lost Constitution.” Bill has over 3 million copies of his books in print and was the recipient of the 2005 New England Book Award, given to “an author whose body of work stands as a significant contribution to the culture of the region.” The conference is held on top of what I call “Green Mountain” and from that vantage point you can sit on one of the Adirondack chairs and look out onto the beauty that IS the Nantucket Sound, all while looking out onto “Lake Elizabeth” home to a pair of Swans who, as we all know, mate for life. Being around that serenity and grace for a few days brings one back to what it is all about in the first place, bringing back to life that child like wonder and awe that we somehow lose when we “grow up”. What are we growing up towards? If a child can truly see reality as it is, then why can’t we? I pray that we all can stop “burning from the inside” and start living out loud from the outside and bring peace back to this fragile land of ours. We have been in a perpetual state of war since the ending of World War II, starting with the “Korean War”, and bringing about what President Dwight D. Eisenhower called, “the military industrial complex,” a business to be sure, a business that costs us the lives of our loved ones, the money that we work so hard for, and the reputation and indeed, collective soul of a country that was founded on LIFE, LIBERTY and the pursuit of HAPPINESS. I do not, nor will I ever, understand how war, “justified” or unjustified, can ever offer those qualities to any human being anywhere on this small blue planet–a planet so angry and fearful, so lost and disillusioned, so alone and isolated. We read, we write and we share our stories so that we don’t feel so alone, so that somehow, somewhere, someone is listening and loves us no matter what. That is the mark of a great author, someone who cares enough to tell you, “if no one told you they LOVE you today, I just did.” GOD’S SPEED to the GULF, all of the people of the Bayou, the SEA TURTLES, DOLPHINS, WHALES, BROWN PELICANS, and marsh lands therein…may the grace of GOD always be with you and yours. Have a wonderful day folks! Peace~M
August 19, 2010
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